Sunday, 6 July 2008


This was a wee article i put together for the staff magazine at my day job.

Would you take your camera out of its case on a foggy day? when visibility is down to a terrible 100 metres. Probably not but those conditions are 10 times better than I usually experience whilst taking images underwater around Scotland. Im often asked by colleagues in the Agency how I manage to capture colourful images in the murky waters of the Firth of Forth, or Clyde. Timing has a lot to do with it. Just off of Ocean terminal but on the Fife side of the Forth lies the remains of a massive Aircraft Carrier H.M.S. Campania. This sank 4 days before the end of the First World War. Underwater visibility on this wreck is usually dire at around a metre but in summer conditions it can reach a stunning… 8 metres visibility! (Still a lot less than that foggy 100 metres on land.)
Further down the East coast by the time North Berwick is reached conditions improve remarkably being best around the St. Abbs and Eyemouth area, where the underwater scenery is stunning. Walls and caves as well as shipwrecks are covered in soft corals and anemones of every colour. Average visibility here is 10 metres but 15 metres vis is not unknown. Even in these good conditions, specialised equipment is required to capture an acceptable image. Extreme wide angle lenses are required to capture images of seals, divers and shipwrecks while macro lenses can capture creatures smaller than your little finger such as sea slugs which are a lot more colourful than their land based relatives.
All this camera gear has to be protected from the marine environment. Today underwater housings made of Perspex or aluminium are used to protect standard SLR or compact cameras, as apposed to dedicated amphibious cameras which were favourites of the past. Underwater housings are now available for nearly all compact digital cameras on the market and this shows how the digital format has revolutionised underwater photography. Very few divers still use film, being able to check a shot whilst still underwater is just too great an advantage.
Underwater it is truly a different world. Gliding through clear sunlight water and coming nose to snout with a Grey Seal or finning along the companionway of some long sunk warship are certainly amazing experiences. Scottish waters are still rich in marine life and the sea floor is littered with shipwrecks. Underwater Photography is therefore a challenging but rewarding pastime, especially when you capture that image that makes people go WOW.