Underwater photography can be as hard or as easy as you wish to make it. First of all it helps if you live in the right place, Scotland’s west coast for instance. Then there is a combination of attitude, philosophy and determination or in laymans terms how early in the morning do you wish to start. Another essential is the sympathetic buddy who keeps well out of your way until required to pose for you in some untenable, possibly life threatening position which of course they achieve without so much as an exhaust bubble of complaint. Let us not forget objectivity, do you know where you are going and what you are going to do? Do you know where the unsuspecting aquatic beastie that you will drench with artificial light lives? Can it bite you, nip you, sting you or is it utterly defenceless and liable to be taken away and eaten by you once you have photographed it? Do you know how to get back to the point at which you entered the water (many underwater photographers are not very good at this).
I have just introduced aspects of an activity from which I derive great satisfaction and I have done so in an relatively flippant manner. Consider my words carefully however there is method inherent in all that I have said. For a start I do live on the west coast of Scotland and at least where the Atlantic coast of Europe is concerned this is an excellent place for an underwater photographer to be based. We have so many sheltered water options in our sea lochs that diving goes on year round regardless of weather conditions. The water doesn’t even get too cold, winter delivers around 6°C (43°F) at worst. Regarding buddies I would certainly not put my regular underwater photographer companion Jack in a life threatening position, he is simply irreplaceable.
Local diving clubs and schools in our part of the world are experts in the field of early starts. They often drive for miles in darkness at some hideous hour of the morning in their quest to be the first arrivals on a distant shoreline. Jack and I usually head for Loch Fyne and we do so in the hours of daylight. After a 20 minute ferry crossing followed by a 20 minute drive we arrive at the village of Strachur half way down the south east shore of the loch. Here you will find us in the comfort of the Bay Cottage Tea Room drinking coffee and eating some of the finest cheese scones in Scotland as we contemplate the days diving. Eventually we will head off following the road down the lochside to our chosen dive site, by this time we know exactly where we are going and what we hope to achieve.
Do we ever manage to get into the water? Are some of our subjects likely to end up in the pot when their modelling careers are over? The truth might follow in part 2.