Encapsulating the Artsy Underwater Photograph

While my main focus has always been to capture underwater photos of marine life, I have always had a keen eye for encapsulating that elusive artsy underwater photograph.  Although I am on the water so often, it is not every day that you get absolutely pristine conditions with flat seas and clear blue skies.  On a day in early January of 2012, I found myself at Lodestone Reef, just out from Townsville, Queensland, in perfect sea conditions.  

Rolling over onto your back while diving, can give you such a different view of what you see when you look down into beautifully clear visibility from the surface.  I believe it is the only time you can ever really view the exact mirror image, from the other side.  What you are sometimes able to observe when you look up to the surface is a crystal clear blue sky, some fluffy white clouds and the sun shining down in all of its glory.  At least that’s what I was able to see on this particular day.

Attempting to capture an underwater photo of just what I was observing and have it be able to depict exactly how it was and made me felt was the challenge.  I took over a dozen underwater photos of this exact scene, moving as little as possible, until I was successful in capturing a stunning shot of the sky, as if I had taken it from above the water.  A shot like this takes time and patience to be able to capture, along with some skill and experience in knowing just when to click the image into eternal history.  You’ve got the bubbles from exhaled breath to work around, forcing you to find the exact right time and position to snap the shot.   I did capture a few good shots of bubbles making their way up into the heavens, but the photograph that is featured in this blog is my favourite.  I’ve shown it to friends of mine and I always get the same reaction.  “Where did you take this one Dan?  Were you laid on the boat taking pictures of the sky?”  And I’ve always got the same surprising response…”Took that one underwater, mate.”

When you realize just how and where this underwater photograph was taken, it makes it all the more exceptional.  Not only is it a stunning picture of the sky, but it was taken from under the water, making it that much more special. 

Encapsulating the artsy underwater photograph is no easy task, but it is one that I have and intend to continue trying to attain during my diving and underwater photography endeavours.

Underwater Sky, Digital Image

Digital Underwater Photograph of the Sky

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Descending onto one of Australia’s greatest maritime graveyards can be a little eerie.  Our object for the day was to obtain beautiful underwater photos at the wreck of the SS Yongala.  A wreckage teaming with life both big and small, one has a hard time deciding just where to look and where to point the camera lens.  This past Saturday, diving with Adrenalin Dive, held little current for our first dive, although it did pick up throughout the dive and prove to be somewhat challenging on the second.

Beginning our dive on the bow, we were consumed by many fish the likes of cod, grouper and giant trevally to name a few.  Circling around the bottom of the bow, we were welcomed by a school of spangled emperor fish as we made our way to the hull side of the boat.  Upon moving up the hull we were greeted by a wide mouthed codfish enjoying the benefits of the many cleaner fish that inhabit the wreck.  Making our way to mid-ships, we stopped to take a few underwater photos of a resident tawny nurse shark resting on a ledge.  On the way to the stern, I followed a six-banded angelfish, whose dazzling colours enamour any camera lens.  Capturing an underwater photo of these beautiful fish can be quite a challenge, their speed and reticence making it difficult to capture a head on shot.  I was, however, lucky enough to capture a good side shot this dive, and consider it one of the better underwater photos I’ve taken at the SS Yongala.

Upon arriving back at the bow of the ship, nearing our time to ascend to the surface, my buddy lightly tugged at my fin and I looked down to see a huge moray eel, peaking its head out of the ship.  I recognized him right away, being a regular inhabitant who usually lies in a different part of the wreck.  He is a massive eel, having no problem finding an array of food and nutrients at the site of the SS Yongala.  I spent a few minutes with him, trying to capture just the right underwater photo, before I was distracted by an active olive sea snake that swam by.  I followed the snake, feverously making an attempt to capture a photo of the alluring creature that it is.  It continued to poke its head in and out of the ship, playing a game of hide and seek with my camera lens.  I was able to capture one descent underwater shot of this guy, but look forward to many future endeavours to use him as an underwater model.

