Subject Selection Negative Space Potential The Way in which we Choose what to Shoot

Two of my favourite underwater photos of all time depict firstly a branch of Kelp (seaweed) lit by flash with a black background and, secondly, a wave, breaking over a coral reef in shallow water. They were taken by two individual underwater photographers from the USA in the late 1980s.

What is so significant about these two pictures is the subject matter. Kelp and a breaking wave! It's difficult to think of anything in the sea more commonplace than a wave and a piece of seaweed, yet these two images, to my eyes, are perfection. Many years ago these two pictures got me thinking. In that — if a piece of kelp and a breaking wave could be made to look so good, anything in the sea must be a credible subject!

Think about this! Kelp must be one of the most universal and familiar subjects found underwater. So how on earth can we begin to choose what to photograph and what to ignore? This is concept behind subject selection.

A number of subjects are quite obviously great to photograph — dolphins, manta rays, Pygmy seahorses. But in certain locations, the less obvious types of subject may be in such profusion that we tend to ignore them as quite mundane and 'hardly worth the effort'. In my opinion, the potential of the subjects we choose to stop and photograph is the main factor that separates the best photographers from the rest. The best are skilled at spotting an opportunity, which the majority of us swim over without a thought;their inner-eye spots a photo opportunity and instinct takes over. For some it's an intuitive talent, but I know that it is a skill that can be developed with practice.

And the reason I know this is because I have done it!

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