MARIA MUNN'S COLUMN: Dealing with bad vis
Finally, finally I have finished moving from Yorkshire back to my new little studio on the south coast at Brighton near the Sealife Aquarium and am sorry for the gap in my column over the past few weeks. I was also away at short notice to help gather information on a manta ray and shark fishery to help Shark Savers and the Manta Trust get protection for the mantas through CITES. Last week, I finally finished cataloging over 1,700 photos taken in just under two weeks.
So, I did it, I finally dipped my toe into UK waters for the first time in a year and thought I’d share my experience from this weekend at the National Diving and Activities Centre in Chepstow as well as some tips on getting great photographs with your compact camera despite poor vis and rainy conditions.
Despite the wind and the rain, I had so much fun. A special thank you goes to Chris, Ashley, Neil and the team there for hosting me at such short notice.
The centre is easily placed off the A48 just over a mile east of Chepstow. Parking is super easy and close to both the shop and the filling station, as well as the newly opened cafe. There are lovely modern changing rooms conveniently placed next to the cafe just a short stroll from the car park and shuttle buses to take you to the quarry.
There are a wealth of underwater attractions here ranging from 7m all the way to a whopping 75m - plenty to occupy divers with all levels of experience.
As this was my first dive in a year, I was feeling a little nervous in my semi-dry, but as soon as I did my seated-roll into the water, a whole world of contrast opened up in front of my camera’s eyes. And my eyes were fixated on the amazing green colour at the surface contrasting against the pillars. I couldn’t wait to explore, even if the vis had dropped to about 2-3 metres in the shallows.
Heading north from the pontoon, and within a few fin-kicks I was at 7m and looking at a Land Rover! It was really difficult to see much of it but Marc, who I was diving with, found an excellent photo opportunity of a reflection with his Fuji compact just by pointing his camera towards the wing mirror.
Changing a photo to black and white can be atmospheric
Moving further on I almost bumped into an amphibious armoured vehicle. Marc was already ahead and dived into it with his torch. And straight away, that was where I saw some amazing photo opportunities of his torch shining through the window of the vehicle. I increased my ISO to 400 to let in enough available light to keep the picture sharp. I got as close to the vehicle as possible with my fisheye lens so that I was almost touching the front wheel. My flash was switched off so as not to cause dreaded backscatter and I used the Vivid mode in my Canon S95 to enhance the colour of the water. Then it was just a matter of waiting for Marc to point his torch in the right direction.
There really was so much there. It would have been good to have spent a whole weekend there to take it all in, as well as a couple more dives that day! Just that one dive left me completely re-energised to explore more of what the UK offers and it was a really superb taster to get confident with my dive-kit and camera before going on coast dives.
I took all of the photographs using just natural light and then converted them afterwards in the camera’s Playback menu to see what they would look like in black and white or sepia.
Sepia can add something too
Which one do you prefer? It would be lovely to hear your thoughts.
I will be running a weekend photo workshop there in September, so just let me know if you would be interested in coming along.
Maria launched PADI’s Digital Underwater Photography Speciality some six years ago and has helped 16 course guests win prizes with their compact cameras. She offers personal camera set-up guides for just £9.95 as well as her award-winning book and new DVD. She offers courses in London, Lancing and Leeds as well as group specials in her VW Photobus at a divesite of your choice. Visit www.oceanvisions.co.uk for more information.
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