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Scubaverse Underwater Photographer Interview: Roisin Maddison

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In an ongoing series, Scubaverse’s Underwater Photography Editor Nick Robertson-Brown talks to underwater photographers from around the world that he admires. In this blog: Roisin Maddison


NRB: How did your underwater photography start?

RM: Growing up with a mountaineer for a father I spent the majority of my childhood in the British countryside running around with my dad’s old compact film camera bossing people around telling getting them to pose for photos or to get out of my way of my shot. Back then it would take months to get the photos developed, mostly due to the fact that my dad never took them to the photo shop and would end up stockpiling rolls upon rolls of film but also because he would inevitably forget to go and pick them up when he eventually did.

It was on my 12th birthday that my dad bought me my first digital camera, a small Olympic compact that I’m pretty sure I still have hidden in a box in my old bedroom. It was from there that my photography really kicked off, now that I could see what photos I was taking, and I no longer had to wait months to receive the final product only for it to be blurred or out of focus.

It was however one of my high school art teachers that encouraged me to take my photography seriously and to take it on into my A-levels where I found that I really did have a talent and a passion for photography, favouring it over all of my other “academic” subjects.

It was a given that I was going to go on and study photography at University but nature photography was always my passion, I just couldn’t be bothered with the fashion or street photography elements of my course and I was adamant that I wanted to be based near the sea. However, all the courses I researched or came across were all heavily based on editorial, fashion, urban photography areas that I just wasn’t interested in. Until I came across Falmouth University’s Marine and Natural History Photography course. It was ideal. It was near the sea and it was a course based entirely on nature photography; it even had a diving element, which sounded like a bit of fun. At this stage I had never Scuba dived, I was an avid swimmer, but Scuba diving was never something I had considered doing, it just wasn’t on my radar but what the hell! It’ll be fun, I’ll give it a go.

Little did I know whilst on my first open water dive in the Delph Quarry or on my first university dive at Pendennis Silver Steps that Scuba diving and underwater photography was about to consume my entire life.

NRB: What is your favourite u/w camera equipment (past & present) & why?

RM: My first underwater photography dive was done with a compact Panasonic set up with a single strobe. Once we had proved ourselves trustworthy, we graduated on to a Nikon D7000 and Nauticam housing with either a 60mm macro or the Tokina 10-17 fisheye lens. When I graduated university and no longer had access to the uni’s cameras I treated myself to Nauticam housing for my D7200 and a 60mm macro. For about 2 years this 60mm macro was the only dome port I owned; underwater photography equipment isn’t cheap, especially for a recent photography graduate. Whilst I have since expanded my equipment collection and tried out other cameras and set ups, my D7200 and my trusty 60mm macro will always be my go-to set up. The 60mm is just such a versatile lens. It is a macro lens but it’s perfect for those slightly larger profile creatures, that aren’t quite big enough to warrant a wide angle, whilst also being perfect for any teeny tiny macro critters. Admittedly it doesn’t get as close or as much detail as the 105mm macro but if a turtle swims past whilst you have the 105mm on you have no chance. With the 60mm it may not be the perfect shot but you are at least in with a chance. Plus, there’s always room for a bit of cropping where those teeny tiny critters are concerned.

NRB: What would be your advice to anyone new to underwater photography?

RM: I would recommend getting to grips with manual setting and light set ups straight from the off, set yourself up in a nice shallow reef with a VERY patient buddy (even better a buddy who is already an underwater photographer that can advise you) and start off by practicing different settings and lighting techniques on a simple and static subject; anemones are always a good shout.

Underwater photography workshops are always a massive boost when starting out as well as underwater photography books. Alex Mustards book Underwater Photography masterclass is my absolute go-to when trying out a new technique. But remember even if you are an amazing photographer top side and an experienced diver, it is going to take a lot of time and effort to get to grips with underwater photography and undoubtedly your first few images are not going to be perfect. But stick with it because when you get your first perfect shot, all that time and effort will be worth it.

NRB: What, or who, has been your single biggest inspiration for your underwater photography?

RM: My biggest inspiration for underwater photography has got to be Jane Morgan, not only is she an amazing underwater photographer who has had many amazing articles and images published over the years, but she is also a genuinely kind and caring person who wants to help and inspire the next generation of underwater photographers. Many other Marine and Natural History students and I have had the pleasure of having her as our tutor and all-round photography guru. Over the years she has had to put up with my badgering her for tips and tricks, but she has always been there to lend a piece of equipment or teach me a new technique. She helped me get my first magazine article published and all round cheered me on to pursue a career in underwater photography.

NRB: What image are you most proud of and why?

