This September saw Saeed’s inaugural photo workshop with Ultimate Diving. This took place on the wonderful island of Sulawesi at the Tasik Ria Resort with Tasik Divers on-site. The resort was chosen for this workshop because of the excellent mix of dive sites, from the stunning walls and pristine coral of Bunaken National Park to the local critter rich reefs just a short boat ride from the jetty. This ensured a diverse set of photo opportunities for the group.
Excerpt from Saeed’s blog about the trip:
After readying all of our kit, the first day consisted of relaxing around the pool and getting to know each other and the level of everybody’s photography skills, enabling me to understand where I could help over the duration of the workshop. Our first day got off to a real bang with a visit to Bunaken National Park. The walls here are famous for their sponges, fans and fish life and they didn’t disappoint – the first thing you notice as you enter the water is the abundance of fish life. Thick shoals of red-toothed triggerfish and pyramid butterflyfish cover the walls with large jacks hunting smaller bait fish among them.
The other thing Bunaken is famous for are the turtles. Along the reef wall we encountered massive sleeping green turtles and smaller hawksbills often eating the soft coral and sponges. The last time I visited these reefs was six years ago and I remember being wowed by the number of turtles we saw, and things haven’t changed – if anything, there are far more turtles here than ever before. In fact, I would say there are more turtles here than anywhere else I have ever seen. At times there were so many it made it possible for everybody to have their own turtle to practice their photography on and many would act like super models, seeming to know exactly how to pose for the camera.
We made several trips to Bunaken throughout the workshop but without a doubt our favourite locations were those less dived sites more local to the resort. Unlike Bunaken we were almost guaranteed to have these sites to ourselves. The fish life may not have been as jaw dropping when you first entered the water, but the weird and wonderful critter life was as good as I have seen anywhere else, allowing everyone to practice their macro photo skills.
Komodo National Park is one of the most diverse and rich marine environments in the world, home to over 1,000 species of fish and 250 types of reef-building coral. The coral reefs in the north of the park are rich with colourful combinations of hard and soft corals. Be delighted by the ever-present schools of Anthias, Wrasses, majestic angelfish, and larger predators – reef sharks and giant trevally.
Our guides were often able to locate each guest a different photo subject, allowing everyone to take their time and not feel rushed when shooting. That’s got to be the worst thing ever for a photographer, hasn’t it? Nudibranch were a real highlight for the group, from the super small and cute Shaun the Sheep to the bright pink Dorids that seemed all too often to have eggs on-board. On the house reef we were also fortunate to find a pair of mated ornate ghost pipefish with the male already caring for the eggs. These were revisited many times by the group during the trip.
The morning schedule consisted of two boat dives, giving me the chance to look over the groups images on the boat, and with second dives often on the same reef, crucial advice could be given between dives and put into practice straight away. Most evenings were spent going over editing techniques, talking about camera settings or flash positions, while taking part in image reviews as a group. This naturally coincided with an ice-cold beer and the backdrop of the amazing sunsets from our outdoor classroom at the jetty bar.
Ultimate Diving’s next trip takes place in the beautiful Komodo National Park!
The Komodo National Park is one of the most diverse and rich marine environments in the world, home to over 1,000 species of fish and 250 types of coral. The reefs in the north of the park are rich with colourful combinations of hard and soft corals. Be delighted by the ever-present schools of anthias, wrasses, majestic angelfish, and larger predators such as reef sharks and giant trevally.
Boarding the Cheng Ho on the 20th June 2019 for 10 nights on the Komodo National Park route, this price includes accommodation in shared cabin, full board basis, daily diving, airport transfers, endless sessions with Saeed Rashid and 1 night in Bali.
18/06/2019 Fly to Bali via Hong Kong with 1 night in Bali
Fly from Bali to Labuan Bajo. Transfer (approx. 1 hour) to the Cheng Ho boat and check-in for your 10 night adventure. Afternoon at leisure and check-in at the dive centre, prepare camera equipment for diving the following day.
21/6 – 29/6/19 9 days diving aboard the Cheng Ho with daily diving activities. Enjoy the world famous sites of Komodo National Park and dive with manta rays, turtles and pristine coral reefs, trekking in search of the ancient Komodo Dragon, visit the waterfalls, witness an active volcano, local markets and much more.
30/6/19 Transfer to the airport. Fly from Labuan Bajo to Bali. Fly from Bali to Heathrow.
PRICE £3095 per person. Deposit required: £600 + flights.
10 nights in shared cabin aboard the Cheng Ho, daily diving with tanks and weights, full board, airport transfers, harbour and anchor fee, and 1 night in Bali.
Flights approx. £900, airport departure tax, tips, land tour entrance fees and Komodo entrance fee: 25 USD/person/night.
To enquire or book, please give the Ultimate Diving Team a call on 0208 655 6458 or email Marcelina@ultimatediving.co.uk to answer any questions and give you the lowdown on the destination and diving.
