Week 6: Unbalanced

I am very much hoping to catch up with these Project52 posts before this week’s deadline, which will be when I release the shot for Week 8. I now have quite a hefty backlog of subjects I have said I would come back and, despite the fact that I’ve done nothing but these catch-up posts for the last few weeks, this is actually supposed to be a travel blog!

Week 6 was quite a challenge because it is such an odd theme. It probably says something about the nature of my own mind that my first thought on reading that word was “unbalanced” in the sense of mental imbalance – essentially, a more polite and scientific way of saying “mad”. Not an easy subject to photograph, obviously.

I checked to see what the inspiration behind this subject heading – Amy Dingler of – had done the year before, but that was no help. She had published a portrait of a pregnant woman, whereby the added weight of a baby put the subject off-balance. I’m not acquainted with any pregnant women, so that quickly scrapped that idea.

With hindsight, there were plenty of alternatives I could have gone with. Anything which looked a little delicately balanced, such as the shanty-like structures around my own apartment, for example, or a motorbike taking a corner or anything which was in some way uneven. However, many of the ideas I came up with were situational and could not be depended upon to occur while I had my camera ready. In the end, I went for a pedantically technical interpretation.

Diver near Phuket, Thailand

This was also a bit of a case of twisting the picture to fit the theme, which I’m not particularly proud of. I am, however, proud of the shot. I had a long weekend thanks to Chinese New Year, so I decided to go scuba diving for the first time in over a year. I have been a diver since I lived in Oman, have spent something like the equivalent of two full days underwater over the course of more than 80 dives and am rated up to PADI’s Rescue Diver certification. However, circumstances had kept me out of the water for a long time. It was good to return.

I used the Sea Bees diving company in Chalong, Phuket, and will give them a full review at a later time (that’s another article to add to my catch-up list!). The weather wasn’t ideal – the wind was strong, which was whipping up the waves a little – so we couldn’t do a wreck dive, which would have been perfect for the “unbalanced” theme of my Project52. The wreck in question is the MS King Cruiser, which became “unbalanced” and capsized in 1997, fortunately with no loss of life. Instead, however, we stayed in the shelter of Koh Maithon for both hour-long dives.

Nudibranch swimming near Phuket, Thailand

During the course of these two dives, I saw some impressive natural sites. The island has some remarkable coral formations and attracts an interesting and varied collection of sea life. I’ve been a bit of a fan of nudibraches for some time and I was spellbound when I saw one swimming along in the current barely a metre before my eyes. Had I managed to focus on it properly, that would most certainly have been my Project52 shot!

Further along, during the second dive, my path was crossed by a cuttlefish. Despite being in a group of four divers on a boat with no less than 35 other divers (not including instructors, of which there must have been six or seven), I think I might have been the only one to see this. Again, it came right by, directly in front of me. Fortunately, it was a big enough target that my fairly basic point-and-shoot diving camera was able to lock onto it, making this the picture of the week:

Cuttlefish near Phuket, Thailand

“Unbalanced”– Koh Maithon, Thailand @ 14:15:33 08/02/16.
Olympus μTough-8010 w/. PT-048 Diving Case
Focal length: 5mm. Exposure: 1/125th @ f/3.9. ISO 80

How can this be unbalanced? The creature clearly has perfect poise and control over its attitude. Well, the answer is that the picture is not properly white balanced. This is the constant problem with diving photography. I should take something white down with me to use as a reference for each shot, but that is just another thing to carry in what is already quite a complicated and overweighted rig. It is easier just to hope that there is something white in the shot I can use to set the balance, or else I can just try to do it manually by eye.

In this case, there was a patch of sand in the original shot, which has been cropped out of the final product. This was clearly not perfectly white, however, because it is self-evident that the picture is “unbalanced”. Even at a depth of 10m, the water around Phuket is not noted for being purple! However, it was as good as I could get it.

It was only while I was editing these shots that I noticed that I had captured something really remarkable. Cuttlefish are, of course, known for their colour-changing ability. Indeed, it was partially cuttlefish DNA which gave the fictional Indominus Rex its camouflage ability in the 2015 movie Jurassic World [Spoiler warning!]. Without realising it, I had caught this ability on camera in two shots taken just seconds apart.

Cuttlefish near Phuket, Thailand
Cuttlefish near Phuket, Thailand
Project52 Schedule
Credit: Amy Dingler /
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Ben has been an expatriate since he was 21, a writer since he was about 10 and a photographer since he was 12. Degema Travel is the culmination of that experience.

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