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BSoUP Meeting - February 2004

by Pat Morrissey

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Reproduced from in focus 78 (Spring 2004)

Photo Technique - The (Ab)use of Black and White Film by Colin Doeg
Our esteemed Chairman made one of his all-too-rare appearances this month, brandishing a series of slides which documented his enduring fascination with monochrome underwater shots. Quoting some of the advantages of using black and white film beneath the waves, he listed its greater exposure latitude, its ease of process, its inherently dramatic treatment of subjects like shipwrecks and the joy he obviously still finds in employing it for natural light photography.

Colin began his talk by projecting an initial series of informative slides containing - in fine white print on a jet black background, of course! - the kernel of his thoughts on the power and attraction of bringing a monochrome eye to bear on an underwater vista. The versatility of this approach with Kodak TriX, allowing for a wide degree of over/underexposure which might subsequently be sorted out in the darkroom, appealed to many underwater photographers in the days before easy access to highly-engineered camera housings and reliable strobes. During his talk at BSoUP, Colin showed us the basic tools of his approach to on-the-road development - a stainless steel reel and a bottle opener ('purely for opening film cassettes') - and spoke of the differences between regular film and Agfa Scala slide film.

Focus On - 'Best Shot of 2003'

The 'Focus On' section of the evening centred on the Best Shots of 2003, and was won by Pedro Vieyra by a convincing margin of 44 points, with Bob Allen, Jane Morgan, Ken Sullivan, Pedro Vieyra (again) and Anthony Holley taking up 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th places respectively.

There was a nice selection of wide angle and close up shots to be seen, perhaps prompting the audience at the meeting to try just a little harder next time they drop over the side with a camera in tow.

Time Exposure with Shipwrecks by Leigh Bishop

The talk given by Leigh Bishop was eagerly awaited as always, but this time he told us how he had subtly changed his approach to taking photos underwater. Leigh, a full-time fireman, has become committed to the idea of using ambient light in his photography. Although having used a camera whilst diving since 1998, he had now come round to the idea of utilizing much longer exposures with a wide angle lens, necessitating the use of a tripod. He has similarly developed a real affection for monochrome shooting, which he demonstrated with a dazzling selection of slides from various deep-diving expeditions.

He showed us pictures taken on dives down to the Britannic, the Lusitania, the Transylvania, the Justitia, the Audacious, the Empire Heritage, the Laurentic, the Wilhelm Gusthov, as well as on shallower wrecks perhaps better known to recreational divers such as the Dunraven. Leigh has found time to engage with the basic problems of long-exposure photography underwater.
And when Leigh says long exposures, he ain't kidding: anything up to and beyond 24 seconds of ten at f 22 or f 16, Fuji 400 or Agfa Scala (nominally rated at 200 ASA) pushed to 1600...

Given that some of his shots were taken at 135m, and that his style of diving can entail 6 hour deco stops, I doubt that many of us will be queuing up too eagerly to join him on his photographic adventures. Certainly not me, for whom his description of penetrating the various decks of the Britannic brought on a cold sweat and shallow breathing! But his talk was illuminating in every sense, and BSoUP was fortunate that Leigh could spare the time to show us so much of a world that more usually stays unseen. More power to him!

Reproduced from in focus 78 (Spring 2004)


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