Report from Visions In The Sea 2009


Report by Tim Moran.

Schedule of Events

**Cathy Church: The techniques and art of shooting close underwater**

Cathy expounded on her techniques to get close without spooking the subject or damaging the reef. Amongst a wealth of information from one of the world’s most respected photographers, Cathy told us that she uses a weight belt with an even distribution of lead which allows her to rotate freely in the water. We learned to use light to separate and create emphasis and she explained her technique of rim lighting by positioning a strobe “above and a little behind” her subject. Her belief that we should “capture what we feel, not what we see” is a useful mantra.


Cathy Church getting passionate about her subject

**Paul “Duxy” Duxfield: Getting the best from your Compact Camera**

Duxy talked about the finer points of compact camera control and gave his audience much to consider. His messages were; “Don’t write off the internal flash and get close, very close. Use external strobes to control backscatter and introduce creative lighting. Add a macro lens for greater ‘strobe room’ which is more ‘creature friendly’ by allowing stand-off from the subject”.

White balance is one of Duxy’s favourite techniques and using blue and green Quality Street chocolate wrappers as filters over the lens allows anyone to practice the technique without getting wet.

Covering compact camera techniques, Duxy plans a series of presentations to clubs in the near future.


What’s one of these? An upside down one of these:)

**Martin Edge: Edge of the Light**

Martin talked about the qualities of light, especially light as it is cast in shallow, very shallow water, i.e. three or four metres. He emphasized how important it is to predict the angle of the sun and to coincide the dive with the desired quality of light. Martin often places greater emphasis on the quality of the light than the subject and saying about dappled light; “Put anything in it”. Other comments were telling; “Photograph anything that will photograph well” and “Diving and underwater photography are not related”.

Look out for Martin’s completely revised edition of ‘The Underwater Photographer’ due out very soon.

**Dr Alex Mustard: Mastering your strobes**

Alex’s message was to keep strobe light consistent with ambient light. “You don’t see the hand of the photographer” was his often repeated phase when describing the attributes of example images. Using the correct strobe for the job was another of his messages and the difference in the illumination provided by Inons versus Subtronics was discussed along with the benefits of home made diffusers which serve to soften the light. Alex’s bullet points included; power, strobe positioning, warm versus cold illumination, flat versus directional, the technique of ‘inward lighting’, lighting to emphasize texture, off camera strobes and constant source illumination, i.e. dive lights.


Alex Mustard making a point

**Jukka Nurminen: Beneath the waves of the Baltic Sea**

Diving throughout the year in varying conditions including ice diving, Jukka presented a collection of surface, sub-surface and underwater images taken in the Finnish Baltic Sea. As his presentation progressed the images became more and more spectacular and unique. His sub-surface wave images were absolutely breathtaking.


Jukka and a Baltic Snell’s window

**Ali Hood: The Important work of the Shark Trust**

Ali Hood’s erudite and passionate delivery was all the confirmation we needed that our sharks have a worthy champion. Ali told us that the Shark Trust relies on factual and verified information to create the credibility it needs support its lobbying tactics and much of that data has to be supplied by a team of committed volunteers.

Ali told us that as a result of their recent lobbying, all UK fishing vessels must now land unfinned shark carcasses, wherever they caught in the world. At first sight this may not seem significant but it means that verification of the shark species can now be made and armed with this data the Trust’s lobbying can become more powerful.

Recent successes by the Shark Trust lobby include;

* A prominent role in the adoption of the EU shark finning ban
* As a founder member of the Shark Alliance worked to secure the adoption of a strong Community Plan of Action for Sharks
* Closure of target fisheries for Spiny Dogfish, Porbeagle and Tope
* Secured species specific landings for Skate and Ray and protection for vulnerable skate
* Proposed and won Basking and Angel Shark protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act
* Collaborated in getting 15 sharks species adopted under the Biodiversity Action Plan
* Practical engagement with the commercial fishing industry to promote sustainable practices
* Increased public awareness for sharks


Almost as lovable as a GWS!

**Charlie Hood: The Complete Guide to Wreck Photography**

Charles took us on a tour of some photogenic wrecks with images taken in a wide variety of green water conditions. Using examples of wrecks lying in Scapa Flow and Malta, Charles considered the use of models, ambient and strobe lighting, angles, perspective, darkness, limited visibility and high ISO and low shutter speeds.

**Mark Koekemoer: Pilots in Gibraltar**

Taking us on tour of the waters around Gibraltar, Mark introduced us to the opportunities to dive and photograph Long-finned and Short-finned Pilot Whales. These whales grow to four or five metres in length and number up to seven or eight adults and juveniles in a pod. Often seen snoozing on the surface between hunting forays, they can be easily approached or may cruise past a diver often returning for closer inspection. Adult Pilots can be extremely protective of their calves and position themselves between divers and their young. Mark told us that occasionally, aggressive behaviour can be displayed and manifests as non-contact tail slapping and bubble blowing. Of surprise to me was Mark’s report of Sperm Whale occurring in the Straights though he has been unable to photograph any yet.


Mark ‘feel the force’ Koekemoer fencing with his light sabre

**Maria Munn: Capturing the World’s Largest Animals with a Compact Camera**

Maria took us on some of her favourite dives with her compact cameras; Basking Sharks in UK waters, Humpbacks in Tonga, White Sharks in Mexico, Californian kelp forests and the cold, clear waters of Alaska. Maria showed us many images taken by her compact camera underwater photography course clients whose photographs have featured prominently in the diving press. Maria has a new book; ‘Underwater Photography for Beginners’ which is due for release in the New Year.


Maria with a new friend from the Shark Trust

**Peter Scoones: Underwater Wildlife Filming**

Peter Scoones, the BBC and David Attenborough are synonymous entities. The man behind the camera of the Blue Planet (the most profitable BBC wildlife series), Deep Blue, etc. etc. allowed us some wonderful insights into his filming. Having designed, built and delivered to his film crew the first broadcast quality HD housings he was confronted with some criticism and discontent. After a week of evaluation filming his crew had modified their opinions to; “don’t change a thing”! His truisms, which resonated with me, were “Digital either works or it doesn’t” and “If it doesn’t work, it just sits there looking at you:)”

We enjoyed a few selected sequences; white tips at night, salmon and bears, cichlids and dolphinfish in Lake Malawi, polar bears and walrus in the Arctic, chokka squid at Port Elizabeth, the piranhas of the Pantanal, clownfish spawning at Raja Ampat, and hunting banded sea craits. Wonderful stuff.


A very relaxed Mr Scoones, Sir :)