Tom Park: Underwater Photography

In Diving, Photography by This Adventure LifeLeave a Comment

Tom is a 22-year old underwater photographer and Dive Master working on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. He has a love for the ocean which drives his passion to capture moments and photographs of the underwater world.

How did you become involved in diving and underwater photography, and how has it made a positive impact on your life?

At age 14 on a family holiday to the Whitsundays i went diving for the first time. I was hooked almost immediately, and the following year my whole family returned to the Great Barrier Reef to get our Open Water Certificate. Having grown up in Sydney, spending more time in the ocean on a surfboard than on land, scuba diving seemed natural, yet it showed me a very different perspective of the ocean. Throughout my teenage years i continued my training and finally got my PADI Dive Master certification which now allows me to work as a Dive Professional. The photography part came far easier. I simply wanted to show my friends and family what was under the surface. Scuba diving and underwater photography has drastically altered my life, its an addiction that has changed my attitude to this world. I have since started working as an underwater photographer and the experience has been incredible.

Where are some of your favorite diving spots?

The Great Barrier Reef is an amazing place to dive, and i am so lucky to have seen as much of the reef as i have. The amazing colours of the Ribbon Reefs, the thousand meter drop offs at Osprey Reef, and life on the Millen Reefs are some of the best sites on the Great Barrier Reef that i have seen. Vastly different to the crystal clear waters of the GBR, Sydney also has some incredible diving. Specialising in wreck dives with a number of military war machines sunk of the NSW coastline, to Grey Nurse Shark dives, and waters filled with octopus and cuttlefish.

What is a typical day like as a Dive Master?

My typical day as a Dive Master usually begins before the sunrises. The best times of day to dive are sunrise and sunset, and as a result we need to be up, awake and ready well before to gear up and get in the water. Living on an overnight boat my day consists of a 5.30am wake up, 4 dives a day, photographing and filming first time introductory divers, open water students, or guiding and filming certified divers. Scattered between these dives are hours of editing footage, filling up scuba tanks, and briefing divers on new dive sites and attractions under the sea. The day usually ends at 8pm after the final dive of the day, the night dive (which in my opinion is by far the most interesting and different!).

Rinse and Repeat, more time is spent underwater above it!

We just love your vibrant and lively photos of underwater wildlife. What are your goals in capturing and sharing your underwater photography?

My goals in underwater photography have always been to show people what is under the surface, to entice people to give diving a chance and to explore the ocean. Im not only aiming to capture the perfect image, but to capture moments of joy and fun. Sharing those moments of fun are I’m many ways more likely to entice someone to give diving a chance than merely sharing those cinematic moments.

What kind of gear do you use, and how do you try to capture the perfect shot?

The gear used for underwater photography is excessive. To start with you need a full set of scuba diving gear. Then theres the camera. For me this consists of a mirrorless Panasonic GX7 with a 7 – 14mm wide angle lens. For underwater photography you really need either a wide angle lens or a macro lens, anything in-between really does not produce results. This is largely due to lighting issues, which is why i use 2 large strobe lights that i attach to my camera, which produce light replicating that of natural sunlight, as underwater sunlight is vastly less than on the surface. I waterproof my camera in a Nauticam underwater housing.

To capture the perfect shot my technique is to try and get my subject to trust me. This is by far the most challenging part of underwater photography, getting close to you subject. Rushing in close to an animal is only going to frighten it. You must build trust with your subject, approach it slowly and in some instances remain at a distance and wait for the animal to approach you. This not only allows you to get close to your subject, but it usually allows for long lasting interactions with these animals. It is these moments that allow for the perfect shot (if ever there was such a thing!)

What are some of your favorite marine animals to capture, and why?

I have a love for photographing sharks. It’s a combination of fascination, awe and in some instances an slither of fear. They are easily one of the most feared creatures on earth, and its this reason that i love diving with them. Diving and interacting with sharks produces such a rush, but it also shows how misunderstood these animals are. Photographs of these animals are so powerful, particularly where the image portrays a human and a shark side by side. This power is derived from the sense that the diver is powerless in the presence of an apex predator, yet both animals are merely swimming side by side, and if anything curious.

What are some of your most memorable encounters and dives?

Watch his vlog: Travel With Tom

Follow him on Instagram: @tomsunderwaterphotography

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