Archive for category UW Photography
Here’s a mixture of pictures selected by PIX (a weekly picture-news magazine in Australia) editors. Once selected I’d be asked to tell a staff reporter like Syd King, Ben Mitchell or later, Jim Oram what it was all about. The magazine paid sufficiently. They were a good crew. Editor Bob Nelson especially. Meanwhile I was shooting 16mm film footage for my future project, a documentary that would enable travel as well as an income. It was a good plan but eventually there was home video which made cinema films expensive for families. (click to enlarge pages).
FATHOM magazine was compiled by divers. For the first time in Australia, dramatic pictures and stories kept accurate by the people who wrote and published the material. All original pages now online for students of the sea. A benchmark to help understand the slow but steady changes occurring in the marine world. From shark hunting of 1963 to the beautiful underwater photo images of today.
Married in December 1964, the above picture was the following month in 1965 while returning from the Australian Spear fishing Championships at Kangaroo Island, South Australia. Ron and Valerie returned via Mount Gambier near the South Australian and Victoria border to do the first truly professional underwater shots in the crystal clear fresh water. Ron mostly used color film in a 6x6cm Rolleiflex with wide angle lens – not the usual Rolleimarin housing. This print was made from an inter-negative taken from the color original by Ron in his home darkroom. Valerie often retouched the B&W prints using her skills acquired as a commercial artist on The Silver Jacket (adventure magazine for boys), this print appears to be as original. The fresh water in Picaninnie Ponds isn’t exactly ‘freezing’ but you have a headache after 90 seconds and three minutes might be maximum before common sense says ‘get out’. Here in her late twenties in this picture, Valerie shows enormous will-power that has seen her persist or endure discomforts associated with diving better than anyone else I can think of – either male or female. This picture is from a series first published in Everybody’s magazine that amazed Australian underwater photographers and also established Ron as the leader – a position he could still challenge without difficulty.
Valerie with Silky shark (1965) during filming of “Surf Scene” at Flinders Reef, Queensland
One of my favorite pictures of Valerie is this portrait from 1967 in one of the fresh water sink holes near Mt. Gambier, South Australia. Ron was making his documentary The Cave Divers. I used a Rolleiflex camera with flash fill. Valerie viewed the picture for the first time in July 2010.
The northern Great Barrier Reef, where surf breaks on the weather side. Corals need to be tough to even begin life here. A constant flow of surfs flows across the reef, except at low tide when the reef might dry or be reduced to shallow pools for a few hours. Pictures with a Sony digital T-1
In deeper water a brain coral in trouble. Something was attacking it. Maybe this is the way life goes on a coral reef? Eventually it might recover. So much to learn and not much time to know all the answers.
The Late John LeBrun pictured
John LeBrun (a professional camera equipment salesman and diver) taught us a couple of points about photography he had learned from his service in the air force.
“When you focus on an object, the area that is actually in focus (also called depth of field) is 1/3 in front and 2/3 behind the point that you’ve focused on”.
You can use this knowledge to some advantage at times.
Generally we were all self-taught photographers. The most difficult part in the learning days was getting a good exposure, especially underwater. Most divers tended to over-expose pictures.
Today the camera’s are automatic in this respect but sometimes adjustments make a nice difference. Sunsets are better if the exposure is make darker, for example.
A friendly crew welcomed Christine Danaher and I aboard at Cairns, North Queensland. The Alcyone had just arrived in Australia from the north.
A week previously the ship had been low on food and appreciated some fish offered at Osprey Reef by Coralita’s owner-skipper Albie Ziebell.
Marc Blessington showed me the lights the team used for filming underwater. This was still the era of film cameras which meant a great deal of electrical power was needed underwater. Each lamp was 250 watts. The configuration designed and built by the Cousteau team.
These were not lights readily available to professionals. In fact using this system required two divers just to manage the underwater cables. Today the same effect would be tiny and fixed to a video camera, no cables necessary – the evolution of cinematography.
Ever wondered what is contained under the space-age plastic back packs? A pair of tanks.
The store bought scooters were tricked-up with an extra ‘tank’ on either side. I presume this was cosmetic and not functional?
Silver wet suits as used by Cousteau divers? The suits require sunscreen to help them last longer.
The world of film making is always different to reality.
Meanwhile downbelow Clay Wilcox was doubling as chef.
The guys had a library of Cousteau-made films and invited us to select a title for viewing.
We chose to view their work at the tip of South America. Our Canadian friend Jack McKenney had helped with the filming for that expedition.
So the Cousteau Foundation was opening up.
For the previous twenty years of TV film making it was a French-only group. Here on Alcyone they had a pair of English-speakers. Marc from southern England and Clay from New York.
A pleasurable and memorable meeting. Chief cameraman Michele Deloire (pictured above right) gave some of his precious time. There would be enough adventure material in this active cameraman’s career to fill many hours of verbal entertainment. In France he has worked as a cameraman with movie stars Catherine Deneuve and Brigitte Bardot.
Swimming with a large saltwater crocodile in the Jardine River of North Queensland being one outstanding episode.
Or the killer whale eating a hammerhead shark at Osprey Reef? The killer whale had swam to Michele with the three meter shark in it’s mouth as if to say “look what I’ve got”. That scene was recorded on 35mm motion picture film.
Amazing. What has become of the boat in recent years is another story.
Kameruka Creek on the far South Coast of New South Wales is trickle more often than not. It flows to the Bega River which is tuns enters the sea at Tathra. My first underwater view with a face mask was in the fresh water river about 1952. A memorable experience. Every diver remembers the first time they looked underwater. Although babies watch marine films these days, long before entering deep water.