Our second dive proved to be more active, as with stronger current comes more fish life.  About halfway along the deck side, the tawny nurse shark came swimming out right in front of us, rolling over onto its back to give it a scratch in the sand.  Spotting a giant puffer fish, lionfish and a couple of agile nudibranchs on our way to the stern, taking underwater photos along the way, we spotted a few bull rays as well.  We turned and headed back towards the bow, only to be greeted by a free swimming guitar shark, gracefully making its way along the ship.  They are more active at this time of year, as the water warms up and creates a change in the diversity of marine life that can be found at the wreck of the SS Yongala.

It was a beautiful day on and under the water; with nearly no swell and warming water temperatures up to 26 degrees centigrade.  I was able to capture many underwater photos at my favourite dive site, the SS Yongala, and look forward to my expeditious return.

underwater photo, cod, ss yongala



underwater photo, tawny nurse shark, ss yongala

Tawny Nurse Shark


underwater photo, six-banded angelfish, ss yongala

Six-Banded Angelfish


underwater photo, moray eel, ss yongala

Moray Eel


underwater photo, olive sea snake, ss yongala

Olive Sea Snake


underwater photo, nudibranchs, ss yongala



underwater photo, ss yongala, guitar shark

Guitar Shark


underwater photo, ss yongala, guitar shark

Guitar Shark

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Underwater Photos of Guitar Sharks

Capturing underwater photos of guitar sharks is a real talent, as these creatures can get spooked really easily, and are able to glide quickly and effortlessly through the water.  Once again we were aboard MV Sea Esta with Adrenalin Dive out of Townsville, Queensland, for a three day, three night live-aboard trip, giving us the time and chance to get these illusive shots.

Day one started at Wheeler Reef, a small reef located just north east of Townsville, on the western side of the Great Barrier in the Coral Sea.  There has been a resident guitar shark in this area for some time now, and fingers crossed, we would come across him on our first dive of the day.  Wheeler Reef was as stunning as ever and full of diverse and abundant marine life.  Near the end of our first dive at ‘Student’s Bommie’, we came across this magnificent fish resting peacefully on the seabed.   A marvellous looking creature, with similarities to both sharks and stingrays, they are very exciting to observe underwater.  Slowly approaching and staying calm, so as to avoid spooking the beautiful fish, I attempted to capture a close up.  Just a couple of meters short and he was up and swimming away.  A disappointment that I have not always had to deal with while capturing underwater photos of guitar sharks.  I seem to have the uncanny ability to get close to a lot of marine life, as I too feel at home under the water.  There just isn’t anything like it; it is my favourite place to be.

There were a group of divers on board from the Brisbane Dive Academy, accompanied by Mick, their course director, doing some re-breather diving.  The advantage of re-breather diving is longer dive times along with the ability to get especially close to marine life, as there are no bubbles escaping as you exhale to alert them to your presence.  Something I may look into in the future to allow me even better access to marine life close ups, not to mention the ability to stay longer in the one place that I truly feel at home.

The next time I saw my new guitar shark buddy was on our last dive that same day.  Jumping into the water at the mooring for a dusk dive, we had strong expectations of witnessing some exciting action at that time of day.  Upon descending, we slowly explored a beautifully colourful and lively series of bommies on the eastern side of Wheeler Reef starting just under our top-side vessel.  Bump headed parrot fish, lagoon rays, and an abundance of other reef fish created a scene teaming with life.  As we rounded the last corner, about to make our way to the shallower depths of the reef, there he was, once again, resting on the sea floor.  I was unable to get as close as I had come the first time that morning, as he felt my presence even sooner and was up and swimming away.  However, this wasn’t to be the last time we were to see him that dive.  We continued along, exploring the shallows of the reef, when to our surprise and delight, my dive buddy and I both spotted him coming around the back of us.  He continued to swim around our circumference, giving us a once in a lifetime show that I know we both thoroughly enjoyed.  That wasn’t to be the last time either, as we slowly made our way back to the mooring, exploring the beautiful underwater scenery around us, he showed up again.  We were starting to feel like we were the ones being stalked by this big and beautiful creature.  My buddy and I both started keeping a lookout all around us, almost forgetting the rest of the surrounding beauty.  He did show up once again, and it was as exciting as ever, as he circled around us, trying to figure out just what we were and what we were up to. Not once did he make any kind of manoeuvre that should have made us nervous, this was just an incredible experience to add to our underwater collection.  We made it safely back to the mooring, beginning our slow ascent to the surface, as to our dismay, our dive was coming to an end.  We did however, get one last showing as he swam  around the mooring as we headed for the surface, presumably still looking for those strange creatures that kept pursuing him.

