NUPG 8th October Meeting Report

A very busy scene greeted me this month as I settled down for a pre-talk curry and chat, we welcomed some new people as well as Martyn Guess and his wife Sue to the NUPG. Martyn has been diving for over 30 years and taking underwater images for over 25 years. He has been very successful in National and International competitions and regularly makes presentations to Camera and Photography clubs as well as BSOUP. He also leads overseas trips for Scubatravel having recently returned from teaching underwater photography in Anilao in the Philippines, Bali and the Azores. He writes regularly for Scuba Diver Magazine where his advice on photography appears both in the UK and the Asia Pacific region.

After the social chatter we settled down to listen to his presentation entitled “Hints and Tips on how to take better underwater images”.

He started by highlighting the group of component parts that he personally thinks need to be addressed to make a dynamic image that stands apart from the many underwater photos that are found everywhere these days. He went on to explore these areas in more detail.

Unsurprisingly composition is a key point and one often overlooked, he developed the discussion emphasising the importance of the “rule of thirds” and diagonal lines as well as getting eye contact with the subject and the right angle for the shot. It is often difficult to remember to try and get low and angle up but it can make a huge difference to a photo if you are able to do this. He also explained the importance of thinking about and using a portrait rather than a landscape aspect for certain types of photograph. When taking shots of pelagics and other large underwater animals try to get close.

The next component was to remember to photograph something interesting going on rather than just fish portrait shots. He illustrated this with an example of a moray eel. There are loads of great photos of this subject but try and get one that is being cleaned by a shrimp and then see if you can catch the detail of this.

He dwelt on the importance of trying to get a striking picture and the use of bright colours, sun balls and natural light. Martyn then went on to describe the importance of trying to catch what he termed “The Peak of The Action”. He illustrated the talk with many fantastic striking images.

Knowing your subject and understanding their behaviour was illustrated and if you are witnessing some great behaviour such as a lionfish actively hunting then fill your boots and try to take lots of photos experimenting with different lighting and camera settings.

Another key component is exposure and he reminded us all of remembering the simple rules and the exposure triangle. He gave us examples of his use of Aperture, Speed and ISO settings and his personal starting points for macro and wide angle photography. He also gave insights on how he adjusts his LCD display for reviewing his shots and the importance of understanding and reviewing the histograms of a shot whilst underwater so you can then make adjustments. He described why he likes “back button” focus.

His final part of the presentation went on to deal with that most important component lighting and strobe types and placement as well as other ways of lighting a subject. Once more there were some fine examples and he developed the presentation detailing the use of cross and back lighting to separate and hide messy backgrounds and bring in that all important 3D effect. He talked about back lighting with a torch as well as strobes and the use of snoots and finished his talk with some other strobe options and the use of filters.

Another great talk that finished in a busy question and answer session and a well-deserved round of applause. I think everyone from the beginners to the experts in underwater photography at the meeting learnt something. So thank you once again Martyn.

This month’s image competition theme was “Colonies” and there were some great images to judge. Overall winner was John Spencer with a beautiful shot of brittle stars on kelp taken in Loch Fyne Scotland, the diagonal and black background elements being particularly strong in this shot.


Glynn Phillips was placed 2nd with a lovely shot of plumose anemones and kelp taken in Eyemouth, UK and showing the rule of thirds.

There was a 3 way tie for third price with Nick Robertson Brown and his wide angle photo of a tug boat covered in various soft and hard corals taken in the Caribbean

using a remote strobe, Maggie Russell and her macro shot of a plate forming coral in Indonesia and Elaine White with her macro shot of cup corals from a reef in the Azores.










The compact category was won by Marcia Melton and her shot of dead mens fingers and brittle stars in St. Abbs, UK again showing a great use of the black background whilst runner-up was Alex Tasker with his shot of a Sea Pen taken in a Scottish Loch

Congratulations once again to all.

Following the results a quick resume of all the images was undertaken with some discussions on what and what did not work as well as suggestions to improvements that could have been made.

Our next meeting will be on Monday November 12th when we look forward to welcoming Nick More. The completion theme is “Rust”. For more information on the NUPG or you are interested in joining us then please feel free to come to one of our monthly meetings which are held on the 2nd Monday of each month please visit our website at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.