The members of Bangor and North Down Camera Club have been whisked away to some truly wondrous locations in recent weeks. Before Christmas Paul Evans presented a display of the celestial marvels, planets, stars and comets revealed by telescopes and camera lenses while on Friday night Alan Cranston went in the opposite direction when he shared his exciting images of journeys to the bottom of the earth’s oceans.
Alan, who has more than five hundred successful forays into the deep behind him began his illustrated talk with some remarkable photographs taken on various expeditions to the Red Sea. Most impressive were the scenes shot around some of the various shipwrecks- all of which have been clothed in a coating of multi-hued coral of various kinds.
These have attracted not only many divers but many different varieties of fish whose marvellous colours become iridescent under the powerful strobe lighting which is necessary equipment for any diver/photographer. The light intensity diminishes rapidly at depth and the colours merge into a subdued grey-brown so the pictures brought back to the surface sometimes bear little resemblance to the actual scene.
The deep waters are inhabited by a bewildering array of marine life – from the hard and soft varieties of coral to the families of fish with strange names and even stranger shapes. Scorpion and crocodile fish are to be avoided as, like their counterparts on dry land they possess very dangerous armaments. Trigger fish have no teeth but have been known to lift a lump out of a man’s skull with their razor sharp beak while Oceanic White Tip Sharks possess a set of dentures big and sharp enough to inflict lethal wounds on any unwary visitor to their domain.
Alan also showed images of Basking Sharks, up to twelve metres long swimming in the cold waters of the Western Isles of Scotland. As these giants are plankton eaters and have no interest in human food he was able to swim to within a foot or two of the cavernous jaws of the leviathans before clicking the shutter.
In the warm waters of Malta one can encounter almost a museum of World War Two armaments. Sunken warships reveal guns and shells; bombed transports have complete five ton trucks and motor cycles tumbling out of the fractured holds and rusting hulks of bombers lie grounded in the silt of many years.
In the Maldives he recorded images of Frog Fish, Puffers and Parrot Fish as well as a giant Mantra Ray about the same size as a small family car while off the coast of Rathlin Island he investigated the various wrecks and their attendant shoals. Donegal too is a good spot for the diver with a camera but, like the waters of Strangford Lough it has a problem with visibility .
As Alan explained diving is an expensive hobby – the camera equipment is highly specialized and organized expeditions can be costly and it can also be dangerous. Even after extensive preparation and respect for the rules an unexpected current can force a diver into a battle with downward pressure which could endanger his air supply. Happily it doesn’t happen very often and Alan Cranston is adamant that his hobby satisfies his two great passions- diving and photography.