RM: This is a hard question to answer, I am proud of so many of my images and I don’t think I would be able to choose just one. Quite often my favourite images from a dive or a trip aren’t necessarily the best photographs or the most technical, they are the ones that have the best memories and the most meaning to me.

To name just one is hard but I think I would have to pick a photograph I took in Egypt two years ago. I dropped down on a night dive and the first thing I came across was a brittle star. It was stood up on its arms holding its body in the air, which was strange behaviour that I had never come across before, so I stopped to photograph it and as I did it started spawning right in front of my camera lens. I was amazed and privileged to get to witness such an amazing bit of nature.

NRB: Where is your favourite dive location, and is it for the photography?

RM: My favourite dive location is a little 5m shore dive off the coast of Falmouth. Pendennis Sliver Steps is the easiest most simple dive site you will ever visit but it is also the most stunning. It is the perfect dive site to jump into on your way home from work and get a bit of photography practice in, whether its testing out new equipment or techniques or just keeping your hand in during a busy period, or when the weather has prevented you from getting out anywhere else. Most importantly of all it is bursting with life, there are new species to find on nearly every dive but being such an easy dive site to jump into means I can spend so much time there and get to know to resident species, figuring out where they live, tracking their behaviours and markings throughout the year and each time getting to take better and more technical photographs.

NRB: What are you views on marine life manipulation, moving subjects?

RM: Personally, I am not one for marine life manipulation whether it be in water whilst taking the picture or in post edit. I like my photos to reflect what I saw on the dive as it was when I took the photo. I will however admit to occasionally doing a bit of ‘gardening’ and removing a stray bit of seaweed or two out of the way of the frame, but that is as far as I will go.

NRB: What do you look for when you are making your images?

RM: It very much depends on what dive I’m on and what I am taking the photograph for. If I am out on a pleasure dive, I will be looking for images with a difference. Every photographer wants to take that one image that nobody has ever taken before, but I will also be taking photographs for myself to document my dive and the species I found sometimes for my own memories and sometimes for species research and/or magazine articles. I think it’s very important for photographers not to get to bent up in taking the perfect image on every dive. Whilst underwater photography may be my chosen profession it is also my hobby and it is very important to me that I don’t turn my hobby, my escape, my passion, into an obsession or ruin it by making it feel too much like work.

NRB: What motivates you to take u/w photos?

RM: I take underwater photographs to create an awareness for non-divers as to the beauty and importance of our marine world. More specifically for me is a desire to exhibit how stunning and extensive our own British marine life is. In the last few years the threat to our Coral Reefs and tropical oceans has finally been taking seriously and divers and non-divers have finally realised the importance of our oceans and how imperative it is to save them. I want my photography to highlight that it isn’t just the tropical coral reefs that need savin. British marine habitats are just as important and just as exquisite.

NRB: If you could photograph any one thing/place what or where would that be?

RM: I spent 5 years living and diving in Cornish waters without ever coming across a blue shark or a basking shark. One of my aims for this next year is to get onto one of the blue shark/basking shark trips and to photograph these gentle giants in British waters.

To see more of Roisin’s work click here.

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

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World Rivers Day: Go with the flow during these river Drift Dives 

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Going with the flow is something we’ve all had to get better at doing this year. And becoming a PADI Drift Diver lets you take those skills to the next level, and just in time for World Rivers Day which is celebrated this Sunday 26 September. 

Drift diving can be both relaxing and exhilarating. The course teaches you how to enjoy going with the flow as you scuba dive down rivers or use ocean currents to glide along safely. It feels like flying – except that you’re underwater using scuba equipment. 

If you’re a PADI (Junior) Open Water Diver who is at least 12 years old, you can start your journey at home with the PADI Drift Diver eLearning course and then complete the specialty course with your local PADI Dive Centre or Resort.  

EXCLUSIVE: WIN a PADI Drift Diver eLearning course – click HERE to be in with a chance to win one of two eLearning courses from our friends at PADI to celebrate World Rivers Day!

Once you are certified as a PADI Drift Diver, you are ready to explore rivers, amongst other currents, all over the world. Here are some of the most remarkable river dive sites across the globe for you to seek adventure in. 

1. Valle Verzasca, Switzerland 

See a whole new side to Switzerland while doing a drift dive through the Valle Verzasca, which has some of the clearest diving in all of Europe. It is both an ideal place to learn to drift dive and still offers plenty of adventure for the more experienced divers. Exploring Valle Verde can be arranged through a range of PADI Dive Centres in the region and combined with mountain lake dives in the area as well. 

