The question How did you become an Underwater Photographer? Is one that I am constantly asked, so I thought I would write a full and proper answer rather than the often short and rushed version I give people.
I had never planned to be a photographer; it was something I fell into when my dream of becoming a writer didn’t work out. As long as I can remember I was writing short stories and poems and really enjoyed the creativity of coming up with new usually fantasy ideas. But as I progressed through school I started to have problems with the use of the English language. I was still having many great ideas but these were not good enough to bring my grades up. In my last year of school my Head of English honestly advised me that I would not be able to go on to university to further study English at level I was Performing.
After this devastating blow I took some time to re-think my life plan and spoke to some friends who were enjoying their courses at the local college. I didn’t feel ready to go out and work so picked up a prospectus for the college. I quickly flicked through the pages a few times, not really sure what I wanted to study. Every time I stopped on the same page, photography.
Becoming a Diver
That summer I went on a family holiday to Rhodes, Greece. We were relaxing by the pool when a group of divers from Waterhoppers Dive school arrived and started offering try dives in the pool. My dad suggested I had a go. “I don’t want to do it in the pool, I want to go in the sea” was my response. “Ok well lets speak to them and see what they can offer.” After a 10 minute chat I was signing up for the open water course starting the following day.
Continuing with Photography
I studied photography at college for 2 years, before going onto Cambridge School of Art to take a BA (Hons) Degree in the subject. By the end of the 5 years of studying I was moving into Computer Generated Imaging (CGI) and combining this with photography. I did some work experience in London and had quite a lot of recognition from my final degree show. It would have been quite easy for me to find some permanent work in this field.
However at the age of 22 and only just coming out of education, I needed a break and decided to travel the world. I planned a three-month trip China, Thailand and Australia. It was in Thailand where I decided to finally make use of my open water certification again.
In the dive school (Master Divers) on Koh Tao I met their underwater photographer, Phill. We got talking and it didn’t take him very long to persuade me to hire an underwater camera. I did two dives with Phill and he gave me plenty of tips, and waited patiently whilst I frantically followed the fish around. I fell in love straight away.
Continuing to dive in Australia I hired a camera every time and in the last week of my trip found myself completely re-considering my career choice. My decision was confirmed when I arrived back home in the cold and wet. Instead of looking for a job at home, I was sending emails to the dive schools I had visited on my travels, asking for advise on how to become a professional underwater photographer.
The Next Step
I was recommended to do my dive master training, but the quotes I was given were very expensive, so I quickly realized I would need to save some money. I found a job stock taking and took as many shifts as I could. Eight months later I finally had enough money to buy a new camera (canon 7D) with Ikelite housing, one way flight to Thailand and be able to pay for my training up to dive master.
On the 16th May 2012 I left home not know when or if I would return.
The next 3 months were spent doing my training with Master Divers. Before I found my first underwater photography job on Koh Tao, but after one month working for very little money I decided to move on.
Koh Lanta was my next stop. I arrived on the island alone and didn’t know anyone, didn’t have a job and no real idea what I was going to do. It was scary and exciting all at the same time. Within a week I had a job (mainly underwater photography but some dive master work as well), somewhere to live and was making plenty of friends. Life was going well.
Two and a half years later and I am now working full time as an underwater photographer for dive schools. I have moved many times from Thailand to Malaysia, Philippines and now Indonesia. Last year I went home for a 5 week “holiday” and decided that I don’t want to move back there, my life out here is much better. I spend every day doing the two things which I love the most, Photography and Diving.
So what is the next step? I am currently working hard to improve my English skills and hope to start getting articles and photos published in magazines. The dream is to be published in National Geographic.