Shane Breen

Tasmanian underwater photographer, Shane Breen, joined us for the weekend. Shane spends a lot of time diving the beautiful waters of Tasmania and really appreciated a weekend dedicated to diving Port Arthur.

Shane taking time out from his subject to smile at the camera… He’s not used to being one the other end of the lens!

I have been diving with Shane for a few years now. Shane started diving in Tasmania over thirty years ago, and then took a break. When diving with Shane, you will always find him behind a camera.

Beautiful zoanthids, gently framed by the fascinating featherstars (Comanthus tricoptera) and sponge gardens. Image: Shane Breen
The intricate structures of feather stars like these ones make great photographic subjects. Image: Shane Breen

Shane had a really great weekend and enjoyed diving with a focus on photography. For him, it was really refreshing to be able to take time over a photo and look up and see your buddy doing the same thing and not swimming off into the distance. Out of the water, Shane found the opportunity to discuss equipment and techniques also beneficial. Thanks Shane for joining us over the weekend!

Image: Shane Breen
Shane was lucky enough to find one of these beautiful and rare species, the weedy seadragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus). Aren’t the colors stunning! Image: Shane Breen

Be sure to check out Shane’s other images at: or

Andreas Modinger

Find out a bit about one of our Tasmanian Underwater Photography Weekend participants, Andreas Modinger. Andreas travelled to the Tasman Peninsula, all the way from Victoria to join us!

Andreas concentrating on one of his many subjects over the weekend.

Andreas, you’ve been diving for a while now, what got you in to diving?

I had a friend who was a commercial diver who actually got me interested in diving. Originally it was for crayfish and abalone but it quite quickly developed into just for the love of diving. Recently I just became a PADI Instructor because I now want to teach my kids who also want to see the world I keep showing them photos of.

The superb feather hydroid (Gymnangium superbum) is actually an animal! They’re relates to jellyfish, anemones and corals! Image: Andreas Modinger

What is is about underwater photography that you love the most?

The macro world always shows something different than what you see with your eye. This is why I love the closeup view of the aquatic world.

Some of the beautiful sponges that can be found deeper than 18 meters depth around the temperate waters of Tasmania. Image: Andreas Modinger

When asked what he liked most about the weekend, Andreas said he enjoyed having a full weekend to practice different types of shooting.  He also really loved the relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere.  I think we can all agree, the second day was fantastic!

Feather stars like these (Comanthus trichoptera), are easily mistaken for a type of plant on Tasmanian reef systems. Image: Andreas Modinger

Andreas shoots these stunning images with an Olympus TG-5 with Ikelite housing and optically connected Olympus strobe. Check out more of Andreas’ awesome shots on his Instagram page:

These yellow zoanthids (Parazoanthus sp.) cover large swathes of rocky overhangs, and are extremely fascinating to watch. Image: Andreas Modinger

Tasmanian Underwater Photography Weekend, 2019

Happy Tasmanian photographers!!

Sometimes, planning diving weekends in Tasmania is a good lesson for over-coming adversity. I have wanted to run an underwater photography weekend in Tasmania for the last year now. To me it sounded like a great opportunity to go diving and spend the evenings talking with like minded people about photography. However, as the weekend loomed closer, the predicted forecast got worse and worse. My lovely day dream of photographing sea caves, sea dragons and deep sponge gardens on the East Coast of the Tasman Peninsula, were slowly being eroded! Fortunately, the best thing about the Peninsula, is that there is almost always a place to dive in everything but the worst conditions. Consequently, as I was heading down to the dive lodge on Friday night, in the driving rain and howling winds, I was trying to think of our plan B.

We can NOT be stopped from diving!

Saturday morning and the divers start to arrive. After a few jokes about the weather, a coffee or three and the suggestion of breakfast, we got our equipment ready, cameras set up, and in to our dry suits (or wet suits for the not so faint hearted). We had made a decision on our dive location. Port Arthur. This south facing, deep water port is a treasure trove of colonial Australian history and surprisingly enough, great dive sites! It is also reasonably protected from the terrifying, 4 meter easterly swell that, at the time, was lashing our usual dive sites.

