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BSoUP Meeting - January 2004

by Andy Clark and Gill McDonald

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Reproduced from in focus 78 (Spring 2004)

Alex Mustard kicked off the New Year by christening the new BSoUP digital projector and BSoUP's first digital evening with an overview discussing the digital camera equipment available to underwater photographers. Tackling the digital vs film debate, Alex spoke mainly about how the two approaches differ when shooting in the water. He went on to highlight the comparisons between shooting macro, portrait, fish and wide-angle and included the problems (or not) and considerations in lighting digital and film images. Finally Alex tried to persuade the audience to 'think digitally' - to understand the capabilities of digital cameras, particularly where they exceed those of film cameras - and to exploit these to create types of underwater images that have never been possible before.

Canada by John De Boeck

I'd never really considered Vancouver as a dive destination. But as I sat and listened to John be Boeck and his anecdotes of incredible diving in some of the high-energy sites surrounding his 'Browning Pass Hideaway', my ignorance of the location and the diving potential was shamefully evident. John is passionate about his business and its attractions. Indeed, the venue boasts 'the best diving in the known Universe'. I don't know who makes such a claim but it certainly has some substance. The Gordon Islands of Queen Charlotte Strait clock up 13,000 miles of beautiful coastline and beneath the waves it trumpets 'outstanding examples of rich underwater and inter tidal life', including plumose anemones, soft corals, nudibranch, and wolf eel to name a few - all of monumental size. The macro opportunities are many with an abundance of yellows, reds and oranges. And if you're wondering about wide-angle, you could be graced by the presence of one of the frequent visitors - orcas; Humpback, Minke and Grey whale, Dall's porpoise; Pacific white-sided dolphins; Stellar sea lions and harbour seals!

If this little plug hasn't yet wet your appetite, consider your time above water wandering through an idyllic landscape, fitting enough to feature in a Mark Twain novel with gorgeous rocky coast fringed with lush pine forest where bald eagle soar and dolphins and porpoise breach out in the Strait Consider too, after a hard days diving and wildlife watching, sitting before a hearty meal (a speciality of the Hideaway), supping fine wine and drinking in the scenery - ancient forest, incredible bird Iife and the occasional whale surfacing at the end of the jetty, just as dusk falls and slumber sets in! If you don't make the trip in reality, visit it virtually. You'll be glad you did! or email

Focus on Abstracts

The 'focus on' competition enticed 30 entrants out of their post?Christmas moods with a large variety of images. The topic was 'Abstract', and the competition was held in 35mm slide format but digital will be coming soon to a BSoUP meeting near you (or maybe not that near, but when it is digital you can easily enter remotely).

Most, but by no means all of the shots were macro, close focus and filling the frame. The results were a runaway success for our Treasurer Martha Tressler and no, it was not a fix!! Results as follows:

1st Martha Tressler - 84 points
2nd Robert Kemp - 40 points
3rd Bob Allen - 33 points
4th Jane Morgan - 24 points
5th Jane Morgan - 21 points
6th=Bob Allen - 19 points
6th=Len beeley - 19 points

A successful year in Digital Photography by Alan James

Alan James is an extremely enthusiastic convert to digital photography after successfully shooting with conventional film. Last year, he bagged more than 20,000 images underwater.

'When I used film, for example Kodak 64, I used to post it off, wait a week to 10 days until it was returned to me. Then, when I did get it back, many shots went straight into the bin! This does not happen now I am on digital. I have access to immediate review as soon as I have pressed the shutter. I would have killed for this facility over the last 20 years! I just carry on until I get the exact shot I was aiming for, it has cost me nothing to do so and I can move on to the next shot knowing I have the one I want in the bag. For lighting, I use 2 x 90DX f lash guns with 12 power settings. I don't really need TTL because if I take a shot that is not quite right I can immediately review it, change the output flash setting accordingly and snap again, and again, until I am happy. I am delighted at my successes in both national and international events using digital over the last year, I have netted 11 gold, silver and bronze medals and trophies and my basking shark shot is in the Dive Magazine year planner, Diver Magazine and a BBC book. Also at the Image 2003 festival digital versus film came out very well indeed'.

Alan runs an underwater camera shop in Bristol. Before he purchased his Nikon D100 and digital housing in 2002 he did not stock one digital camera in the whole shop. Now, he does not have a single new film camera to sell! In 'clearing the clutter', he counted 69 film cameras with various problems from which he could have made 1 or 2 functioning units. He threw them alI away.
The strongest message Alan conveyed to express his complete conviction about the future of digital is the absolute belief that since using digital, his work and images have improved at least 50% after 20 years of working on film.

Digital photography by Charles Hood
I remember Charles Hood telling me some time ago, 'conventional photography in photojournalism is dead, I understood the proclamation but what I didn't realise was just how quickly and how dramatically digital photography would take hold and with such huge success. It's so user friendly and the reality of any drawbacks are likely only to be apparent in the printing! The benefits of digital are all too apparent, the versatility of such an incredible tool all too obvious. Nonetheless, what is clear (to me at least) is that you shouldn't be intimidated by digital. If anything, your life will be made a whole deal easier, after initial outlay a good bit cheaper, and once you've got to grips with it your success rate will increase at an incredible rate!

It's common sense: research the market for your particular camera and carefully explore the options; experiment with your purchase, learn the particulars and shoot, shoot, shoot! But don't expect superb results instantly. Be prepared for I milky or flat mages, but play around with the white balance and you're on the road to achieving outstanding images. Consider too that you'll need the help of Photoshop. You'll need to learn this programme for maximum results. Charles will tell you,'take your photo and then your work starts'(talk to Alan James and he'll tell you otherwise!) However you approach digital, the rewards will be great - as will your time spent bouncing around Photoshop. It's all there, all you have to do is learn it and understand how it can best enhance your work.

But before you make the jump, and whatever the reason for it, consider this - I once heard David Doubilet (a man using conventional photography) speak on the subject of digital - 'We can't shoot digital at National Geographic'. How do you know what the truth is? How indeed!!

Reproduced from in focus 78 (Spring 2004)

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