Martin's first published pictures, from a trip to the Red Sea in the early 1980s.
came out. I was off. I continued to build up the kit. I got an extension tube from Steve Frink, when he was in Key Largo. 1982 -1 went in and bought it from the man himself. It was the first and only time I have met him [Steve wrote the foreword for the 4th Edition], I bought a Subawider [wide angle supplementary lens] for the Nikonos from Peter. Then an Oceanic 2003 strobe and borrowed £500 from my Mum to buy a secondhand 15mm."
Martin describes these early acquisitions with an enthusiasm we can all relate to. There is a similar excitement as he recalls his first major competition success at the internationally renowned Brighton Underwater Film Festival (UK). We all remember that treasured moment when we first see our name up there with the names we've long admired. "I entered a picture of shrimp in an anemone at Brighton in 1983 and there it was in the winners list flanked by pictures taken by Flip Schulke and Jacques Cousteau. That was a wow moment."
Martin credits much of
Martin in the Red Sea with various kit including Nikonos Ills, Nikon housings and Oceanic strobes.
his success to the vibrant British underwater photography scene at the beginning of the 1980s and the generosity of others with their knowledge. He recalls with great affection, and detail considering it was more than 25 years ago, how these photographers gave him their time and took a genuine interest in his photography. For years now, he has been the one giving encouragement and advice, but the fact that he still values dearly the 1:1 feedback he received is certainly part of what makes him such a successful teacher.
"My heroes, at the time, were Pete Rowlands, his mate Steve Birchall, Pete Scoones and Mike Valentine. Although Mike Valentine rubbed up a few of the pros the wrong way, he was always really encouraging with new photographers [Valentine is now an underwater cameraman for movies, he was behind the housing for the likes of Star Wars, Bond, Bourne, Indiana Jones etc]. He was at Brighton '83 presenting one of his AVs [audio-visual slide show] and came up and asked me if I had anything in the competition and I told him I was highly commended. I said, "You don't want to see this!" He said. "I do." And I remember he walked the whole length of the dome at Brighton with me to see my picture. And he was really enthusiastic. You don't forget something like that."
"BSoUP [the British Society of Underwater Photographers] was very important in my development. I discovered BSoUP in 1983 and drove up to meetings each month. At my first meeting, Brian Pitkin welcomed me and Georgette [Douwma] won the monthly Focus On competition. I won BSoUP's Best Beginner in 1985."
Martin rapidly rose to prominence on the international stage in the second half of the 1980s as a result of innovative six projector AVs,
An article on balanced tight by Martin from the Peter Rowlands' original Underwater Photography Magazine in 1988.
which he put together with AV expert Jim Eldridge. It was a poignant time because his daughter, Katie, was born with cerebral palsy and Martin recalls how working on the AVs helped pass the evenings between hospital visits. Martin and Jim premiered "Sea Of Dreams" based on photos from the Red Sea at BSoUP, and the BSoUP newsletter recalls that uniquely it received a "spontaneous standing ovation" from the audience of experienced underwater
Peter developed the original Underwater Photography Magazine into Sport Diver, the cover here noting its incorporation, andfeaturing Martin's watershed jellyfish photo.
"Sea Of Dreams was followec up with "Imaginations" set in the Maldives, which we launched at Brighton in 1987, following Stan Waterman on the stage. I remember Kurt Amsler being very encouraging. We were the first to do it with underwater pictures, so we got invitee to film festivals across Europe. At a Festival in Antwerp, Jim and I turned up to the Gala Dinner in our dickey bows and found we were completely overdressed. The only other people who were similarly dressed were Hans and Lotte Hass, so the four of us spent a delightful evening together. In fact we were almost inseparable from that moment on at the event."
His awarding winning breakthrough images in 1980s were the result of hard graft, combining his own ideas with the knowledge interrogated from the top shooters of the day. Police detective training has its uses! "Every month Bob [Wrobel, Martin's long time UW photo buddy] and I were asking questions at BSoUP. We'd work out ahead of time a list of questions for different photographers and I used to say to Bob 'Go and ask such and such this, and ask it like this', while I talked to someone else. I got to talk to Doubilet, Howard Hall, Pete Rowlands, Georgette [Douwma], Mike Valentine, Scoonsey [Peter Scoones], Linda Pitkin. I wanted to know how they had got their best I shots. The Police Force taught me how to interview people and get them talking! I wasn't bothered about the settings, I was using the same settings as the best photographers, I wanted to know about the motivation and the mind set that brought the really I exceptional images."
