When Lawson Wood was a boy growing up in the Borders he was constantly getting into trouble with his mother.
Born in Duns, he moved to a house “between the school and the sea” in Eyemouth – and that was where a lifelong fascination began.
His mother would tell him “home first, then the beach” but he inevitably ended up with his school uniform soaking.
Little could either of them have imagined that it would lead to a career as an underwater photographer.
He now has more than 50 books to his name – and many awards – with two new editions of his works An Underwater Guide to the Red Sea and The World’s Best Tropical Dive Destinations just released.
“I was born and brought up in the Scottish Borders and lived just next to the sea, really, in Eyemouth – virtually as far south in the south-east of Scotland, as you can get,” he said.
“So I spent my youth scrabbling around the rock pools, going to the sea.
“I just had this utter fascination for what I could see in the rock pools or washed up on the beach and started exploring more and attempting to find out a bit more about things as well.”
It quickly led to more serious underwater adventures.
“I got a mask and snorkel and then I could see further,” he said.
“I had my first scuba dive at age 11 – that’s back in August 1965 – and I wasn’t 12 until the October.
“From then on, I guess, a passion has become a profession.”
Lawson’s work has taken him “pretty much all around the UK” and then on to Europe, the Red Sea and the Caribbean – which means it is not easy to answer which location he likes best.
“It’s really hard, to be honest with you, because you can’t really compare,” he explained.
“I can’t compare Eyemouth with the likes of the Red Sea because they’re entirely different types of of water.”
He describes the latter as “clear blue” with tropical fish and coral reefs even if there are “equally as brilliant colours in waters around the UK and Scotland in particular”.
When pressed, though, he admits that his favourite spot probably has to be off the south east coast of Scotland.
“I helped to co-found the Berwickshire Marine Reserve, so this is obviously very close to my heart,” he said.
And how does underwater photography differ from the dry land variety?
“I could try and paint you a picture,” said Lawson.
“Apart from being in the sea, of course, you know it’s salt water, so it’s extremely corrosive, you’re physically under pressure because of the environment.
“You’re in a reduced light, you’re moving and the element around you is probably also moving and the creature or animal or whatever it is that you’re trying to photograph is also moving.”
He said you also have to get used to having a limited amount of time to get your shot with factors such as air supply and equipment playing a part.
There have been occasions too when he has got into some difficulties.
“I have been in areas where there have been really strong currents,” he said.
“You’ve got to try and either swim out of them or go along with them and if there’s a support boat overhead then you’re just going to put up a little marker bhoy where the boat can see where you are.
“When you eventually get back up, you know, you might be half a mile away from where you started but at least the boat will be there to see your marker bhoy and collect you.”
Lawson has also encountered creatures most of us would rather keep at a much greater distance.
“I’ve obviously been in the water many times with sharks,” he said.
“There’s only been a couple of times when I’ve thought: ‘I’m not so sure I am enjoying this experience’.
“But again, you know, they’re just wild animals and you’re in their domain and they’re a lot more comfortable in their space than we are.”
He laughs at any suggestion he might want a quiet retirement away from the sea.
“I’m 69 now, I’m 70 in October – I don’t really have any plans to stop,” he said.
“I’m working on a few projects right now which get me into the water both here and overseas.”
He is currently editing one book about the Mediterranean and is 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 its hand it might just be that boy who started out scrabbling around in the rock pools of the Scottish Borders.
All images are copyrighted.
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