PADI Teams Up with Wellness Brand Neuro to Drive Ocean Change and Create a Blue State of Mind
Together launching a whale-inspired limited-edition tin to fund ocean conservation
Ocean lovers and wellness enthusiasts can join PADI® (Professional Association of Diving Instructors®) and Neuro® functional gum and mints in creating positive ocean change.
The two leading lifestyle and purpose-driven brands have united in a shared mission that is born out of the transformational powers of the water and are offering a streamlined way to enhance your wellbeing and that of the ocean. Throughout the year, they will be releasing a collection of two limited edition re-usable Neuro x PADI tins designed to be used with all the bulk Neuro bag products, with 20% of profits donated to PADI AWARE FoundationTMand $100K USD committed to the world’s largest purpose-driven diving organisation’s non-profit charity by the end of 2024.
The first of the co-branded tins that are now available for purchase showcases artwork created by Neuro co-founder Kent Yoshimura, who is also a renowned mural artist and depicts a whale breaching in the ocean.
“The whale is symbolic of how everything is interconnected and small changes can have a huge impact upon our ocean – and all life that calls it home,” explains Yoshimura. “By refilling and using this tin, you’ll cut down on your packaging waste, fuel yourself with clean ingredients to live your best life and do more for all vulnerable marine species.”
“At least 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year and more than 250 million tons of plastic are estimated to pollute our waters by 2025,” says Julie Andersen, PADI’s Senior Director of Brand. “Much of that debris is ingested by all of the ocean’s creatures – including the symbolic megafauna like whales. By creating this campaign, PADI and Neuro have come together to drive change and heal ourselves, our communities, and the ocean – our largest and most important ecosystem on this blue planet, and the very thing responsible for life on earth.”
Uniting Two Purpose-Driven Brands
Founded in 2015 by Yoshimura and his co-founder Ryan Chen on their first dive trip in Catalina, the two college friends and PADI Scuba Divers were looking for a more sustainable way to optimise one’s health and energy – and soon after established Neuro®, a collection of functional gum and mints crafted with a patented formula and clean ingredients to help you do more.
What started as a small start-up conceived on a dive boat, led them to garner international recognition for their appearance on Shark Tank in 2020 – and they have now sold over 90 million pieces of Neuro products.
“Core to our purpose-driven ethos, we want to encourage the world to not only improve their own lives, but the lives of others,” explains Chen. “We understand that being a truly sustainable company is more than just protecting the environment. That is why we prioritise environmental, social, and economic sustainability to ensure Neuro operates in a way that benefits everyone – including the smallest of plankton to the largest of whales that live beneath the surface.”
“Just like Neuro, PADI empowers people to become the best version of themselves when they are in a state of ‘blue mind’, where you become deeply aware of your own personal health’s connection to that of our blue planet’s – realising that your own wellbeing gives you superpowers to make a real difference,” says Andersen. “We are obsessed with creating positive ocean change and transforming lives by making the wonder of the underwater world accessible to all and ensuring that communities and ecosystems live in harmony that mutually support one another. Together, we are magnifying our powers to do more by raising awareness to the issues facing our ocean, while at the same time, providing meaningful ways to take action.”
How the Ocean Healed Neuro Co-Founders
Scuba diving isn’t just a passionate hobby for Neuro co-founders Yoshimura and Chen. It is from this that they experienced the entrepreneurial side-effects of scuba diving, in which the dive trip was a core driver to their business success and personal wellbeing – giving them both their “million-dollar idea” and a renewed sense of purpose and belief that anything is possible.
“It was during this dive trip that we realised the need to have a practical, sustainable, and approachable system that can be shared with fellow divers that provide clean energy during surface intervals,” Yoshimura explains. “When you fall in love with the ocean, you want to spend as much time as possible exploring and protecting it. So, we wanted to create a product that supported this passion and gives you a prolonged state of ‘blue mind’.”
For Chen, earning his PADI Open Water Diver certification also provided him with a pivotal moment in his own healing journey after he had suffered a tragic snowboarding accident that left him partially paralysed. He became certified through the PADI Adaptive Techniques Diving Course and benefited greatly from the physical and mental therapy the sport of scuba diving provides. Soon after, his renewed sense of purpose led him to be named to Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2019.
“There’s no cooler feeling than taking that first breath underwater,” Chen recalls. “All of a sudden you have this superpower, to breathe underwater and explore. Learning to dive re-ignited my passion for life but also my belief that I too could make a difference in protecting and saving the ocean.”
“Learning to scuba dive unlocks hidden superpowers that are not only empowering – but essential to keep our shared blue planet healthy,” Andersen explains. “As a PADI Scuba Diver, you not only develop a new passion, but you also earn the unique ability to protect what you love, engaging in impactful citizen science with your own two hands. Through a shared mission of instilling hope, connecting with other species, and fueling hands-on conservation, we hope that we can make a better world for all of us.”
“That is why we rebuilt our company mission at PADI to reach every 1 in 10 people on our shared blue planet and inspire them to join us as Ocean Torchbearers to create positive ocean change,” says Andersen. “Our work with Neuro helps us inspire more people to experience, fall in love with, and protect the ocean and all life that calls it home. Together, Neuro and PADI are supporting more people in achieving a state of “blue mind”, in which they realise they too are superheroes that can accelerate and optimise healing: our own, our communities, and our planets.”
