Tag Archives: aesthetic

A case of the blues, some jellies & a selfie

I’ve long wanted to photograph a blue shark, but like all wild animals, they’re all the more exciting to see precisely because they’re wild and – in their choices of where they swim – difficult to predict.

So I spent 2 days searching the sea off North Cornwall looking for these sometimes-elusive creatures. I did not see one this time, but I love it when you have time to swim in open water and just play around with a camera. Many in my delightful group (the Bristol Underwater Photography Group) turned to the ubiquitous jellyfish for some light relief and I have to say that I have barely tapped the potential of these subjects. We also saw seals & dolphins (images coming up elsewhere), so what’s not to like about hanging around on our oceans?

Jellies helped pass the time...

Jellies helped pass the time…

Jellies helped pass the time...

Jellies helped pass the time…

And who, when slightly bored of waiting for the star of the show to pitch up can resist a selfie? I also succeeded in photo-bombing a colleague through Snell’s window!  Here’s my product of the boredom, but I also had the great privilege of joining a colleague on his 1200th dive. What better way than to drop to 57 metres and photograph a WWI submarine?  Now that really was exciting!

boredom = selfies!

boredom = selfies!

In all, a delightful week in Cornwall. I shall be going back soon to keep exploring this gem a coastline with its wonderfully diverse marine life.

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Launch minus 3 – the saturated image market

The underwater photography market is saturated with images…how can our images stand out in this noise?  Reflections at 3 weeks to book launch

The underwater photography market is saturated with images…how can our images stand out in this noise?

The underwater photography market is saturated with images, which are now produced by the million every year.  There are lots of average pictures out there, but there is also an explosion of good images too.  How can our images stand out in this noise?

The book that I’m advocating has some answers. But I already anticipate a cry that the book market is equally saturated.  Or is it? Although I draw heavily on the existing body of knowledge, I seek to differentiate too, so the book “Winning Images” dives into some unexplored gaps in our knowledge of underwater photographic composition.

Our top-side photography cousins made more progress than divers with this.  We know the basics, I’m sure: negative space, the rule of thirds and so on, which are valid and worth developing.  But nobody has articulated 2 important things in its underwater context. Foremost is a detailed model for composition.  Not rules, but a structure for thinking more consistently about the issues. I’ve provided us with a starting point.  Next is consideration of the weight that we attribute to each of the different and sometimes competing composition concepts. The book deals with – and develops in detail – 8 concepts, but more critically an overarching theory of how they all fit together.

Although the independent first reviews of the book are not yet published, I do know that one notable critic already believes that this will become the bible for underwater photography composition.  So consider making a modest investment in something that I am confident will make you a better photographer.  Signed copies of the book for those who want it quickly are on sale now in the UK through this link.  But if you can wait, do join me and Alex Mustard at the book launch in London (details below); I extend an open invitation to everybody who is interested and will provide you with some wine, soft drinks, canapes and an opportunity to buy the book.

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

all the best, my dear friends

Paul

Winning Images with Any Underwater Camera

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the press release is out & the office is full…

the office is full of books - only temporarily, I hope!

the office is full of books – only temporarily, I hope!

Well, the office is now piled high with copies of “Winning Images“, but only temporarily, I hope!  I’m delighted with the quality of the books from the main production run.  Initial sales of signed copies to UK-based friends are now under way through the web site and postage is free.  Here is the official press release.

The book will be on general release from 29th May, available through stores like Ocean Leisure Cameras and through Amazon.  And don’t forget the 11th June London launch at Ocean Leisure Cameras, starting at 6:30pm.  It’s an open invitation to all who are interested; enjoy a glass of wine or two on me!

best wishes, my dear friends,

Paul

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Joss Woolf (Chairman BSoUP) interviews Paul

Joss Woolf interviews Paul for the BSoUP magazine “in focus”; click the book image below to listen…

Winning Images with Any Underwater Camera

Winning Images with Any Underwater Camera

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First copy of the second book!

an exciting moment for any author - first book off the press

an exciting moment for any author – first book off the press

I think that it’s great when we can still feel a child-like excitement now & again.  Today was such an occasion when I met my publisher in Oxford and finally put hands on one of a few pre-production versions of the book, Winning Images with Any Underwater Camera. It’s such a great moment to see the hard work of over 2 years presented so professionally by the publisher. Thank you Alex Gibson!

Two copies of the book already went out to the UK dive magazines that will lead the initial book reviews and the other 2 copies are being used for publicity leading up to the book launch.

