The British Society of Underwater Photographers (BSoUP)

Inspiring and informing underwater photographers since 1967

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Scuba Travel

BSoUP's Splash-in Competition 1999

by Tony Sutton

You've got one film, one day, a specified area to shoot in and a judging session that night. That's a British Society of Underwater Photographers Splash-in. Tony Sutton went to try his luck at Bovisand, but found his luck trying him instead
"We've hired a RIB for the day. Local boatman included. He knows his stuff, knows all the dive sites," said Mike Maloney, one of my dive group, giving me the nod and stroking his nose.

My mind flooded with visions of Aladdin's caves, and shoals of fish appearing from secret locations. But as I assembled my kit, I ruefully remembered that I hadn't checked it. To my relief the camera system was functioning: flash OK, batteries charged, O-rings sealing. My cylinder wasn't quite so straightforward. The knob turned, but too smoothly; no air came out. As for my spare cylinder, it was empty and out of test.

"You've damaged the head. There's nothing I can do," said Bovisand's man at the air station. Fortunately Martin Parker of AP Valves was on hand. "No problem," he said as he took the knob off and turned the air supply on with a hand wrench.

At last it was onto the RIB, and away to capture those prize-winning images. A swell and some white horses greeted us as we rounded the bluff from the Fort and headed for the rocks. This was obviously going to be a long trip.

"There's a nice pool over there, lots of things to photograph," said the boatman, pointing to rocks with waves crashing over them. "Won't we be swept about a bit?" asked one of the divers, gazing with horror at the foam and hanging onto his precious photographic gear as the RIB pitched in the swell.
"Maybe," he said, eyeing his nervous passengers. "What do you want to do then, the Mewstone?"

A couple nodded. The RIB turned and headed for the Mewstone. "Here's good for underwater photographs," said the boatman, as he vaguely waved his hand at the sea.

"What's the depth?" The boatman reached for his depth sounder and shook it. "Err..." He shook it again: "7 metres." Not totally reassured, someone asked if he ever dived this spot. The "no" was drawn out, followed by a pause, and then the confession: "I don't dive." "Then how do you know that it's a good spot?" "Divers tell me it is." To that, there was no answer. We went down to be greeted by kelp, more kelp and lots of tiny two-spotted gobies that would hardly fill the frame of a microscope let alone a 35 mm camera.

The swell swept us back and forth. Two divers were realistic and quickly gave up. But my buddy Ken Sullivan and I stuck it out for an hour. I captured some images of small goldsinny in a crevice - hardly frame-filling - and the mouthparts of an enormous spiny spider crab. It was too big to get all of it using my macro lens. Ken seemed pleased. He had photographed jewel anemones and a cuckoo wrasse.

Back at the Fort at midday the tales had already started: winners and losers, the worst and best spots. "I've never seen so many fish. There were hundreds. And those two huge lobsters out in the open," said one diver, lugging her gear back up to her car. "Where was she?" I asked.
"James Eagan Layne - that's where we should have gone," said one would-be winner from our group. "There were john dory on the wreck this morning." "I've heard that one group came across a couple of cuttlefish and played with them for hours," said another. "And someone's boasting he's got some beautiful shots of a cuckoo wrasse," said yet another.

Linda Pitkin - a former winner - just smiled at everyone as she came up the slipway and then went back down the slipway and then back up again. The harbour area was causing some concern to Bovisand's operations manager, George Gradon. RIBs laden with photographers were gridlocked - some trying to get in, some trying to get out. And underneath them and all around them were photographers, flashing away at the marine life on the harbour walls, some with SMBs, others without.

"Hold it, hold it," shouted one RIB diver. "There are three just under the surface by the bow." "Tough!" the cox'n shouted back. "We've waited long enough. They could be there bloody hours," he said as he revved up his twin outboard engines. Bumping sounds came from the hull, but no blood. Gradon winced .