Win a Healing Trip of a Lifetime and Become PADI Whale Defenders in Mexico
Note: This competition is only open to residents of the USA
As part of their limited edition re-usable tin launch, PADI and Neuro are offering one lucky winner the ultimate healing trip of a lifetime: the chance to become a PADI Whale Defender in Baja California, Mexico. The prize includes flights, accommodation, the PADI Whale Defender Course, and a whale-watching tour with Dive Ninja Expeditions for two, as well as a collection of Neuro mint and gum products that includes Energy + Focus, Calm + Clarity and Sleep + Recharge.
“Together, we all must heal ourselves before we can heal the planet,” says Andersen. “Neuro and PADI are united in purpose, focused on our holistic wellbeing by healing from within, connecting with like-minded, purpose-driven communities, and joining a movement bigger than yourself to create positive ocean change. Seeing is believing, and an unforgettable, life-altering encounter with a whale will change your life forever, filling you with a drive to protect their – and our – blue world.”
For more information, to purchase the limited edition re-usable tins and to enter this competition, visit padi.neurogum.com/sweepstakes.
Diver Discovering Whale Skeletons Beneath Ice Judged World’s Best Underwater Photograph
An emotive photograph showing a freediver examining the aftermath of whaling sees
Alex Dawson from Sweden named Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024. Dawson’s
photograph ‘Whale Bones’ triumphed over 6500 underwater pictures entered by underwater
photographers from around the world.
“Whale Bones was photographed in the toughest conditions,” explains chair of judging
panel Alex Mustard, “as a breath-hold diver descends below the Greenland ice sheet to bear
witness to the carcasses. The composition invites us to consider our impact on the great
creatures of this planet. Since the rise of humans, wild animals have declined by 85%. Today,
just 4% of mammals are wildlife, the remaining 96% are humans and our livestock. Our way
needs to change to find a balance with nature.”
Whales dominated the winning pictures this year with Spanish photographer Rafael
Fernandez Caballero winning two categories with his revealing photos of these ocean giants:
a close up of a grey whale’s eye and an action shot of a Bryde’s whale engulfing an entire bait
ball, both taken in Magdalena Bay, Baja California, Mexico. Fernandez Caballero took ‘Grey
Whale Connection’ while drifting in a small boat, holding his camera over the side in the water
to photograph the curious whale. ‘The End Of A Baitball’ required Fernandez Caballero to dive
down and be in exactly the right place at the moment the whale lunged. “The photo shows
the high speed attack,” he said, “with the whale engulfing hundreds of kilograms of sardines
in one bite — simply unforgettable to see predation on such a scale.”
Lisa Stengel from the United States was named Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 for her image of a mahi-mahi catching a sardine, in Mexico. Stengel used both a very fast shutter speed and her hearing to catch the moment. “If you listen there’s an enormous amount of sound in the ocean,” she explained. “The action was too fast to see, so I honed in on the sound of the attacks with my camera to capture this special moment.”
“It is such an exciting time in underwater photography because photographers are capturing such amazing new images, by visiting new locations and using the latest cameras,”
commented judge Alex Mustard. “Until this year I’d hardly ever see a photo of a mahi mahi,
now Lisa has photographed one hunting, action that plays out in the blink of an eye.”
The Underwater Photographer of the Year contest is based in the UK, and Jenny Stock,
was named as British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 for her image “Star
Attraction”, which finds beauty in species of British wildlife that are often overlooked.
Exploring the west coast of Scotland, Stock explained “in the dark green depths my torch
picked out the vivid colours of a living carpet of thousands of brittle stars, each with a
different pattern. I was happily snapping away, when I spotted this purple sea urchin and I
got really excited.”
In the same contest, Portuguese photographer, Nuno Sá, was named ‘Save Our Seas
Foundation’ Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2024, with his photo ‘Saving
Goliath’, taken in Portugal. Sá’s photo shows beachgoers trying to save a stranded sperm
whale. The picture gives us hope that people do care and want to help the oceans, but also
warns us that bigger changes are needed. “The whale had been struck by a ship and its fate
was sealed,” explains Sá. “An estimated 20,000 whales are killed every year, and many more
injured, after being struck by ships-and few people even realise that it happens.”
More winning images can be found at www.underwaterphotographeroftheyear.com.
About Underwater Photographer of the Year
Underwater Photographer of the Year is an annual competition, based in the UK, that celebrates photography beneath the surface of the ocean, lakes, rivers and even swimming pools, and attracts entries from all around the world. The contest has 13 categories, testing photographers with themes such as Macro, Wide Angle, Behaviour and Wreck photography, as well as four categories for photos taken specifically in British waters. The winners were announced in an award ceremony in Mayfair, London, hosted by The Crown Estate. This year’s UPY judges were experienced underwater photographers Peter Rowlands, Tobias Friedrich and Dr Alexander Mustard MBE.
Header image: Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 winner Alex Dawson
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