Searching through the old archives of Diver Magazine, I came across this dated article on underwater photography. In reading it over, basic things in the art of acquiring the image have not changed much.
See what they had to say then ... and then think about it.
By Michel Gilbert and Danielle AlaryWith this edition we begin a series on underwater photography. Award winning writer/photographer Michel Gilbert will team up with his partner, Danielle Alary, to introduce our readers to this popular specialty. This team has worked extensively in the field over the past 15 years, publishing in North America and abroad. This series will cover the basics of underwater photography and, eventually, more advanced concepts. Feel free to write to us and ask questions. We welcome your letters or E-mail and we will pass them on to our contributors and publish the best questions.
The camera used by Louis Boutan was not as portable as modern tools.
|Underwater photography has evolved tremendously over the past 20 years. From simple point and shoot to highly sophisticated "auto-everything" SLR (single lens reflex) cameras, there are options for every ambition and almost all budgets. Even though the tools have progressed, the goal remains the same: to bring back an image that will inform, entertain or educate.|
Come along as we begin our series. Since space is limited, we will not cover elementary photographic concepts such as shutter speeds, f/stops, TTL, depth of field, etc. Any book on photography will explain them in much more detail than we could. We will rather concentrate on the particulars of underwater photography, beginning with a short lesson in history.
NOTE:Go to glossary for the photo glossary. There you will find the definitions of technical terms used by our photo columnists. More definitions will be added as the articles are published.
A little history
Arthur J. Bachrach, Ph.D., a consultant in diving history to the Naval Undersea Museum and an Ambassador for Underwater Canada, explained to us that the very first underwater photo is attributed to a Briton named William Thompson. The Englishman took his pictures from the surface, using a camera attached to a pole (today we call these toys ROV's). Thompson made his first image in 1856, in Weymouth Bay. For those who are technically inclined, the exposure time was 10 minutes and, just as it happens today, the camera flooded!
In 1893 there was no high speed film and some of Boutan's exposures lasted 30 minutes. Eventually, the pioneer used a magnesium powder "flash" that allowed "snapshot" shooting.
Thirty-four years later, a National Geographic photographer and an ichthyologist took the first underwater colour pictures. Charles Martin and William H. Longley also used a magnesium lighting system. The explosion of this powder was so powerful that an accidental misfire almost killed Longley.
Over the years, advancement in technology and the abundance of literature made underwater photography one of the most popular specialties in diving.
First and above all, diving has to become second nature to you. Buoyancy control, mask clearing, swimming techniques, dive planning and decompression calculation, should be fully mastered. It takes at least one season to acquire those skills; take the time to learn and practise.
Set your goal(s)
On the other hand, if you are involved in photography and plan to produce top quality pictures, you will need a whole "system".
Of course, budget is always an issue. While it is true that you can enter into underwater photography for less than 200 dollars, any passionate photographer will tell you that underwater photography is "God's way of letting you know that you have too much money." You should assess your budget realistically.
Before investing you can also rent. Many dive stores and most resorts have rental gear available for a reasonable price. This is a good way to try different cameras and exotic pieces of equipment.
A great adventure
Our next article will consider the options when it is time to choose an entry level camera system.