Mxtender

Optical strobe cable system for the Sea & Sea MX-10

The MXTENDER is the innovative fiber optic strobe cable system for the Sea & Sea MX-10 produced by GB Undersea of the USA. Now available in the UK through Ocean Optics this system will bring you a dramatic change to your phots with the Sea and Sea MX-10 system. By increasing the off camera distance between the MX-10 camera lens and YS40a strobe backscatter can now be dramatically reduced.

The MXTENDER has been designed with durability and ease of use foremost in mind. Its structural components are precision machined of corrosion-resistant tempered aluminum alloy, then matte finished and black anodized. The fiber optic fittings are machined of corrosion-proof 316 stainless steel. The MXTENDER integrates perfectly with the MX-10/YS40 camera system, mounting easily in place and allowing you to quickly and securely move the strobe on or

off camera.

The generous length of optic cable releases the strobe from camera to allow you to handhold the YS 40a strobe to the position you require for that creative shot. As this technique requires the use of both hands it can feel a bit more demanding, but can be fine tuned with practice.

Off-camera flash control is ideal when working in turbid water coniditions, as is often associated with UK diving locals. With a little practice the MXTENDER can make shooting in less than ideal visibility help produce excellent results in the most challenging of conditions.

For further details contact Ocean Optics Tel 44 (0)20 7930 8408. E mail

[email protected] or visit their web site www.oceanoptics.co.uk

Gates news

Gates new web site has been launched - check out www.gateshousings.com.

With the launch of the new site, all housings (except Guppy model) are now rated to 450 feet/ 138 meters. they've'received great response from tech divers , many of whom are diving wrecks and caves to these depths.

They also have a new Multi

Port, an underwater changeable lens system that allows you to change from Wide Angle to Macro in the same dive. Gates is the first to offer this type of system for video housings, and the response has been so good that they're already backordered.

"Don't Take a Chance, Take a Gates!

For further details, contact Gates Housings 5111 Santa Fe Street Suite H

San Diego, CA 92109 858-272-2501 858-272-1208 Fax Email:

[email protected]

Digital Imaging for the Underwater Photographer:

by Jack Drafahl and Sue Drafahl

This is the definitive guide to using digital technology to produce stunning underwater images. The Drafahls present the basics on using scanners, hardware and software, printers and film recorders. The information presented in the beginning of this book serves as a primer for the advanced tips that fill the balance of the book. Readers will learn how to balance color on their monitors, adjust contrast and brightness, reduce grain and repair flaws. Image composition and archival data storage is covered as well.

Jack Drafahl and Sue Drafahl are a husband and wife team of professional undersea journalists, lecturers and multimedia producers. They have written over 500 articles, which have appeared in, amongst others, Petersen's PhotoGraphic, Rangefinder, Photo Lab Management, Outdoor Photographer, and National Geographic. Sue holds a BA in Photographic Communication; Jack holds a Masters degree in Photographic Education. They have patented two inventions related to underwater photography. Both Jack and Sue teach seminars worldwide on all aspects of photography, both on land and underwater.

REVIEWS: "Neophytes will not get snowed with jargon and technicalities. The Drafahls draw on what they've learned in preparing hundreds of magazine articles and lectures on the underwater world." —Immersed

"Readers can learn how to eliminate backscatter, understand resolution and image quality, enhance fluorescence and macrophotography, and archive and

An underwater guide to Indonesia by Charles Anderson

Judging by the number of articles I receive about diving in Indonesia this area could claim to be one of the most popular diving destinations in the world.

This 160 page hardback book is a lavishly illustrated identification guide which incudes descriptions of the marine habitats, coral reefs and behavioural observations such as relationships, self defence and mimicry.

Measuring 23 x 16 cm, this book is the ideal traveling companion for those visiting the area and will provide them with extra knowledge to help appreciate and understand this diverse environment.

