Sunday, February 22, 2009

Chicago ~ Our Kind Of Town!

Our World Underwater – 39th Show!

My wife, Kathryn, and I had a blast in what the locals call, Chicagoland. We were there to participate in Our World Underwater (OWU), a three-day Chicago based consumer scuba diving show that is open to the general public.
As a guest speaker, I presented two seminars on sport diving in British Columbia entitled Tropical Splendor in A Cold Sea – British Columbia’s Emerald Realm and Jewel of British Columbia- Diving Browning Passage. I was also an Emcee for the Sunday morning Underwater Photography Program. It was my distinct pleasure to formally meet and introduce diving luminaries Jack & Sue Drafahl, ( Larry Tackett (, Jason Heller and Kathy Johnson & Greg Lashbrook ( Our World Underwater attracts participants from most Midwest states and also from Canada. As one of the longest running scuba shows in America it has become a legend among presenters as well as exhibitors.

Our sincere thanks to OWU organizers Dennis Gagnon & Eileen Skiba, along with all the other OWU volunteers for all courtesies extended and making us feel so welcome. We would also be remiss if we did not also extend heartfelt thanks to fellow Canadians & DIVER Magazine underwater photography columnists Danielle Alary & Michel Gilbert for both their encouragement and their assistance in helping to put us in contact with the OWU show organizers.

A huge "Thank You!" to all the OWU show patrons who attended my two seminars…

Some personal show highlights…

At the OWU pre-show Speakers Meeting I suddenly found myself engaged in an enjoyable conversation with scuba diving legend, Stan Waterman, after he had plopped himself down into the chair next to me. A pioneer underwater film producer and photographer, Mr. Waterman has won five Emmy awards and received numerous other honors and awards in a career which spans nearly fifty years in the scuba diving industry. He has also produced documentaries, television series and films for Nat
ional Geographic, ABC, and ESPN, but is best known for his work in commercial film. He collaborated with Peter Gimbel on the classic shark film, Blue Water, White Death, and with his close friend Peter Benchley on The Deep, where Mr. Waterman was co-director of underwater photography and second unit. Despite his noteworthy accomplishments, Stan is entirely unpretentious in his demeanor and a mastered raconteur. We had a good chat and I felt humbled to be in his presence.

John deBoeck, owner of Browning Pass Hideaway Lodge attended both my presentations. If you ever yearn to experience the best cold water diving in the universe… he’s the man

After one of my presentations I met longtime DIVER Magazine (Canada) contributor and freelance diving photojournalist, Dan Holden Bailey. I was delighted to learn that we share a mutual admiration for each others work and we look forward to an opportunity to go diving together sometime in the future.

At the D.I.A.B.C (Dive Industry Association of British Columbia)
booth, we ha
ppened to meet another longtime DIVER Magazine
columnist, and fellow Canadian, Jeffery G
allant. Jeff is also the author of the internationally acclaimed Diving Almanac and Book of Records. Anyway, our chance encounter led to an invitation for me to go diving with Jeff to photograph Greenland Sharks in the St. Lawrence River this summer. How cool is that?

Danielle Alary & Michel Gilbert ‘s slide presentation, ‘We’ll Be One”, at the Saturday evening film festival was a pictorially stunning and emotionally inspiring. They are dive show presenters extraordinaire!
Check out their work at

Rick Stratton, publisher of Northwest, Northeast and Midwest Dive News magazines., assigned me an entire years worth of magazine editorial space to fill. Rick is a great supporter and has stated time and again that he will publish anything that I want to write. The adventure continues…

After several years of corresponding by email, we were finally able to meet face to face with Henrik Rosen, VP Sales & Marketing, Wakatobi Dive Resort. My now, seemingly famous, "Wakatobi Bungalows" image was prominently displayed at the Wakatobi booth.

Also, the show provided an opportunity to meet Jason Heller of His multimedia work is exceptional and after attending one of Jason's dive show seminars in Boston last year, I was inspired to create this blog.

And last, but certainly never least, my lovely wife Kathryn is hands down one of the most amazing traveling companions I have ever had to clear International Customs with. She is the light in my life and her loving support is about as deep as deep can go... fathomless!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Stop Shark Finning Now!

A public service announcement against shark finning by Acadamy Award-winning Director, Ang Lee, for WildAid. For more information, visit

Quick Shark Facts

100 million sharks are killed each year (that works out to more than 10,000 per hour)!

Sharks kill fewer than 5 humans on average each year, and only one in 2007, while humans kill 100 million sharks annually. You're more likely to be killed by a lightning strike, bee sting or falling coconut or falling soda machine.

