Hands off the Reef! Ten Tips for Responsible Photography
by The Reef-World Foundation
HEADER IMAGE: JILL HEINERTH
We all know that coral reefs are under threat. Each year, millions of divers hit the water and although most of us are concerned with protecting our environment, we need to ensure that we minimise any additional stress to the coral and marine life, especially when our minds are on getting that one shot.
The Green Fins initiative, established by UN Environment and The Reef-World Foundation, encourages you to follow some tips for responsible underwater photography, minimising impact on the coral and surrounding marine life.
1. Photographic equipment affects a diver’s buoyancy and mobility in the water – practice your photography and buoyancy skills in a swimming pool before diving. Photographers should have advanced buoyancy skills to avoid damaging the fragile marine environment.
2. Secure your equipment – secure gauges, regulators and other equipment so they don’t trail over reefs and cause damage.
3. Assess the situation before approaching – position yourself and your camera without touching the reef. Don’t touch or hold on to the coral for support, or break coral to get a clear shot. If it’s necessary to hold on to something, try to only touch rock or dead patch reef.
4. Learn to fin backwards – finning slowly backwards means you can move away from the reef without causing damage.
5. Avoid stirring the sediment – fins can stir up sediment and debris, upsetting sandy habitats and covering nearby coral. Keep visibility clear by avoiding making contact. If you must touch the bed, gently lower your fins down on to the sand.
6. Be patient – be still and patient so that the subject will relax, and you can get that great shot. Try to avoid taking too many shots as excessive use of flash light will scare and stress your subject.
PHOTO: SIMON J. PIERCE
7. Don’t invade an animal’s space – getting too close to an animal will most likely cause them to flee. If they show signs of stress by hiding, changing colour or trying to swim away, leave them alone and move on to another subject.
8. Ask dive guides for assistance underwater by steadying you for a shot, or even taking photos on your behalf if you are a new diver.
9. Look but don’t touch – making contact can cause great stress to any animal. It can also transmit diseases or remove protective coatings on fish, invertebrates and other species. Look but never touch, and try not to get too close.
10. Don’t feed the fish to attract them – food thrown overboard or distributed underwater attracts fish away from their natural food source and upsets the food web.