The British Society of Underwater Photographers (BSoUP)
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Who needs to get wet?

An alternative view of underwater photography

by Hazel Breach

Reproduced from in focus 18 (Oct. 1986)

The nearest I've come to being underwater is taking a deep breath, duckdiving and swimming five feet with my eyes tightly screwed up. The closest I've been to photography is with an idiot proof, point and press camera. Producing such memorable shots as a view of the beach from the hotel; a view of the hotel from the beach; a view of the beach with the hotel In the foreground. Yet I know everything there is to know about underwater photography. Believe me I do. You see I'm the wife of a BSoUP member!

For example, the care and maintainance of equipment: I can strip down and re-assemble an Ikelite housing along with the most assured professional. The correct amount of silicone grease on the O-ring seals is an important consideration. However, any residue is easily removed using a T-shirt or shirt sleeve. (Does anyone know how to get those stains out-). It is essential that the flash unit is fully charged before each photographic session. A simple way to do this is by sweeping all the cosmetics from the bathroom shelf, placing the unit in their place and plugging it into the shaving socket, This does mean, of course that plugging in the Ladyshave and removing six months growth of hair from your legs is now impossible.

A dome-port is easily scratched, so some form of protection is needed. Wrapping it in the best hand-towel in the house is ideal, If this is not available a suitable alternative is kitchen-towels. Preferably the last dozen sheets on the roll. With most hobbies the equipment required can be expensive, Photographic and diving gear is no exception. So, to make it affordable, little personal sacrifices may be necessary. ('Of course I can wait another month for my new reading glasses, dear. Your new macro lens is much more important.')

I know and have felt the anguish of decision making. Should one use the wide-angle or the macro lens- Should the film be 200 ASA or 400 ASA, 24 or 36 exposures- Whatever one decides it will probably be wrong. The amount of developed film that ends up in the bin indicates that the chance of making the correct decision is very slim indeed. One thing is for certain, always start with a new roll of film, even though the previous film may have had only six out of the thirty six shots exposed.

One of the toughest decisions of all to make is choosing the best shots for a competition, I have devised the perfect solution for this. Every month this little ritual takes place:-

'What shots shall I put in for Focus On - It's macro this mouth.', I'm asked.

'How about the pretty pink cup-coral and the blenny-'

'I don't know which one you mean.'

As quick as a shutter opening and closing, the dining room is turned into a cinema. Up goes the screen and out comes the projector, The table is strewn with slides, slide-holders and miles and miles of unmounted transparencies. One then views the entire repertoire of macro shots at least three times. The evening is finally rounded of with dinner an a tray (because the table has disappeared under a mountain of memories). I must admit it is a lengthy process, but it guarantees that two shots will eventually he chosen.

The build up to a major competition is much more tense, The planning for the Annual Splash-in, for example, can take up to a year. Eleven months trying to think of an idea for a contrived shot and one month to make the props. I have advised and supervised the making of plaster-of-paris crabs' claws, treasure chests, octopus arms and a giant oyster full of pearls (so that's where my string of pearls went! ) Then, like the dedicated BSoUP wife I am. I pose In the garden (like a lemon) with the said props, so that preparation photographs can be taken.

I know what your thinking - 'How can she know about underwater photography- She has never been fifty feet down amongst the fish and corals'. Yell until recently that would have been true. In Grand Cayman, BVI, there is a small submarine which takes the unknowing down into the unknown. So, eager to learn, I grasped the opportunity. Sat in front of a huge viewing part, field guides to corals and fish in front of me, Iprepared myself to be educated. But, not entirely to my surprise, I don't know it all!

A deflated puffer fish swam past. Iknew it was a puffer fish because weeks ago Itrod an one very similar (a slide had been left on the lounge carpet). Ireadily identified Squirrel Fish and Queen Angels. Only recently I had written out labels with competitor's and subject details and stuck them on the reverse side of prints of these species. I knew all about the difficulties of colours being filtered out at depth and I knew about the problem caused by plankton (there is a gallery of photographs in our house depicting fish and divers battling their way through Arctic snowstorms.)

So you see I do know it all! Being a spouse of an avid underwater photographer is like being a well used crutch that gives support to a patient who's only ailment is an ingrowing toenail. You learn to say 'yes' and 'no' in the right pfaces and always look enthusiastic, even though you have seen the same slide ten times (in the same evening).

Now where did I put that carousel of wreck slides- (In the dustbin!!! .... Who me??)


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