It was a good thing I had heard about and seen images of the arrival jetty on Heron Island. Low lying reef and the rusted wreck of the HMAS Protector lie guarding at the entrance to the channel, making for daunting sight to both new guests and seasoned skippers.
Heron Island is a coral cay located near the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern Great Barrier Reef, Australia, supporting around 900 of the 1,500 fish species and 72% of the coral species found on the Great Barrier Reef. It’s about 800 metres long and 300 metres at its widest, easy to walk around in 20 minutes. Heron Island is also home to a variety of bird life.
Heron Island is home to various events during the year allowing for a unique and spectacular setting for both land and marine encounters. This week was home to the internationally acclaimed Dive festival, Oceanic photo competition and the 2012 Oceanic catalogue photo shoot for local and international catalogues.
Our purpose of the week ahead was to capture and provide shots for the 2012 and future Oceanic catalogues. This brought Eddie Sawers and Anna Early from Oceanic HQ in Rosebud VIC, Kimberly Essex from All about Scuba, VIC and myself, Ross Anderson from tech Dive academy in North QLD.
On arrival we were greeted warmly by Eddie who had arrived 2 days prior, obviously in island mode Eddie was waiting on the jetty with open arms. By now Eddie had set up a room provided by Heron island resorts and established ideal and picturesque settings for the following days of shooting.
With high tide in the late afternoon we all went for a snorkel to see what the low lying coral reef had on offer, I was happily surprised with sighting half a dozen lemon Sharks, Eagle rays, turtles and an array of minute macro life hiding in the sand or camouflaging themselves amongst the abundance of soft and hard corals.
With a water temp of 20degrees the three from victoria, where summer temps rarely reach mid 20’s, were enjoying the warm temperate waters of Queensland and the Southern GBR. I however was glad that part of the new oceanic range was the new “pioneer 5mm semi-dry wet suit” which worked well on keeping us all relatively toasty. Late afternoons and sunsets make the idyllic setting for sun downers and mingling on the deck. Which seemed to be enjoyed by all.
As a part of the festival some guest speakers from around the country came to share experiences and give informative talks to others and participants of the festival. After the opening and a very informative talk by Hans Ulrich (PADI regional manager) we dined and discussed and made a game plan for the week to follow.
The next day was an early start as Heron is always on daylight saving time. HIT. This tiny and idyllic island lends home and shelter to many bird, land and marine animals. My morning yoga was even interrupted by a young hawksbill turtle coming to see who this land dweller standing on one leg was. After a good breakfast we commenced shooting knowing that sunlight and schedule were against us. Lava core was first on the list and went well with some on-shoot alterations being made and Anna playing sun-goddess with the golden reflector. The Oceanic snorkelling followed suit with the team moving around the entire island in search of that Picture perfect shot.
Lunch time was welcomed with some down time and we all enjoyed our time relaxing by the pool, trying out our favourite masks and blowing bubble rings before the afternoon sun would be “just right” for shooting. So after a short break and some lunch we donned our wetsuits, BCD’s, Regs, Masks and fins and set out to some settings we had scouted earlier that morning including the illusive and classic shower shot which was definitely a laugh. Almost makes me want to buy Oceanic gear right away. With the fast advancing sunset and diminishing light meant work for the day was done and we doffed our gear in exchange for regular civvies for some sunset drinks and talks by one of the many esteemed guest speakers.
Our second day of shoot started again with a hearty breakfast and re-group at the dive shop for gear selection and briefing. Oceanic had provided much new gear for us to try including masks, snorkels, V16 fins , the new pioneer suit and an array of new BCD’s and regs which was a real treat to dive in and of course had other divers on the boat in awe at the new selection. Rick our underwater photographer and resident dive instructor on Heron did well at sighting and arranging us alongside one of the many turtles, sharks, rays, macro life and encrusted walls that this area has to offer.
After a brief chill out session and lunch we met again for the afternoon dive which was planned to be only a shallow one utilizing the sun and out stretched garden of stag horn coral and colourful schooling fish. Good sunlight and the calm conditions meant Rick was happy with his selection of shots and marked the end of another successful day.
Among many of the speakers was John Lipman, president of DAN Asia pacific, who brought more than just a wealth of knowledge to the island but also great humour and a relaxed and passionate persona to the island and weeks festivals. After an informative talk about Dangerous marine encounters and DANs evacuation procedures we all went through the days shots with Rick and discussed a game plan for the following days.
Another early start and we all sat and devised a plan that would allow Kim and myself limited yet productive time in the cool 20degree C water. Seeing as this was a snorkel only shoot wetsuits were not allowed making for a tropical setting theme. We however were cold and wanted nothing more than to keep moving or exit the water. Rick, Kim and I all worked seemingly well and managed to limit time wasting underwater. After 45minutes underwater it was time for a well-deserved hot shower and coffee which was quickly set to a halt when sun and ocean conditions made for that “picture Perfect” shot and we all dived in in bikini’, board shorts, masks and snorkels for yet another snorkel shoot. Swimming under the pier did make for some spectacular light and schooling fish exhibitions though and made for a fun shoot. It’s a good thing we had Rick with his local knowledge of boat traffic and schedules we finished just in time for the afternoon boats to return.
The fifth day of shooting was reserved for the Ocean Pro brand which is a family orientated brand and didn’t call for my sun bleached hair, unshaven face and tattoos. This task was better suited for one of the young bar staff who, fresh from Estonia in Eastern Europe, still had freshly cut hair, rosy cheeks and was the first pick of the two girls. By now the light was diminishing and we had to make haste in finishing the shoot topside before Rick could do the water portion. A lot of splashing was encouraged on both beach and water shoots leaving Mr Estonia content with his new found fame…
Our last full day on Heron Island and the team from Oceanic HQ, Kim, Rick and I were pleased with the way the past few days had gone. The new day had brought flat seas, clear water and sunshine so we kitted up Kim and new found Mr Estonia into some more Ocean Pro gear and encouraged more splashing leading to some fun and productive shots that Eddie could now take home and start sifting through. Keeping with the festivals activities Rick and I went to some of the final talks of the week by Denis from the Historical Diving Society and John lipman.
With Eddies time coming to an end and the transport ferry departing at 2 we excused ourselves from the final chat and went to bid a farewell and great thanks to Eddie. His land and surface photography combined with relaxed demeanour and eye for new ideas and detail meant that we all had a fun time during our time together.
Being our last day we all booked ourselves on an afternoon dive to wrap up any shots we felt were needed and to squeeze in another dive and have some fun whilst doing so. Again Rick did a great job on making us all look good underwater.
Unfortunately the last day of shooting, diving and bidding farewell to Eddie also meant a close to the festival which, keeping with tradition, meant sun downers and mingling with both Guest speakers and participants on the sundeck prior to a gala dinner and presentations from sponsors, organisers and guests giving thanks and praise to all.
I would like to thank Eddie and Anna for their excellent organisational and photographic skills, Kim for being a great smile and model all day long, Rick for showing us the heart of Heron Island, both Underwater and land based. Organisers and sponsors of the internationally acclaimed dive festival and Heron Island dive staff for accommodating both us and the magnitude of gear that was used during the shoot.