Mike Fraser

Mike Fraser

I grew up on the KZN coast and salt water runs in my family’s veins.  Tales of the ones that were landed and the leviathans that got away, echo in my childhood memories. My parents gave me a green Champion mask for my 6th birthday and when I put my head under water I knew for sure that this was my realm.  The allure of the last great wilderness still beckons me and I have planned my life around it ever since.

In my teens I enjoyed spear fishing and first experienced scuba diving when I went to university.  In those days BC’s were a rarity, contents gauges had not prevailed over j-valves and dive computers were a distant dream. Any form of underwater photographic equipment was way beyond my reach and I stuck to spear fishing until the floods of 1988 put a halt to my predation. Friends persuaded Valda and me to join them on a scuba diving course. After the qualifying dives at Sodwana, the hook was set beyond extraction, spear guns gathered dust in the garage and we began to make lasting friends in the deep. Big creatures – potato bass, sharks, morays – are my passion while Valda fancies the macro stuff. This makes dive planning, let’s say, interesting.

Our first venture into underwater photography was in the early ‘90’s, when we managed to buy a 2nd hand Nikonos V and Ikelite strobe. Those were the days of extension tubes and framers for macro and guesswork for wide angle. I moved into video in the days when we were pioneering shark diving on Protea Banks. While the picture quality was not much better than on our current cell phones, it was great to let others share the dive at home on the TV set. I think it’s the instant gratification that does it for me.

My interest in stills photography blossomed with the advent of the digital SLR. We started out with a D70 late in 2004 and the ability to see underwater what I had bagged, appealed to me. I must say, it was quite a steep learning curve in the transition from video, where you have numerous frames to weave a story. Freezing an instant in time so that it makes a clear and appealing statement, can be quite a task. I’ve never been particularly motivated by competitions. As I’ve progressed I’ve become more discerning and demanding of myself. The challenge is like a staircase spiralling upward forever.

We love to explore un-dived reefs and fortunately there are many in our wilderness. We have recently acquired re-breathers and this adds a new dimension to exploration and photography. You get that smug feeling when bubble-blowing buddies head for the surface with a heap of deco, while the re-breather’s computer gives you several hours of additional quiet time. There’s still so much to experience and learn, so it’s time to load the gear and go diving again.

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