Ningaloo Coast 22nd September 2019

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Adobe Photoshop CS5 Windows
  • 2019:09:17 12:51:58
  • 0.004 s (1/250) (1/250)
  • f/11.0
  • 100
  • 2019:09:13 12:36:25
  • 3.39m
  • No
  • 35.00 (35/1)

Shot Notes

This is where the pristine sands of Nature Bay meet Ningaloo Reef in a remote corner of Western Australia. It is just outside the tropics so the water is as warm and welcoming as it looks, without the nasties which keep people on the beach further North. There are reef sharks here but they are easy to scare off if needed. The real danger is being caught in a rip which I discovered can pull you out to sea from a seemingly calm lagoon. Fortunately, I was rescued by a surfer called Sam Kinney.

It seems this area is dangerous for me. Last time I visited, 23 years ago I had another near-death experience when we lost our car after a short evening walk in the Cape Range National Park. We had to use the moon and stars to navigate halfway across the peninsula and rejoin the main road. At least I had the excuse of being young and stupid then. My recent experience proves I can be old and stupid too.

When snorkelling on my first visit I had never seen coral or swam with fish before. The experience forced me to redefine how intense colour could be. 18 years later I would be employed to process over 1 million images for the Global Reef Record.

Underwater photography has some unique challenges. Colour temperature changes with depth and distance. In addition, the blue shift is so extreme a cameras auto white balance will not work. The only way to colour balance underwater is by eye. Your brain does it automatically so you see a kaleidoscope of colours in the reef and fish but a camera will just see shades of blue. To create digital images with the range of colours you perceive requires heavy processing of the RAW camera file to get the colours looking right. My only reference point was this one memory of coral and fish when I was half my age. I used to half-jokingly ask my boss for a field trip to remind myself of the colours of coral.

I was interested on many levels to see Ningaloo Reef again. I started at Point Quobba were I first swam with the fishes. There were still colourful fish but the coral was in bad shape. To find some living coral required travelling an extra 100km of dirt roads to Gnaraloo. Once you get there the fringing reef is very accessible, only a few meters from the shore. I found the most impressive coral structures at Nature Bay but spent most of my time swimming in 3-mile lagoon as it was only 100 meters from the camp and a clean gas-heated bore water shower. I recommend a visit if you are in the area.

I am following the west coast up to Darwin for the start of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on the 13th October. I will then follow the race to Adelaide.

This image has been accepted by Shutterstock for Stock Photography and is available for download here.

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