"I remember asking Pete Scoones in detail about the lighting in one of his famous shots and his response was 'I've never been asked that question before.'And he answered it. He knew exactly what I wanted to know. Rowlands did too." Martin's approach was a bit like reverse engineering, he figured out recipes on how to create beautiful images. He taught himself and his approach proved perfect for explaining to others how to do it, too.
The watershed in his development came on an early dive club trip to Cornwall. Despite the expense and long journey, Martin chose to skip the organised diving and snorkel to photograph a jellyfish he had spotted in a tide pool. "It was an important decision. It was a photo that I felt I created, made happen, rather than had just taken on a dive. That was the moment the penny really dropped. The photo did well in everything I entered it. It has been in all my books, it was the moment I realised what went into great photos and that underwater photography had nothing to do with diving."
So to the 4th Edition of The Underwater Photographer. There is no doubt that digital underwater photography has matured a great deal in the last few years, but having poured so much into the very popular 3rd Edition, the man himself was less sure. "When I wrote the 3rd Edition, I felt that's it there is nothing else to say. Although the book was pitched to cover both film and digital, the focus was pretty much all digital. So when I was asked to do a 4th Edition, which was about a year ago, before agreeing I asked myself has enough changed? And after a couple of weeks' research I convinced myself it had. In actual fact, so much new material has come up that my initial writing schedule of 3 months has ballooned to a year. I have even given up my golf for it."
The new book is due out in early November and as he tells me about it, it is clear that Martin is chomping at the bit to see what people make of it. "We cover all the big topics, but it is also packed full of little tips and tricks that I do all the time, almost sub-consciously, that I have never written or seen anyone else mention. I actually carried a pen and piece of paper with me twenty-four-seven for the last year, and every time something came into my head about underwater photography I wrote it down. I am sure that everything I know, can think of and do is in this bloody book! And it is going to be a big book."
The 4th Edition promises to be encyclopaedic in its coverage, but one of the reasons for the popularity of Martin's books is that he tells readers what he thinks. Sometimes endlessly listing all the options available can leave the reader confused. Martin will give you the options and then what he recommends. "In the introduction I say that my intention is to produce the most comprehensive book on underwater photography. However, I also make the point that this is underwater photography through the eyes, mind and philosophy of Martin Edge. And you've got to make sure you seek out other opinions too, because other people will agree and disagree on all manner of things."
That said, Martin has asked a number of underwater photographers to contribute chapters and the opinions of others are also woven into the main text. He reminds me that I am not the only one with a Dictaphone, "You know when I taped you in the car, when we were chatting? I used all that!"
As a photographer, Martin is driven by innovation, yet his own photography is often overlooked artistically, as his shots are usually dissected for teaching purposes. "When people like us are trying to push the boundaries, you are talking about a chinks of light. You're not going to come up with a whole technique that has never been done. We have to find the little thing, that was perhaps passed over before and exploit it. For example, recently I have been playing with higher ISOs and shooting right at the end of dusk. Technically over exposing, so the water is light instead of dark. I am
The cover for the forthcoming 4th Edition of The Underwater Photographer.
playing with wishy-washy textures in the water, which gives the ocean a unique blurred look. If that makes sense? I'm talking really dark, ISO 1600 at l/8th second. I think it's exciting. The key to finding images that exploit the high ISO capability of the latest cameras is to think 'where is it dark?' and shoot there. At these exposure my torch has the power of a HMI light."
And his closing advice for innovation, "Go and play, set dives aside to be wild, free and silly. So much of what I have found that works has come from mad ideas!" The underwater photography world awaits the 4th Edition of The Underwater Photographer, by Martin Edge, with baited breath.
By Catherine Masson, Rachel Russel & Cedric Villiere
Diving and photography have always been the two things in my life which have remained consistent in my desires for them both, and my eagerness to improve and learn new techniques.
As a student at The London College of Art studying photography, I am learning all sorts of tricks of the trade, meeting very successful photographers and studying the way they work behind the lens. I feel confident now that I know quite a lot about Landscapes, Portraits, Still Life, Beauty and Graphics but without the experience. However, none of these fields of photography compare to capturing beautiful images underwater.
