You might be surprised to know, says Mike, that in many ways photography such as this is the ideal speciality for the less experienced photographer, because one is able to plan and rehearse underwater all the complexities of the shot in ones own time.
Firstly, it means getting a good idea, and although this isnt easy there are plenty of ideas waiting to be discovered or developed. Its a question of using your imagination. Then you need to decide what models or props you require, and this isnt as difficult or as expensive as you may think.
Next come your photographic technical requirements, namely what specific lighting equipment and style will be needed to produce the shots that you visualise, followed by pre-planning and possible rehearsal, much of which can be done in a swimming pool.
Finally, try to get support from your diving friends and club divers to assist in the creation of your images. Underwater co-operation is notoriously difficult to achieve but when it works it is a priceless asset.
Giving specific examples, Mike talks about his picture Birth (right). The idea came from the conception that the ocean was the womb of the world and gave birth to us all. His model, curled like a foetus, was floated on the surface and lit from beneath with red lighting.
The underwater sleigh was simply a drainpipe with an underwater torch placed behind a piece of coloured perspex, with a flashgun at the rear synchronised to and timed with the release of bubbles from a cylinder concealed in the tube to give the impression of an exhaust.
The balloon shot used similar technical components, the props being a laundry basket and a lifting bag donated free by J W Automarine.
And the silhouette was the result of a planned shot going wrong. One of two flashguns proved faulty, forcing Mike to experiment with one, moving it around the subject.
The pictures have three things in common, says Mike. They are almost all pre-planned, they are all the result of team work - and they are all hard work but great fun to produce.
But, he adds: Dont be intimidated by the apparent complexity of these shots. Such pictures are much easier to take these days because equipment has moved on.
There are divers out there who have hardly taken a single underwater photograph but who will take underwater photography in new and exciting directions.
Diver sponsored festivals have launched some of the best known careers in underwater photography. This chance is still open to everyone at Image 99.
Diving team: Bob Bearchell, Bob Johnson, Samantha Bond, Lauren Heston.
The International Festival of Underwater Photography and Film is famous for three reasons. First, it has long been recognised as the worlds biggest and most celebrated competition for underwater photographers and film-makers of all kinds and all levels of ability.
Second, it is the worlds most rewarding competition, presenting winners not only with a glittering array of trophies and medals but also thousands of pounds worth of prizes. Third, it is a showplace for the worlds finest underwater photographs, slides and videos, a huge attraction for divers.
Image 99 is the 9th such festival organised by Diver, and our aim has always been to provide divers with the widest opportunities to have their film and photographic talents recognised and rewarded. A number of past winners, such as Mike Portelly and Peter Scoones, have become highly successful professionals.
Image 99 will have no fewer than six categories and 18 classes for both experienced photographers and beginners, professional and non-professional, and there are also distinctions between film shot in British waters and tropical waters.
In all 10 trophies and prizes, 81 gold, silver and bronze medals, and up to 100 Highly Commended and Exhibition Certificates are to be won. A wonderful Festival show will be presented in conjunction with Dive 99 at the NEC, Birmingham, on 16-17 October.
Closing date for entries is 6 September. For entry forms, conditions and details contact Image 99 c/o Diver, 55 High Street, Teddington, Middlesex TW11 8HA, UK (tel: +44 (0)181 943 4288, fax: +44 (0)181 943 4312, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Categories, classes and trophies
SECTION 1 NOT open to those who have previously won an award in a national or international underwater photographic competition. First, second and third-placed entrants in each category will be awarded gold, silver and bronze medals respectively.
Category 1: Prints
Classes: (a) Marine Life (b) People and/or Scenery (c) Macro
Category 2: Slides
Classes: (a) Marine Life (b) People and/or Scenery (c) Macro
Category 3: Portfolios
Six prints, slides, or a mixture of both.
SECTION 2 Open to ALL underwater photographers. First, second and third-placed entrants in each category will be awarded gold, silver and bronze medals respectively.
Category 4: Manipulated Images
To include double or multiple exposures (either in-camera or in-darkroom), digital images etc. Such images are not eligible for the Prints or Slides categories in Section One.
Category 5: Audio visual
Two or more projectors may be used.
SECTION 3 Entrants placed first, second and third in both (a) and (b) will be awarded gold, silver and bronze medals respectively.
Category 6: Moving Images Videos and cine films: (a) Non-professional (b) Professional.
SECTION 4 Grand Master of Underwater Photography. Separate awards will be made to those who have previously won an award of any kind in a national or international photographic competition. Categories and classes named in Section 1 apply here. Gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded in each appropriate case.
Special British Awards These go to the best entries in Categories 1, 2, 3 and 6 for images/footage shot in waters around the British Isles. Grand Master contestants will be eligible. Gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded in the relevant categories and classes.
Best Festival Print, for one of the gold medallists in Category 1 (Section 1 or 4). Best Festival Slide, for one of the gold medallists in Category 2 (Section 1 or 4). Best Festival Portfolio, for one of the gold medallists in Category 3 (Section 1 or 4). Best Manipulated Image, for the gold medallist in Category 4. Best Audio-Visual, for the gold medallist in Category 5. Best Video/Cine Film (Non-professional), for the gold medallist in Category 6 (a). Best Video/Cine Film (Professional), for the gold medallist in Category 6 (b). Plus
Most Promising Underwater Photographer, for the photographer whose entries in Section 1 show the greatest promise. Best British Underwater Photographer, whose overall entry in Categories 1 to 5, wherever shot, is of the most outstanding quality, proving consistent photographic technique and talent.
The Diver Trophy for the Grand Master of Underwater Photography, whose overall entry in categories 1 to 5 is of the most outstanding quality, proving consistent photographic technique and talent.