As a child goes through the facts of marine life, it is also an ongoing imagination of a place where reality and unknown meets. Thus, it would be better to reinforce the child with not only facts but also images that captures the portion of reality underwater. This could not be possible without the advent of underwater photography. Truly, underwater photography paved the way for scientists and common people alike to understand and admire the marine world in a deeper extent. The pictures taken by the underwater photographers helped marine biologists by giving them the exact pictures of the species that are yet to be classified and it also reflected the natural habitat of these animals which needs conservation. Through these pictures, they were able to study further the physical attributes of each species. Also, with the help of these pictures, new found species are easily identified and classified. Underwater photographs also opened the minds of the people to the importance of the natural resources found underwater because they can visualize the exact habitat of these animals and they can also appreciate the unique beauty of the underwater world. Thus, it leads to more determined actions in the preservation of this wealth.

Contrary to popular belief, the worlds first underwater photograph was not taken by Emile Boutan but it was taken half a century earlier by an Englishman, William Thompson as clarified by Alary and Gilbert in their article entitled Photo 101 Part 1 of underwater photography history and prerequisites. As shortly discussed by Nick Baker in his article William Thompson  The Worlds First Underwater Photographer, William Thompson was a wealthy and intelligent Gentleman from Weymouth in Dorset. He was married to Sarah Slade and moved to the house near the seashore. This intensified Thompsons interest in the marine life. He became an expert in anemones and even discovered several new species of seaweeds. He was also an acknowledged expert in molluscs and had many important ornithological observations. 

The first ever underwater photograph was taken using a wet plate collodion as itemized by Nick Baker in William Thompson  The Worlds First Underwater Photographer. To further understand the technique that was used and appreciate the primitive way the photo was taken, it is better to discuss first on the technicalities of the process.

    As discussed by Baker in William Thompson  The Worlds First Underwater Photographer, collodion process was revolutionized by Frederick Scott Archer. This process utilizes a collodion, a viscous liquid made from a dissolved gun-cotton in alcohol and ether. This process was perfect for binding light-sensitive chemicals onto a glass plate and this has a reduced exposure time as compared to other primitive techniques at that time. The decrease exposure time was of great advantage at that time however, one main disadvantage of this process is the preparation of the materials and the process itself. The photographer has to prepare his plate first by spreading onto the glass a fresh collodion. He then has to synthesize it and mount it in the camera. After taking the picture, the plate will then be retrieved and the picture developed and fixed and all this time, the glass should remain wet. Thus, the photographer, may he be professional or amateur, should be familiar with the chemicals he is using. This also means that the photographer should carry all his equipments, including a darkroom tent, to the location of the photography, which was a great inconvenience in the part of the photographer. However, this was not a problem with William Thompson since he was driven by his enthusiasm of photography and even attempted new feats in underwater photography. The image captured by Thompson was an ultimate disappointment but it cant be denied that the image was an evidence of a technical milestone.

    After several years, a photographer from National Geographic Magazine and William Harding Longley produced the first ever colored photograph taken underwater as documented by the National Geographic Magazine First Underwater Color Photos. It was the interest of William Longley that started it all. He wanted to photograph the fishes he was studying in their natural habitat in full color. However, the technology at that time was still deficient for this kind of notion. He first tried autochrome glass plate but this only permitted him to take pictures of still objects like anemones and corals. To add up on the limitation of this technology, it needs 10-12 seconds exposure time for anything to register in the plate and the pictures were still disappointing. His interest unites with the interests of the President and Editor of National Geographic. So he was accompanied by a knowledgeable photographer from National Geographic and improvised the autochrome technique by creating a solution that coats the plates and cuts the exposure to significantly. Nevertheless, exposure time was not the only problem they have to overcome the blue hue of the sea. Thus, they attempted a very dangerous stunt. They used a magnesium flash powder which when ignited explodes and gives of a very bright light that was equivalent to 2,400 flash bulbs. The tedious and dangerous task was proven to be successful. For the first time, a full color of underwater photo was published, which was published in the National Geographic magazine in their article First Underwater Color Photos.

    Sad to say, nobody in the photography or marine biology world repeated the experiment as noted in the National Geographic Magazine in First Underwater Color Photos. The pictures remained only a lonely monument. On the other hand, their success was well treasured by the National Geographic and became the great tradition of National Geographic underwater achievements. After this another milestone in photography, decades was had to be spent to experience the convenience and the success of fast-color film.

    Owing to the technical advancements which occurred there after, underwater photography has now developed a technique that captures the fluorescence of corals. Fluorescence of corals is truly a breathtaking view but at first, it didnt receive much attention from marine biologists. Thanks to the efforts of some biologist, like Charles Mazel who intently studied this characteristic of corals. He did not only study the importance of fluorescence of corals but he also developed a technique that allows underwater photographers to shoot even under ambient light (Daubilet 32).

    Photographers use different kind of light to elicit the corals ability to fluorescence. Unlike the usual white light used in photography, in underwater photography, to elicit the fluorescence capability, ultraviolet light should be used (Daubilet 37).

As Charles Mazel explained it in the article Charles Mazel on Coral Fluorescence, he differentiated the fluorescence phenomena in physics and biology. In physics, this process occurs when one color in the white light is absorbed in a substance and it is then transformed into another color. However, this is not applicable in biology. Fluorescence originates from few sources in corals. It comes from the intense colors of green, orange and yellow which are present in the fluorescent protein in the coral tissue. For example, a deep red fluorescence is observed in algae. This red fluorescence came from the chlorophyll content of the algae. On the other hand, orange fluorescence is exhibited from phycoerythrin, which is a pigment found in red algae and cyanobacteria which has a specific function in photosynthesis. Fluorescence is not only present in corals and algae. It can also be found in other reef fauna, like shrimp, crabs, fish and more. Although fluorescence is usually appreciated among corals, not all corals exhibit this phenomenon. Thus, one may wonder the significance of fluorescence phenomenon.

    There are several theories attempting to explain fluorescence of these animals however, these are yet to be proven. However, scientists discovered that the fluorescence of juvenile corals helps them identify newly settled young corals in the same reef. This is significant information because it aids scientists or marine biologists in their study of coral recruitment. This was explained by Charles Mazel in Charles Mazel on Coral Fluorescence. He also added that fluorescence of corals doesnt only help marine biologists understand underwater life better it also helps researchers find medical significance of corals. The genes that code for the fluorescence ability of corals are inserted to cells of different laboratory subjects. This results to fluorescence of a specific part of the subject. Thus, it can be used in monitoring the developing organs or even exhibit the effectiveness of anti-tumor treatments.

    Through underwater photography, one can truly say that technology has greatly contributed in the understanding of once an unknown and mysterious world. Through the efforts of photographers, scientists, and marine biologist, the marine life was gradually uncovered and explored even by common people. It did not only advanced by itself by improving the technology in photography but it also expounded our knowledge of marine life through its course.


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