2. Rainbow River, Florida 

The clear, shallow and warm waters of Rainbow River in Dunnellon, Florida make it the perfect drift dive location for scuba divers, snorkelers and freedivers alike. PADI Dive Centres in the area can help organize pick up and drop offs so that you can drift down one of Florida’s most outstanding waterways. 

3. St Lawrence River, Canada

Drift diving in the St. Lawrence River can provide access to thousands of shipwrecks, including the RMS Empress of Ireland. Plus, the riverway is known to have surprisingly warm temperatures of up to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and have friendly visitors that include salmon, beluga whales, Greenland sharks and grey seals. If you plan it right, you can even dive between the two countries of Canada and the United States. 

4. Waikato River, New Zealand 

Zip by boulders and rainbow trout during a drift dive through the Waikato River on a guided dive with a PADI Dive Centre in the area. While the river water is likely to be a bit chilly, the drift dive ends at Hot Water Stream, where you can warm up and relax in a natural hot spring. 

5. Local Rivers Inspired by other PADI Drift Divers 

You don’t have to venture far to seek adventure with a drift dive. As Youtuber Scuba Jake explains on PADI’s recent Dive Stories Podcast, there is always something to discover beneath the surface—with rivers offering some of the most unique dive sites in the world. All you have to do is look below the surface and go with the flow. Your local PADI Dive Centre or Resort can give you additional insight on the best places near you.

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Win a PADI Drift Diver eLearning Course – two to give away!!!

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For this week’s competition, we’ve teamed up with our good friends at PADI to give away a couple of their Drift Diver eLearning courses!

The PADI Drift Diver Specialty course teaches you how to enjoy going with the flow as you scuba dive down rivers and use ocean currents to glide along. It feels like flying – except that you’re underwater using scuba equipment. Drift diving can be relaxing and exhilarating at the same time. If this sound like fun, then the Drift Diver course is for you.

You can find out more about the PADI Drift Diver eLearning course here.

To be in with a chance of being one of our winners, all you have to do is answer the following question:

In a recent ‘Creature Feature’ on Scubaverse.com by The Shark Trust (which you can read here), it is revealed that Porbeagles look like what other species of shark?

Is it:

  • A) Tiger Shark
  • B) Bull Shark
  • C) Great White Shark

Answer, A, B or C to the question above:

PADI Drift Dive eLearning Course x2 September 2021

Competition
  • Enter the country you live in
  • Terms and Conditions: This competition is open to all visitors to www.scubaverse.com except for members of the Scubaverse team and their families, or employees of PADI and their families. This prize is for the eLearning element of the PADI Drift Diver course and does not include any of the course's practical elements). A valid answer to the competition’s question must be entered. If no valid answer to the competition’s question is entered, your entry will be invalid. Only one competition entry per entrant permitted (multiple entries will lead to disqualification). Only one prize per winner. All prizes are non-transferable, and no cash alternative will be offered. In the event that the prize cannot be supplied, no liability will be attached to www.scubaverse.com. When prizes are supplied by third parties, www.scubaverse.com is acting as their agents and as such we exclude all liability for loss or damage you may suffer as a result of this competition. This competition closes on 05/11/21. The winner will be notified by email. The Editor-in-Chief’s decision is final.

  • The following fields are optional, however if you fill them in it will help us to determine what prizes to source in the future.

  • MM slash DD slash YYYY
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Red Sea Northern Wrecks & Reefs plus Tiran

Custom built itinerary scheduled to include Abu Nuhas wrecks, the SS Thistlegorm, the fabulous reefs at Ras Mohamed including Shark Reef, then over to Tiran to dive Gordon, Jackson, Thomas and Woodhouse reefs.

You’ll visit any number of other wrecks including the beautiful Carnatic and the wrecks of the Giannis D, the Chrisoula K and the Marcus, all at Abu Nuhas.  And you can’t miss the Rosalie Moeller and the Dunraven!

 

But this trip isn’t just about wrecks – far from it! Ras Mohammed, the protected marine reserve of the Red Sea, delivers schooling fish, spectacular corals, and we drop-in numerous times on the best sites before heading over to Tiran to dive the immense reefs of Gordon, Jackson and Woodhouse.

 

What are you going to see? The most stunning corals, abundant marine life, and exceptional wrecks. Turtles, Napoleon wrasse, morays, dolphins, maybe a manta, and perhaps even whale sharks. Hammerheads off the back of Jackson Reef are a possibility, and don’t forget the little critters either! This trip delivers, time and time again.

 

From £1599 per person based on double occupancy.  Full board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £695pp.  Stay in a deluxe chalet on a soft all-inclusive basis and enjoy 10 guided shore dives and unlimited, unguided house reef diving.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

 

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

 

Call 020 3515 9955 or email john@thescubaplace.co.uk

www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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