Some of the beautifully colored sponges found on Tasmanian rocky reef systems.

Even though the conditions were less than favorable, we explored two new shallow dive sites on the eastern shore of the port. The dive at Surveyors Cove gave the divers the opportunity to work on strobe placement. The boulders in between the sand patches were covered in Caulerpa species (a type of green algae that has many different physical forms, but all are captivating) giving the impression of a nicely mown lawn. There were few fish, but lots of abalone, feather stars and sponges to try for nice composition shots!

The second dive for the day was at Denmans Creek. Here, the macro photographers were having a field day. Lots of magnificent biscuit stars (Tosia magnifica), in interesting positions, with their delicate tube feet slowly propelling them along the reef surface. Ascidians crowned the highly colored, rock faces, and big brown kelp species topped off the canopy.

Just a couple of cameras chillin’ in the wash bin.

After returning to the lodge and doing the usual wash down, pack up and warm up, we closed the evening with a very Tasmanian barbecue, sitting out side in the frigid, early spring air until we all decided it was too cold and had to head in side.

I love the sponge diversity found past 18 meters in Tasmania!

Day two was much kinder to us. The sun even came out, and the wind had dropped to nothing over night. We still were diving in Port Arthur, however we were able to head to one of the deeper sites, near the heads of the port itself, The Gardens. This site was named so, due to the stunning sponge gardens found around 18-30 meters depth. Despite the sizeable swell still rolling just outside the heads, we managed to get a fantastic 15 meters visibility. The five of us descended through schools of butterfly perch (Caesioperca lepidoptera) and straight in to 25 meters depth, spread out and started shooting. Due to the drastic reduction of light at these depths, various invertebrates such as sponges, feather stars, soft corals and anemones, as well as coraline algae species now dominate the system. And the color show they put on, is absolutely spectacular! I don’t think anyone wanted to return to the boat… but you have to change tank at some point!

Surface interval on day two at the historic Port Arthur Penitentiary site. Some pretty happy divers after our morning dive.

Our last dive for the weekend, was a lovely cruisey dive under the Port Arthur Golf Club. This site is a hidden little gem, weedy seadragons (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus), friendly draughtboard sharks (Cephaloscyllium laticeps) and lots of cow fish (Aracana aurita)! This was a beautiful way to finish a fantastic weekend. Stay tuned for the next couple of blogs where I introduce all the photographers who joined us for the weekend.

Waves crashing in to the 40 meter high sea cliffs near the area we normally dive!! Good thing we chose beautiful Port Arthur.

Life on Gili T – Part 2 (The Diving)

I didn’t have the greatest start in my SCUBA diving journey. I suffered severely from mask panic, claustrophobia and anxiety, so much that I didn’t continue diving after I earned my PADI Open Water diver in 2012. It took me a whole two years to build up the courage to get back in the water, and even then, if you had told the 2014 me that I would be travelling to undertake my Open Water SCUBA Instructor five years later… I most likely would have laughed at you so hard I would have given myself a stitch! Seriously. But indeed, that was what I did!

IDC crew of May 2019, We still keep in touch, despite now being all over the world! (Photo: Justin Gore, Gili IDC)

A lot of thought went in to with whom, and where I was going to do my instructor course. It’s a big decision, a lot on money, and I am slightly OCD when it comes to organising travel related things. I knew I had a couple of requirements. I had never undertaken a recreational dive course with a female instructor, so naturally, I wanted a female course director. And secondly, I was going to be spending a few weeks where ever I was going, so it had to be warm. After narrowing down my global search with these two requirements, I found Gili IDC, operating out of Trawangan Dive Center, Gili T (see my previous blog post about the land side of life on the island).

