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Underwater Photography Essentials: Part 5



Tips, ideas and advice for budding underwater photographers

by Nick Robertson-Brown FRPS

Part 5: Composition – Baseline

When considering how to compose your image, it is important to consider the part of the picture that supports the subject – this is known as the baseline. Unless you are going to black out your background, the baseline will put the subject into perspective and this is particularly important in underwater photography, as many of the subjects are not animals or artefacts that are known to everybody.

Apart from super close-up macro shots, it often pays to present the subject in its environment and it is nearly always the case that the image will work better if you get the whole subject and baseline into the frame. There are times, of course, when this is difficult as you may not have the right lens on your camera, and changing lenses underwater is obviously not an option. You could of course change the angle or distance that you are shooting from to bring the whole subject into frame, but the more water there is between your camera and the subject, the less detail and light will be in your image.

It can sometimes be difficult to get the baseline set correctly and you may often find there is too much negative space either in the foreground or background, or even both. Whilst your subject may create a pleasing image, very often the subject itself can be lost in the environment. It is a case of balancing the subject against its environment, and the best way to do this is to capture several images of the same subject from different angles or by moving closer or further away. Modern cameras, with high ISOs and dynamic range, allow you to crop the image far more so than you would have done just a few years ago. However, less cropping will give better resolution so it is always best to take the image as you would want to present it. In many ways it is like telling a story; if you close in on the image too much, then you may miss out on showing why the subject is doing what it is.

Take a look at these images. The first one shows a diver with a torch, but there is no baseline, and therefore, there is no story. You cannot see what the diver is looking at or shining their torch on.


In the second image, the barrel sponge provides a baseline and also begins to tell the story. The diver is not simply hanging in midwater but shining a torch on to a subject.


The third image gives an even wider view of the reef the diver is exploring. Now it is a matter of personal taste and what story you are trying to tell.


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Nick bookDo you want to learn more? You can pick up a copy of Nick’s book “Underwater Photography Art & Techniques” by clicking here. For a signed copy, click here.

Underwater Photography Courses

Contact Nick for information on the Frogfish Photography Complete Underwater Photography Award, designed for 1:1 and small group sessions to improve your underwater photography at your pace.underwater photography

           |  | +44 (0)161 9177101


BSAC launch #DiscoverUKdiving video competition



BSAC is launching a new video competition which aims to get the diving community sharing and discussing the highlights of UK diving to inspire others to give it a try and discover it for themselves.

They are inviting you to share short UK diving or snorkelling videos – tagged #DiscoverUKdiving or #DiscoverUKsnorkelling – to be in with a chance of winning a Fourth Element Hydra Neoprene Drysuit worth £999 (or an alternative non-diving suit if a snorkeller wins). There are other prizes up for grabs too, with a Fourth Element duffel bag going to second place and a year’s BSAC membership for third.

The #DiscoverUKdiving video competition aims to get the diving community talking about the highlights of UK diving and/or BSAC club life by sharing short videos to surprise and inspire others to discover it for themselves.

BSAC is looking for videos that show an exciting moment, unique insight or anything that exemplifies why diving in the UK is so much fun and can encourage others to take up UK diving. People will be invited to vote for the entries they find most inspiring on the competition gallery website.

BSAC CEO Mary Tetley said: “We want to show others who haven’t experienced UK diving why we love it so much, and we need your help! Use your phone, GoPro or pretty much anything to share a short video that encapsulates why you love diving in the UK. Ideally, showing off UK diving the BSAC way!”

The competition will be open for entries until midnight on Monday 30 November.

The videos can be either be above water (e.g. a RIB ride out to a dive site), below water (e.g. exploring a wreck with your buddy) or a combination of both. Each video should be short (no longer than 15 seconds) and you can enter up to three videos. The winner will be the entry that receives the most votes. Voting will remain open for a further week and close on Monday 7 December. The winners will be announced the week of 14 December, good luck!

Full terms and conditions, including how to enter as well as how to vote on your favourite video can be found here.

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Henley Spiers: Black & White Photography at the September NUPG meeting (Watch Video)



The September NUPG meeting saw Henley Spiers take to the virtual stage. Henley decided to divide the evening into two topic areas for discussion: Black and White Photography and Pelagic Encounters – his two biggest passions in underwater photography at the moment.  Henley showed off his stunning black and white images to the NUPG audience, talking about why he selected each image to convert to monochrome and was generous enough to share the photoshop techniques with the group too. He then went on to wow the group with images from the deep blue sea, with some simply stunning pelagic encounters. 

As always, the NUPG members also had a chance to show off some of their images in the monthly competition. This month’s theme was “Invertebrates” and it saw a range of ideas and images from the group.

The winning shot of a sea lion was taken by Maggie Russell

The runner-up was by John Spencer

Third place was taken by Justin Beevor

The next meeting was held on Monday 12th October, a talk from Simon Rogerson: Difficulties with Sharks. Check back soon for the video!

For more information about the NUPG please visit the website by clicking here.

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