Monthly Archives: June 2014

Back to School

Of all the sites that I go to in Egypt, I would dive Shark & Yolanda another thousand times and never get bored of it.  I’ll let these images explain why:

There is just something about fish schools that draws photographers in like magnets.  It’s one of nature’s great spectacles and I always feel privileged to observe and try to capture the essence of schooling behaviour in a still image.  I recently started shooting video, but not as often as I should and not as well as I might.  A certain friend will beat me up for not remembering (in my huge excitement to swim with these schools and take the still images that come more instinctively) that my camera has a good video capability that could capture this unity of movement more easily.

One image that I liked was somewhere between order and chaos.  I had been with the barracuda school for almost 15 minutes and it accepted my presence so well that I could almost move inside it.  Apart from the immensely powerful experience of being that close to a big mass of fish, which move in unison without visible signal, I loved the images that transpired.  But they were challenging compositions: frame-fillers that had as much chaos as they did formal structure.  What do you think?

inside school (2)

Best wishes, dear friends

Paul

 

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fix the largest solvable problem on our planet

an image that is supporting conservation projects

an image that is supporting conservation projects

I thought that life might feel flat just after the book launch, but not a bit of it.  An unintended consequence was a stream of interest in the announcement that I made about working with the Blue Marine Foundation or BLUE.  Like many of you who have direct experience of the underwater world, my instinct is to protect what we have become part of and I have always found ways for my images to support the protection of marine species, for example the Bluefin tuna campaigns and very recently a sea turtle project in Barbados – because good images help to draw people into conservation initiatives.

BLUE is in a different league, though.  It has an instinctive vision that we would all easily buy into: a world in which marine resources are valued, carefully managed and used sustainably.

But what rings my bell is BLUE’s intent to:

fix the largest solvable problem on out planet, which is the crisis in our oceans

That’s quite a statement.  And when you look below the surface it is more than an eye-catching strap line: BLUE’s declared mission is the active and effective protection of 10% of the world’s oceans by 2020, delivered through a network of marine reserves and private sector led solutions in the sea.

What really impresses me is BLUE’s early success in establishing reserves, one twice the size of the UK in Chagos, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean.  This makes BLUE a serious and high-achieving charity.  Why do I tell you this and why have I so readily initiated a self-imposed call to arms?  Well, through one of those happy coincidences, a friend working in conservation noted that BLUE might be able to use some of my Ascension Island images to support fundraising for “Protecting Paradise”, a project seeking to provide evidence for what could be the biggest marine reserve in the Atlantic around that island.

This is ambitious work.  But I’m convinced that the crisis in our oceans caused by over-fishing CAN BE REVERSED.  It is too easy to leave the challenge to others, but as divers I think that we have a moral obligation to help if we can.  What these charities benefit from just as much as donations is volunteered expertise.  We all have some, whether it is project management, marketing, fund raising, translation, artistic skills – whatever.

So take a look at what BLUE is doing through the link below and – if you can – offer support. Even if you cannot support directly, the least that you could do for me is to spread the word of this noble work around your own networks.  That is how BLUE found me and there will be others willing to support out there.  Use the social network share buttons below to help us find them!

Protecting our Oceans

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where to invest that most precious resource: our time…

for future generations to see too...

for future generations to see too…

This Wednesday 11th June, with the help of Alex Mustard, Ocean Leisure Cameras and Dived Up publications, I will launch a book of which I am proud.  I hope that it will answer something about how we invest that most precious resource when we’re engaged in underwater photography: our time.

Winning Images with Any Underwater Camera” addresses photographic composition in depth.  The investment that you’re really making if you commit to a book like this is not money.  By any measure in the underwater photography world that you might use, a book is not expensive.  The biggest investment that we can make is setting aside time to learn something that might help us become better underwater photographers.

If you’re not already committed to joining us at Ocean Leisure Cameras this Wednesday at 6:30pm onwards, do consider buying a copy of the book.  I believe that it will push you – like me – a few steps further towards making images that might count.  Crucially for me, this means engaging those outside of our community who also need to see what the underwater world is about.  We can inspire those people with our images to support the policies that we more instinctively embrace: to protect the lakes, rivers & oceans that are home to those beautiful creatures that we all have the privilege to interact with.

As ever, my best wishes to you dear friends (and wish me luck too).

