THE LATE NIGEL WADE was raving about a DIVER cover shot by Alex Mustard. “It’s brilliant. Alex has matched the colour of the model’s face-mask to the colour of the coral,” he enthused.
Nigel’s point was well-made. A face-mask isn’t always just to see through. Sometimes it’s there to be seen in.
Steve’s selfie with the Maxlux S.
As an enthusiastic underwater photographer, when it comes to models for my own camera I regularly face two problems. Firstly, no buddy to pose for me, a difficulty only partially overcome by inane selfies. Secondly, buddies with those damn black masks!
Sometime in the 1970s, mask manufacturers discovered silicone. Silicone was more supple than rubber, so it sealed better and was more comfortable.
It was also hypoallergenic, which seemed to solve a problem that didn’t really exist.
Best of all, it was clear. This was touted as being less claustrophobic, so if you didn’t like that closed-in feeling, you’d be fine diving so long as you didn’t swim into a cave or the vis went to rat-poop.
But the real benefit of clear skirts was for underwater photographers. It made it so easy to light your model’s face. For a very long time, the only masks with black skirts were the ones still made from cheap rubber.
Then black skirts came back into fashion. These have definite advantages, because they exclude peripheral light coming in through the sides when you’re looking straight ahead. This makes it easier to see into holes, which is why spearfishers use them, and they retain contrast better when you look through a camera viewfinder, which is why photographers adore them.
When I saw the Beuchat Maxlux S mask, I immediately asked to try it out, remembering Nigel’s comments and Alex’s striking cover.
The model had the opaque skirt with all the advantages of a solid black one, but the huge range of bright solid colours would, I thought, lend themselves to matching up to the marine world.