About

My first adventure underwater was with a couple of student friends one hot summer when we borrowed some masks and snorkels and tried them out in a river. After a few minutes I came face to face with a medium sized pike and I was hooked! I soon bought my own mask and snorkel tried it out in the sea as well. The first few trips were a disappointment as I found virtually zero visibility (off the Kent coast) and then, after graduation, other things filled my time and the mask and snorkel stayed dry for a few years.

The snorkelling bug bit again after one day on the beach at Paignton when I decided to swim around the pier and found an abundance of sea life including wrasse, an eel and a spider crab. I also found that trying to do a surface dive in a wetsuit was very difficult so I then bought my first weight belt.

Our next family holiday was in South Devon and it was here that I discovered the vast wealth of life that can be seen around rocky coasts when the water is clear. It was also here that I had my first attempt at underwater photography. I bought an underwater case for my compact film camera which was basically a strong plastic bag and set out with lots of enthusiasm to try and take pictures of fish. I soon found that it was not going to be as easy as I thought! The first problem was that it was virtually impossible to use the camera's viewfinder underwater and when I developed the film I also found that light metering and focusing functions on the camera also struggled underwater. My results were lots of green blurry photos with an occasional blob that was probably a fish.

During the next few years I continued to enjoy exploring the sea and learning to identify more animals. The next leap forward was when I took up spearfishing. I had always viewed spearfishermen as bad guys who depleted reefs of life and made fish nervous of divers (due to some indoctrination by anti-spearing scuba divers) but I discovered that it was in fact a very efficient way of catching fish which, if done properly, has much less impact on the marine environment than any other form of fishing. I also discovered that the fish spearfishermen target are not generally the pretty ones that scuba divers make friends with anyway and some species such as grey mullet typically give noisy scuba bubbles a wide berth.

Spearfishing gave me an incentive to improve my diving technique and I soon found that rather than spending most of my time on the surface with a snorkel I was now learning to dive down deeper and for much longer, and as a consequence seeing a lot more marine life. By now cameras were digital and I decided to have another go at photography. I bought a proper underwater housing for my Olympus Mju410 on ebay and found that things were a lot easier than they were with the film camera in a bag. With an LCD screen instead of a viewfinder aiming was a lot easier and the camera also had a far better macro function which enabled close up shots. In addition digital rather than film meant that I could take many more shots and discard the failures. I was now managing to take photos of things that were actually recognisable.

Since then I have upgraded twice, firstly to a Canon IXUS 850is and then to an S95. I have also just added a pair of strobes so things are getting a little more complex, but still relatively simple and compact compared with the gear that many underwater photographers use. I am nowhere near being a record breaking freediver and in fact most photos are taken in no more than eight metres depth of water and during dives of little more than a minute in duration. Diving in the UK can be challenging at times with variable visibility and relatively cold water but I absolutely love it and I'm still regularly seeing new things.