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Through the Shutter

Photogenic Jamaica

November 02, 1986|ANN PURCELL and CARL PURCELL | The Purcells are professional photographers.

When you head for the sunny isle of Jamaica, you'll probably take along your camera to record the beauty of this lush island, the turquoise blue of the water and the wide sand beaches. Winslow Homer recorded these images of Jamaica with watercolors and captured the spirit and tempo of island life.

Many of us have the eye but not the skill necessary to interpret a destination such as Jamaica in the mediums of oil or watercolor. The first-time visitor is struck by the saturated color and raw physical beauty of the island. Picture-perfect Jamaica offers spectacular scenery, above and below the water.

We have been in Jamaica several times and have had a pleasant sampling of the good things it offers the traveling photographer.

Take Time to Test

There are a few basic tips and precautions to take before you leave for Jamaica, as on any trip. Put fresh batteries in your camera and shoot a short test roll before going. It can be a real tragedy to come home from vacation and discover that your camera was not working properly.

Take along a good supply of film because film here is more expensive than at home. Always load your camera in the shade or subdued light. Keep film and cameras out of the direct tropical sunlight and avoid placing them in closed areas where heat can build up, such as the trunk or glove compartment of a car.

Also, protect your cameras and lenses from sand, saltwater and salt spray. A good form of protection is the simple plastic bag used for storing food in your refrigerator at home.

When scuba diving in Jamaica we carried the Nikonos IV, a self-contained underwater camera fitted with a 28-millimeter wide-angle lens and an SB-101 underwater electronic flash. The Nikonos is less bulky than a regular camera put into an underwater housing; in the water it has virtually no weight.

Peering Into the Void

At about 90 feet down we came to the edge of the Jamaican shelf, where the reef drops off into a 2,700-foot trench. It is awesome to look over that shelf into an impenetrable blue void that has been there for millennia.

Around you, the coral formations are varied and sometimes intricate, populated by French angelfish and schools of blue tangs and yellow grunts. By moving slowly we were able to record these varicolored fish on film.

There is much more to Jamaica than the spectacular world underwater. For instance, we like to take the drive along the coast near Ocho Rios, which means eight rivers. One of these rivers pours into the ocean at Dunn's River Falls, a spectacular multi-tiered waterfall.

You may walk up to the falls from the beach, but this is a tricky business when you are trying to balance two cameras and keep them out of the splashing water. The safest approach is to car1920540769blossoms, providing a wealth of subject matter for the camera.

Later, we stopped at a restaurant called The Ruins for a cold drink. It is a magnificent setting for pictures. This, too, is the site of a lovely waterfall, and a variety of exotic orchids grows in the trees.

Noel Coward's Home

We stopped at the home of the late Noel Coward, one of the many celebrities who adopted Jamaica as their own. The house was recently opened to the public as part of the National Trust and it came alive with the personal belongings and mementos left by the talented playwright and composer.

Many things have been left as they were when Coward died. The outstanding photographic treat here is the spectacular view of the sea and beaches below.

The remaining Jamaica Great Houses, those structures from British plantation days, can provide much of interest for your camera. An impressive one is Rose Hall near Montego Bay. We were there on a day when some of the famed beauties of Jamaica were giving a fashion show. Even the guides are dressed in authentic costumes.

You will get to know the real Jamaica when you make contact with the people and they will add life and sparkle to your pictures. Rent a car or a motor scooter. Drive through a lush and verdant rain forest, discover an unspoiled beach in a hidden cove or stop for lunch at a roadside stand.

Jamaica is filled with photographic opportunities, images like those in a primitive painting on the canvas of life. You will enjoy reviewing your pictures after returning from your trip and the melody of calypso tunes such as "Yellow Bird" and "Island in the Sun" will keep coming back to haunt you.

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