Boy, am I glad that is who I chose. I was recently asked to write a review for Holly, and Gili IDC, and to be honest, I struggled to encapsulate how fantastic an educational experience it had been. So with a few more words available to me, I will give it a go now.

My journey to do my instructor course started in late 2017. I had the most insane amount of email conversations with Holly in the 18 months leading up to me doing my course. She was always responsive, and if it took her longer than 24 hours to reply she was profusely apologetic (after I got the scheduling, it dawned on me that Holly teaches 10 IDC a year, and she was replying to me in her lunch break or after she left work = commitment). Through the course of our communications, I knew I had made the right choice. No question was too stupid, and every question was answered. I got the feeling, even without ever meeting her, that she would be just as attentive to my education. I was starting to get the picture this woman was a role model I wanted to follow closely in the footsteps of.

Practising instructing the rescue course is just an excuse to have fun splashing each other… to be honest
(Photo: Justin Gore, Gili IDC)

What is an IDC you may be asking me. IDC is the PADI Instructor Development Course. This consists of 12 days, minimum, of a mix of class work, group work and of course, diving! Gili IDC however, has a 4 day prep work class, where Holly walks the students through all the academic and theory side of diving (physiology, physics, decompression theory, and equipment maintenance). This is great for every one, regardless of how recently they have completed their dive master certification. There were also plenty of pool sessions to hone your skills to the high standard Holly expected, and due to the way the dive center was set up, if you wanted more practice, you could jump in one of the two pools at any time of the day to practice.

One of the many pool sessions.

The training reef, Hans Reef, was well set up for us to practice our instructional skills. However, one of the biggest things I was not expecting, was to train in current. We get current occasionally in Tasmania, but our training sites are generally pretty calm, with a little bit of surge occasionally. Consequently, the first time we went to the training site, I spent at least 10 minutes trying to tell my buddy the current had changed direction, without knowing the hand signal for it. There were a lot of confused faces, as I tried writing current in the sand, and making up ridiculous hand signals. That hand signal will stay with me forever.

Holly and her girls of IDC, May 2019! (Photo: Justin Gore, Gili IDC)

It wasn’t all hard work though! I was able to get for a couple of fun dives during the course. I also did a few speciality instructor courses after my Instructor Exam. The deep instructor speciality was my favorite. Our first dive was at Simon’s Reef and it was stunning. There was a little bit of damage from the 2018 earthquakes, in particular this massive section of beautiful and ancient coral and broken and slid down the bank. However, the fish life and coral appeared reasonably healthy. The most amazing thing about this dive was our safety stop. We were diving as part of a large boat load of experienced divers (mainly dive masters and instructors going on a fun dive). Despite all having our own dive plan, and not seeing the rest of the boat for the whole dive, we all managed to come together for the safety stop. There were about 18 divers hanging motionlessly, in 30 meters of visibility, when all of a sudden, someone started pointing manically behind me. I dared to turn around, and casually swimming approximately 2-3 meters above all of us was a magnificent whale shark. I was crying within 5 seconds, and everyone else had a look of ecstasy on their faces. Back on the boat, we continued our disbelief and I think the high carried on for the rest of my break in Indonesia.

Happiness is… One freshly minted dive instructor! (Photo: Justin Gore, Gili IDC)

My last couple of days on the island, I chose to do my sidemount speciality. Well, now I am completely obsessed with sidemount diving. The extended bottom time due to more gas, and combined with nitrox, my brain almost imploded. But hands down, the final dive of my sidemount course with my fantastic instructor, Dani, held the tie with the whale shark dive as the best dive of my whole trip. We dropped in to 30 meters on to the Glen Nusa Wreck. There was a lot of current, and Dani signalled to go up on to the bow of the wreck, and carefully hold on to the gunnel. It was breath taking. The current was so strong it almost took the masks off our faces, and regulators out of our mouths. But the sight in front of us, I will never forget. Schooling giant trevalley and batfish hovering effortlessly in the current I was struggling to hold on to the wreck in, and then my favorite, white tip reef sharks right on the edge of the 25 meter visibility, streamline and chilled. We stayed there for ages, and still didn’t feel long enough, but sadly we were beginning to run out of no decompression time, instead of gas.