Peter Rowlands

Digital Imaging for the Underwater

Photographer

Coriputcr

Application*

for Fhnto

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144b- pwsijmp uild lüäntl

f.tek ¡nut Sue Draft ht Amheril Medio l«Jvi<qilll I HI ¿^

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catalog images for safe storage and easy access." —Dive Training Magazine

PRICE: £29.95 For further details contact Ocean Optics, 13 Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5AQ. Tel 44 (0)20 7930 8408. www.oceanoptics.co.uk

Interview with

Kim Westerskov

By Ross Armstrong

(Above) New Zealander Kim Westerskov

(Below) Young humpback whale about to surface in clear tropical waters, South Pacific. This youngster - a baby really at 5 metres length - later caught me with its long pectoral fin and carried me along for awhile. I call it being "cuddled" by a whale. Canon F-1, Canon 20mm lens, in Mark Twain housing with fisheye port. Ektachrome Elite (EB) 100. f4 or 5.6.

New Zealander Kim Westerskov is the only photographer to have received five first places in the prestigious BBC/British Gas Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. I caught up with Kim at his home in Tauranga to talk about his photographic career.

What got you started in underwater photography?

I have always liked photography. My parents gave me a camera when I was about eight or ten. I learnt to dive as part of my PhD in marine biology at Otago University -studying oysters. It seemed an obvious thing to try underwater photography and it became an important tool in my research. The marine lab at Portobello had lots of dive gear - and also Nikonos cameras! This was fortunate because I couldn't afford any - so I borrowed theirs for a decade or more. I'm very grateful to them for this, and also to Bill Ballantine at the Leigh Marine Laboratory for employing me when I was thinking "What do I do next?"

In 1981 I graduated from Otago University and also had my first book published: lThe Seas Around New Zealand! This book really helped get my career going. I took all the photos and wrote ten chapters. My friend Keith Probert (another marine biologist at Portobello) wrote the other 20 chapters.

In I983 I married Vivienne and the following year declared myself a full-time freelance photographer and writer. There was no money coming in at all to begin with, but I persevered, and eventually it became 'a goer'. It's going really well these days.

Dense underwater forest of bull kelp Durvillaea antarctica. Subantarctic Auckland Islands, New Zealand. Nikonos 5, Nikonos 15mm lens. Ektachrome Elite (EB) 100. f4 or 5.6, auto exposure.

How did your underwater photography develop?

There was one clear decision that I made somewhere in my twenties. I had persevered with underwater photography to a point where I more or less knew what I was doing and was getting reasonable results. I was about to move on to 'the next thing' but thought "Isn't it time to stick with one thing long term and see where it leads me?" So I stuck with underwater photography. It was a good choice - it's been heaps of fun. Challenging but very rewarding.

I have always taken mostly above water photographs but have somehow built up an image of being an 'underwater photographer'. In an average year I would do between 30 and 50 dives. Never 100 - not yet anyway. So diving has never been a huge part of my life, but it has always been an important

Blue shark, South Pacific. Canon F-1, Canon 20mm lens, in Mark Twain housing with fisheye port. Ektachrome Elite 100. f4 or 5.6.

one. I have tried to make every dive count by either diving where no one else has dived before, or with a whale or, somewhere special. My results have come not from huge numbers of dives, but from getting the most out of each one.

What do you credit your photographic success to?

The reason for doing well in the past was partly because I got myself to places that no one else had been to before. Anywhere that hasn't got people sounds good to me - and if it's cold as well it sounds even better. My

Baby Southern Right Whale heading towards me. It passed within touching distance [I didn't touch it]. That big dark thing behind it is its mother. Winter breeding grounds, subantarctic Auckland Island. Nikonos 5, Nikonos 15mm lens. Ektachrome 100S. f4 or 5.6, auto exposure.