I was able to capture some beautiful underwater photos of this guitar shark on his many trips around us, and I’ve included a few in this post which have since been added to the website for purchase.

These underwater photographs of our friendly guitar shark would be a beautiful addition to any marine life enthusiast’s or diver’s wall.

underwater photo, guitar shark, great barrier reef

The first time the guitar shark circled us.


underwater photo, guitar shark, great barrier reef

His second time around.


underwater photo, guitar shark, great barrier reef

Guitar shark circling around the mooring during our ascent.

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Newest Additions

These amazing photographs were just added to the site, and they could be yours today!!

moray eel, underwater photo, ss yongala

Close up of a moray eel captured at the wreck of the SS Yongala.

turtle, fish, underwater photo, ss yongala

A turtle swimming through a sea of fish at the SS Yongala.

spanish dancer, nudibranch, underwater photo, ss yongala

Close up of a spanish dancer nudibranch found at the SS Yongala.

pufferfish, underwater photo, ss yongala

Great shot of a resident pufferfish at the wreck of the SS Yongala.

lionfish, underwater photo, ss yongala

One of the beautiful lionfish residing at the SS Yongala.

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Dive Report ~ Testing My New Underwater Camera

My First Time With My New Camera

Well, we finally got back into the water this past Saturday, and I must say, once again, the wreck of the SS Yongala didn’t disappoint. Along with our cooler winter temperatures, the whales are still out and although we didn’t get a chance to see one underwater this weekend, listening to them sing is just as beautiful. We were however graced with the sight of a gorgeous humpback on the surface on the way out aboard Adrenalin with Adrenalin Dive out of Townsville.

For the first time, I got to try out the newest addition to my dive gear, my new camera! Now sporting an Olympus OMD, I was very excited to see what I could capture. Olive sea snakes were of plenty on Saturday, and proved to be great subjects. I was able to capture some great shots of these guys and have posted a couple onto the website for your pleasure. We were also graced by the presence of many king fish, a green sea turtle and a marble ray. The marble ray was very cool, as it decided to show us just how it camouflages itself under the sand. Amazing to have the opportunity to observe the secrets of how these creatures operate. The rest of the usual suspects were out and about as well, and I’ve posted five pictures for your enjoyment today. Two great shots of Olive Sea Snakes, a beautiful Six Banded Angelfish, an amazingly camouflaged Cod and a great artsy shot of some bubbles escaping towards the sun on the surface.

It was such a great day both on and under the water! I can’t wait to get back out there and get some more great shots!!

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DiveLog Australasia September Edition ~ Photographer Spotlight

My photography and website have received a spotlight in the September edition of the DiveLog Australasia!

Click the link below and check it out, pages 44 & 45!

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Exploring the SS Gothenburg

Discovering Hidden Treasure

It’s not often that you get a 25 passenger and crew boat to yourselves with two other friends, but we were lucky enough to do just that.  Once again we were aboard the MV Sea Esta with Adrenalin dive, but this trip was special.  It was our birthday trip and we had decided to spend it on the Great Barrier Reef.  Our first day was to be a day of exploration in search of the wreck of the SS Gothenburg which went down February 24, 1875, in near cyclonic winds and rain.  Slowly cruising through calm seas overnight, we arrived at Old Reef, located just 130km southeast of Townsville, the home of this unfamiliar wreck, about ten hours later.

One of the most exciting yet challenging expeditions for any diver is the hunt for sunken treasure.  In this case, our sunken treasure was the SS Gothenburg.  The steamship had been destined for Adelaide, transporting cargo and passengers associated with the time’s gold rush from Port Darwin.  Many on-board had been so unwilling to let go of their claim, that they kept hold of their gold and money belts until they drowned in the raging sea.  Reports claim that Captain James Pearce held 93 kilograms of gold locked in his cabin when she went down, an amount worth over four million Australian dollars today.  Hard-hat divers who went down to recover the gold two weeks later are said to have been successful in their mission, although nothing is said of the passengers’ gold that they were so unwilling to let go of.

