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A Short History Of The Camera - Underwater Camera Case Still Of Age
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A Short History Of the Camera  -  Underwater Camera Case Still Of Age

The wonder, serenity, and sheer beauty of the undersea world has captivated the eye of the artist for millennia. Earlier attempts at capturing marine life for display were aquariums, but would not escape its time and place in the history of the camera.

Amidst the age of scientific discoveries of the 1850s comes the underwater camera, though this would not become practical until the rise of the hand-held camera and the underwater camera case, which began in various forms.

Underwater photography is a very broad topic and the focus of this article will be but an overview meant to introduce the major developments in its earlier history. However it will touch upon a few of the latest developments as well.

The Camera Obscura Goes Under Water

In 1856, the earliest attempts at underwater photography took two different directions. These were either done by waterproofing the camera obscura box itself or carrying the camera inside a vessel. The former worked well for shallow water, the other much greater depths from inside a submarine.

William Thompson, from England, successfully exposed a photographic plate under six meters of water.

There were attempts of bringing the camera down inside apparati, known as metal diving bell chambers equipped with hosed air from above.

The German Wilhelm Bauer, takes pictures of the undersea from inside a Russian submarine.

Major Developments of Underwater Photography During the 19th Century

Jules Verne, the famous author of Journey to the Center of the Earth, secures a photograph from the undersea for his 20,000 Miles Under the Sea science fiction story.

Josellis, from Italy, experiments with the use of diving bells in which he could take normal camera equipment underwater in this dry environment.

Other improvements, from 1873 up to the end of the century, included

  • Attempts to examine how far in depth natural light penetrates water
  • Specially prepared water-resilient photographic plates attempts a panorama of the marine world.
  • Protective waterproof shells or housings [a practice still used today] began to be specially-fitted for the existing cameras of the time.
  • At the end of the century, L. Boutan goes 50 meters underwater at night using artificial lighting for the first time ever.

The Growing Tide of Underwater Photography Enthusiasts in the 20th & 21st Centuries

Throughout the 20th century, many of the normal applications for photography, such as motion picture, color imagery, strobe lights, housings, and cameras especially designed for underwater photography. By the latter part of the century, anything that was developed in land photography was quickly adapted for underwater as well.

The Calypso Photo Camera was developed by the renowned expert, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who in the latter part of the 20th century filmed many oceanic expeditions, as did the noted Richard Ballard in his quests in studying lost shipwrecks, noted for his famous expeditions to the sunken RMS Titanic.

SEACAM made its appearance in 1989 and manufactured camera housings for Nikon, Canon and Minolta.

Most underwater photography enthusiasts, especially before the invention of the dry plate, were well-to-do and did all the developing themselves. However, at the coming of the dry plate, storage of exposed plates would hold up for a period of time without spoilage and there was no pressing need to develop them right away. This convenience allowed many amateurs to bring them into one of the professional photographic studios to have the plates processed.

The dawn of the 21st century brought about the availability of the underwater camera to the average consumer and they are now enjoying unprecedented success in the camera industry.

To Recap the Above:

  • The beauty and wonder of the undersea world has always fascinated artists and scientists for centuries, though actual attempts to capture it using a camera obscura would not occur until the 1850s.
  • Early descents were first achieved with the diving bell and on board vessels, such as submarines.
  • Much more came to be known about the undersea world through the many improvements made to underwater photography.

Of all the improvements making underwater photography possible, none can compare with the development of the underwater camera housing, a method that is still in use today.


Street Talk

Even in recent years, I stayed about a month at my brother's home, a small flat but it was totally filled with turn-of-the-century everything, even crank phone. I'm enjoying writing the series and it is helping me get in the 'periodical' mode. I actually experienced things in life similar to those early days, when I lived in the forest, my portable Victrola, accordion and short wave radio, I had my music pretty much together! These studies are a part of my extended Journal. I am a proud user of the GoPro camera and find it the best I've ever seen.

Reply
  about 7 years ago

Love the nostalgia behind this.

Reply
  about 7 years ago

I love treasure-hunting, but I do most of it cybernetically.

Reply
  about 7 years ago
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