"Aroha". Bladder kelp Macrocystis pyrifera on shore. Limpets. Subantarctic Auckland Islands. Canon EOS-1. Canon 35-350mm lens. Ektachrome 100VS. Gitzo tripod.

patch is from Fiordland and Otago down through Stewart Island, the Sub-Antarctic islands and Antarctica itself. I would look at maps and wonder which of these islands I could maybe get to. Nowadays I'm having to rapidly upgrade my technical and creative abilities, as well as just getting to faraway places.

In 1991-92 I got a really big contract with Christchurch International Airport who were building a seven million-dollar Antarctic Visitor Centre and wanted a photographer in Antarctica to get photos. I had already spent four months there in 1981-82 and another 2-3 months in 1990, so I knew the system and what was involved. I knew how cameras reacted in the temperatures of -30 to -50 degrees (Celsius) below freezing. I took around 24,000 photos during that time in Antarctica, including underwater, aerial, and from an icebreaker.

Do you consider yourself a technical photographer or creative or what?

Definitely not technical. However, there is a certain amount of technical knowledge that you simply have to know -you can't just be an artist without understanding your tools. I have enough technical skills to get my pictures, and to figure out what the limitations of my equipment are, and work within them. Pete Atkinson and Darryl Torckler have been very generous in helping me with technical matters and I'm much indebted to them.

Maybe underwater photography is like a triangle: 'technical' in one corner,

'artistic' in the second corner and 'biology' in the third. The biology is not just scientific knowledge but more of a connection. I fit in easily with animals: I admire them, don't hassle them, don't get eaten by them. Every photographer will fit into this triangle differently as we each have our particular strengths. I'm somewhere in the middle of the triangle, but near the biology corner.

Diving in Antarctica, alongside the overhanging ice wall of a floating glacier tongue. Erebus Glacier Tongue, Ross Island, Antarctica. Nikonos 5, Nikonos 15mm lens, Fujichrome RDP. f2.8, auto exposure.

Group of red starfish (Odontaster validus) feeding. Under sea ice, shallow sea floor, Ross Island, Antarctica. Nikonos 5, 28mm lens, close up tube, Velvia, Sea and Sea YS-200 strobe. f22,1/30

Do you think that there is much left to be done with underwater photography?

There's heaps still to do, and I'm working on some promising leads at present. It is only our lack of our imagination and commitment that stops a lot more happening.

What makes a good photo?

Connecting with people. Sounds simple, but how do you do it? There is no magic formula I know of - apart from doing something that you like and believing in yourself. Some photos will work - 'connect'-and some won't. Learn from both kinds - and move on. Keep moving.

Wide angle photography has always appealed to me. Wide-angle photos are basically underwater landscapes. In them there is usually a foreground -you can see something clearly and have an appreciation of its colour, texture and personality. But there's also a sense of distance and some of that feeling which doesnit photograph easily - the experience of being underwater. That feeling or mood is what we are all striving to capture and wide angle seems to achieve this best.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about trying underwater photography?

Sounds like great advice. We look forward to seeing many more great photos taken by you in the future.

By Ross Armstrong

Bonaire - a unique underwater studio

Nikon 801s in a Subal housing, 16 mm Nikkor full-frame fisheye, Nikon SB25 strobe in a Cullimore housing, Sea & Sea YS30 slave. 1/ 60th F11. Fuji Velvia film

By Linda Dunk

Whether you are already an accomplished underwater photographer seeking to perfect a particular technique or explore new ways of approaching your subject, or someone keen to master the basic building blocks of underwater photography, there are some essentials that are needed to make the creative process easier and more productive, and in my experience, one of these is continuity of location, conditions and subject material.

I have struggled with picture taking in wet places for rather longer than I would care to admit, and have had plenty of time over the years to consider, when in far flung places the shots are simply not coming up to scratch, what uncontrollable circumstances I can blame for my lack of success. Excuses I have come up with have included jet lag following horrendous triple- and quadruple-flight journeys that leave someone in the prime of youth, let alone pushing on well through middle-age, feeling bereft of a brain, let alone inspiration visual ideas clamouring to be committed to film. Many is the time I can hardly remember when finally on location how to put the dive kit, let alone the camera gear together, after a long-haul trip to what I know, if I can only get my head around it, is sure to be an underwater photographer's paradise.

