A friendly face.

One of my biggest irritations when I’m in the water is seeing scuba divers and snorkelers hassling marine life.  Touching manta rays, holding on to turtles while they frantically try to get away, grabbing shark and whale shark fins for a free ride, coaxing moray eels out of their holes.  It is disturbing and stressful for the creatures involved, it is disrespectful of the fact that you – as a human being – are a guest in their world, and it is incredibly stupid as well as potentially very dangerous in some instances.

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They are by no means alone, but people with cameras are often the culprits of some particularly appalling under water behaviour.  How can they ever think that it is acceptable to lie on coral or intentionally damage the marine environment for the sole purpose of getting a particular photograph?  And stressing marine life by chasing it or frightening it out of hiding, purely to get their desired shot?!  Really?!  It utterly infuriates me.

So it always feels like such a sublime reward when the marine life comes to me.  Like this little cuttlefish, who came happily and willingly. I admit that cuttlefish are particularly curious creatures.  A real plus if you are like me and don’t like compromising your integrity and the welfare of your subject simply for the sake of a shot.

In my experience, if you take your time with them, dive calmly and with considered movement, it puts the cuttlefish at ease. ‘Talk’ to them with lots of eye contact whilst mimicking their own arm and tentacle movements by waving your hand in front of your mouth, and chances are that they will come in for a closer look.  It is magical.

They are not one of the ‘cool’ marine creatures that every diver has on their ‘must see’ list, but they really should be.  Their grace in the water is wonderful to watch, they have huge expressive eyes, which seem to show a real intelligence, and their impressive display of pulsating iridescent shimmer and camouflage is really something to behold.

Spending twenty minutes underwater with a pair of curious cuttlefish who slowly become confident enough with you to come within touching distance in order to eyeball you is an incredible experience.  Earning the trust of a wild creature feels like a true honour.  We are guests in the marine world; there is definitely something to be said for diving and photographing with consideration for the subject and the marine environment you are privileged enough to be experiencing.

I’m not an underwater photographer in any serious sense, but even so I have been blessed with some great photo opportunities during my time underwater to date.  There is no doubt that I have missed some great shots because I wasn’t willing to put getting the shot above my integrity and the welfare of the subject. But I’ve got the memories.  And I’d rather have it that way, and be able to get out the water afterwards and still like myself as a photographer, diver and person! Plus, when a friendly face comes along  underwater and hangs about to get to know you, it feels like they are rewarding you with a great big ‘thank you’ too!

 

My entry for this week’s WordPress photo challenge: Reward.

 

 

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30 thoughts on “A friendly face.

    1. jenny Post author

      Thanks for sharing the link Mick. Such appalling behaviour; it is staggering. We’re holidaying in Melbourne in a few weeks so will be visiting St Kilda (hope I don’t see any selfie sticks getting that close to penguins! I might be forced to say something!)

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  1. Sarah Longes - Mirador Design

    Oh that’s wonderful and I agree with you wholeheartedly! In fact, during training, instructors usually make it abundantly clear that we are observers in their world and how imperative it is to respect the environment and its’ inhabitants.

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    1. jenny Post author

      Thanks Sarah. Yes, I am a qualified dive instructor myself, and I know that the majority of instructors feel the same way that I do. Sadly, the advice is often given but not always heard.

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      1. Sarah Longes - Mirador Design

        It’s sad that so many people have such little respect for the natural world and it’s vital importance to our lives and the future of this planet! I haven’t got my full Scuba qualifications yet as it’s been too costly but I’ve done a number of trial dives that have been just wonderful 🙂 We snorkel a lot and I just love being out in the water watching the wildlife. I’d never be able to go deep diving as I have an ileostomy but getting my qualifications and my own kit is a dream of mine. I feel so free out in the open water 🙂

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        1. jenny Post author

          So true! Sarah, that’s fantastic about the scuba diving and snorkelling. Knowing how much you love all the BBC wildlife programmes etc, you must love the opportunity to see what’s under the water! It gives me that same sense of freedom you get; it’s an incredible feeling.

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  2. ady

    Loved the shot 🙂 I may be an amateur but I didn’t find any compromise in it. I agree with your take on animals , I had no idea people actually try grabbing marine life !

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    1. jenny Post author

      Thank you Ady; that’s a lovely compliment! 🙂 Yes, sadly it happens quite often. I’m glad you are on the same side of the argument as me!

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    1. jenny Post author

      Thanks for your comment Ben, I totally agree – we all need our space! But yes, diving gives some incredibly rewarding opportunities for interaction with some amazing creatures.

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  3. Indah Susanti

    I am with you Jenny. Great example with cuttlefish story! I love them and I haven’t been able to take good pics of them 🙂
    One major reason that I have never wanted to participate in any diving tour with underwater photographers because I was afraid we will harass the marine life too much. Imagine if six or eight photographers are diving together and found a pygmy seahorse or seahorse, how many flash the seahorse would get? Even we, as human sometimes could not take flash from camera very well. I always tried to limit my clicks and I usually set my flash on minimum strength. However, I admitted as well that sometimes I did forget about my own “flash” rule when getting too excited about certain species like nudibranch 😦

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    1. jenny Post author

      Thank you Indah, cuttlefish are just too cute for me to resist…I’ve got so many photo attempts of them! I totally agree – photographers and their use of flash is astonishingly insensitive at times. At least you are aware of and embarrassed by your own limitations, which I’m sure means that you don’t do it too often. There are many others who just don’t seem to care at all. I’ve met Paul Duxfield – Duxy – who is a great guy and an incredible underwater photographer from the UK, and an article he wrote highlights the problem of catering to dive photographers really well: http://www.scubatravel.com/blog/photography-2/sad-story-photo-worth/

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  4. leticialullabies

    Great post. Yes, it’s such an amazing world down there and we need to respect it.

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  6. Mabel Kwong

    This is a great write-up, Jenny. Thank you for sharing that with us. I’m not a diver and am not a huge fan of the water, but I certainly find it appalling that there are divers who will harass marine life like that to get a good photo 😦 Not only must the creatures feel stressed, but very afraid too, probably afraid of getting injured and harmed. Good on you for waiting for the cuttlefish to come to you. It looked happy to pose for you 🙂

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    1. jenny Post author

      Thank you Mabel, that’s very kind. It’s amazing (in a sad and annoying way!) what people will do for a photograph. The cuttlefish are great models, once they are comfortable with you! 🙂

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  7. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Reward | Coffee Breaks and Rainy Days

  8. Amy

    It’s very irritating! I have seen bird photos that was provoked by photographers to get unusual turns of the bird… It happens more often than ever before. Great post, Jenny!

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    1. jenny Post author

      Thank you Amy. It’s both annoying and sad that so many people think they have the right to treat the natural world in that way, just for a photo.

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