free-diving photographer with basic equipment captures the inhabitants of the coral reef


I always see so many divers heading out to the reef with some incredible camera gear setups, but unless you know what you are doing or you are going for a very particular image; you would be better off with just a sensible underwater camera and saving your money and the environment by not needing all this unnecessary gear.
Whilst I have a lot of experience on tanked dives over the past 40 years, I do find that free diving is by far the best way to capture strong images of the life underwater without disturbing everyone in the process. 

The problem is the regulator system, as it creates a booming noise as gas is forced out through the diaphragm when you exhale, and to the local inhabitants, this is the equivalent of a boom box next to your bedroom at 4am; most unwelcome under any circumstances. This noise vibration of expelled gasses also warns every living inhabitant on the reef that you are there from a fair distance away, meaning half the life species will scurry and hide away as they know nothing good comes from human visitors. So you end up seeing far less life on the reef than is actually there. On a free-dive you are able to integrate with the life in a more relaxed way, here in this first image you can see my only equipment is a pair of budgie smugglers (speedos in English) a trusted dive knife, mask and fins. This together with a $300 Olympus Tough T5 I was able to capture a collection of exquisite images, just a sample of which can be seen below. By using simple breathing regulation techniques, reducing upper body movement to the minimum to save valuable oxygen, I was able to spend longer and longer at deeper depths than I could have imagined; and all on the most basic of digital cameras.

It is a far cry from what I recall as a very young artist, trying to make some extra money to be able to eat; I did this by tagging along with organised scuba diving trips and free-diving behind the group taking pictures of the tourists on an old Sea & Sea 35mm film camera; digital photography has changed everything; going back I recall my main problem was only having 36 shots before having to board the boat, fully dry off and clean the camera, before opening it up, re-greasing the sealing rings, load another film and join the group again. Digital opens up the process to a limitless university of free lessons, subjects and locations.

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