Another source of tremendous frustration can be that old coconut of being taken, either by RIB, dhoni, liveaboard, you name it, to a terrific site that you know instantly you could spend the rest of the trip, perhaps even the rest of your life on, only to be told that the RIB doesn't come back to that site until the day after you have left, or that the liveaboard's schedule involves a new dive site every two hours, and no, they won't change things just to suit you.

Other rich veins of excuses have included currents well-suited to a wet-and-wild extravaganza, whose only use to the photographer are to

demonstrate at high speed what a bountiful array of subjects he/she will not be able to photograph, and the certainty that the exciting light coupled with a calm surface that bends the wide-angle photographer's brain occurring at the beginning and end of the day will not coincide with the preset dive times. Often these preset dive times are those favoured by every other dive operator within 50 miles, so that divers can experience the communal pleasure that comes from shoaling in warm water. Then there is the possibility that those precious babies, your films, may come back, if there happens to be processing available, fried in the first developer. Finally, don't forget the ever-present risk of encountering an embryonic dictator or RSM masquerading as a dive guide, and you can be easily be excused from producing a half-decent underwater photograph for the

(Above) Nikon 801s in a Subal housing Nikon SB25 strobe in a Cullimore housing, Sea & Sea YS30 slave. 105 mm Nikkor lens. 11 60th F11 Fuji Velvia film, rest of your life.

However, it doesn't have to be like this - because Bonaire exists.

Americans have long been familiar with the delights of Bonaire, but when I first had the good luck to find myself on this island fifty miles or so north of Venezuela fifteen or so years ago, it was not a location uppermost in the consciousness of the British market.

Bonaire is part of the Netherlands Antilles, with companion islands being Aruba

(Left) Nikon 801s in a Subal housing, 16 mm Nikkor full-frame fisheye, Nikon SB25 strobe in a Cullimore housing, Sea & Sea YS30 slave. 1/60th F11. Fuji Velvia film

and Curacao, known in maritime parlance, according to a rather optimistic coastal skipper course I undertook way back, as ABC. As a self-governing part of the Netherlands, the Bonaire authorities had the great foresight to ban spearfishing on the extensive reef system that surrounds the island and its uninhabited sister islet, Klein Bonaire, in 1971, and then to designate a vast area of reef on the sheltered western side of Bonaire and all round Klein Bonaire as a Marine Park.

This action has resulted in the spectacular fringing reefs remaining largely pristine and teeming with marine life, including a variety of unusual, but not too difficult to find, marine creatures of interest to underwater photographers. These include seahorses, terrific cleaner shrimps in the anemones, snake eels, secretary blennies, approachable squid, frogfish, heaps of juvenile spotted drums, and many more. The usual varieties of grunts, schoolmasters, snappers, angelfish, moray eels and groupers are also available to have their pictures taken, and tend to be less fey than in other locations possibly due to their being used to divers and not being hunted.

Staying at a resort such as Captain Don's, situated on the western side of Bonaire, and facing Klein Bonaire, you have the tremendous benefit of a house reef that can sustain you in terms of picture opportunities for whole period of your stay, if you so choose to work that way. Captain Don's prides itself as being'"the home of diving freedom", and indeed, you can dive whenever you want, day or night, and it is not necessary to encumber oneself with a buddy - again, the choice is yours.

You can work the house reef entirely to your convenience, and although Bonaire is often said to be a macro heaven, for a wide-angle devotee like me, this has huge advantages.