On that latter score, please do come along to the book launch if your schedule allows.  It is an open invitation to anybody who is interested in underwater photography generally and photographic composition specifically.  The event will start at 6:30 pm on Wednesday 11th June with drinks leading to a 7:30 pm opening address by Alex Mustard.  I’ll follow up with a short pitch about the book and my humble aspirations for it.  The venue will be Ocean Leisure Cameras, right next door to Embankment tube station.  I would just love to see you there!

Over the next few weeks I will run some articles here on why I hope that this book will be an important contribution to the body of knowledge about underwater photography.

all the best, Paul

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Ambiguous images

ambiguity?

ambiguity?

I had great fun photographing free divers recently and I particularly liked some of the images that were ambiguous. Why? Because they seemed to hold the attention of the viewer more strongly than regular images and so keep them engaged. When I showed these 2 images to the divers immediately after their free diving session, the pictures induced that important little word, ‘wow!’

I think that the silhouettes of the divers against Snell’s window look more like astronauts from the film ‘Gravity’, with our blue planet far below. I can even believe that the clouds look like a map of Africa and Asia!

I really like the way that images can play with our senses and this is an important part of composition. Something that I have been delighted to research and write about in my forthcoming book, Winning Images with Any Underwater Camera. The emphasis is most definitely on the word ‘any’. Because this will be a book for all underwater photographers from beginners with compact cameras to experienced SLR users and everybody in between.  Book launch 11th June!

best wishes to you all

Paul

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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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What really matters: contrast & balance

Bohar snappers, Egypt

Bohar snappers, Egypt

The research for my new book (publishing date May 2014) led me to one firm conclusion about composition, which is that two concepts dominate the theory: contrast & balance.  Contrast extends beyond the traditional well-known ideas of needing light against dark to perceive shapes, and of opposites in the colour spectrum to catch the eye.  For a start, colour unpacks into an incredibly diverse range of ideas, including psychological feelings, complementary and split-complementary matching, monochrome…the list goes on.  But what fascinates me is a third category of contrasts developed by a philosopher within one of the old European art schools.  We see these contrasts instinctively, but often sub-consciously and the list is as long as your imagination.  In the book, I will set out what I have learned about these myriad contrasts and how they apply to the underwater world.

Balance is an even bigger idea that revolves around the size, shape, weight, colour and implied movement of each graphic element in a photographic composition.  It is most easily described as a concept of visual weight and relative positioning, which I deduce to be fundamental building blocks for composition.  I’ll be explaining in the book how to grasp this idea easily and how to exploit it in underwater photography.

After a really interesting day yesterday that included a speaking slot at Dive Show 2013 and a few sessions on the British Society of Underwater Photographers stand, I woke up to a nice surprise that involves contrasts.  I tried a rather extreme (for me) experiment in August by turning a half-decent colour image of schooling bohar snappers into a monochrome image with very high contrast.  In post-production I turned the blue water almost to black and the grey snappers much nearer to white.  It was not entirely to my taste, but it just picked up a ribbon from the Photographic Society of America (one of 6 honourable mentions) in an international photographic art competition that attracted over 5000 entries from 62 countries.  This is far from the best image that I’ve ever made, but I’m heartily encouraged to keep experimenting!

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room for another underwater photography book?

Viewpoint: an under-exploited aspect of image composition? Dive boat through Snell’s window at night

Martin Edge’s excellent guide illuminates so many aspects of underwater photography and introduces a vital foundation for composition.  But it struck me a couple of years ago that there are very few books (if any) out there for the underwater photographer that articulate both the high value of traditional theory and contemporary research into image composition.

We know the basics; image placement, light, colour and contrast.  But how often do we create technically sound images to be disappointed by a lack of critical acclaim?  Competitions are not the sole measure of success, but they do allow other people to critique your work, leading to an important question: what is it that makes images aesthetically pleasing?  There is a well-established body of artistic knowledge, but now some new research using eye tracking that lets us understand exactly how people look at images.  We are beginning to understand better how an image that we create correlates with what a viewer actually perceives.

With research for a new book now finished and writing well underway, Dived Up Publications will publish my book about this towards the end of May 2014 called Winning Images with any Underwater Camera: The essential guide to creating vibrant photos (ISBN 978-1-909455-04-7).  I intend to articulate an updated theory of underwater image composition, provide easy-to-remember practical reference models, discuss techniques to develop composition skills and provide a short package of Lightroom and Photoshop advice that relates directly to composition.  Critically, the book will serve compact, micro four-thirds and SLR users alike.  Why?  because composition is a supremely cost-effective way of improving any image whatever the camera!

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