The Scotsman who photographs underwater life

Growing up on the frontier, Lawson Wood was constantly at odds with his mother.

Born in the Dunes, he moved to a house in Ainmouth “between the school and the sea” – and it was there that his lifelong fascination began.

His mother tells him “first home then the beach” but he dives into his old school uniform.

None of them could have imagined that underwater photography would lead to a career.

He now has more than 50 books to his name – and several awards – with his two new works Red Sea Underwater Guide And The world’s best tropical dive destinations It has just been released.

“I was born and brought up in the Scottish Borders and I lived by the sea, actually, in Eyemouth – in the south east of southern Scotland, as you can tell,” he said.

“So I spent my youth scrambling around rock pools, going to the sea.

“I had this fascination with what we see in rock pools or what we see washed up on the beach, and I started exploring more and trying to learn a little bit more about things.”

It quickly led to serious underwater adventures.

“I got a mask and a snorkel and then I could see more,” he said.

“My first scuba dive was when I was 11 – that was in August 1965 – and I wasn’t 12 until October.

“Since then, I think, passion has become a profession.”

Lawson’s work has taken him “pretty much around the UK” and then to Europe, the Red Sea and the Caribbean – which means it’s not easy to say which place he likes the most.

“It’s hard to tell you the truth because you can’t really compare,” he explained.

“I can’t compare Eyemouth to something like the Red Sea because they are completely different types of water.”

He described the latter as a “clear blue” with tropical fish and coral reefs, although there are “equally beautiful colors in waters particularly around the UK and Scotland”.

But when pressed, he admits his favorite spot has to be off the southeast coast of Scotland.

“I helped co-found the Berwickshire Marine Reserve, so this is obviously very close to my heart,” he said.

And how does underwater photography differ from land photography?

“I could try and draw you a picture,” Lawson said.

“In addition to being in the sea, you know it’s salt water, so it’s very harmful, because of your environment, you have stress on your body.

“You’re in low light, you’re moving and the material around you may be moving as well and the creature or animal or whatever you’re trying to photograph will also be moving.”

He says you have to get used to spending some time finding your rhythm with things like air supply and equipment playing a role.

There were also occasions when he got into some trouble.

“I’ve been in areas with really strong currents,” he said.

“You have to try and either swim through them or go with them and if there’s a support boat you’re going to put up a little marker where you can see where you are above the boat.

“When you finally take off, you know, you might be half a mile from where you started, but at least the boat will come to see and collect your signal.”

Lawson encounters creatures most of us prefer to keep at a distance.

“I’ve actually been in the water with sharks many times,” he said.

There were only a few moments when I thought, “I’m not sure I’m enjoying this experience.”

“But then again, you know, they’re just wild animals and you’re in their domain and they’re a lot more comfortable in their environment than we are.”

He laughs at any suggestion that he wants a quiet retirement far away from the sea.

“I’m 69 now, I’ll be 70 in October – I really have no plans to stop,” he said.

“Right now I’m working on a few projects that will get me into the water, both here and overseas.”

He is currently editing a book about the Mediterranean and about to start another on the North Sea and the English Channel.

So the next time you see a figure emerging from the water with a camera in hand, it could be that boy who started scrambling in the rock pools of the Scottish Borders.

All images are copyrighted.

By W_Manga

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