After a shallow swim to the edge of the reef, the house reef off Captain Don's slopes away at about an angle of 45 degrees, and the sun rises in the early morning up over the top of reef, perfectly positioned for close-focus wide angle, using foreground subjects on the reef slope to make up the picture. Shoals of fish are often calm at this time in the morning, as is the surface, and small boats on fixed moorings can be brought into the composition. Alternatively, if a buddy can be persuaded to get out of bed, the diver, torch, video light scenario can be brought into play. The important thing is that the sun is in the right place for you, and that you can go back, each morning of your stay, and shoot, shoot and shoot again until the picture in your mind's eye finally and satisfyingly, makes it onto the film.

You don't have to dive deep to find your subjects, visibility is usually very good, currents amount to a gentle wafting at worst, the sun shines a lot, and the reef inhabitants appear to be as much creatures of habit as Homo sapiens can sometimes be, doing the same things in the same place at the

(Right) Nikon 801s in a Subal housing Nikon SB25 strobe in a Cullimore housing, Sea & Sea YS30 slave. 60 mm Nikkor lens. 11 60th F11 Fuji Velvia film.

(Below) Nikon 801s in a Subal housing, 16 mm Nikkor full-frame fisheye, Nikon SB25 strobe in a Cullimore housing, Sea & Sea YS30 slave. 1160th F8. Fuji Velvia film

same time, so enabling you to find them without wasting valuable dive/shooting time. You are also able to plan ahead and fit just the right lens for your chosen subject, again maximising the possibility of successful picture taking. However, there must be waves occasionally, in order to justify an overheard remark when preparing for a night dive along the lines of "Honey, I don't do waves"

Should you wish to be a little more adventurous and stray from the house reef, boats operating an intelligent rota that avoids overcrowding will take you to sites around Klein Bonaire, the Salt Pier, and an array of other locations; you just sign up for where you want to go in advance on a first-come-first-served basis. The Town Pier is known world-wide as a night dive to die for. Dive kit is kept close to the shore diving entry steps/jetty, so you don't have to clump about for miles in the heat all kitted-up, and can start your dive alert and full of enthusiasm rather than near collapse. Likewise, the rooms are not too far away either, so you won't come back with one arm larger than the other and in permanent spasm due to all that unwanted training carrying heavy camera gear back and fore n times daily.

At Captain Don's, the rooms are generous in terms of space and storage, giving the underwater photographer plenty of places to secrete the often extensive range of bits and pieces, gadgetry, film, batteries, ports, chargers etc etc. You can set yourself up comfortably for those long hours of camera fiddling, with the benefit of air-conditioning if you choose to cool you down when equipment malfunction rears its ugly head, and there is sufficient space for those with more than one rig to set it up ready to run without having to climb over it/stub your toe on it during the night when nature calls. Because you are not on a boat, using the night hours to go from A to B, engines throbbing away, anchor rattling up and down at 4 am, you can look forward to a decent night's sleep, that is if the excitement about today's pics in the development stage and tomorrow's opportunities can be quelled (a spot of alcohol in moderation

(Left) Nikon 801s in a Subal housing Nikon SB25 strobe in a Cullimore housing, Sea & Sea YS30 slave. 105 mm Nikkor lens. 1/60th F11 Fuji Velvia film.

can be handy here - another thing easily available in Bonaire).

Captain Don's has an excellent photo shop on site, enabling you to pop your film in hot from pressing the shutter, and get it back, reliably processed, next day. This has immeasurable benefits for all underwater photographers, and especially for those participating in a photo course, as you can not only see that the kit is working properly, but you can also look at your films, decide what you like and don't like about them, discuss successes and problems with the tutor, take the remedial steps, and best of all, go back and shoot the picture again and again, until it all comes right for you. You can improve your technique almost exponentially as a result, mastering concepts that can take years to get one's head round doing it on an ad hoc basis, in a very short time. This liberates you through improved understanding from the shackles of the nuts and bolts of kit, film speed, aperture, shutter speed, depth of field, lighting, and focusing, and frees up your mind to concentrate on the end goal, the actual picture. As a result, you can progress to develop your own style of underwater picture taking.

