The first underwater photography

Although not preserved, the first underwater photography was taken by the Englishman William Thompson in 1856. The camera used by Thompson consisted of a box with a glass front, attached to a tripod anchored to the seabed. It had a wooden shutter with a rope Thompson handled from the coast, where he built a darkroom with a tent. With a five-minute exposure Thompson got the first underwater photography, even though the water came in the box, getting a faint image of the seabed.


Anyway, pioneering underwater photography it is considered the French Louis Boutan, to which belongs the first picture that we show. Boutan knew the underwater world firsthand, and was determined to get a method to photograph it. For this had the help of his brother August, an engineer who designed a system to adjust aperture and plates. This first design even allowed to control the buoyancy of the chamber using a balloon filled with air.


The first results were disappointing and they realized that it was necessary to design a flash to get good results. Electrical Engineer M. Chaffour helped them design a chamber that housed a magnesium ribbon. The chamber was filled with pure oxygen and magnesium ribbon was ignited by an electric current. Unfortunately the system did not work quite right because it produced a thick smoke that clouded the images, and in addition generated excessive heat.


Eventually managed to reduce the size of the camera and improve the flash chamber, so that made the whole set more manageable. They used electric lamps as a light source.


With time and more improvements, Boutan became the pioneer of underwater photography, publishing a book in 1898 entitled La Photographie Sous-Marine with his images from which we leave you a small sample:






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