Although we had the coordinates to get to the site of the wreck, none of us had actually been there.  We knew she rested on the seafloor somewhere between 9m and 16m, but as any diver well knows, finding the one thing that you are looking for underwater is easier said than done.  It took Daniel and I a dive and a half to find what we were looking for, but when we did a rush of excitement ran through both of us.

The wreck was a lot bigger than what I was expecting.  After having lived on the bottom of the sea for over 125 years, I was expecting an almost unrecognizable debris field, but to my surprise, she loomed large and waiting for exploration in the shallows of the reef.  A vessel that had originally held a length of just 60m, but had been lengthen in 1873 to allow for longer distances under steam and a larger passenger and cargo capacity, seemed to be twice as big when exploring her remains underwater.  Her boilers rose meters up from the seabed and her hull ribs were still intact in a few sections.  Along with pieces of twisted metal, this wreck had become a playground for all creatures living beneath the sea.  We were privy to some beautiful, yet tiny nudibranchs, plentiful barramundi cod among countless other reef fish, all swimming in this coral garden of sunken maritime history.

Our second dive gave us more time to explore the remains of this ancient wreckage.  We were able to examine every inch of her more closely, getting to know her ruins more intimately.  The undersea life that came out for our second dive was also a treat, as we were under for dusk which meant that things were changing underwater.  We were able to observe a few different sharks in the distance, having a look at what was happening at their sacred habitat, along with tiny crustaceans of all sorts.  The most amazing and exciting life to be seen on the second dive was observed at the very end, at the beginning of our swim back to our top-side vessel.  A curious cuttlefish decided it wanted to see what was happening and what the flashing light of the camera was all about, and so appeared mere feet away.  This is one of the ocean’s most amazing creatures, for as all other cephalopods do, it is able to change its colour to warn off potential predators or to camouflage into the background for protection.  This little guy, glowing in the dim light that remained underwater, seemed to lead us to our destination, meanwhile changing from its natural calm, almost translucent white to a more agitated and protective orange.  Once we identified that our new friend considered us a threat and was becoming wary, we decided it was best to leave him alone and continue the swim, alone, to our home for the next few days.  Upon boarding Sea Esta, we quickly stripped off our wetsuits, had nice warm showers and settled in to check out the photographs which had been taken to give us an eternal reminder of the amazing experience we had just shared.

There are numerous wrecks scattered along the Great Barrier Reef and many of them remain unexplored.  They all contain an important part of maritime history for Australia and its settlers, and I encourage all divers to get out there and explore a piece of their history.  As with the wreck of the SS Gothenburg, it is important to observe a strict no disturbance policy, and any responsible diver knows that they are there to look and not touch.  Hopefully after finding and diving on the SS Gothenburg, Adrenalin Dive will be able to bring more explorers to this protected part of the reef system to help revive the story of this tragic event.

ss gothenburg, underwater photo

A shot of the ribs of the SS Gothenburg.

ss gothenburg, underwater photo

The boiler of the SS Gothenburg.

ss gothenburg, underwater photo

Some of the wreckage of the SS Gothenburg.

UWS000289R - Boiler of SS Gothenburg UWS000291R - Ribs of SS Gothenburg UWS000293R - SS Gothenburg  UWS000295R - Ribs of SS Gothenburg UWS000296R - Boilers and DiverUWS000294R - Cuttlefish

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DiveLog Australasia

Click the link below to check out our latest submission in the August issue of DiveLog Australasia!  Pgs 40 & 41

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Minke Whale ~ Feature of the Week


It’s Minke Whale season again in Northern Queensland!

These marvelous mammals migrate through the northern Great Barrier Reef every June and July, with only the most lucky of ocean explorers out of Port Douglas and Cairns, with special permits and regulations, having the opportunity to visit with them.  Happily, their conservation status is listed as ‘Least Concern’.

Certainly a beautiful and unique site to see!

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The Batfish ~ This Week’s Featured Photograph

We had such a great response to this shot on our facebook page, that I couldn’t resist featuring it for this week’s photo.  Enjoy!!

UWS000266R - Batfish

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