Tag Archives: new book

Whither conventional wisdom in photographic composition?

I liked this image of a saltwater crocodile, but never thought it particularly special. You cannot even see its eyes, and that is often a critical factor. But at nearly 84,000 views on one site alone (500px), it has become my most looked-at image and in the space of only a few weeks…so what’s engaging people?  I put a little thought into it, if only to discover what might draw the next 84,000 people to look at one of my images..!

Saltwater Crocodile

Saltwater Crocodile.  Copyright Paul Colley 2015  www.mpcolley.com

Overall, not too many people photograph these animals and novelty has always been a valued commodity in aesthetics and composition. I also think that the open mouth & sharp teeth may be a draw and the legs are not streamlined as they usually are when a crocodile is swimming in open water; they are temporarily splayed out to slow down the crocodile, which had just been swimming towards me.  But is the absence of the eyes a positive factor? Does the viewer, forced as ever to take the photographer’s selected perspective, feel safer engaging with this potentially dangerous creature from underneath, where its soft belly is more visible?

As one fellow photographer told me recently, I tend towards over-analysis of images. But in my short experience as an underwater photographer, thinking about these things more deeply tends to lead to useful discoveries.

This is one of many reasons why I studied underwater photography composition in depth for 2 years and then wrote a book about it. Even if people argue that there’s not too much new in this field, my riposte is that new and updated perspectives often help to unlock the mysteries for others. So do feel free to dig in: Winning Images with Any Underwater Camera.

best wishes, dear friends


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Royal Photographic Society Award for “Winning Images”

There’s a risk of sounding self-congratulatory when announcing personal achievements, but in truth most of us are modest and simply express pride in what we occasionally achieve.

I had a nice surprise 2 weeks ago; the best way to receive good news. Subject to minor bureaucratic process, the Royal Photographic Society are about to award me Associate status of the organisation for the contribution that “Winning Images” has made to the research, education and practice of underwater photography.  This follows an RPS gold medal last year for the image below of my niece.

Winning Images & the Royal Photographic Society gold medal image

Winning Images & the Royal Photographic Society gold medal image

I’m naturally quite proud of this formal recognition for the book, which comes from outside the normal lanes of critical acclaim for underwater photography.

I believe that the book is helping photographers at many levels better understand that all important topic of composition.  Independent reviews out there support this view, as do reviews by regular customers.  So…if you are interested in learning why “Winning Images” is beginning to achieve serious acclamation, do buy a copy and take a deeper look.

I’ll be on overseas assignments in Spain, Cuba & Egypt most days until New Year now, so at the risk of breaking cover rather early, I wish all of you a peaceful & relaxing holiday period.  For BSoUP colleagues, I will be back in country briefly for our Christmas gathering on 16th December, subject to my flight getting in that morning…see you in London!

Best wishes, dear friends


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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).


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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


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,


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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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Once in a while…

montage Indonesia

Just once in a while, the possibility to do something special drops into our lives. Sometimes you have to be cautious and sometimes bold. My latest opportunity seemed to require a measure of both when I was asked whether I would consider teaching underwater photography to a high-profile but complete novice underwater photography client, who had heard that I had a reputation for good instruction regardless of camera system. But the prospect of setting up a major camera system, housing and teaching package for a client, despite an “all expenses included” tag is not for the faint-of-heart. Your reputation is on the line in a major way and, whilst you might cope with the occasional less-than-glowing review if you have hundreds of other positive accolades, it might take only one mistake with a high-profile client to completely ruin your reputation.  And the economics of 1-to-1 teaching are not as simple as you might think.

Nevertheless, a chance to travel to Indonesia and work on the very best live-aboard in the region was tempting enough for me to commit. I did so with a vengeance, seeking unequivocal success from the outset by over-delivering on every aspect of the commitment. I had hoped for more opportunities than those that actually transpired, to dive outside the instructional periods in order to build my own image stock.  But when a client is footing the complete bill, you work to a different drum beat. He was also learning to free dive and wanted me to capture that. And he had an appetite for knowledge of composition that allowed me to test the framework of that soon-to-be-published book, Winning Images with Any Underwater Camera.

So I took part in one of the most interesting diving adventures of my career, travelling in a style that so far I had only dreamed about. My 4 fellow travelers were the very finest company and the crew of 17, a ratio of over 3 crew members to each guest, provided absolutely exceptional service. I chose to wake at 0600 and retire at 2330 in order to squeeze the most out of almost 2 weeks in such a wonderful place on an amazing ship.  It was in many ways hard work and in others fabulously relaxing.

Normal discretion for client confidentiality prohibits me documenting too much (images included), but I have attached a few pictures of the trip and a link below to a short video & still image montage, which between them give a little taste of what what this venture was about.

I’m told by others, critically by my client, that this went well. I shall be very interested to see whether it leads to similar work…

And finally, serendipity: passing through Singapore on the way back home yesterday, my client passed a magazine stand and opened a copy of Sport Diver US, where he found an article by Paul Colley about mastering light in underwater photography.  It was one of 10 articles for a column that I’m writing this year for that magazine (and the first time that I had seen any of the articles in hard copy).  My credibility (and my pride) soared.  Thank you Alex M for the associated earlier introduction to the picture editor!  I’m just loving writing my first column.

all best, Paul

Link to video montage

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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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