It is a completely different technique using your body to balance yourself and the camera instead of a tripod, searching hard for your subject, instead of planning ahead and building a set. All photographs, if you succeed in what you want to achieve are very rewarding. None however, give me the same satisfaction or butterflies in my stomach if I have captured a turtle looking right at me from just a couple of centimeters, or flying with a Manta Ray whose enormous wing span manages to fit in my wide angle lens, or discovering something you have never ever seen before and you capture it for your memories.
Although this is exciting, no underwater images are any achievement if the picture is not sharp! And believe me, sometimes this can be quite
Kayaking during the surface interval, next to the impressive S.Y. Philippine Siren © G. Rambert tough work if you have a current trying to whisk you away from your subject, or your buoyancy is not controlled so you cant stay as still, or worse, you get so distracted you forget your depth, and your time and this can have devastating consequences.
I see underwater photography as a challenge, with many obstacles but if done correctly the pictures are not only outstanding they are incredibly rewarding because you managed with patience and skills to get it. Underwater photography is an addiction but a beautiful one!
One person who knows more about this than any other is Gerald Rambert, who has inspired me from a young age to take a lens with me into the water. His work is extraordinary and I was amazed at how his eyes could spot the tiniest creature. His body always stayed in control of the water, long enough for him to get close and steady his camera to use his macro lens to capture his subjects. Many of us would dive close to him to watch the way he moved and to study his style. We knew that if he
Yellow Rhinopias taken with a canon G10 in Ikelite housing & Ikelite strobe. [email protected] © C. Masson
Turtle taken with a canon G10 in Ikelite housing & Ikelite strobe. [email protected] © C. Masson
was photographing something- it would definitely be something worthwhile to take yourself or to even spot what it was he had seen!
I will never forget when we were diving with
15 sharks- white tipped and black tipped reef sharks and the occasional loan bull shark. He managed to sneak up on a white tipped reef shark round the corner of a bit of reef sheltering him from the current. The picture is extraordinary and I never knew you could get that close to a shark or that they roamed around so close to the reef!
Gerald was a great teacher as well. His patience was outstanding with us all trying to get his attention to ask countless questions and to explain to us individually how we could improve our technique. The results were outstanding because at the end of the trip, when we all got to see each others work, we were amazed at how much we had improved in those two weeks of having help from him.
Kitty Jempson, another photographer was also full of enthusiasm and encouragement to us. She was also like Gerald; a fish who seemed to disappear for hours while we were all up out of air on the boat waiting for her to emerge with her infamous model Chris. I very much enjoyed showing her my photos for well structured criticism and she was so good at cutting the bad from the good. Her pictures were also outstanding in composition and sharpness and it was always exciting to take a peak at her images.
The photography teaching we had was incredible. None of us felt intimidated or overshadowed. We were a team, a team of learners. For me, managing to grasp the technique of manual photography underwater and using a big strobe for the first time was the best. I finally learnt how to have a relationship with my camera and this is now going to be my lifeline in achieving a successful career as a freelance photographer. I yearn to be back in the water every day, to be back on the boat with all the team who worked so hard to look after us and to be surrounded by all those very talented photographers- amateurs or not, we came back as professionals! I am already saving all that I have and counting all those long nights and cold days until our next photography trip with Worldwide Dive and Sail in the Philippines!
Exceptional diving with so many photo opportunities from dolphins, sharks and manta rays to spawning sponges, zebra crabs, numerous nudis and the ever-so cute pigmy seahorse. So much colour, so much variety, such great light & visibility and all of it completely to ourselves. That's the beauty of Komodo! Plus of course the infamous Komodo Dragon. What a treat to get up so close and personal to these powerful and imposing carnivores.
So how was the photography? Even as a beginner I loved every minute of it. Watching and learning from the pro's I literally witnessed my own photos improving with every dive. Yes, even me with my little Canon compact, fish-eye and strobe I found myself taking the most amazing photos within days. Whether just getting to grips with the basics of composition or grappling with the more bamboozling relationships between exposure, shutter speed, depth of field, etc Gerald & Kitty were readily on hand with helpful advice and demonstrations both above and below the surface. Even the evenings were put to good use, over a few beers of course, learning how to crop, sharpen, brighten and clone in Photoshop on the massive 47" flat screen TV in the lounge bar.
