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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
|ON THE DAY (45 Entries)
||Male cuckoo wrasse
||Dave Buckley (7 firsts)
||Pippa Standen (6 firsts)
||Bob Soames (3 firsts)
||Close-up of flounder's eye
|PRINTS - OVERSEAS (29
||Spotted Moray eel
||Moray with cleaner shrimp
||Male Cuckoo Wrasse