Why do I take photographs underwater? Initially, it was to share what I was seeing with my non-diving friends. Later, I got caught up in the impossible quest to take a shot that I was truly 100% satisfied with. More recently, I have had this urge to take photos in places that many people simply can’t get to, let alone take photos in — like deep wrecks and remote caves! Then again, maybe I just like gadgets and UW photography offers endless scope for those!
Photo: Deep within a South Australian sinkhole or cenote, a rebreather diver floats above the bottom, a slave strobe illuminating an ancient log.
Whatever the reason, one thing for certain is that photography has helped me maintain a near lifelong passion for diving. I started diving in my early teens, and soon after shared the cost of a Nikonos II with a school friend. Black and white photos of the local reef fish, developed and printed at home in dad’s wine cellar, soon left me frustrated because of the lack of expensive strobes. So I gave it up for a few years and carried on diving regardless. But the thought was always in the back of my mind, so when I finally got a “real” job I treated myself to a second-hand Nikonos V, complete with a strobe. From that time on, I have had numerous camera systems. I am currently loving the digital revolution with a Nikon D200.

Most photographers start with macro shots underwater because it seems pretty easy to get good exposures and framing. I recall getting those early slides back and being astonished at the colour and detail that film like Velvia would give me. But then I would look at work by guys like Roger Steene and think that I would never be in their league.
Top: The Leafy Seadragon is the marine emblem of South Australia, and is highly prized by underwater photographers.

Backlit with a slave strobe, a diver carries radiolocation devices into Engelbrechts West cave in South Australia. After placement in the cave, they will be located from the surface, and then used to better survey the site.

The Australian Sealions that frequent the temperate southern oceans make delightful subjects and even better playmates! The only worry for the photographer is that they are the top of the menu for the Great Whites that also frequent the area. Nikon F80, natural light, 16mm fisheye.
So I bought a wide-angle lens and tried to emulate other great photographers with shots of divers curved gracefully around gorgonian fans, or schools of jacks and barracudas encircling the sun. But thanks to the Doubilets of this world, I felt my shots never measured up and again I moved on. Finally, as my interests in diving led me into caves and onto deeper wrecks, I found an area of photography that I could really get my teeth into. Not that I am yet completely pleased with my results, but at least I feel I am photographing subjects that few or no other divers have taken photos of before, in places that only a minority of divers are visiting.

Inspired by guys like Leigh Bishop, Martyn Farr, and Neil Vincent, the ultimate photographic thrill for me now is to capture previously un-photo
Top: Rebreather divers at the Poor Knights Island, New Zealand. The lads are obviously looking forward to the dive! This was taken during a day that was too rough for the real target of the expedition…the RMS Niagara.

At over 130m depth in rough seas and strong currents, photographing the Liberty ship William Dawes off the New South Wales coast was particularly challenging. Bringing home any usable images from a dive like this is really satisfying. Nikon D200 in Nexus housing, 10.5mm fisheye, Inon strobes.

A one-meter diameter hole in a cow paddock conceals a 125m deep cenote that has the dimensions of a football stadium! When the sun shines overhead, a laser-like beam of light penetrates the water column and illuminates the site known as The Shaft.
graphed wrecks and caves. Modifying camera equipment to get good images in the complete darkness of a cave, or at double the rated depth of the camera housing, are especially satisfying to me.

My diving addiction is subsidized by my job as an anesthesiologist and physician in diving medicine. It is supported by my wife and children who seem to understand my compulsion to dive in weird, deep, or dark places! I hope the next 30 years of diving will be as interesting as the last, and that when I’m in my 70s I’ll still be about under a pier somewhere with my 100 mega pixel camera!

Richard Harris lives in Adelaide, South Australia. He has published articles and images in numerous diving magazines and books worldwide. His informative website on technical diving, caves, and photography can be seen at
Top: I enjoy taking split-level shots like this one of Leigh Bishop in New Zealand. Digital cameras have given photographers the opportunity to be bolder with situations involving difficult exposures. No expensive film to waste!

: Fellow photographer Dean Chamberlain lines up two moray eels, presumably with me in the background of his shot!

In the spirit of David Doubilet…I was happy to copy his idea when a school of tiny catfish literally rolled over my macro port. Many of my images have been inspired by the masters of underwater photography.