Grey nurse sharks were protected especially to give tourist divers something worthwhile to look at, and to shut-up a handful of environmentalists with underwater camera’s who were conning the media into thinking only 500 sharks existed.
How anyone could possibly count all the sharks at every reef on the east coast never occurred to the media, they just ran with the fairy story while the Fisheries responded with a protective ban.
The bottom line is, it was probably a good thing to have the species protected.
Suggestion for an aspiring PhD student: Investigate the link between past onshore droughts and ‘vanishing sharks’ to determine if there is a connection why this species was scarce in the years before 1986. Include power head spears in the equation, plus professional fishing catches processed through markets.
Christine Danaher approaches a small grey nurse shark resting under a reef ledge. Located north of Forster, New South Wales, the area has been called Taurus Reef by local dive charter boats. When the flash went off the shark bolted.
The reefs off Townsville (Northern Great Barrier Reef) had spectacular formations until a very strong cyclone went through and smashed formations in deep water. These large corals are hundreds of years old and can be likened to giant forest tree’s. The above picture was November 1983 near Cape Bowling Green.
Divers, John M Harding (senior) and Roy Bisson (on right)
This was the longest voyage undertaken by the famous charter boat in 1971. Newly launched the boat was 79′ in length and had accommodation for 16 divers (later reduced to 12), plus a crew of four.
The lure for such a voyage was shell collecting, a search for the rare volute thatcheri. Half the charter cost was paid by shell collectors. I was sponsored by a tabloid newspaper to write and photograph five stories that could be serialized over one week.
Text written especially for divers would be published in Fathom No.6 issue. Art director and diver, Roy Bisson being on the voyage.
From San Francisco the late Dewey Bergman (Sea and Sea Travel) was scouting on this voyage for what would become regular parties of American divers and underwater cameramen. The world was about to discover diving Australian style. The future voyages would not involve so much traveling time.
Marion Reef was the new inshore destination, still in The Coral Sea and today almost unvisited due to fuel cost considerations.
The Chesterfield Reef trip was our most memorable. Near perfect weather and a good crew of professional divers. For further information, including names of shipwrecks at Chesterfield Reef, see Wikipedia.org
Roy Bisson swim fins (flippers) were filmed simultaneously by my movie camera and another by Richard Ibara. This was Chesterfield Reef at it’s best. Grey Reef sharks were territorial with these displays as they probably had not encountered divers before.
My choice as an outstanding photo is the garden eel portrait. It may have been made with a remote controlled camera – or a very good telephoto lens.
You can’t get closer than maybe 5 meters from a garden eel without it slipping into it’s hole in the sand.
To obtain a portrait like this is not easy.
Last week I read in the English \\Taipei Times\\ newspaper of an underwater photographic exhibition at Taiwan’s National Museum, in the 228 Peace Park, walking distance from my hotel in Taipei.
What a pleasant surprise to see maybe 100 large color framed photographs taken underwater around Taiwan. Plus a continuous video showing what appears to be volcanic gas erupting from a coral reef offshore.
At first it looked like a scuba tank inside in a cave with the valve open full. With no English narration it was a mystery until the film ran again and it became an obvious thermal emission.
The exhibition runs several weeks, is accompanied by excellent front-of-house advertising and quality posters. They even have a couple of store dummies dressed in tank and wet suits suspended from a ceiling downstairs.
Some other interesting subject were: (to be continued – click REFRESH)
“The sailfish shot was about 1980. The water was full of cornflakes after several days of strong NE. Its a shame. You can see it in the shot. That was the time I shot the u/w 16 mm on the sails feeding and jumping on hookup.
I sold it to Malcolm Florence Films for $10,000. He was making fishing films with a Government grant.
I hired a camera from B&S and the bloody thing flooded after two days shooting so I never got much.
They had an underwater cameraman for a whole year and got absolutely nothing, so I was in the right position to make a killing.
He (the late Malcolm Florence) put my stuff into a video called **\\The Boy and the Sailfish\\**. They didn’t give any film credits (for all the purchased material included) at all which ‘pissed me off’ some.
I got the cheque and thats more than a lot of other people got”.
(\\by\\ **Peter Bristow**, \\the former Cairns Queensland charter boat owner-skipper, now based at Madeira\\)
The same species when seen around populated reef’s frequented by spear fishing competitions won’t be quite as tame. At Long Reef (Sydney) they speed away as would Snapper. Fish soon learn what a diver with a spear gun is capable of.
Picture courtesy RJ Taylor collection
The Tweed Heads to Brisbane area was a super-hot spear fishing zone, Australia 1961. While we were seeing Red Morwong and Blue Groper around Sydney, the real underwater champions senior to us in age and experience were seeing giant Black Cod and Queensland Groper in shallow water up north. Pictures published in Australian Skindivers Magazine whetted our desire for a trip north. With friend Vic Ley our dream came true in July 1963 when we quit our jobs and drove north with a boat, outboard and camping gear. We’d swap speared fish and lobsters for food and fuel. The adventure of a lifetime awaited us.
Me with a typical coral trout. Aboard Riversong, a second trip in 1964. Captain Wally Muller and South Australian Brian Rodger in background. We speared thousands of kilo’s of fish during a ten-day voyage in the Capricorn and Bunker Group.
Vic Ley and myself on our first voyage with Wally Muller, August 1963. We speared fish in exchange for a boat ride out to North West Island – where I developed ‘coral poisoning’ in my leg and came close to dying, sulpher tablets pulled me through, probably not with some harm to kidneys.
Ron Taylor and Vic Ley August 1963, Riversong - Wally Muller‘s fishing vessel became legendary in the sixties. We were later to venture to Saumarez Reef in The Coral Sea aboard this small boat in October 1964.
Photo taken with Calypso-phot 35mm underwater camera