Saturday, October 17, 2015

Treasure Hunters Revisited

A diver surfaces in the Chao Phraya River after working the bottom of the river. His spotter is lifting off the dive helmet. 

I went back to photograph the Chao Phraya River salvage divers this week. Last week when I was there I wasn't able to get out to the divers and I ended up photographing them with a very long lens. This time I was able to work much closer to the divers. Most of the photos were made with my 12mm f2 (about a 24mm lens on traditional full frame) and I was able to use my 75mm f1.8 lens (about 150mm on traditional full frame) as more of a macro lens - for tight photos of stuff in the boats and the divers' hands - which, more often than not, is how I use my 75mm lens. 
A diver handles an antique coin brought up from the river bottom. This picture was made with an Olympus 45mm f1.8, about 90mm on traditional full frame.  
Some of the things brought up from the river bottom. This represents several hours work on the river bottom. Being a salvage diver on the Chao Phraya River is not an easy way to make a living. This was made with my 75mm lens, about 150mm on traditional full frame.

I worked from a floating platform in the middle of the river, just a few feet from the dive boat. My platform and the divers' boats were all rolling and pitching in the river. Between the huge barges carrying oil upriver and the barges bringing rice downriver, the passenger boats that bring commuters into Bangkok, the cross river ferries that shuttle between Bangkok and Thonburi and the "long tailed" boats that haul tourists around, the Chao Phraya is an extremely busy river. The tide was coming in while I was working and I was worried about 1) falling off my platform and 2) losing my gear over the side. I ended up tying my camera bag to a cleat in the middle of the platform while I laid on the edge, hanging out over the river. 
A spotter on a diver's boat bails out the boat while his diver is on the river bottom. The diver's air compressor is in front of the spotter, the boat's engine behind him. 

It's one thing watching them work through a long lens. It's something else entirely to be sharing their space. This is an extremely hard way to make a living. 
A diver climbs back into his boat. Made with a 12mm lens, about 24mm on traditional full frame.
The diver rinses off what he brought up from the river bottom, also made with my 12mm. 

There are more photos of the divers in my archive or available from ZUMA Press. 
Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.