None of this benefits from isolation, and as part of a group working together on a common goal, nothing is better than discussing one's ideas with others intent on capturing those elusive shots that have the gasp factor that we all so keenly seek.

Such conversations can be accompanied by the odd chilled beer, rum punch or margherita as appropriate as the sun goes down.

No course would be complete, however, without some more formalised teaching, and this can comprise, in addition to individual chatting and tuition, maybe three of four evening lectures, before or after dinner, as the group chooses. The resort has excellent conference/projection facilities for this activity, with air-conditioning that can be turned up to arctic if needed to keep everyone attentive after an active day's shooting. Tuition is not a one-way process, and opportunities are always available for you to share your work with the group as part of the process.

Finally, if the photography/diving becomes a little too intensive, why not try something a little different for a day or two; hire a car and tour the island (can be combined with shore diving as well, if you simply can't leave it alone), visit the Washington-Slagbaai National Park, attempt flamingo photography instead (it'll help to put the underwater thing in perspective), or just laze by the pool. After all, it is your holiday

Linda Dunk

Linda's next photography course is in Bonaire, at Captain Don's Habitat, from November 17th - 25th, 2002. Details can be obtained from Hilary Lee at Divequest, on (44)-01254-826322 (Tel), (44)-01254-826780 (fax), e-mail: [email protected].

A range of Linda's work, including a series of fine art prints offered for sale, can be seen on her website at www.lindadunk.com.

Bahamas Turks & Caicos Tobago

Bonaire, Venezuela Little Cayman, Belize Honduras, Thailand Sipadan, Mabul Layang Layang Derawan & Sangalaki Bali, Komodo, Wakatobi, Manado, Kungkungan Bay Palau, Yap, Truk Australia's Coral Sea Papua New Guidea, Solomons Fiji, Hawaii, Sea of Cortez Revillagigedo Islands Cocos Island, The Galapagos Kelp Forests of California

Plus Underwater Photography Group Trips and Courses with leading photographers: Martin Edge, Linda Dunk, Malcolm Hey, Charles Hood, Gavin Anderson

DIVEQUEST The Ultimate in Underwater Photography Adventures ATOL Protected 2937

Telephone: 01254-826322 or e-mail [email protected] website: www.divequest.co.uk

serious

The Subal housing for the Nikon Coolpix 5000 is coming soon. nderwater photography will turn a corner.

Towards a Fellowship by Anne Owen FRPS

Most of us who take underwater photographs go through a phase of wanting to show our pictures to other people and be assured that we are taking 'good' pictures. We show them to our friends, we go in for competitions, we try to get them published and some of us go for Royal

Photographic Society 'Distinctions'.

Someone once asked me why I went to the RPS for 'affirmation' of my ability as a photographer, when 'surely, they can't understand underwater photography'. Well, OK, taking pictures underwater is hard and there are special considerations to deal with like back-scatter, absorption of reds and the need to get very close to subjects. But many other advanced nature photography techniques are hard too - birds in flight or pitcher plants suspended high above the ground in low light below the rain forest canopy. The basics for good images though are the same -good lighting, good composition and the photographer's 'eye' for an interesting subject - the 'wow'-factor. I felt that pitching myself against the broad spectrum of Nature photographers would be a real challenge.

Like most underwater photographers I chose to submit work in the Nature category. Nature photography is considered to be primarily record photography, which means to say that the subject is rendered in a life-like way, in its natural environment. The trick, as with anything else in life, is to know when it will be OK to break the 'rules'.

How did I get started? I first submitted a panel of 15 slides for assessment for the Associateship (ARPS) back in 1998 and having been successful, I almost immediately set my sights on the next level - Fellowship.

