In the 70s and 80s, I was an advertising photographer based in London. At the time Britain's photographers were known for being the best, and one thing all these talented people had in common was an understated belief in their own skills.
They didn't need to oversell themselves. Budgets were enormous, their work was displayed throughout the country on billboards and the agency cheques were confirmation enough that they were good.
Martin Edge was not part of this world. He is a self-taught amateur, and a pretty good one. But when he wrote his first book on underwater photography, he laced it with sections on aspects of art, and for me, these didn't ring true.
It was as if he had learned about art from a novel-writer rather than from the world I knew.
So I was surprised to be asked by Focal Press some time back how The Underwater Photographer could be improved. I didn't hold back: get rid of those sections out of Pseuds Corner!
Martin Edge has a reputation for being a good teacher of underwater photography. He is evidently also a good learner, because the third edition of his book is almost a complete rewrite.
Gone is all the pretentious arty nonsense. This comprehensive book is packed with useful information on almost every aspect of the subject. Each section is concise and to the point, making it easy to dip in and out. I would go so far as to say that this could be the first standard reference book on the subject.
Like most of us, Edge has made the transition from shooting under water on film to electronic image-gathering.
That must have been painful. In the days when correct exposure and sharp focus were secret arts, only a
few practitioners had the monopoly on getting consistent results on film.
Digital photography has changed all that, calling as it does for a different range of skills, and The Underwater Photographer bears this in mind.
The book is well illustrated, not only with colourful examples of the authors photography but with pictures of equipment, lighting set-ups and effects, and computer displays during post-shooting digital processing.
The book may be sub-titled Digital and Traditional Techniques, but the author has realised that few newcomers will now put themselves through the tortuous route that comes with using film, and it is hardly mentioned.
My only complaint is that, armed with this book, almost any diver can become an expert underwater photographer, and my children will have to take up the still-secret arts of plumbing to make a decent living instead.
John Bantin
  • The Underwater Photographer (Third Edition) by Martin Edge (Focal Press, ISBN: 0240519884). Softback, 424pp,£24.99

  • Divernet