Colin Doeg looks at Your Shot

Send in your slides or prints for an expert appraisal and learn how to get the best results. Essential tips for all underwater photographers

Double vision: Eric Smellers’ striking picture is a great example of how to combine two different images in one frame

Darkroom trickery… Image manipulation … These are phrases to inflame the photographic purist, but they are techniques that some photographers use to produce unusual and eye-catching images.

Another approach is to perform the magic inside the camera, as 30-year-old Eric Smellers has done by making two different exposures on the same piece of film. This is not an easy thing to do. It took Peter Scoones, one of the UK’s most outstanding underwater photographers, around six years of experimenting to perfect the method. It was pioneering stuff in the mid-Eighties and, to my knowledge, Peter was the first underwater photographer to produce such a shot.

It has taken less time for Eric to perfect his general underwater photography, but that’s the pace of progress. In 1994, after only 12 dives, he went from his home in Antwerp, Belgium, for a holiday in Hurghada. It was his first experience of both the Red Sea and underwater photography, but he tried using a disposable camera. The results so enthused him that he returned five months later with a Nikonos V and a Sea & Sea YS50 flashgun, determined to improve his results.

The following year, he upgraded to a Nikon F90 in a Hugyfot housing with a Sea & Sea YS300 strobe. He also has four Nikkor lenses now: an 18mm, a 105mm macro, a 18–35mm zoom and a 28–70mm zoom.

Eric has returned to the Red Sea on four more occasions, as well as going diving in Spain, France and extensively off Zealand, Denmark’s principal island. Indeed, it was in Denmark’s cold waters that he took this attractive double exposure, a blue-tipped nudibranch set against a sunset.

There are two secrets to taking this type of shot, which must be carefully planned. First, it’s essential that, when you load your film, you mark it in such a way that you can rewind it to precisely the same point before you overlay the second series of exposures. Second, you need to be able to envisage your final image, so that when you take the two exposures, you leave enough space for one to overlap the other. With cameras of a larger format than 35mm, the positioning of the two images can be made easier if you sketch them on the viewing screen with a wax pencil. With smaller-format cameras, you have to rely on memory, imagination and a degree of luck.

In addition, the F90 camera needs to be modified so that, when the film is automatically wound back into the cassette, its ‘tail’ is left protruding.

Eric’s picture is a delight to look at and it shows that you don’t have to go to tropical waters to take striking pictures. Indeed, I have only one small comment to make. From the distracting reflections in the top righthand corner of the frame, I’d say he didn’t use a hood on his 18mm lens when he took the sunset. Not that a hood is essential: had he been able to see the effect in the viewfinder, he could have tried using his hand to shield the light rays from the lens. He photographed the nudibranch, incidentally, with his 105mm macro lens.

• If you’d like Colin to cast his expert eye over any of your photographs, please send them (with an SAE if you want them returned) to: Your Shot,
DIVE, Aaron House, 6 Bardolph Road, Richmond, Surrey TW9 2LS.

Get Ready for Visions 99
Visions 99, the third annual conference of underwater photography, is to be held at Imperial College, London, on 6 and 7 November. Presenters will include the award-winning photographer Kurt Amsler, who will talk about his career. Other speakers will be Martin Edge, Mark Webster and Paul Naylor. Edge will discuss innovations in underwater lighting; Webster and his wife Susanna will talk about teamwork for the photographer and model; while Naylor will offer hard-won tips on successful fish photography. Dan Burton, whose assignments have included recording free-diving competitions, the wreck of the Britannic, as well as the NASA underwater training tank, will discuss his work, while Linda Dunk will speak about image manipulation using computer technology. Constantinos Petrinos will describe his latest assignment in Indonesia. And, for all those budding amateurs who’d love to turn pro, DIVE publisher Graeme Gourlay will advise on getting your work published. Again, I’ve been asked to compere the event. For more details, call Ocean Optics on 0171 930 8408.
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