CONNECTION IN THE CHAOS
An Article by Philip Thurston
“This is crazy!!” I gurgle through my regulator as a stream of bubbles ascend to the surface. Wooosshh! Another trail of bubbles and fur, speeds by in a turbulent blur. I’m 8m down, off the northern end of Montague Island, equipped with my Cressi scuba gear and doing my best to take in the boisterous activity of the Australian Fur Seals darting all around me. The visibility isn’t great, 10-15m perhaps with a considerable amount of suspended particles floating through the gradients of blue. I have my camera in hand, which is no surprise, but how, how on earth do I document this? What do I look for when I’m out shooting marine life like this and surrounded by what seems like chaos?
Well, I look for connection, and the things that inspire connection. Love, grace, joy, peace, gentleness, freedom, all these things resonate with the human soul and they can be found in nature and it’s inhabitants as well, even amongst a motley bunch of seals! They are intangible substances that stir the human heart, against such things there is no law and no limit to the capacity in which they can be distributed and received. Let's take a second to consider the concept of love. Love is a fascinating thing, if we were honest with ourselves, it’s truly the one thing that we all are searching for and subconsciously inspires the majority of our motives. Even God, a being that is infinitely outside of our capacity to understand or comprehend, when He decided to describe himself, he used love. It is written that ‘God IS love’, which makes him not so far away or as much of a stranger than many of us may originally think. What if, whenever we felt love, we were closer to the supernatural than we knew, what if, when we gave love, we were distributing heaven on earth? Why is it, when we receive love, we momentarily feel complete, whole, content..
Love isn’t just something shared between humans, it’s a force, it’s like a flow of energy that weaves it’s way throughout the earth, intertwining instinct and passion into purpose driven beings and creatures, all intuitively powered by this unseen phenomena.
I’ve seen the love between a Mother and Calf humpback whale, I’ve seen the joy in the smile of a passing dolphin, I’ve seen the grace in the gliding manta rays, and the gentleness in a giant whale shark, I’ve seen the power and passion in the Great White shark and now, after witnessing this playful encounter with a couple of seals only 10 minutes from my home on the south coast of NSW, I know for sure that love, it's what makes this planet keep spinning.
It’s worth investing a moments thought into, but what fascinates me, and what I want to share in this particular article, is the love that I so often witness in nature, in particularly for the sake of not extending this article into a small novel, I want to focus on an encounter that I had recently, 10m down with a playful pair of seals (see images above and below).
I could have never captured this moment without scuba (thanks Cressi), I do enjoy free diving but it took about 10 minutes of being relatively stationary, just observing these seals before this moment took place. You could say it took patience, which is a real fundamental principle in photographing just about anything in nature! It started with one seal, it came up to me and just surrendered to it’s curiosity in the cutest display of big eyes and nose jabs you could possibly imagine! I seriously wanted to give it a big hug. Then, its friend came along, not sure how close they were as friends or if there was a borderline courting/dating kinda thing going on, or it could have been the whole “ I like them but not sure if they like me” deal, you know, on the fringes of a beautiful romance. Or maybe they were just mates, I’m not sure, but whatever it was, it played out into a moment I’ll never forget. I’ll let the photos take it from here..
So, as a photographer, if I can identify and create an image that personifies these characteristics in the subject, then surely it will be an image that resonates with others. It’s not really something that I personally go out and strive to achieve, it’s more of a natural extension of my personality and my perspective on life, which has developed from a over a decade of close relationship with the Creator. Out of this, I’ve also developed an appreciation for design, how intricately and perfectly everything works together in nature.
For me, it’s like each living thing has been assigned it’s own measure of wonder, given it’s own purpose and there is a story to be told in all the life that surrounds us.
I often feel like humanity has been led into an era of confusion, as if the information age has fed us so much information that we get lost when trying to understand the simple things of life. Love isn’t that complicated, finding joy, peace and freedom isn’t that hard. Look at nature and it’s animals, they don’t have any of the technology we have, yet they have purpose, their perception of love is pure, they seem to know where it comes from, and where it leads to.. love is instinctive, could it be that reliance on technology has decreased our instincts... (something to think about).
So when people ask me how to take great photos, it’s not about the camera you have or the software you use to process the pictures, photos are not taken with a camera, they are taken with our minds eye. Our own style of photography is shaped by the way we see things and how we interpret that which surrounds us. It’s so much more than just getting out and pressing a button, rather a good photograph is an extension of who we are. One of my favourite images I’ve taken is actually the enclosed macro shot (below) of an octopus’s eye, because within it, you can see an entire galaxy of life. That kind of thing just blows my mind..
See ya in the water!
(Stay tuned for the short film that we're working on..)
Big shout out to Underwater Safaris for this article! Underwater Safaris is a local tour operator in Narooma that takes groups out to swim with the seals and explore the beautiful surrounding waters of Montague Island on the South Coast of NSW. If you come this far down the coast, don’t hesitate to contact them, they are just the most legendary people you will ever meet!
Also, a personal thanks to CRESSI for these images, for supporting me and my photography passions! When you choose your next piece of underwater equipment, I personally recommend choosing Cressi!