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.
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.