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Underwater Photography in Mexico

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Principally there are three main areas for diving along the ‘Riviera Maya’ which have well developed diving provision:

Untitled-1Untitled-2Cancun itself, with the surrounding, nearby reefs, several wrecks and La Musa (concrete statues depicting the moods of mankind – well worth a visit).

Cozumel, simply wonderful and kaleidoscopically coloured reefs, abundant marine life and sometimes, deep drop-offs.

Playa del Carmen (Playacar), reef diving, Bull Shark diving, and of course……

The Cenotes.

All of these destinations are within easy travelling distance of each other, so much variety offering ‘top ten’ tick box dives in abundance.

But the point of this little article is to chat about the frustrations and pleasures of trying to do justice in photographic form to adequately convey the colours, wildlife and clear water.

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Nowadays just about every newbie diver’s first kit purchase is a camera and housing so that they can ‘capture their memories’ – come on, we all did it. Sadly the results are usually terrible and stored in electronic memories in huge numbers. I remember sitting through interminable sessions watching slides that my parents had taken to be followed by the guests showing theirs.

I’m sure the bit of me that died during those darkened room viewings has a lot to do with my subsequent vagueness and inability to concentrate.

So some time ago I set out on a mission to:

Untitled-61. Not subject my friends and family to the same, showing them hundreds of not so great pictures.
2. Actually try to make better images (note the use of the word image here?? Can’t call them snaps or pics any more).
3. Try not to spend too much money, inasmuch as I don’t have any.

In reverse order, the way Sports Personality of the Year does it,

3. Not spending too much money – ouch!!! I use a Canon S95 and Canon housing, INON Z240 strobe, INON wide angle ‘wet’ lenses with various arms ranging lights etc, etc (this was the cheap option!!!).

2. A fully manual camera, fill-in light and wide angle lens, good images are automatic, right ?? Wrong.

There are many sources of information regarding underwater photography written by far more learned people than me. However, one thing I’ve noticed, is that socially, photographers can attract, shall I say, ‘negative vibes’ from staff and other customers on dive trips.

Untitled-7At my stage on the UW photographic learning curve I need time to take the shot. I can’t just fire off several rounds into the reef and come back with a masterpiece. My results are delivered from almost painful adjustments and experiments.

Time is of the essence when you’re a photographic grasshopper. Other divers just don’t understand your needs. The more time you spend shooting that colourful slug, the shorter their boredom threshold becomes (an opportunity for them to continue developing their buoyancy skills I say).

The dive guides in Mexico were relaxed about us hanging off the back of the dive if a tad unprepared for how distant we’d get. Once they became accustomed to our needs it worked well as it tended to separate us from the other guests.

Photographers tend to hog the best spot to see the beasties, worried that they will disappear if confronted by flailing, gasping and panting newly qualified frogpersons. This too can cause annoyance.

Untitled-5By being a little detached from the group these potential irritations were removed. Win – win!!

So, if like me, you need time to practice with an absolutely huge range of subjects in some of the best conditions you’re ever likely to encounter, then try Mexico.

Wildlife – and I don’t mean the mosquitoes – is massively varied and plentiful. It’s also quite tame. A little care and patience, planning and thought will allow you to approach the animals quite closely. In my experience they seem to tolerate divers more than other places I’ve visited and as such make great models. The turtles are amazing, really awesome.

Among the wide variety of life on display are huge shoals of grunts on the shallow reefs of Cancun. The lack of depth and great light give a wealth of opportunity to practice taking photographs. Truly, the quantities of fish on the reefs here need to be seen to be believed, and I’m told that they are resident all year round.

So, that’s me trying to offer some tips for the beginner.

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My last point, not subjecting loved ones et al to viewings of my ‘works of art’… well, I can see where my Parents were coming from. It’s true, I am turning into my Dad.

Travel to these destinations was provided by The Scuba Place:

www.thescubaplace.co.uk

+44 (0) 207 644 8252

First class accommodation and world class diving are available for all levels of experience and interest. Sail-fish and Whale Shark expeditions in the summer, Bull sharks in the winter, supreme reefs and the Cenotes all year round. Couple that with the welcome Mexico offers and, well… you’ll love it.

 

Andy took his first fin-kicks in the scuba world in 2002. Almost immediately obsessed, diving became his one really serious interest (apart from underwater photography, mountain walking, cinema, music, chopping firewood, and purchasing shiny new kit), and following PADI instructor certification through the London School of Diving, he now finds himself regularly teaching scuba around the world. Having joined the team at The Scuba Place in 2012, Andy is also ‘deeply immersed’ in the world of scuba holiday provision for TSP clients. His role includes going out to dive clubs and centres to host seminars, visiting holiday providers to scope the quality and value of their product offered (a particularly arduous task!), and represent TSP with a view to enhance the company’s presence in the market place. Andy has developed a keen interest in the Dark Art of underwater photography, making any excuse to get away and practise. He is currently wrestling with the problem of what his next camera is going to be - and how he is going to convince his wife that it’s in her interests to pay for it.

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Historical Submarine Prototype protected

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The wreck of an early British submarine known as HMS/m D1, which was the forerunner to the Royal Navy’s patrol submarines that boosted Britain’s defensive power during the First World War, has been granted protection by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England.

