Entertainment Arts Underwater photographer exposes colourful Tasmanian marine life

Underwater photographer exposes colourful Tasmanian marine life

Danny Lee underwater photographer
Danny Lee has been exploring the east coast of Tasmania. Photo: ABC/Supplied/Tyson Campbell
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Danny Lee has spent the past 20 years diving at some of the world’s top spots, but it’s a small town on Tasmania’s east coast that has really captured his imagination.

The Tasmanian amateur photographer is doing his best to show off the unexpectedly colourful undersea landscape there.

Lee has been seriously dedicating his spare time to photography for the past five years, mastering the art of throwing light — sometimes literally — on the surprisingly intense colour of the creature of the marine reserve around the small seaside town of Bicheno.

Danny Lee
Mr Lee rates Tasmania’s weedy sea dragons among his favourite marine creatures. Photo: ABC/Supplied/Danny Lee

Lee takes his camera underwater at many of the world’s dive hotspots, like the Great Barrier Reef, Thailand, Vanuatu and the Cook Island but he rates Bicheno as the best.

“I’ve dived a few marine reserves overseas. They generally don’t have the same standards as what we do in Australia,” he told ABC Radio Hobart.

“The marine reserve at Bicheno — Governor’s Island — is probably one of the best dive sites in the world from what’ I’ve looked at.

“It is probably very underrated in relation to being a dive destination and I encourage anyone to go check it out. It’s just amazing, absolutely incredible.”

“Tropical is spectacular until you look down at Bicheno.

“With good lighting, some of the colours down there would rival the Great Barrier Reef — the sponges, the different types of corals.”

He has been so impressed he has invested big money in gear and lighting to show off his underwater playground.

“I’ve always been a diver and grew up around the water. I wanted to show others the really cool things I see,” he said.

Danny Lee banded stingaree
A banded stingaree rests on the sand near Binalong Bay. Photo: ABC/Supplied/Danny Lee

“I borrowed a few cameras and gradually mastered lighting and what’s involved in taking photos.”

“Lighting is one of the biggest issues, as soon as you get 5-6 metres underwater you lose a lot of your colour,” he said.

“Some fish don’t notice [lighting] at all, and others – because fish don’t have eyelids … if it gets too bright it can send them off in a a hurry so I don’t hit them too hard with a big flood light.”

Fighting off the creatures of the deep

His encounters have included getting up close and personal with a large octopus off Bicheno.

“I was on my own at 15 feet, so no sort of running to the surface and I just remember looking at my camera to make sure everything was okay and then just seeing a big arm, tentacle wrap around my face, thick as my arm so it was a big one,” he said.

Have YOU ever had a scary moment while diving??? This was mine! 😨👌 ………………………………………………………. I can only show you a snippet of the 'accidental' Gopro footage I got of the incident. I must say it was the first real cuddle I have had underwater! After the initial hug by this large Octopus, and the consequent right hook that I gave to its head (that I am not proud of now by the way 👊🐙😳) it came back for a second 'hug' around my legs! It did not appear happy at all as it entered the weed below, flashing all sorts of colours and patterns over its body. I was told later that this resident Octopus has a fondness for shiny cameras, not for large neoprene covered divers. It still spooked me a bit at the time, but I hope I can conduct myself far better next time. 🐙📷

A video posted by Submerged Images Tasmania (@submerged_images) on

“It came up behind … and it just about blocked out the sun and it wrapped all of its arms around me, I did freak out a little bit.

“I’m not proud of the fact I gave it a good left hook to the body and it let me go after a few seconds.

“The local dive operator said it was notorious for trying to get divers’ cameras, it just wanted the shiny camera and not me.”

Mr Lee was not deterred by the encounter and is now gunning for a close encounter with a killer whale.

Danny Lee stingray
Mr Lee said this two-metre smooth stingray temporarily blocked the sun when it swam over his head. Photo: ABC/Supplied/Danny Lee

“There are creatures I haven’t yet photographed … killer whales in particular they do come around Tasmania and I haven’t seen them yet but I’m really hanging out for that,” he said.

Lee’s photos have thousands of followers on social media and now are being featured in a gallery in St Helens.

“Any sort of fish that gets out on it’s own, I like creating negative space in the photos and I’ve had a lot of positive comments,” he said.

“So I’m looking for something a bit artsy, even in a common species.

“Anyone can point a camera at a fish, I try to get a bit of an arty look.”

– ABC Radio Hobart

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