Monthly Archives: December 2013

Composition: a supremely cost effective way of improving your underwater images

modern compact cameras are powerful: all images n this article were created with an Olympus XZ-2

modern compact cameras are powerful: all images n this article were created with an Olympus XZ-2 all images copyright Paul Colley 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday was an important punctuation mark in that occasionally-torturous passage that comprises a new book’s gestation. I completed the final draft of Winning Images with any Underwater Camera andnearly 2 months ahead of schedule.  There is some serious follow-up work to do in Bonaire next week and Cuba in January, so I can already feel you weeping for me!  But I do want to produce those final few images to a standard that might meet some high expectations, mine included.  Although I never underestimate the gradient that a book designer and publisher must climb to translate raw material into a quality publication, yesterday did herald the finish line and I inevitably felt a crackle of excitement looking at the book cover mock up, which unfortunately I cannot show you just yet.  The book will be published at the end of May, so in the New Year I will use this blog to progressively introduce what my thinking about underwater composition will be about.  But I can tell you now what the big idea is and why.

composition: a supremely cost effective way of improving images

composition: a supremely cost effective way of improving images

Despite my great fortune to own one of the most capable cameras in the world, I proved to myself during the course of writing the book that composition was probably the most dominant factor in winning images and that technology was a relatively small, albeit necessary part of the equation. For the best part of a year, I put down my SLR and dived with a simple compact camera and housing costing no more than a few hundred pounds. I called the modest project back to basics and was absolutely delighted with the results, much of which will be included in the book. Every image on this page was taken with that compact camera. Good results came more from thinking about the pictures that I wanted to create and less about the technology that I often desired. Modern compact cameras are very powerful and micro 4/3rd performance is already entering SLR territory. But even if you have the same good fortune to own a high-end SLR, it will not necessarily make you a better photographer.  I think that the greatest leap in performance will always come from learning more about composition and aesthetics.  It is a supremely cost effective way of improving your underwater images.

For those that I know well, and also for the many wonderful new friends that I made this year, have a joy-filled Christmas and a very peaceful New Year.  I hope that you will all be blessed in 2014 with some images to win the hearts of your friends, families, competitions judges and magazine editors!

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Photography workshop Jan-Feb 2014: Iconic Cuba

 

Cuban waters brim with life: sharks, crocs, turtles & colourful sponges

Cuban waters brim with life: sharks, crocs, turtles & colourful sponges

It is quite a while since I’ve been completely enthralled by new photographic opportunities.  And so after my recent fabulous experience in Cuba, I readily agreed to host a photography workshop there during one of The Scuba Place’s excursions, from 23 January to 6 February 2014.  I regularly shoot with both SLR and compact cameras (the embedded images are a mixture of both), so I can provide just about any kind of support that people need, from full-on instruction for beginners with compact cameras through to occasional tips for experienced SLR users (I am an accredited INON UK underwater camera instructor).

The diving in Cuba is diverse, but this trip will focus on some real excitement that beckons in the Jardines de la Reina, a marine reserve off the south east coast.  But it is also right to dwell a while in the capital and not rush headlong into the diving.  Havana is awash with iconic images and a photography-rich environment.  1950-vintage classic American cars by the street load.  And an amazing colonial architecture that harbours cottage industry rum and tobacco houses amidst the rhythmic pulse of salsa music floating from vibrant bars.  Soak it up!

Havana's pulse of life: classic cars & salsa bars, amazing people & and colonial architecture.  Hemmingway loved it...

Havana’s pulse of life: classic cars & salsa bars; amazing people; and colonial architecture. Hemmingway loved it…

A fast transfer boat from Jucaro will get us aboard the floating hotel/barge live-aboard la Tortuga in the Gardens of the Queen.  The efficient and affable crew will then get you to the dive sites daily using fast skiffs.  Day-end post-diving rum cocktails will put you in a pleasant frame of mind for highly-sociable and (for the photographers) educational evenings.

For those who love shark diving, or for people just yearning to see these magnificent creatures up close for the first time, the over-used adjective is the right one.  It’s awesome.  Diving with reef and silky sharks in big numbers is genuinely awe-inspiring.  Although such activity inevitably has a frisson of excitement, which sustains a healthy respect for these apex predators, for the greatest part you will just see these sharks swimming in their graceful, carefully-ordered sinuous ballet, giving divers a respectful distance, whilst still providing photo opportunities a-plenty.

above water treats: fast skiffs to see hermit crabs, jutias & iguanas in the mangroves, with gorgeous sunsets every day.

above water treats: fast skiffs to see hermit crabs, jutias & iguanas in the mangroves, with gorgeous sunsets every day.

With frequent sightings of goliath groupers and some delightful trips to the fringing mangroves and islands to see juvenile saltwater crocodiles, hermit crabs, iguanas and a cute little rodent called the Jutia, for me the experience is as good as diving gets.  For more information or to make a reservation call or email the Scuba Place sales director John Spencer-Ades (020 7644 8252, john@thescubaplace.co.uk).

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Runner up & best shark image: November hotshots, underwaterphotography.com

Runner up November 2013 & best shark image, uwp.com

Runner up November 2013 & best shark image, uwp.com

Well, I seem to be on a roll. This black & white image of a silky shark was the overall runner up and best shark image for November in the international competition run by underwaterphotography.com. My first image from Cuba to pick up an award. I hope it will not be the last!

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Winner: Dive Show 2013 advanced overseas print

Barracuda Explosion: Dive Show 2013 winner, advanced overseas print competition

Barracuda Explosion: Dive Show 2013 winner, advanced overseas print competition

Here’s something that I was absolutely thrilled to win, although the celebration was slightly postponed due to my recent sojourn to Cuba, during which the results were announced. A huge thank you from me to all of the visitors to the Dive Show who voted for the image. I have used it quite heavily in the forthcoming book, in order to demonstrate some advanced composition techniques. Publishing date May 2014 with launch events to be announced in the near future.

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