ike many who share
in the underwater passion, I am often asked “why do you do it?”. Overwhelming my response is that I enjoy the challenge, whether it is underwater photography or technical diving. Many photographers take photos to capture memories, but photography for me is about having other people say WOW – at that point I feel I have succeeded.
Inspired by television shows like Flipper as a child, I learnt to dive when I was 15 and promptly got myself a part time job in the local dive shop. I would fill tanks, service gear and generally do anything that would get me that next piece of gear or on that next trip. It was here that I had my first introduction to underwater photography using an old Nikonos III. With no strobes I limited myself to black and white film and rinsed salt water out of the housing almost as much as I changed film.
Over exposure to the dive industry, university and other interests put a hold on my diving for a few years until a close friend purchased a dive shop. He convinced me to go on a dive and wine touring trip, during which I was told diving was mandatory. I once again borrowed a camera (this time digital) and have been hooked ever since.
A quest for new experiences saw me travel to such places as PNG, Palau, Guam, Yap, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to name a few. Each provided unique diving and photographic experiences, but PNG is perhaps my favourite. The marine diversity and clear water lend themselves to superb photographic opportunities. On one PNG trip we ended up photographing 9ft silvertip sharks with a tuna carcass in one hand and camera in the other. The sharks are as timid as they are beautiful and required a little more encouragement to get within optimal shooting range. Of course, they can get too close as well when you are holding the bait!

Being just as content shooting tiny pygmy sea horses as I am wide angle on deep wrecks leads me to many and varied diving opportunities. My tools of choice are currently a Canon 7D SLR and Aquatica housing with lenses and strobes to suit. I shoot exclusively in RAW format and feel that understanding the digital workflow is almost as critical as knowing how to frame and expose a shot.
Some recent experiments with long exposures and tripods underwater have yielded some interesting results for the deeper wrecks. A recent project we just completed involved the discovery of a new wreck, the MV Fairwind, in almost 300ft. Filming video as well as stills at that depth does present it’s challenges, but capturing the only images of a previously unknown wreck makes all the effort worth it.

Frustrated with the limitations of open circuit diving, I began to look into closed circuit rebreathers (CCR) as an alternative about four years ago. I quickly found that whilst they are far from perfect, the options they provide underwater lead to new opportunities that were previously unavailable to me on open circuit. I also like to use rich helium mixes to give me a clear head as I find narcosis to be a major issue when shooting on air. Rebreathers make this both practical and affordable.

In 2009, the search for new challenges had me diving some spectacular caves in Florida with another trip planned for 2010. The ironic side of this is that I had been on public record stating that cave diving was madness and that I would not be caught dead in a cave. After all, there are no fish and no light in caves so what is there to shoot? Eating my words I completed a full cave course, flew to the USA and have been bitten by the bug. Cave photography is for me quite challenging as it pushes both my diving and photographic limits.

Looking forward, I see more of the same but with a twist. The wrecks appear to be getting deeper and the sharks smaller, but for now I am hoping that a few opportunities eventuate to dive new wrecks around the world. I am exploring new genres of traditional above water shooting and hope that it will further expand my photographic technique and artistic side. The convergence of still and video formats in DSLR technology is also an area of interest for me, though for now I still consider photography as the path for me.