Diving to photograph or photographing dives?

Southern Red Sea wrecks & marine life

Southern Red Sea wrecks & marine life

Whilst diving in the Southern Red Sea this week, I was reminded of the question that is the title of this blog: do we dive to take photographs or just photograph our dives?  The question was posed to me by Alex Mustard & Martin Edge at a great briefing they gave a few years ago in Imperial College London, when at the time I was trying to absorb as much as I could about underwater photography.  Last week, although I was teaching basic underwater photography to a group during the evenings and doing some individual photographic mentoring during the days, we were essentially on an expedition to dive wrecks and that drove the style and tempo of diving.  So much so, that on one dive I even left my camera behind in order to instruct and safely supervise a decompression dive onto a deep wreck.  We also dived 2 wrecks that I have never seen before, one of which very few people have seen and which we started to map in quite poor underwater visibility.  So I was often just photographing the dives, which is an inefficient and ineffective way of creating good images.

So the distinction implied in the title is important and I stressed it to my photography students.  But I also mused that a few years of dedicated photo workshops tends to improve your ability to make higher quality and quicker decisions about artistic intent and photographic technique, even if only photographing a dive that has priorities higher than photography.  Good snapshots are possible if you are well trained and prepared.

So I did not produce my best work this last week, but I had immense fun with a fabulous group and made plenty of notes that will inform later attempts to properly photograph some amazing wrecks.  Meanwhile, enjoy a couple of snaps that I did manage to capture…

all the best, Paul

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One thought on “Diving to photograph or photographing dives?

  1. Paul Colley Post author

    I should add that taking a camera underwater can be a myopic experience. You need a clear purpose for why you do it; something that I had felt compelled to answer (if only to myself). The purpose for me is clear and one part of it is about communicating our extraordinary underwater experiences to those that might help us nurture and protect the aquatic environments that we love. We need to help others see beneath the surface. Physically and metaphorically. But sometimes I will just stow the camera and enjoy the ride…now & again we need to put our senses & brain into wide angle mode!


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