Archives for category: underwater

 

2nd issue of Gavin magazine

2nd issue of Gavin magazine

In the 2nd issue of Gavin magazine is a feature on Orangutan rescue in Borneo. This thought provoking story shows the plight of one of mankind’s nearest biological neighbours.

Also in the magazine is a fine art project on Britain’s ancient trees, the look at the work of British Divers Marine Life Rescue, ragged tooth shark migration and a photo project on the 1st World War battlefields.

So there is pretty much something for everyone. The link to the free magazine is: http://issuu.com/gavinparsons/docs/gavin_magazine_issue_2

I hope you all enjoy it.

Front cover of Gavin issue 1

Front cover of Gavin issue 1

Over the last few months I have been working on an exciting project which combines many of my creative skills. And this weekend just gone I released Gavin magazine. Gavin is a showcase for my photographic, written, and design work and has been published online on the issuu platform. There is a link to the magazine at the bottom of this blog post.

I have opted for a soft launch rather than a grand fanfare as I am just finding my feet with online publishing. I have been involved in the publishing of hundreds of magazines over the years, but this is the first time I have used an online platform such as issuu, so I wanted the first issue to be stunning, yet reserved.

More issues will follow and they will include both personal projects that I have worked on in recent years and commercial work I am able to publish. Some of my work I am not allowed to use for certain reasons, which I always respect.

As always when creating a magazine I used Adobe’s Indesign and worked hard on choosing complimentary fonts, I hope you like what I’ve chosen. I decided many of the images needed to have the background story, which is so difficult to do on a portfolio website, which is another reason for working on the magazine. So some of the images have a caption, but others are part of a much larger story. This is fairly limited in the first issue, but the articles will increase as the magazine grows in popularity.

Since my first job, I have always been involved in photography and magazine creation, so this is a logical step for me. I have the writing, design and photography skills needed, but the process has been a learning curve.

At the moment the magazine is just online, but I am looking at offering a hard copy (although this will be a paid for service as buying any magazine) and as the readership grows I will possibly offer advertising opportunities for business looking to advertise their services and wares alongside my editorial (The adverts in the first issue were donated to companies who have helped me obtain images or offered advice).

I hope you enjoy reading it and please let me know what you think and also if you have any questions, comments or requests for areas of my work you’d like to see included in the magazine let me know.

You can find Gavin magazine at: http://issuu.com/gavinparsons/docs/gavin_magazine_issue_1

 

Plankton babies

Copyright: Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

This week’s Behind the Picture is a bit of an odd one. While working on a survey of the plankton in the Mediterranean Sea I was asked to photograph some of the specimens the vessel collected.

This had to be done before the samples were sealed ready to take to the laboratory. Basically when the plankton net was hauled aboard the sample in the back of the net was poured into a chemical preserving agent. Before that I was given a small amount in a glass dish and asked to photograph whatever was in it.

One of the key species being looked at was the Blue Fin tuna, one of the world’s rarest fish. Adult fish fetch huge sums of money in the fish markets of the world. The reason is the complete disregard for the species by fishing nations. The fishery for blue fin tuna is an utterly disgusting race to the bottom with pure greed and profit as the driver for the trade. Because the less fish there are in the sea the higher profits.

There is an unseen fleet of tuna purse seine vessels that roam the Mediterranean, particularly around Malta and Cyprus catching as many fish as possible. They are then fattened up in massive seapens, which generally means they are caught too small to have bred. In my opinion it is one of the most stupid fisheries in the world.

Knowing the number of juveniles is particularly important for scientists trying to advise governments on how best to safeguard the species. So tuna were the target. We found quite a few other juvenile fish species in each sample, lots of eggs which can be identified in the lab back on shore and of course a lot of zooplankton species such as copepods, which only get to a few millimetres in size.

Every so often a tuna species did turn up, (you can see one on the middle of the three fish in the picture) but not in the numbers I’d hoped for. It was, to my untrained eye, quite a depressing sight seeing as so few juveniles make it to adulthood. Even so I photographed each sample that was produced. It wasn’t easy as the ship was moving and I didn’t have the option of a microscope as this was being done of the fly at the back of a working ship. Around me were coils of rope, bins, tools, chains and all manner of industrial paraphernalia. It was not where most scientific photographers would like to work.

I strapped all the extension tubes I had between the camera and my 105mm macro lens. I didn’t have a tripod as when I joined the ship I had no idea I’d be doing this kind of photography. Luckily I did have my off camera flash radio control so could get the light right where I wanted it.

I sat the glass dish on a black t-shirt to get a dark background and then set up the exposure with the flash. It was then a case of shifting my movements up and down ever so slightly to get the samples in focus when I pressed the shutter.

To start with there was a lot of trial and error and most of the pictures were slightly out of focus, but eventually I managed to get a technique, which improved my technique.

I thoroughly enjoyed this adhoc scientific photography session and soon I’ll be looking to do some more, but with a much more scientific and controllable set up.

To see more of my work, book on a training course, buy a print or book my for a talk please see my website at www.gavinparsons.co.uk

A dive back in time

 

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

This week’s ‘behind the picture’ apart from being a day late (Bank holiday in the UK) is a shot I took while on a commission for the Port of London Authority. It was, surprisingly, taken in the Docks area of East London. The Docklands Museum was having an events day and the Port of London Authority and the Historical Diving Society collaborated to create a commercial diving attraction. They had modern commercial divers going in the water and historical divers as well.