The wreck, off the coast of Dartmouth in Devon, was investigated in a project originated by U-boat historian Michael Lowrey, who was writing a book about First World War U boat losses. The wreck was identified by a team of technical divers who are skilled at diving at depths of over 40 metres, led by Steve Mortimer, diving from Wey Chieftain IV. They reported the discovery of HMS/m D1 to Historic England and it has now been protected by scheduling. This means divers can dive the wreck but its contents are protected by law and must remain in situ.

Multi-beam image of the newly- protected prototype of the D-Class submarine which was deliberately sunk off the coast of Dartmouth, Devon in 1918 and used as a target to test submarine detection equipment. Copyright Wessex Archaeology

HMS/m D1 was built by shipbuilding company Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria and was the secret prototype for the D-class, the Royal Navy’s first diesel powered submarine. Launched in 1908 and commissioned in September 1909, the D-class was a significant development on the C-class submarine, being larger and more powerful.

At the start of the First World War, HMS/m D1 was assigned to protecting the coast of Dover from enemy invasion before carrying out patrols outside of English territorial waters to monitor German shipping movements. In September 1917, HMS/m D1 joined the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla and a year later it was relegated to training duties. In October 1918, HMS/m D1 was decommissioned and scuttled- deliberately sunk. The submarine was used as a training target off the Devon coast for Royal Navy training exercises involving the detection of enemy submarines. The wreck sits upright and largely intact on the seabed.

Multi-beam image of the newly- protected prototype of the D-Class submarine. Copyright Wessex Archaeology

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England said: “The D-class submarine was superior to the C-class, with innovations that became integral parts of future Royal Navy submarines. These included diesel propulsion, twin propellers and a wireless telegraphy system which allowed the submarine to transmit and receive signals. This is a fascinating survival which deserves protection as an important part of our seafaring history.”

Lead Diver Steve Mortimer said: “Every diver dreams of identifying a historically important wreck.  Expecting to find the remains of a German U-boat, we were thrilled to discover a ground-breaking British submarine instead.  It’s tremendous that D1 is now protected but divers can still visit.”

Eight D-class submarines were built. HMS/m D2, HMS/m D3 and HMS/m D6 were sunk outside English territorial waters, while HMS/m D4, HMS/m D7 and HMS/m D8 were sold and scrapped in 1919. The wreck of HMS/m D5 is located off Lowestoft. Suffolk, and is protected under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.

For more information, please visit www.historicengland.org.uk

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Tried & Tested: INON UWL 95- C24 Wide Angle Wet Lens

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The INON UWL 95- C24 is the latest wide angle wet lens released by INON and has been designed for compact cameras with zoom lenses that are 24mm at the wide end. The UWL-95 C24 has a maximum angle of view of 95° underwater. This can be increased up to 141° with the optional Dome Lens.

The lens has a versatile M67 screw mount and M52 screw mount, the M52 fitting is already built in. Because the M67 rings are screwed to the lens over this, they can’t come loose like a step up rings. Totally renewed optical design effectively suppresses flare/ghost even in backlit condition to provide sharp and high quality image.

Test Conditions

  • Location: Capernwray Quarry, UK
  • Visibility: 2-3m
  • Temperature: 9 degrees C
  • No of Dives: 1
  • Equipment Used: Canon S110 in Recsea housing
  • Test Equipment: INON UWL 95- C24 with Dome Lens Unit 111A and 67mm thread.
  • RRP of lens and accessories used: £667.98

Review

This was an eagerly awaited new product from INON – a wide angle wet lens that can be used with hugely popular compact cameras such as the Olympus Tough and the Sony RX100 range. Testing new equipment in less than ideal conditions is always a challenge, but it is also a bonus, as for many, these will be the conditions they will experience too. Testing a new lens on an unfamiliar camera system also makes this process harder, as you need time to adjust to the new system, even though that is not what you are testing. My first impressions of this lens, before getting it underwater, was that it is very well made.

As we descended I started to unscrew the lens to ensure that any air trapped between camera housing and lens was released. As long as you do not undo all the way this works perfectly, however with thick gloves, in cold water, I would not want to have to attach the lens onto the camera using the 67mm thread very often as it feels a little fiddly.

Using the UWL-95 C24 can dramatically reduce minimum focusing distance needed between photographer and subject. As the visibility on the testing day was only 2-3m this was very good news indeed and the lens focused on subjects that were virtually touching the lens. Be careful not to get too close to anything that might scratch the lens! The lens, with the additional dome gave a really wide field of view, perfect for wreck, diver, scenic and large marine life shots.

Whilst the lens feels quite heavy on the front of a small camera out of the water, I did not notice it at all on the dive which is great, as some big lenses can require floats or very strong wrists to make them workable. This is a simple grab and go lens that does not need any additional kit or know-how to use. Alas, due to my buddy having a catastrophic dry suit flood, I only got a single dive to try it out, but was impressed with it nonetheless.

Fortunately I am taking the lens up to Scotland to try out on my Olympus TG5 whilst snorkeling and wild swimming – so watch out for more about this lens next month.

For more information visit the INON website by clicking here.

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This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

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