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Archives: An old underwater Photography page.
http://www.underwaterindustry.com/news/articles/314/1/Archives-An-old-underwater-Photography-page/Page1.html
By Doug Elsey
Published on 04/6/2007
 

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.


Photo 101: Part 1 Of underwater photography history and prerequisites

By Michel Gilbert and Danielle Alary

With 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.


This is one of the original pictures taken by Louis Boutan in 1893. In his excitement, the good looking underwater model turned the identification plate upside down. This may have been the very first photographic illustration of the well-known phenomenon known as nitrogen narcosis.


This drawing illustrates the procedure used by pioneer underwater photographer Louis Boutan circa 1893.


The original Calypso camera, later known as the Nikonos. Notice the 35mm lens that sports the same look as those mounted on late model Nikonos cameras. The general design of Jean De Wouters and Jacques-Yves Cousteau lasted until 1980 when Nikon launched the Nikonos IV.

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
Strange enough, scuba is only 53 years old but underwater photography celebrated its centennial many years ago.

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!
Fortunately, they saved the picture but the results were not very pleasingas is usually the case with most contemporary beginning underwater photographers. In 1872 Ernest Bazin, a Frenchman, used an electric lighting system at an underwater observatory and, reputedly, took pictures. Unfortunately, none has been found so his compatriot Louis Boutan, a naturalist, is credited for the first pictures made with surface supplied hard hat diving gear. He used a rather un-portable 400 lbs camera housing.

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.
Many more chapters in underwater photography history were written afterwards, one of the most important being the development, in 1958, of the Calypso camera. This milestone invention was the brainchild of a Belgian engineer, Jean De Wouters, and a Frenchman named Cousteau. The camera would subsequently be marketed as the Nikonos.

Over the years, advancement in technology and the abundance of literature made underwater photography one of the most popular specialties in diving.

The prerequisites
Every now and then someone asks: How do I get started in underwater photography? Short question, long answer.

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.
You should also consider advanced diving courses. They build your confidence and increase your knowledge. A good underwater photographer has to be a very competent diver.

Set your goal(s)
Before you buy any piece of photo equipment, try to determine your goal as an underwater photographer. This will help you select the material you need. If you simply want memories for your photo album, a disposable camera in a housing might be the right tool.

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.
Most underwater photographers, both amateurs and professionals, are eager to share their knowledge. Get in touch with them and ask questions.

A great adventure
We have merely entered the realm of underwater photography yet you can sense that there is much to discover and even more to enjoy. Taking pictures underwater forces you to master diving skills and learn about the marine environment. The rewards far outweigh the frustrations. There are no limits to your progress but the cry of your partner, as he or she longs for some attention as you play with your toys or review your work.

Our next article will consider the options when it is time to choose an entry level camera system.