The old Siebe Gorman helmet was synonymous with commercial diving through a great deal of the 20th century, but now very little of the working kit remains in use.

This was an opportunity for me to get an unusual shot. The water beneath about 5cm from the surface was pitch black so I decided on a half and half style shot. Although, in the end, I settled more for a ¾ ¼ image as the few centimetres had just about enough visibility.

I wanted to portray the diver just before he submerged which was what I got. It wasn’t quite so difficult as this was a volunteer from the audience who, understandably, hesitated before he finally stuck his head under.

 

The oceanic

Copyright: Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

Copyright: Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

This week’s ‘behind the picture’ is one from my archives. It was taken in the Red Sea, just off Big Brother Island in the early naughties. The reason I bring it to you today is because the oceanic white tip shark today received CITES protection. This is a bit of great news for this ocean going species, although extremely sad for the state of our seas.

When this picture was taken, oceanic white tip sharks were fairly common, especially in the Red Sea; now its numbers have been decimated. These are impressive creatures and deserve protection from over fishing, but it is not full protection. The species can still be targeted by fishermen, but there will now be enforceable laws on international trade.

This shot, as I said, was taken off the Brother Islands in the middle of the Red Sea. I was on a specific oceanic hunt and had already been to Elphinestone Reef, which was supposed to be a shoe in for oceanics, but I saw none. I’d hung off a line on the back of the boat for several hours missing two dives to try and find an oceanic. As we left I felt like I was doomed.

The next stop was Big Brother Island where I’d seen an oceanic white tip on a previous visit. But it was at the end of the dive and I had used my 36 exposures, so didn’t get a shot (It’s hard to imagine only having 36 shots now.)

The Brother Islands are perfect because of the deep water surrounding them. They are the only thing that sticks up for miles and are a draw for fish and, therefore, a draw for sharks. I spent pretty much all the time on board the liveaboard watching the water between dives for the tell tale shape of a shark on the surface. We’d seen nothing the first day and then just after lunch on the second day as I was changing film, a cry came from the stern of the boat. I grabbed my camera and hopped in the water.

I couldn’t see anything but blue when I cleared my mask and thought perhaps I’d scared the shark away. But then I just caught a white flash about 20 metres away. It was the oceanic white tip shark.

I was joined by a guy who had never seen a shark before and here he was jumping into a sea with the third most dangerous shark in the oceans. It was fairly wary at first though and circled us widely. But each time it got closer and closer. Within about ten minutes is was right up with us and as bold as any shark I have come across. So close in fact that my buddy had to raise his fins to keep the shark back more than once.

I was using a 16mm lens and watched the shark get closer and closer through the viewfinder. It was only when I could not make out all, the shark that I thought to look up and found it was pushing me backwards in the water. She wasn’t particularly threatening and not once did she open her mouth. So I felt as safe as you can be in an ocean with a big shark, but I thoroughly enjoyed the encounter.

When I got back home and had the film developed I was delighted with the results and this shot eventually won the BSAC travel photographer of the year in 2005.

The stories behind some of my favourite images

Big fish little fishes

whaleshark

A few years ago I returned to an island called Mafia off the coast of Tanzania. I’d spent several months in the early 90s there as part of a team studying the feasibility of creating a multi-zone marine park. It was created in the late 90s. I went back 13 years later to write an article about how the place had faired.

Usually when I return to a destination, it’s a disappointment. The world sadly is deteriorating before my eyes. But Mafia Island was different as it was better. The corals, the fish were all healthier and more prolific than my first trip.

There was also an added bonus: whalesharks. Mafia Island is one of the world’s whaleshark gatherings. They come to the shallow water in front of Kilondoni, the main settlement on the island. At the time I took the picture it was a pretty new discovery and the only way to get out to the sharks was to hire a local fishing boat. I have to use the term ‘boat’ fairly loosely because the one we hired was more holes than boat. The captain though was bailing just about enough to keep his planks of wood afloat so it wasn’t all bad.

The whalesharks were used by local fishermen who would find a shark, surround it with net and draw it tighter. It’s not what you think though as fishermen would be in the water and allow the shark to escape and they would harvest the fish that swam with the sharks.

The fish seemed to the drawn to the sharks probably for shelter as the seabed was barren sand so the sharks were a kind of moving reef. We found a shark that had just been released by a fishing boat and sat a while until it settled down. It didn’t take long. The shark swam directly towards our boat, it submerged slightly as it got to us and I watched it go beneath us. It never came out the other side so I dipped my head below the water and saw the shark vertical in the water within the shadow our boat created.

Slipping below the surface I could understand why. The glare created by the sun, bright white sand and suspended particles in the water was horrendous. The shark was using our boat as sunglasses.

She stayed under the boat for several minutes, enough time for a shoal of small fish to gather around her. I watched them swirl and anticipated when they’d get between the shark and me. The moment lasted no more than a second, possibly two.  Back on the boat I reviewed the images and knew I’d got a special shot, but didn’t realise quite how special. “`the images earned me Specially Commended in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

If you’d like to see more of my work take a look on www.gavinparsons.co.uk