Since the comments about my Associateship Panel had been very encouraging, my first effort was to add 5 slides, to come up with a 20-image submission, which I took along to an Advisory Day. There, a group of experienced Assessors look at your work and spend 10 or 15 minutes discussing each individual image, as well as the Panel as a whole. This was a sobering experience. Two things became clear. Firstly, the technical standard required of each image was higher than at Associateship. Tiny flaws that had been tolerated at

Emporer Shrimp on Spanish Dancer, PNG.

Cropping in very tightly has removed un-interesting background and enhanced the details of the remarkable camouflage of the shrimp. Traditionally, you would avoid two subjects, but in this case, it works.

Spine-cheek Anemonefish, PNG

Cropping the image to produce a vertical format transforms an ordinary shapshot into a mush more powerful image.

the lower standard would definitely not be overlooked this time around. Secondly, that reusing a lot of images between Associateship and Fellowship was not good enough. I was essentially faced with producing 20 brand new top class slides.

Like many amateur underwater photographers, I only get to take photographs for 2 or 3 weeks each year. On some trips, I'm lucky to come back with even a few reasonable images. So producing a whole new Panel of slides felt as though it would take a lifetime.

On the other hand, I had dozens of 'almost-there' slides -the ones where the framing is not quite spot on, or there's an unfortunate bit of back-scatter, or whatever. That led me to think about submitting prints instead of slides. Perhaps in the process, I would be able to do a bit of tidying up, and salvage some of my 'almost-there' slides into decent prints. I had heard that digital printing was capable of producing high quality images. The only real drawback to the plan was that I had no experience whatever of printing, digital or otherwise and I had never even seen PhotoShop, let alone used it.

Step one was to book into a long-weekend digital imaging workshop. I took along just two slides to work on, and was very focussed about what I wanted to learn, which was the basics of scanning, cropping, colour correction and minor 'editing'. I bought exactly the same equipment as the course leaders had selected - a Minolta Dual Scan and an Epson 1520 Photostylus printer.

Step two was to start looking seriously at my slides. I scanned, cropped and did preliminary editing on over 150 possibles, then did A4 prints that I scrutinised very carefully. I become quite ruthless at eliminating images - focus not pin sharp, disappointing colours, uneven lighting, boring subjects and so on. This was a largely 'mechanical task'. At the same time, I was trying to form a vision of what the overall Panel would look like.

At Assessment all 20 prints are displayed together, so that you have to consider the overall visual impact. The prints have to relate together in some way. I decided that my 'story' would be the complexity of colour and pattern on the reef. I would keep each individual image very simple and rely on the grouping to paint the picture of the immense richness of a coral reef community.

I honed down my selection to 35 images and worked hard on each, adjusting contrast and tone and removing blemishes. At this point I realised that I was 'too close' and it was becoming harder to make decisions. I started showing my pictures to lots of people n friends,

Colonial Anemone, Fiji

This image has benefited from eliminating some distracting out of focus highlights in the black background surrounding the anemone.

underwater photographers and other nature photographers, in fact anyone who would take the time to look. I wanted to find the images that most people liked. This process was incredibly helpful. Some of my personal favourite were eliminated. For some reason although they appealed to me, no-one else was interested. On the other hand, some images that I had almost dismissed, perhaps because they had been easy to take, were very popular.

I was down to 25 images and faced with making a final selection. At this point, I went off for more coaching, on how to mount and present prints. Finally, I printed all 25 images, at full size on good quality paper. I spread them out on the living room floor (easier said than done, as I'd printed 31.5x25 cm images on A3 sheets) and shuffled them round. My aim was to choose the 20 prints that would work best as an overall group.

I set out the prints in two rows of 10 prints and worked outwards from a core group of four macro prints that I felt were especially strong. One the top left hand side I positioned a group of three prints, on the top right I balanced these with another set of 3 prints. The outer ends of the row were eanchoredi with strong verticals. In the bottom row, I placed other groupings that would contrast and complement those at the top. I tried to ensure that from a distance there would be an overall sense of harmony, while each print would stand up to close scrutiny in terms of composition and quality.

