Photography essay on the underwater flora and fauna of New Zealand...
Scuba is a portal to another world. Each dive offers a new adventure, and you never know what to expect when you drop beneath the waves. Whether it’s exploring a dark sea cave full of tidal surge throwing you all over the place while you meticulously check every crack and crevice to see what mysterious creatures might lurk within, or you’re embarking on a simple mission to wrangle some crayfish for dinner, the underwater realm never fails to amaze.
The decision to get scuba certified during high school was by far one of the best choices I have ever made. It deepened my appreciation for the aquatic environment and has proven to be a remarkable way to experience and indulge in parts of our beautiful country that most people don’t ever get to see first-hand. This profound appreciation and connection ultimately influenced me to study marine sciences, to contribute to helping monitor, preserve, and protect our wild oceans.
Underwater photography serves as a bridge between the hidden depths and the land-dwelling world. Through our lens, we have the power to capture fleeting moments and share the essence of these interactions with the greater population – inspiring others to appreciate and protect these fragile ecosystems. The variety of biota that presents itself underwater is beyond extensive. Marine fauna and flora are each unique in their own appearance and play a vital role in the intricate web of the ecosystem.
Macro photography and diving go hand-in-hand; it is best described as swimming around with a magnifying glass, allowing you to get an up-close-and-personal perspective on the shimmering eyes of a curious octopus or the frown of a flounder. The ability to document the underwater world through photography enables us to identify the fascinating subjects we encounter and engage in conversations with fellow enthusiasts when we’re back on the surface. With each click of the shutter, we immortalise a moment that becomes a starting point for storytelling and exchange, fuelling curiosity and deepening our connection to nature.
Underwater photographers are faced with their fair share of challenges resulting from shooting through a different medium when compared to top-side shooting. From the moment you first submerge your camera housing underwater, each dive is nerve-racking. Placing trust in O-rings to protect your expensive electronic investment, you conduct a bubble check on the surface – watching for any signs of a potential leak – before deflating your buoyancy control device and dropping below the turbidity of the surface into peaceful weightlessness.
Colours behave in weird ways. They vary with depth as the spectrum of light is filtered through the water column, changing the once bright and beautiful hues to dark and dull shades of browns. To remedy this, artificial light must be introduced into the scene, overpowering ambient light, and allowing us to see the true, vivid colours of marine species.
Our oceans are in a constant state of flux. There is a continuous shift in population dynamics resulting from human-induced harm occurring at an unnatural rate. It becomes the role of ocean lovers to become ambassadors for their preservation. By sharing our passion for diving, underwater photography, and the mysteries of the ocean, we aim to spread awareness of what lives below and invite the masses to join us in this crucial journey of exploration and conservation. In doing so, we can ensure that the ocean’s story lives on, inspiring awe and stimulating a deep sense of stewardship for generations to come.
August 2023 - Richard Merriman
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
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