We have been eagerly waiting for our copy of this book, and so when it arrived it was tempting to dive in, find a topic that we want to know more about, and not take the proper time to appreciate it in full. So, with some self-control, we have gone from cover to cover, and we are so glad we did. It was lovely to be greeted, on the very first page, by a dedication to the two photographers that formed the British Society of Underwater Photographers (BSoUP); Peter Scoones and Colin Doeg. They formed the society so they could share their passion for underwater photography and to pass on techniques and ideas to anyone who was interested and would listen. With “Underwater Photography Masterclass”, Alex has continued this tradition, being generous in sharing his knowledge and techniques that have made so many wonderful and award winning images.
“Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” – George Eastman
A definition of Masterclass is “a class taught by someone who has expert knowledge or skill in a particular area”. Alex has used the pages in this book to teach us everything you could possibly wish to know about lighting your underwater imagery. The book is designed for the reader to “work with slowly and grow with over time”. Alex “wants” you to read a section, absorb the information, and master the techniques in the water before moving on to the next chapter. It stresses that the very essence of photography is to understand light, and as underwater photographers, this is vital, as for much of the time, we control the light source ourselves. There is plenty to absorb, with a series of in-depth chapters on lighting techniques for macro and wide angle photography. The book leads you from basic lighting setups to much more advanced techniques, but always in a manner that makes you feel that you can go out, get wet and give it a try, no matter what level you are at or what camera system or number of strobes you use.
The book also covers equipment, travel & packing advice, good & environmentally friendly diving practices, and also shark behaviour, schooling fish, model and pygmy seahorse photography. The pages are packed with great images (280 in total), and the technical information for these images is available at the back of the book. Great photographs require great technical knowledge, but they also come from a passion and emotional connection with the subject. Alex has all this in spades. We could not agree more with the author when he says that underwater photography should inspire people to protect our oceans and the marine life within; the images in this book will certainly do that.
Throughout the book the author also gives the names of other underwater photographers to look up and gain inspiration from. It not only covers that way you can best achieve results, but also points out the common mistakes regularly made. There are plenty of books about underwater photography on the market, but this book stands out, as being both inspiration and educational, “speaking” to the reader in a language that they can understand and motivating them to try new lighting techniques on their very next dive. There are a number of shots of Alex photographing different subjects, with the strobes positioning, which he has just explained in the book, clearly shown. We think this will prove to be especially helpful.
Whilst this book is a paperback and has been kept to a size that is perfectly suited to pop into your hand luggage on your next diving trip, we would love to see a digital version of the book released, to make it the perfect travel companion. We would have the book on our shelves at home, as for us, there is nothing better than looking through a good underwater photography book, but would also have a digital version to have to hand whilst traveling. We can only hope that this becomes a reality.
Flicking through for the first time, when you get this book, inspires you to want to take better underwater photos. It is full of mind-blowingly good images. As you then delve in more deeply, you find all the information you need to do just that – improve your photography. There is no doubt that this will be considered THE essential read for those who are just starting out in underwater photography all the way to the seasoned pros.
We will end the review with a joke:
Q: How many underwater photographers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: 50. 1 to change the bulb and 49 to say “I could have done that!”
Alex Mustard is regularly the one who “changes the bulb” – but in writing this book he has enabled you to be able to do that too!
Underwater Photography Masterclass by Alex Mustard
Publisher: Ammonite Press
Publication Date: April 2016
For a limited time you can get a signed copy from the author here.