When two tanks are better than one!!

In short, I learnt so much about instructing, diving and myself. I have come back to Hobart a different person. The IDC is one of the best courses I have done for my self esteem, and my diving career. I love instructing, and helping newer divers discover the beginning of that self confidence in them selves, and I am willing to put almost all of that down to Holly McLeod. Now to continue the adventure.

Sidemount is awesome!! Ask anyone who knows me on the island… they will tell you I am obsessed. (Photo: Mellisa Dockley)

Underwater Tribe Photo Week at NAD Lembeh

The thing I most want to do at the end of a cold winter in Tasmania, is head to some beautiful tropical island and go diving for a week!  The next best thing, is undertake a photography course.  Well, I was lucky enough to do both of these, in Lembeh, Sulawesi.

I stumbled across the Underwater Tribe website as I was looking for some lightroom tutorials to edit some of my diving photographs at the start of the year.  I still hadn’t planned my Tasmanian winter getaway by this stage, so I scrolled through their website.  The Photo week looked like too good an opportunity to pass up, three fantastic photographers, Mike Veitch, Luca Vaime and Doug Sloss, in a beautiful resort, NAD Lembeh.

Tropical paradise at my fingertips. Here are two of the four dive boats that NAD Lembeh undertake all their dives off. Really well set up run by an extremely helpful boating crew

Flights, and workshop booked, I dragged myself through a mild Tasmanian winter, with the sweet optimism of a week long, tropical holiday at the end of it.  After 22 hours in airports and planes, 2 hours across Northern Sulawesi’s roads and 15 minutes by boat, I arrived at NAD Lembeh.  Over afternoon tea we were introduced to NAD Lembeh’s manager, Sonja, the three instructors, Mike, Luca and Doug, and Stenli, our dive guide.

This boat felt like my home by the end of the trip. It is named after the Wonderpus, a very fast little octopus that I was not quick enough to get a good shot of all week.

A typical day from that point consisted of an eat, dive, eat, dive, nap, eat, dive, eat, workshop, eat, sleep.  Honestly, a SCUBA crazy ladies perfect holiday.   The diving, oh the diving was paradise!  It is not like your typical tropical holiday, coral reefs, lots of fish etc, instead it is more like a permanent treasure hunt.  The black sands of Lembeh Strait had so many critters hiding I lost count of what I had and hadn’t seen by day two.  Tiny nudibranchs half the size of your little finger nail, various species of frogfish pretending not to be there, as well as octopus, flamboyant cuttlefish and seahorses, just to name a few.  I did a blackwater dive and a night dive over two nights (as three dives a day just wasn’t enough), and was amazed by the animals that came out.  I think one of the most memorable and scariest things I saw on these dives however was a hunting bobbit worm.  The voracity with which this terrifying creature consumed its prey was chilling, even if it was only a couple of centimeters across.

The afternoon workshops were fascinating.  Personally, I got the most out of Doug Sloss’ workshops about editing images in Lightroom, but the other instructors also ran workshops on composition, lighting techniques and more advanced techniques including snooting (maybe next time) and bokeh.  Thankfully, we were gifted with copies of all the workshops, there was so much to learn I am still sifting through the information.

If I wasn’t sleeping or diving, I was in here, NAD Lembeh’s fully equipped camera room. Every diver had their own station, with a global power boardto charge batteries.

Having a dive guide who could basically take you straight to an interesting subject, and then instructors who would assist you in taking the shot in situ, massively improved my photography over the week.  I was sad to leave the island, and all the funny little critters, but I am fairly certain I’ll be back again  soon.  If you want to mix having a tropical dive holiday with learning A LOT about underwater macro photography, book in for 2019’s photo week.

Leaving NAD Lembeh was pretty sad, You can even see Sonja waving from the end of the jetty!