On the workshops and photo trips, I can, quite fairly, be accused of banging on a bit about underwater photographers getting bad reputations for trashing the reef, and whilst most of the time I’m pleasantly surprised by the efforts that people go to, to avoid coming into contact with the reef, when it comes to the sandy bottom surrounding the corals, divers are less aware of the damage that they can do with their fins.
So I’ve picked a couple of pictures that hopefully illustrate why you should endeavour to try and adopt the fins up and away from the sand technique, more often employed by cave or wreck divers.
Cave and Wreck Expertise
Those particular groups of divers do this so as not to stir up the sediment, which can cause dangerous situations where the visibility can go to naught, causing disorientation.
So I love it when I have these types of divers on the boat as their buoyancy skills and spatial awareness is usually top notch, and they dive really well without any prompting from me or the dive guides.
I’m not the Reef Police
You needn’t worry I’m not an ogre and I do understand that a lot of divers, even quite experienced ones haven’t mastered the ability to hover fins up, with precision. And it’s sometimes difficult to change the bad habits of many years diving.
I actually find it’s easier to train up relative newcomers, as their bad habits aren’t so deeply ingrained, and they are usually more receptive to taking advice in this area.
If you’re really bad the guides we use will usually have a quiet word, but I leave it up to you to ask for help, I’m not going to bully you.
With experienced divers often just mentioning this will make them more aware and they will move around the dive sites with their fins aloft, proving they can do it, they’ve just forgotten to do so. And the good news is that if they do this for a couple of dives then the habit will stick.
Is it really so bad to put my fins down?
Well no of course not, there are way worse underwater crimes, and to be honest if you really struggle with the skills and aren’t willing to put the effort in, as long as you really look closely where your fins are going and minimise your points of contact then you will reduce the chances of harming anything.
In fact some very well known underwater photographers advocate getting yourself nice and stable on the bottom, and it really does make macro photography easier.
You’ll note I said easier there? but it’s not impossible to do it without touching, you’ll just have to practice a bit.
If you have to do this, then settle yourself down very gently, but more importantly when you’ve finished shooting, take a breath and slowly rise from the bottom, without finning, and when you are a few feet above the bottom gently make frog kicks but just from your ankles. This will reduce the chances of you stirring up the sand too much, which the next photographer in line will thank you for, along with that partner goby and friends you didn’t see.
Ok this particular creature is quite an easy spot, but there are a lot of creatures that live on or in the sand that you may well pass by without a glance, things like Moses Soles and Peacock Flounders, not forgetting the colonies of Partner Gobies.
Stonefaced Killah !!!
This last shot is a prime example of a perfectly camouflaged ambush killer. The scene is The Barge in the Northern Red Sea, an area replete with marine life of all shapes and sizes.
The Stonefish is in the bottom right quarter of the picture, and it remained there for two days, until I saw someone blindly blunder through the area, putting their fin right on top of the poor creature, dislodging it ignominiously from its prime spot. It was fine, they’re quite robust luckily. It could have ended quite badly for the diver though, as they only had a shorty on, and they could have easily hit it with their shin, and risked getting a very nasty sting.
Our boat were all well aware of it and lots of folk had taken pictures of it, but this was a new lot of divers from a different boat, and I didn’t have enough time to warn the diver unfortunately 🙁
Here’s another picture, of our handsome friend lurking under the sand, easier to see from this angle, but it was amazing how many people weren’t aware it was there until I pointed it out.
I think you can agree this poisonous beast only becomes a danger if you aren’t careful where you put your hands and fins, so please have a good look around if you must settle on the bottom. Better though to not touch the bottom at all, and learn to hover with precision.
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