Photography students are preparing for the Red Sea exhibition
09 February 2023
Image: Adam Tidman
On 16 February, Marine & Natural History Photography students will be exhibiting work from this year’s study trip to Egypt. The event is sponsored by Finisterre, Fourth Element and Underwater Visions, who’ll be awarding prizes for their favourite work.
The annual Red Sea diving trip gives students the chance to intensively develop their underwater photography skills and build valuable connections which can, and do, last a lifetime.
The trip is usually only open to second-year Marine & Natural History Photography students. However, with cancellations in 2021 and 2022 due to the pandemic, this year the invite was extended to third-year students as well as 2022 alumni.
The students were supported throughout the experience by members of the course dive team: underwater photography lecturer Gina Goodman, dive safety officer Helen Perkins, technician Elle Spears, and dive safety officer and technician Jane Morgan (who is also an award-winning underwater photographer).
With an array of specialist skills between them - from underwater photography and pioneering health and safety expertise to dive skills and technical maintenance - the team was able to set up what Gina describes as an “alternative learning environment”, complete with a staffed equipment stores and teaching spaces.
The warm water location means that students can be in the water all day, fine tuning their skills in both diving and photography. “The location offers everything. We have developed a great relationship with the eco-resort over the last decade, and most importantly the warm waters offer incredible biodiversity," says Gina.
“Being able to get in the water multiple times a day over two weeks means the students are able to really study the reef, learn where different species can be found and figure out how all this can be translated into a photograph.”
My skills skyrocketed during my time in Egypt, not just in underwater photography but as a diver. The constant feedback throughout the trip and the team's expertise was crucial, which kept me pushing my boundaries as a photographer. I returned with a portfolio to be proud of and unforgettable memories.
Throughout the experience, hands-on learning is backed by workshops, peer crits and expert feedback from the staff team. This gives students the chance to continuously and intensively develop their work.
Second-year student Pola Grabska said: “My skills skyrocketed during my time in Egypt, not just in underwater photography but as a diver. The constant feedback throughout the trip and the team's expertise was crucial, which kept me pushing my boundaries as a photographer. I returned with a portfolio to be proud of and unforgettable memories.”
This accelerated development is Gina’s favourite aspect of the trip. “The best moments for me are when you watch a student come out of the water with a smile on their face and you can just tell that they’ve got it. They’ve gone out on that dive, and everything has just clicked into place. That’s why we do it.”
Beyond expanding their diving and photography skills, the trip also allows students to start building valuable professional networks. “The dive and underwater photography industry can feel quite impenetrable at first glance, but it’s actually a very supportive and collaborative community,” says Gina.
“The Red Sea trip is important because students can start building industry connections while they’re at university – giving them a good foundation for entering the professional world. We often find that when one of our students finds their way into the industry, they take others from their cohort with them.”
The value of peer-to-peer learning was also recognised by the students. Aryaa Patil said: “One of my favourite parts was how collaborative and supportive the atmosphere was. I think it allowed dives to be much more successful and enjoyable for everyone, because we could turn to each other to problem solve, and for encouragement and inspiration.”
The incredible results of this unique learning experience will be on display from 16 to 28 February at the Institute of Photography Gallery on Penryn Campus.
The exhibition will kick off with a private view on 16 February, where sponsors Finisterre, Fourth Element and Underwater Visions will be awarding prizes to their favourite photographic work.
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The Marine & Natural History Photography degree here in Cornwall provides the perfect environment for learning to capture the beauty of the natural world. As we face the challenges of climate and ecological emergencies, this work is more important than ever before.