BOOK REVIEW: Glass and Water – The Essential Guide to Freediving for Underwater Photography


Author: Mark Harris

Review by Steve Millard of Apneists UK

About the Author

Freediving - Mark Harris HeadshotWhen I found out Mark Harris was writing a book about freediving I was excited, as there are maybe a handful of good factual books out there on the subject. He hasn’t failed to deliver a quality product.

Mark is one of the most respected freedivers to come out of the United Kingdom. Good freedivers writing on the subject start to dispel some of the myths and highlight this great and diverse sport. When Mark makes a new facet of freediving his focus, he excels. His previous experience in the sport has seen him organise the long running London Freediving group. He was a very successful athlete, winning various titles including a silver medal at the 2004 World Championships and was my captain on the 2006 World Championship UK Freediving squad. He was a competition judge, an Instructor, a Coach and now a notable Underwater photographer and author. The advanced skills discussed can be exploited even by beginners and intermediate divers if practised properly.

Overview of the book

Mark HarrisGlass and water is the first book dedicated to explaining the essentials for successfully pursuing underwater photography without SCUBA gear. It isn’t designed to teach the reader all freediving skills, but it does cover those vital in understanding some of the safety aspects of the sport. Throughout the book it is stressed the need for the reader to take a Freediving course and regular training within a club structure to gain the best and safest results. It also isn’t a book to teach the reader everything there is to know about underwater photography. There are great tips about these two subjects, but specifically it helps the reader understand the subtle nuances in breath hold photography whilst still delivering other tips, and direction to further reading and training opportunities.

It is split into three broad sections: equipment and basics, technique, and perspectives and approaches to photographing particular animals.

One of the things I liked about the book is that it simplifies information. It exposes the reader to key ideas and onto additional sources of information when the book doesn’t specifically cover that particular information. You will end up with an extensive skill set if you pursue all avenues of advice.

One of my favourite sections is a good candid overview about freediving safety, leaving the reader in no doubt as to the risks of the sport, and also the safe nature of the sport when practiced properly. A four step plan is offered to the reader for consideration to avoid a serious incident. Once beyond the realms of being a ‘snorkeler’ and having increased duration and depth during dives, a proportionate amount of additional considerations on how to continue to dive safely are essential. Having said that, it is always stressed the reader and potential freediver should not be pushing their limits in these situations.

The main focus of the book isn’t stationary objects, it is mainly about photographing living creatures of all descriptions, and Mark has a lot of experience in this area. There is a good section for the reader on the ethics and considerations of entering the underwater world and the impact of interactions with its natural underwater inhabitants. Photographers and freedivers can be amazing ambassadors for the Underwater world; we must not damage it in any way and limit interactions that change behaviour.

I would say that as many ideas, concepts and techniques are developed throughout the book, I would read it initially from cover to cover to grasp all of the information on offer. It then will serve as a great resource to look back on as it is well written and well indexed. As some of the basic concepts are difficult to explain fully, there is a great summary at the end of each section to remind the reader of the important points ‘in a nutshell’ and a useful glossary at the end for those new to freediving and/or underwater photography.

There are many references to other sections in the book, and you feel a lot of thought has gone into how to give the reader the best understanding of the subject. A good writer considers what the reader needs to read, not what the author wants to write. As you would imagine there are some great example pictures showing some showcase work, and highlighting good technique.

Glass and Water is a great addition to the bookshelf for photographers and freedivers. You can get a copy from

Steve Millard

Steve Millard

Steve Millard is a leading UK based AIDA and PADI Freediving Instructor Trainer who is the owner of Apneists UK freediving group - Currently Press officer to the British Freediving Association and Performance mermaids lead coach.

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