The day had started at 9am, when 46 competitors had queued up at the "interrogation room" for their one roll of slide film, Fuji Velvia (a choice of either 50 or 100asa), under the watchful eye of BSoUP chairman Peter Tatton. It was reminiscent of one of those war films in which people are lined up to have their fate decided by inquisitors behind a trestle table. "And your name is?" enquired Tatton, looking down his list. If your name was on the list you got your film. If not, you had to undergo further examination. "Address? Are you a member?"

The film had to be exposed in Plymouth waters and returned by 4.30pm. That was when the waiting started. Processing supremo Peter Ladell descended to the "dungeons" - one of the casements at the Fort - armed with all the exposed film. Here he had a bank of processing tanks and helpers. Competitors disappeared into the bar.

For the next three hours Tatton could be seen walking back and forth anxiously from the dungeons to the interrogation room, where the slides would eventually be viewed. "When do you reckon we'll get the films back?" "8.30 at the earliest," he replied. After subsequent trips that became 9pm, then 9.30.

At 9.45 he announced with great relief that there had been no cock-ups in the processing. "They're not scratched and they're correctly processed. They're now drying. Give it 15 minutes."

The queue reformed, names were called and films handed over. "Back by 11 please. Up to two slides for the main event and one for the humorous section," shouted Brian Pitkin, one of the organisers, above the general din. "What about the slide mounts?" wailed a few. "Sorry, we've forgotten them. You'll have to beg, borrow or steal," responded Pitkin. So this was to be an initiative test as well. Fine. I got no sympathy when I bleated to a friend that I had no mounts or scissors to cut out my shots.

"Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!" I was told. How right she was. Viewing the day's efforts and voting for a winner finally got underway at midnight.

"I'm voting for myself and so is my wife," announced one competitor. "But that's cheating," spluttered a spectator. "No it's not. It stands to reason. I wouldn't be submitting these slides unless I thought they were going to win and as I'm voting for the winning slides I must vote for mine!"

More than 50 people were now waiting for Brian Pitkin to get the show underway. There were some beautiful slides. Some of the tales were true. Lots of john dory and cuttlefish appeared on the screen and a spectacularly colourful cuckoo wrasse. There were also plenty of candy-stripe flatworms and tompot blennies. Ah, why hadn't I seen any of these?


The winner in the "On the Day' category was DEREK HASLAM with a colourful shot of a male Cuckcoo Wrasse. Derek started diving at the age of 16 and for the lost ten years he has dived with the Hartford Sub-Aqua Club. He has been a BSoUP member for two years and dived on the day with Dave Buckley, his regular buddy, another BsoUP member.

Derek has been taking underwater pictures since 1991 and his winning shot was taken off the Mew Stone using a Nikon F50 in a Sea and Sea NX50 housing with a 105mm lens and twin 58105 strobes. His film stock was Fuji Velvia shooting with an aperture of F16 at 1/60th.
His favourite dive sites are Tref or Pier, Wales , Plymouth and Cornwall. Derek was awarded the BSoUP Trophy and a gold medal.

The runner-up "On the Day* was GORDON JAMES with a photograph of a John Dory. Gordon started diving in 1979 and is a founder member of the Bristol UPG. He was the first person to do a Natural History FRPS 'underwater'. Gordon's shot was taken with a Nikon F70 and a 105mm lens in an Ikelite housing and an Ikelite MV and 500 sub-strobe. Gordon was awarded a silver medal.

Third place "On the Day" went to DAVE BUCKLEY with a photograph of a cuttlefish. Dave is an engineer with Rolls Royce and Bentley cars and he has been a BSoUP member for two years. He is the current Chairman of the Hartford Sub-Aqua club where he has been a member for 17 years. Dave's shot was taken at the Mew Stone with a Nikon F90X and 60mm macro lens in a Sea and Sea housing with one SB26 and an Ikelite 50 strobe. His favourite dive sites are Northern Scotland, St Abbs, the Forne Islands and Cornwall. Dave was awarded a bronze medal.

