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Lifestyle :: Art/Leisure :: The Freedive Camera :: Rule Number One

Rule Number One

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A graphic illustration of why things in the ocean flee when approached suddenly.


"How do you get so close to the ____?" is a question I often hear from people looking at my photographs. Often people expect to hear some trick or some secret method I use for getting animals to


A triton’s trumpet meets up with a crown of thorns… wackiness ensues…


get near or stay still while I pose them. The answer I give is invariably disappointing. "It's not what I do, but what I don't do that allows me to get close-up pictures", I say. And that brings up the subject of this month's article--Rule Number One.


A dolphin noses around in a school of bait…


The first rule of the ocean is "When chased, flee". It's a simple rule that is programmed into most living animals at some level. In human psychology, we refer to it as our “fight or flight mechanism”. When something approaches you in the water, you make a quick series of unconscious evaluations and


Tastes like… tang! Sometimes death blends right in with the environment.


determine if you should flee or stand your ground. Most things we see are smaller than we are, so you can imagine how most things in the water view us. "It's bigger than me. It's coming towards me. It's reaching out for me. Time to flee!" Realizing this, you can do a number of things to NOT scare critters away and thus increase your chances of taking more intimate shots of your subjects.


“Hey George! I think I heard something… George? George…?”


You can't do anything about how large you are in the water (except diet--and that won' t help too much), but you can control your behavior. First and foremost, never try to touch the animals. There's no need to. Curb your enthusiasm. There's not a creature in the underwater world that has spent its days pining


A dolphin proving he swims faster than the fishies…


away waiting for you to find it and fondle it. Leave it alone. Keep your hands to yourself and you will be amazed at how much closer you can get to creatures.


Smile for the camera! Wait, wait, do I have something in my teeth?


The next thing you can do to help yourself get closer to animals is to be as still as possible. Don't flap, make noise, or spastically kick your legs and wave your arms--economize all motion. Even if you're not reaching for an animal, if you're having what looks like an epileptic seizure, chances are things will flee from you anyway. Most fish have a lateral line that senses vibration (read: movement) in the water. They will know when you are on the move. Don't be on the move.


Battle of the benthic! Sometimes warfare is in slow motion, like this sea cucumber being stomped into oblivion by a triton’s trumpet.


Lastly, be patient. Wait for things. This is very important. Let animals get used to you being around. Before long, many of them will forget you are there or will pay you less attention. This can allow you to get even closer.


A spotted toby provides bubble gum for the lizardfish.


The pictures in this article are illustrations of why Rule Number One exists. The ocean may look like a nice and peaceful place and, for us, it is (for the most part). But keep in mind, for everything else it is a battlefield 24 hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty five and a quarter days a year. The winners get a meal and the losers get eaten alive. It ain’t pretty.


Death from above. Even the trumpetfish gets an unceremonious removal from nature when an osprey drops in to visit.


So keep that in mind as you explore the underwater world. Slow down, keep your hands to yourself, be patient. Before long you will be the proverbial fly on the wall and you will find yourself getting closer to things than you ever have. Happy shooting!


The great thing about schools is the learning opportunity. You learn very quick that you don’t need to swim the fastest… just faster than the guy next to you… an ‘omilu here is about to tax a school of aholehole.

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shamrock1024 — Wednesday, June 5, 2013
I always look forward to John Johnson's articles. They are both educational and witty.

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lopekana — Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Stunning photos!

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ph034495 — Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Love the photos.. Do you give advise on what type of equipment to start with?

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JohnJohnson — Friday, July 5, 2013
ph034495--Yes, I would be happy to advise on equipment. Feel free to contact me at my email address. Sorry for the late reply!


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