Underwater photographers don’t hugely differ from the rest of the diving fraternity, regardless of what you might think.
Those of us that dive tend to all dive for broadly similar reasons. We dive because we like wrecks perhaps, or the marine life, or we may may just enjoy the overall experience of diving. The only change for your underwater photographer, is that they like to document those various experiences.
And let’s face it most divers these days own a camera of one sort of another, even if it’s just a fairly simple compact or point of view camera like a GoPro.
Feel the love
So it’s fantastic when we find a dive site that ticks most boxes for all types of divers.
The place I’m talking about is the Barge, alongside Gubal Island in the Northern Red Sea.
Which we usually include as part of our Wrecks and Reefs itineraries
Here you have a site where the central point is a wreck, in itself not a huge deal breaker – although it makes a brilliant backdrop for your photographs.
It’s shallow, most dives averaging around 10 metres, relatively current free, and a haven for all kinds of marine life. So great for newbie divers too, but with no compromises on quality for your more experienced diver, whether they are a fish watcher or an underwater photographer.
So apart from it’s easy access to and from the water – you nearly always start and end the dive from the back of your liveaboard, rarely straying further than five or ten minutes away – so what makes this site so magical?
Fish and lots of them
In two words, it’s diversity and abundance.
A huge diversity of marine life from tiny crustaceans and nudibranchs, to larger predators like Morays, Scorpion and Stone Fish, oh, and there’s a regular appearance by a resident pod of dolphins, that put in appearances most days at feeding times.
All these creatures seem to centre on the Barge and the immediate area, in abundance, so there seems to be more subject matter packed into a smaller area.
There is clearly lot’s of food around for all this life, as everyone tends to comment how big a lot of the regular creatures, seen elsewhere, seem to be at this location.
The time of year doesn’t seem to make any difference either, for encounters big and small, the winter season always provides great photo opportunities, spring, summer and autumn are equally abundant.
Which of course is fantastic for photographers, providing the perfect storm of ideal circumstances, time after time.
When I run my photo workshops, particularly the Winter Warmers, but even on the summer ones. I usually spend more than just one dive on the Barge.
I also usually institute an “open deck” policy which means that as long as you’ve check dived and have done a familiarisation dive at the site-and it’s dead easy to navigate by the way, a lot of the time you will be able to see the boat from underwater– you will be able to potter about to your hearts content, in warm clear waters jam packed with fish.
On the Winter Warmer trips which I conduct at the beginning of February and March each year, we stay at the site for at least three days, and then head off to Tiran via the Thistlegorm or Ras Mohammed.
These trips have come about because one year we had bad weather, and the only safe place for our boat was to stay at Gubal Island, and the Barge is in the lee of the island itself so is nearly always sheltered from the worst of the wind and waves.
Pretty much everyone on that trip loved being stuck there, and said could we repeat again the following year, and so as this February trip is pretty heavily subscribed now which is why we decided to run a second trip a month later.
Rinse and repeat
The beauty of repeatedly diving the same site, is that you can go back and perfect the shot you’re trying to achieve. Or you can alternate between macro and wide angle dives. Or simply experience the site at different times of the day as the light changes.
You will find that you become accustomed to seeing the same individual fish too, so you can concentrate on getting their best side.
The dolphin icing on the cake
I think that most divers should go and experience the Barge, and the best way is to dive it more than once.
On our last Winter Warmer we had someone finishing their Open Water course, we wouldn’t always suggest this on all of our trips as a good idea, however the Barge is a great site to do beginner courses too, and when our student had finished her first few dives her logbook had entries that included Stonefish, Giant Morays, various nudibranchs, and even before she’d got into double figures she’d had three very close dolphin encounters.
Of course the only downside of this is that her bar has been set very high now, and we were at great pains to point out that this wasn’t the usual situation, but as she’d picked our photo trip to complete her training courses, she’s coming next year now, and is a convert to our style of diving.
Here’s what last years bunch thought of our Barge Winter Warmer trip.
So you can see that this tweaked itinerary is one that I always love to do,and is loved by all who have done it with me.
So I think that it’s a win win for all even if you aren’t big on underwater photography, yes it will guarantee you a huge variety of subjects at all times of the day, and seasons.
However if you’re a newbie diver, or even a seasoned regular there will always be something new for you to see on this stellar dive site.
If you’d like to join me on a photo trip, either here at the Barge or further afield then please don’t hesitate to get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org and to check out all of the trips please click here.
Bertie Gregory European Young Photographer of the Year joined me on a fun packed trip earlier this year, see what he had to say in his trip reports about this amazing dive site. Please Click Here for part one and Here for Part Two