The winner in the humour category was MARTIN PARKER with a photograph entitled Jelly Fish. Martin was awarded the AP-Valves Trophy and a gold medal.

The runner-up in the hurnour category was JOHN SOUNESS. Third place went to PAUL DAWSON.

The winner of the Overseas Print category was PETER LADELL with a photograph of a Geometric moray (Sidereagrisea) looking out of yellow coral. Peter has been diving for some 16 years and taking underwater photographs for 15 years. He is currently a member of four photo clubs, including BSoUP, Photosub, 35 Postal Club and Vauxhall Chilterns Photographic Club. Peter also came 4th this year and was a previous winner of this category two years ago.
Peter's print was taken off Coral Beach, Eilat with a Nikon F90X a 105mm macro lens and two strobes all contained in housings of his own design and manufacture. Peter was presented with a magnificent new "Alan James Photography" trophy and a gold medal.

Second place in the Overseas Prints category was DAVID STEPHENS with a photograph of a Manta Pay. David has been taking underwater photographs since learning to dive six years ago. His shot of the Manta Pay was taken at Jackson Peef, Sharm el Sheikh while on an Alan James workshop, using a Nikonos 1VA and a 15mm wide angle lens. David received a silver medal.

Third place in the Overseas Prints category was MALCOLM HEY with a photograph of a Moray and cleaner shrimp taken at Mosses Rock, Eilat. Malcolm was last years winner and runner?up in this category, he received the bronze medal.

The winner in the British Prints category was BOB SOAMES with a photograph of a Tompot Blenny. Bob is a BSoUP and Photosub member and he started diving in 1981 and took his first underwater pictures in 1984 using a Nikonos III and a 'home brewed' flash gun. Bob's shot was taken in Weymouth with a Pentax LX, and a 50mm macro lens in an Ikelite housing with a single Ikelite Ain strobe. His filrn was Fuji Velvia taken at F1 I for a quarter of a second. In 1996 Bob started to experiment with digital manipulation and his own printing and says he "continues the encleavour to become proficient at it ? the print of the Tompot Blenny took days of work". Bob was awarded the Ocean Optics Trophy and a gold medal.

The runner-up in the British Prints category was KELVIN CURTIS with a photograph of a male Cuckoo Wrasse. Kelvin is a design engineer working in the lock industry. He started diving fifteen years ago and is a BSoUP member a member of the Bristol Underwater Photographic Group and the Natural History Photographic Circle (35PC). Kelvin's picture was taken at the Eddystone in 28mts., using a Nikon 601 a 60mm macro lens in a Ikelite housing and a single Y550 strobe on F16 at 1/125 th . Kelvin was awarded a silver medal.

Third place in the British Prints category was CHARLES HOOD with a portrait of a seal. Charles, an IT Account Manager, is a SSoUP member and belongs to EXUL (ex University of London branch). He has been diving for 18 years and taking underwater photographs for 17 years. He took his seal photograph with a Nikon 8015 with a 20mm lens in a Subal housing lit by twin Sea and Sea Y550 flashguns at 1/125th @ f8 in the Farne Islands. Charles' favourite British dive sites are Land's End, Cornwall and the Farne Islands and he was awarded a bronze medal.

Position Photographer Points Subject
ON THE DAY (45 Entries)    
Ist Derek Haslam 65 Male cuckoo wrasse
2nd Gordon James 38 John dory
3rd Dave Buckley (7 firsts) 28 Cuttlefish
3rd Pippa Standen (6 firsts) 28 Strawberry anemone
3rd Bob Soames (3 firsts) 28 Close-up of flounder's eye
PRINTS - OVERSEAS (29 Entries)    
1st Peter Ladell 58 Spotted Moray eel
2nd David Stephens 38 Manta ray
3rd Malcolm Hey 32 Moray with cleaner shrimp
1st Bob Soames 24 Tompot portrait
2nd Kelvin Curtis 14 Male Cuckoo Wrasse
3rd Charles Hood 13 Seal portrait
1st Martin Parker 33 Jellyfish


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