Tiny Trea­sures

Asian Diver (English) - - The Best of Voo -

Ear­lier that same day, I’d spent at least 10 min­utes star­ing at a hand-sized patch of al­gae-fuzzed coral af­ter Ke­tut had ca­su­ally pointed into the cen­tre of it. With my face close enough to the coral to al­low the pre­scrip­tion gauge-reader lenses in my mask to do their job, I fi­nally de­tected the mil­li­met­ric move­ment of a per­fectly cam­ou­flaged ju­ve­nile triplefin. Twenty min­utes later, Ke­tut taps his tank with his reef pointer. Hold­ing up his mag­ni­fy­ing glass, with eyes glued to the reef, he beck­ons me with his free hand. Hid­den amongst the reef lies a tiny spin­dle cowrie that could barely be distin­guished against the coral it was cling­ing onto. Even Ke­tut’s laser-sharp eyes needed the aid of a mag­ni­fy­ing glass to see this one. All this be­cause I’d sug­gested that we might go and look for su­per-macro sub­jects; you have to be care­ful what you wish for!

Ke­tut and the other mem­bers of the dive guide team at Waka­tobi Resort lis­ten in­tently to their clients’ photographic as­pi­ra­tions and work hard to help ful­fill them. Over the course of nearly 400 dives at Waka­tobi, I have worked with Ke­tut, Shoko, Jono, Yusef, Kaz, Muji, Yo­eri, Nikki, Sylvia, An­drea, Mali, and Marco Fierli, who is also Waka­tobi Resort’s photo pro and a tal­ented shooter in his own right. Aside from forg­ing sin­cere re­la­tion­ships with their clients, they all have a wealth of lo­cal knowl­edge and adopt a sys­tem­atic ap­proach to find­ing sub­jects, ei­ther from their clients’ wish lists, or op­por­tunis­ti­cally, based on their own searches and ob­ser­va­tions.

Learn­ing to work with a skilled dive guide is an of­ten-over­looked tech­nique for suc­cess in un­der­wa­ter imag­ing. They are a team of pro­fes­sion­als, and are meant to be de­ployed as such. Pro­vid­ing them with a wish list of sub­ject mat­ter is just the first step. They’ll cer­tainly go off and work hard to fill that list, but they bring a lot more than that to the table. Once we’re ac­tively div­ing, I shame­lessly plumb the depths of their lo­cal knowl­edge. They’re log­ging hun­dreds of dives a year in the area, so they are al­ways go­ing to know far more about any of the dive sites and the marine life on it than I ever will. They will al­ways find more crea­tures than I will, but what they teach me helps me discover and in­ter­pret some of my own.

I’m equally un­in­hib­ited in shar­ing with them my photographic fail­ures and suc­cesses from each dive. Help­ing them un­der­stand what

I’m try­ing to achieve, show­ing them what seems to have worked, and what clearly did not, helps them develop strate­gies for our fu­ture dives. Bounc­ing ideas around with them also fre­quently gen­er­ates wel­come sug­ges­tions and hints for im­prove­ments in my own tech­nique. Sub­se­quent dives then be­come part-work­shop as we test and re­fine those ideas.

One of the joys of un­der­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­phy is that, while there are many tried and proven tech­niques that will con­sis­tently de­liver pre­dictable re­sults, there is also lim­it­less room for adap­ta­tion. It’s not only the shots we miss that keep us go­ing back into the wa­ter, it’s the end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties that life on the reef puts in front of us. Spend­ing time with the dive guides at Waka­tobi Resort – even when they stretch my ag­ing eyes to the limit – is one of the most en­joy­able ways of ex­plor­ing the end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties on Waka­tobi’s reefs.

IM­AGE: Wade Hughes

BELOW: About 10 min­utes af­ter Ke­tut had pointed it out,I fi­nally de­tected the mil­li­met­ric move­ment of this per­fectly cam­ou­flaged ju­ve­nile triplefin

IM­AGE: Waka­tobi Resort

ABOVE: A tiny spin­dle cowrie taken at Waka­tobi, In­done­sia

WADE AND ROBYN HUGHES be­lieve that the im­pact­ful images they and other un­der­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­phers cre­ate can play an im­por­tant role in shap­ing the per­cep­tions of the gen­eral public to the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing our marine en­vi­ron­ments. The Hughes’ make their pho­tographs freely avail­able to in­di­vid­u­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions in­volved in ed­u­ca­tion, re­search, and not-for-profit pro­mo­tion of sus­tain­able con­ser­va­tion.

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