Naomi's Story

   From farmers daughter

            to astrophysicist 

            to underwater photographer. 

                 My journey so far...

Taken from an article  written for Subsea Magazine, Aug 2019

I went to the Dive Ireland show in 2014, and was inspired by the photography speakers and the photo exhibition to share some of my photos with the world. I entered a selection for the exhibition in 2015 and I got so much support from the CFT underwater photography community, namely Brian Stone, Damien McGuirk, Ivan O’Donoghue and Ronan Murray, that it was a huge confidence boost. Some may not remember their kind words but I’ll forever be grateful to those guys who gave me encouragement when I felt like I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

Getting here

I enjoyed my physics course, but travelling the world was the future I had in mind, so my boyfriend, Dan, and I had booked flights to Australia for a week after my graduation date, with no real plans of what to do once we got there. While on the East Coast doing farm work for a second year visa and deciding where to go next, a guy we met convinced us that Ningaloo Reef was the place to go. The Ningaloo Coast is a World Heritage Site due to it’s natural beauty and biological diversity. After literally one google image search, we quit and drove for almost 3 weeks to get to the other side of the country.  We drove into Coral Bay, a single street town sitting in front of a sandy beach with turquiose water, so clear you could see the coral meters from the shore line. There was no other option but to find a job here because leaving would have killed me. We landed jobs with Coral Bay Ecotours, an ecotourism company which specialises in megafauna snorkelling tours, and during my time here I got the opportunity to work as the on-board photographer. It was so much more than I had expected. Every day I was getting to swim with sharks, manta rays, whale sharks, even humpback whales! And I’m getting paid to do it!? I have since become a PADI instructor and started my freelance photography business InDepth Imagery, a real dream come true. I’m now in my 3rd year working on this beautiful reef, photographing the weird and the wonderful animals that call it home.

Ningaloo reef

 

A big part of what I try to do is educate people about the ecosystem here, the fragility of coral reef systems and the need for their protection around the world. With the climate crisis in full swing, I think it’s more important than ever to showcase the beauty and the diversity of the planet we might lose forever. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate living on one of the last remaining pristine reef systems, and having the opportunity to capture it on camera and share it with the world. The Ningaloo Reef has not yet been suffering the full effects of the climate disaster due to its unique location.

The west coast of Australia is affected by two ocean currents, the warm Leeuwin Current and the colder Ningaloo Current. The cooler waters of the Ningaloo Current has kept the ocean temperature here relatively constant, between 18 and 28 degrees celsius year round - a perfect range for healthy coral growth. On the East Coast where the GBR has predominantly warming currents, it has been affected by global warming to the point that coral bleaching is occurring en masse.

There are also a lot less people living here, resulting in less damage to the coral reef. There are less river systems entering the ocean, meaning contaminants from the land are not so readily entering the water. It is not immune to devastation of course, and even as I write this, a multinational pipe fabrication company Subsea 7, is seeking approval for a project that threatens the whole of Exmouth Gulf, a nursery and breeding ground for marine life on the Ningaloo Reef. Unless the whole world changes its ways, the Ningaloo will be another one of the victims of human disregard, climate change and unfathomable greed. Luckily, there is a beautiful community of ocean frothers and wilderness lovers here, passionate about protecting this special place, which had made me fall in love with it even more.

It’s been a bit of a crazy journey. I’m so thankful to my mum for showing me my first real adventure. Sorry that I ended up so far from home, but I’m sure you didn’t expect anything less. If someone told me this was a career option when I was growing up, this is what I would have aimed for, but I didn’t have a clue. I’m just so grateful that I ended up here anyway. 

Naomi Rose, Underwater Photographer

Growing up watching David Attenborough's documentaries and Steve Irwin's Crocodile Hunter after school, I learned that places existed on the planet full of extraordinary creatures in far away lands and in the deep oceans. I knew some day I would see these places and animals with my own eyes,

I just didn’t know how.

Becoming a diver

As it came time to apply for university courses, I realised one involving dissection was not actually one I would enjoy. I chose Physics and Astrophysics in University College Cork as I liked maths & physics at school. If I was going to do something for 4 years it better be interesting, right? During the first week I realised there was a Subaqua Club! I couldn’t believe it! Is this real life?! I asked the girl at the stand if they would really teach me to SCUBA dive and signed up there and then. I didn’t have money to waste but I knew this was not an opportunity I was going to let pass me by, so I paid the small membership fee and fully committed to learning everything I could.

Welcomed into the UCC SAC family, I learned snorkel techniques, diving skills in the pool and eventually open water diving in the ocean. Lough Hyne, Portroe Quarry and Oysterhaven were the first places I dived. I couldn’t believe I was actually doing it! Just seeing the little blennys, crabs and sea stars gave me an adrenaline rush. I was so intrigued by it that I didn’t even mind the cold!

Underwater Photography

When one of the long standing members of the club was selling a little compact camera, a Canon S70 with an underwater housing this was a new level of excitement! As a broke college student, I probably couldn’t afford it, but “who cares?” I thought! I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

We dived most weekends and as I gradually got my CFT certs I also learned as much as I could about underwater photography. This gave me a buzz I hadn’t experienced before. I did always have a camera on a night out, and enjoyed taking the odd landscape photo, but “dry” photography wasn’t ever as exciting to me. Now, I had a new obsession. I also hadn’t ever appreciated the amount of life and beauty to be found in Irish seas. I wasn’t familiar with any documentaries featuring Irish marine life and hadn’t heard about the incredible underwater landscapes, wrecks and macro life that’s abundant in Irish waters. I took up multiple positions in the club over the 4 years I was involved, including Captain & Dive Officer, which essentially gave me the experience and confidence to feel like I could pursue diving as a career. I completed my Divemaster Course with Dive Academy Lahinch, another incredible team of people passionate about diving, and spent the summer diving on the west coast of Ireland in some of the most beautiful spots - near the Cliffs of Moher on the relatively unexplored Kilsteffan Reef and in Doolin with Dusty the dolphin, always with a camera in hand. I even got to teach my little brother to dive and showed him a new world he was unaware of.

My first real adventure

I vividly remember being in the kitchen on a day like any other when my mum broke the news to me that she was planning a trip for us to Australia. As a 12 year old, it was something I never imagined possible until I was a “grown up”. An adventure to the other side of the world - my mind was racing! Animals I had only ever seen on TV, now I was going to see them in real life. Of course I thought of the koalas, the kangaroos, the spiders and snakes... but there was one thing I dreamed about every night from that day until I was actually there. The Great Barrier Reef. Turquoise water, coral gardens, sea stars, octopus, sharks, dolphins... I still remember the feeling of being about to explode with excitement! There was something in me that knew that’s where I needed to be.

After saving up any birthday money I got, the departure date finally arrived and we spent 3 weeks travelling between Cairns and Brisbane on the East Coast. I did a “Try A Dive” on the Great Barrier Reef and I had no idea what I was doing, what an inflator or regulator was, why I had to “pinch & blow” or what a rapid ascent was. What I did know was that this would not be the last time I went diving. It was everything I thought it would be - the water was warm, the coral was colourful, the fish were everywhere and I felt at home.

When we got back to Ireland, I didn’t know that there was any opportunity to dive in Ireland. Instead I thought the way to a life in the ocean was to study marine biology, so that was my new goal.

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© Naomi Rose 2020