This all sounds very 'by the book'. In fact, I

broke lots of 'rules' as I went along. One image shows two fish, bucking the conventional wisdom about having an odd number of subjects. Several images have cropped subjects, against strong guidance to show images of complete animals only. Not all the pictures are in focus from front to back.

I was, of course, delighted to be successful. I look back on the whole process as a very stimulating, though nerve-wracking experience. I learned a great deal. Obviously I had to learn about printing and PhotoShop, but what I learned about composition and attention to detail, has transformed my photography in the water. I now take as many vertical compositions as horizontals. I spend as much time looking at the background as I do at the subject before pressing the shutter n if itis not good enough, I will move on. I even think about the use to which I might put an image while I'm taking it!

In April of last year I was invited to join the Assessment Panel for Associateship and Fellowship in Nature. The Panel meets twice a year and it is a pleasure and privilege to view some stunning Nature photography from all over the world. Underwater photography is reasonably well represented, but I'm sure there are many others out there who would enjoy the challenge of working towards a Distinction. If you are interested and would like to know more, please feel free to contact me.

AnneOwen E mail [email protected].

Kurt Amsler photo course

'Group Shot' - Kurt Amsler (both photos taken with a digital camera) (Below) Lecques Aquanaut Center' - Kurt Amsler

by Andrew Bell

The dream for many aspiring underwater photographers is to make a full time living from underwater photography. So competitive and specialist is this medium that only a small handful of people achieve this status.

After many years of commitment into pushing his own potential Kurt Amsler is one of those people.

Thousands of hours have been spent underwater with camera in tow in pursuit of pushing the envelope to produce awe inspiring images to stay one step ahead of thecompetition. His vigour and enthusiasm was noted by leaders in the diving industry which directly secured him a contract with the PADI European College in Cannes to teach instructors how to conduct underwater specialty courses.

Kurt finds motivation through competition. To help facilitate this drive he takes time out between assignments to teach people his own hard-earned skills. It would be fair to question the wisdom of giving your trade secrets away, especially when a full-time income is dependant on it but it is this sharing of information that is exactly what pushes him to the next level in his own work. For a few weeks out of the year Mr. Amsler takes time out from his busy schedule to teach advanced underwater photography courses. Our class size consisted of only six students so led to more one on one tuition with Kurt. This ensured that his concepts were hammered across.

There were only four such courses last year, all held in a small tranquil town called Les Lecques located along the Mediterranean Coast in France. The final course for 2001 was organised by Ocean Optics and was the only one conducted in English.

Over ten years the course has been fine-tuned to become a very efficient itinary consisting of 6 theory lessons and one dive a day, with 5 boat dives in total. The assumption is that the photographer is very familiar with the equipment and has had varing degrees of success in capturing images underwater. Building on a pyramid style 'See, Hear and Do' approach to learning we were given examples of specific types of underwater photography and then taught how to avoid pitfalls, learn from them and achieve a higher level of success. The course outline and location was a very efficient way to work as our studio, the sea, was only a few minutes

away. The classroom, complete with light boxes for reviewing photos and film lab, was located at 'La Bastide', a old country home rebuilt in to a hotel. This was also our accomodation for next six days of the course. With the beautiful views of the 'Provence' region before us we all agreed this was a very nice part of the world to excel at our underwater photography.

To be taught by one of the best in the business was a unique opportunity and one that my fellow six classmates and I could only gain from. The experience level amongst ourselves as photographers was quite varied, from relatively experienced photographers to professionals. What was certain was that although all the students knew how to shoot a good underwater picture, Kurt was going to take us all to the next level to take excellent ones. This course was to be full on and we all needed to develop the attitude of wanting to apply ourselves to take full advantage.

Kurt's photo workshop does have a few prerequistes. Everyone on the course had to be an seasoned diver with boat diving experience and already have a basic general knowledge in underwater photography. We had to bring all of our

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