Paul

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make a difference on World Ocean’s Day: help create a marine reserve

an opportunity to create the biggest marine reserve in the Atlantic Ocean...

an opportunity to create the biggest marine reserve in the Atlantic Ocean…

Why make a difference?

I often think about an important question put to me by a good friend and fellow underwater photographer.  She asked, “Why do we do this?” (take photos).  One of my answers is that we can show others the wonderful underwater world that we are fortunate enough to enjoy, and that we can support conservation initiatives to safeguard it for future generations.

One campaign I’m supporting directly – and I invite you to support it too – is close to my heart.  I’m one of those lucky few to have dived in the remote waters off Ascension Island in the South Atlantic.  I felt compelled to write about it and said that:

…the rewards for divers are immense; the isolation that makes access difficult also makes Ascension a natural marine reserve…Ascension surpasses many locations for its sheer abundance of marine life to the extent that I rate it as one of the best places that I have dived in the World. It gives both hope and cause for reflection and is thus something of a paradox: only where mankind cannot easily reach an environment does it seem to thrive as it was intended.”

Ascension enjoys some protection due to its remoteness, but it might not be long before the world’s fishing fleets find it economically viable to search out what little might be left, if the current depredations of fish stocks take their final toll.  And some of you may be aware that a survey discovered important new species in Ascension Island’s rich waters.  So there may be a case now to create the biggest ever protective marine reserve in the Atlantic.  I’m hugely supportive of this initiative and now working with the Blue Marine Foundation, which is launching its first ever crowd funding campaign, going live today on World Ocean’s Day.

How can we make a difference?

The project that the foundation is raising money for is: “Protecting Paradise” – a survey into Ascension Island and its unique biodiversity.  If you are interested in this and would like to support – check out the details through the link below.  For those that can, dive deeper and help us to raise critical funds that might protect our beautiful underwater world.

Here’s the link to BLUE’s Campaign, which has gone live today on World Ocean’s Day.  If you do nothing else, please do “like” the idea at the preceding campaign link; spreading the word really does help.

Please also consider a small investment in a richly-illustrated unique guide to diving and snorkeling in Ascension Island.  I will donate 10% of any royalties to the marine reserve conservation project, in addition to the direct support that I’m already providing.

9781909455009

my best wishes to you, dear friends

Paul

 

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gearing your photography for success

Reflections at 1 week to book launch

the technical & artistic path to winning images (there is a 3rd axis - drive & involvement)

the technical & artistic path to winning images (there is a 3rd axis – drive & involvement)

The book “Winning Images” makes an argument for 3 axes along which underwater photographers make progress, but that you have to make progress on all 3 if you are to create admired, stunning or (for a lucky but talented few), iconic images.

Axis 1 is technology and technique.  You can buy your way along the technology path, but even a modest compact camera is so powerful these days that we are all pretty well along that road.  Technique takes some training and practice.

Axis 2 is your personal drive and the degree to which you become immersed in the underwater photography world, be it in clubs, societies, competitions…the list is endless, really.  You need a will to succeed and the means to inspire and help you.  Friends really do help.  I was genuinely inspired when I first started underwater photography by people within the British Society of Underwater Photographers.  And I’ve made some wonderful new friends since.

Axis 3 is artistic vision.  Not everybody has it from scratch, but it can be taught and the basic building block is composition.  Unfortunately, many people wrongly suppress this axis to pursue technology.  Technology can help, but you can invest thousands of dollars, pounds or euros in it when by comparison only a very modest investment in deeper knowledge of composition could provide far greater gearing for your success.

That’s my argument and I believe it passionately.  If you agree, consider buying “Winning Images with Any Underwater Camera”, which is the first book for underwater photographers that seriously addresses some searching questions that we all need to answer about composition – if we really are determined to produce better images.

If you can, do join me and Alex Mustard at the book launch in London (details below); I extend an open invitation to everybody who is interested in taking composition to the next level of understanding and I will provide you with some wine, soft drinks, canapes, a few words from me & Alex and an opportunity to buy a signed copy of the book.

Wednesday 11 June 6:30pm at Ocean Leisure Cameras near Embankment Tube station. “Winning Images” book launch – additional details

Best wishes to you, my dear friends

Paul

Winning Images with Any Underwater Camera

Winning Images with Any Underwater Camera

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