And that leads me to comment on the boat itself: Worldwide Dive and Sail's newest fleet
IXUS 90 IS with Inon Fisheye and Inon Strobe. [email protected]/60 © R. Russel
IXUS 90 IS with Inon Fisheye and Inon Strobe. [email protected]/60 © R. Russel member, the S.Y. Philippine Siren. A truly spacious and luxurious 40m yacht, designed by divers with diving & photography in mind. Remarkable attention to detail in its building and furnishing, there are power sockets everywhere, dedicated fresh
water tanks for camera equipment and each diver has his own station with a personal draw to keep safe those little bits of dive gear that inevitably would go missing. There's ample space in the cabins with each one having its own "ensuite" plus a desk & chair with computer & flat screen for downloading and viewing your very own pictures. Similarly the communal spaces are just as roomy with comfy leather sofas and a (slightly temperamental) expresso machine. And when we did manage to tear ourselves away from the cameras the upper sundeck was a perfect haven for 40 winks between dives.
The dedicated crew are a lot of fun too. We certainly were not allowed to go hungry by the talented chefs who would serve up delicious meals inspired from all around the world on a (very) regular basis. My personal favourite being the gooey hot-chocolate pudding - exactly what's needed after a late night dive. Then there's the hot towels and magical massages that could put any insomniac into a restful slumber. And from a diving perspective, we always felt in very safe hands with the experienced dive guides and the boat handling skills of the Zodiac drivers. And of course, the boat owner himself, Frank who stamps his own personal style on the whole operation making it impossible for anyone to go home without a smile.
It's been a couple of weeks since I arrived back home and I'm still buzzing from the thrills of such a wonderful trip and I find myself grinning like a Cheshire cat every time I glance up at my very own works of art on the office wall. In fact I enjoyed the trip so much I've already booked myself in for next year's workshop. Yes, I'm addicted and I can't wait!
"Shades of blue and grey, snow flakes, weird light... underwater photography can be a very tricky activity, and the results just so far from what you saw. So, when friends proposed me to join them on a cruise in Komodo where the team of World Dive and Sail organized an UW photography workshop, I jumped at it!
First step, change my digital compact for something more serious. First contacts with Gerald, and a couple of emails down the road, Cath, Paul & me, decided to go for the same kit, a Canon G10, combined with Patima Housing and Sea&Sea strobes. Manual settings but not too complex or bulky, I think this was a perfect choice for the three musketeers!
After the stress of the first dive, "will it leak?" things went very smoothly. The kit is comparatively heavy for compact but very well balanced, easy to manipulate and logical.
First results were already a quantum leap but then we sat with Gerald, and he went through the G10 possibilities. With a couple of very direct facts and simple examples, he made relatively obscure concepts very clear. After a couple of sessions, aperture, shutter speed, exposure, and the direct impact of the settings on the images became very obvious.
Back in the water, the pics improved dramatically. Deep and clear blue backgrounds, bright colours, correct light, a whole new world appeared through our lenses. For the first time, I had the impression to bring back to the surface what we saw below it. Sometimes, even nicer.
Then Gerald and Kitty took us to the next step, with the tech side improving fast, we had to train
Crocodile fish. Canon Powershot G10 in Patima Housing . [email protected]/125
Morey eel . Canon Powershot G10 in Patima Housing . [email protected]/100
our eye, get the best out of a possible shot, learn how to position ourselves or the subject in a better way, pick the right angle, choose the right light, and moved rather fast from technically OK to nice pictures...
Back on the boat, the final touch is given by couple of clicks on the laptop, "et voila !"
The real amazing thing is how simple it has been to take those lessons underwater with us, apply them to real dive conditions and bring them to life (or to the screen...). Not to forget a funny side effect, some of those lessons also apply above water, and allowed me to bring my DSLR to a next level too...
After ten days, and many dives, I really have the impression something clicked and that my pics are getting there... Still so many things to learn, and skills to improve, but my results at the local competition and comments from friends, back home, made me very happy
Catherine Masson, Rachel Russel ft Cedric Villiere
290IEE11 - 09ju OfJT 12010
ft trip or a urcTimc ivitii GERALD KAMBERT and mrvjisKSoN
email: infoS mraldrambirr.oimi
Was this article helpful?