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Book Review

by Brian Pitkin

Reproduced from in focus 36 (March 1990)

The Manual of Underwater Photography by Heinz-Gert de Couet and Andrew Green Published by Verlag Christa Hernmen, Grillparzerstr. 22, D-6200 Wiesbaden, Federal. Republic of Germany. $39.50 + $4.50 p. and p.

The Manual of Underwater Photography

The 394 page Manual of Underwater Photography is divided into five sections. The first part 'Getting started' is aimed at the impatient beginner who can't wait to get underwater and start shooting. Following safety advice the authors discuss technical constraints of using automatic cameras underwater and give a brief introduction to equipment, film, exposure, composing, focusing and recording.

Exercises on covering basic flash or strobe and available light exposure and focusing on land follow in the second half of Part 1, before the reader is taken through exercises on his or her first open water shoot.

Part 2, 'Theory', covers light and the underwater environment, basic photographic theory and film. The physical attributes of light, colour perception, absorption, reflection refraction and diffusion are discussed. Types of cameras and their format, types of shutters, shutter speed , aperture, film, exposure, lenses, dome ports are covered. Choice of film, colour balance, resolution, technical specifications, sharpness, latitude, development, size, availability, storage and transport conclude the theory section.

Part 3, 'Equipment', starts by discussing cameras and housings, although greater detail and emphasis are provided for the Nikonos range of amphibious cameras. Strobes or flashguns and accessories, advice on buying secondhand equipment and care and maintenance of Nikonos cameras follow.

Parts 4 and 5, 'Basic Techniques' and 'Advanced Techniques', cover just about an technique you can think of under the headings of 'Available light photography 'Strobe photography', 'Close-up photography', 'Wildlife portraits', 'Wide-angle photography', 'Modelling', 'Underwater photography at night', 'Plankton photography', 'Image alterations', 'Composition' and 'Selling your pictures'.

Part 6 includes depth of field tables, manufacturers' addresses, a useful glossary, a bibliography and index.

Each chapter begins with a summary and important points made are repeated in larger type face in boxes.

The book is illustrated throughout with some excellent black and white line drawings by Hans-Peter Heuser, numerous black and white photographs of equipment etc and nearly 60 colour plates including some exceptional photographs taken mainly by the authors.

The book is written more or less along the lines of a BSoUP's basic course series of lectures, starting with early attempts with a minimum of technical knowledge and progressing to more advanced techniques and covering nearly everything you are likely to need for successful underwater photography.

As the authors point out, any book including a discussion on equipment is likely to become outdated within a few years. But in their manual, Couet and Green include so much more that it is likely to be a standard reference for many years to come. There are probably less than a dozen books published specifically on underwater photography, but de Couet and Green's 'The Manual of Underwater Photography' is certainly one every photographer should have for reference. But to improve your underwater photography there is only one way - put film in your camera and get on down.


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