Book Review: Underwater Photography for Compact Camera Users.
By Maria Munn.
At the recent DEMA show, it occurred to me how much the underwater imaging market has grown. When I started taking pictures underwater in South Africa in the mid ‘80s, I think I knew everyone else in the country doing so. This sounds fanciful until you realize that there were only five or six of us! With the exponential growth in diver numbers, the increased availability of housings for compact cameras, camera prices dropping and the cameras themselves becoming easier to use, just about every diver now spends some time with a camera underwater fairly early on in their diving career.
Many within this vast group of people are happy to simply record the sights they see underwater, but some wish to expand their horizons and use these amazing tools more creatively. This is exactly where Maria Munn’s book comes in. It is aimed specifically at an audience that is, in my opinion, simply not catered for adequately in any other book. Granted many underwater photography textbooks do have chapters about compact cameras in amongst everything else, but this is somewhat ironic considering that the numbers of compact cameras users is significantly larger than their SLR toting brethren.
One of the potential pitfalls of this book is the ever-changing plethora of camera models that are available. Maria navigates this skilfully by providing a general overview of camera features and menus, without referring to specific camera models. Hence, she provides a relatively future-proof listing and description of camera functions. She also shows how these various settings and menu items are more or less suited for underwater use. I think she has accepted that many of users will buy this book to improve their photography with the camera they have, rather than purchasing the book first, and I think this is a realistic supposition to make. It also allows the book to concentrate on improving underwater photography, and the application of camera functions to this, rather than getting bogged down in details about the latest compact camera models (which will be rapidly out-of-date anyway).
With this philosophy in mind, the book does spend some time looking at after-market options available for compact cameras. She devotes a chapter to add-on lenses, focus lights and filters, and a further chapter to strobes. In each of these, Maria outlines the accessory and then it’s application underwater, which I think is important for the intended readership, as this is an area that they may well be considering. She then covers using compact cameras whilst snorkeling and then in temperate waters, with both sections profusely illustrated with images.
The core of the book is contained in the chapter “Composing a Great Underwater Photograph”. This gives both practical advice and inspiration for tackling various types of picture and composition. Maria initiates each section with a “shopping list” of what is needed for a particular shot, and then elaborates on how to achieve it with text and images. In many ways, it is a kind of educational course, encouraging people to go out and attempt a type of shot or composition with guidance and inspiration. For the newer photographer seeking to expand his or her creative horizons, this is a gold mine of ideas and techniques.
The book wraps up with brief sections on downloading and storing digital images and the need for practice. The book is very well illustrated throughout with images doing much of the “talking” but it also features further inspiration in the form of a guest gallery of images, showing how the principles outlined in the book can improve your photography.
I think the real strength of this book lies in the targeting towards the audience for whom it is written. Sometimes books attempt to be “all things to all people” and end up not really satisfying anybody! This is specifically a book for the compact camera shooter seeking to improve his or her underwater photography. For this large group, it has a rich wealth and depth of information, presented in a manner that will help and encourage you to better results. The information is presented in a practical non-technical way and many of the techniques are presented in the form of step-by-step instructions to allow for easy practical application. If a compact camera user is seeking better results from their camera, and an overview with specific advice on how to achieve them, they should read this book.
Underwater Photography for Compact Camera Users by Maria Munn is A5 sized and has 176 pages in full color. 10% of the profits from sales of the book will be given to Sea Shepherd, Biteback, BDMLR and The Shark Trust, or to help The Scuba Trust. It is available from author or via online book sellers like Amazon. The reviewer purchased the review copy.