Of the more than 500 species of sharks in the world, only 10 have been known to attack a human being.

There are 6.65 billion people in the world and in the past year one (1) of those people were killed by sharks.

Vast numbers of sharks die incidentally as "bycatch," killed needlessly and thrown overboard unused by fishermen using nets and longlines to catch other types of fish. One report estimates 50 million are caught and killed this way.

As many as 73 million are killed by the shark finning industry.

It is estimated that 90 percent of all large sharks have been wiped out, and 93-99 percent of all large sharks off the east coast of North America are gone (tiger sharks, bull sharks, hammerhead sharks, etc.).

Shark finning is the practice of catching a shark, slicing off its fins and dumping the still-living shark back in the ocean, where it drowns or bleeds to death.

Shark finning is largely illegal—in many areas, fishing fleets are regulated by a fin-to-carcass weight ratio, which means that shark fins can only be a certain percentage of the total weight of their shark haul onboard—but fleets routinely ignore regulations, and enforcement worldwide is sorely lacking.

Shark fins, exported to Asia for shark fin soup, are now among the most expensive seafood products in the world, fetching up to 500 euros ($676) per kilogram. A single Whale Shark pectoral fin can sell for up to US$15,000.

Global trade in shark fins is increasing, and the market for shark fin soup is estimated to be growing by 5 percent per year.

Finning occurs worldwide and is most common in high seas fisheries, hundreds of miles out to sea. Oceanic fishing fleets target valuable fish such as tuna, using thousands of baited hooks on miles of long-line, and freezing their catch onboard. Unfortunately, long-liners often catch several times as many sharks than they do tuna. Until relatively recently, this shark 'bycatch' was considered a nuisance, and sharks were cut loose and allowed to swim away. However, as shark fins have become increasingly valuable, fewer sharks are being released.

No sharks are protected internationally. Only a handful of countries manage shark fisheries. Enforcement is very difficult.

Where figures exist, they suggest that Hong Kong is the world's shark fin trading centre, accounting for an estimated 50% - 80% of all fins traded worldwide. Currently the EU supplies 27% of all fins imported into Hong Kong.

Reported trade in shark fins has more than doubled, from 3,011 metric tons in 1985 to 7,048 metric tons in 1997. In 2006, the largest number of sharks were killed on history – though we already knew they were endangered.

Consumers are largely unaware of the origins of shark fin. Studies in Hong Kong and Taiwan show that consumers have little understanding of where shark fin soup comes from, of overfishing, of illegal shark fishing or of the practice of finning.

Shark fins are tasteless, and contain high levels of toxic methyl-mercury.

Shark fin soup is thought to be an aphrodisiac in some cultures, but it can actually cause infertility.

The legal limit for consumption of methyl-mercury, set by the EPA, is 0.1 microgram per kilogram of body weight. Studies have shown shark meat contains as much as 1,400 micrograms of methyl-mercury in one kilogram. A person weighing 155 lbs would therefore get 50 times the legal amount in one single portion of shark steak.

Sharks' life history makes them vulnerable to exploitation – for example, Basking Sharks take 15-20 years to mature, have a 2-3 year gestation period and produce only 4–6 pups.

Currently, Great White Sharks, Whale Sharks and Basking Sharks are the only sharks to have been listed on CITES Appendices.

Effective conservation and management are hindered by meager insight into the biology, life history, distribution, migration and exploitation of most shark species.

The prospect of a food chain minus its apex predators may mean the end of the line for many more species.

Sharks have widespread global distribution and play a vital role in maintaining the health of ocean ecosystems.

The oceans are the most important ecosystem on the planet, containing life that absorbs most of the carbon dioxide (global warming gas) that we put into the atmosphere, converting it into 70% of the oxygen we breathe. That life is kept healthy by sharks, who, at the top of the food chain, regulate the oceans. Destroying shark populations is destroying our oceans and our life support system.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Jett Britnell Interviews Chris Newbert

"BLUE! Blue. Blue, blue, blue! My immediate reaction every time I slide into the open sea miles off the Kona Coast and look down into thousands of feet of ocean is simply, blue. Endless, transparent blue”
Chris Newbert
Source: "Within a Rainbowed Sea"

Since taking up underwater photography in 1972, Chris Newbert, has won over 30 awards in international underwater photographic competitions and his photos have appeared in over 300 books and magazines world-wide. In 1985 he published his first underwater photographic book, Within a Rainbowed Sea. Now in its 10th printing, this classic volume continues to gather critical acclaim as one of the most beautiful photographic books of all time. It stands as being one of the most award-winning photographic books ever published.

Chris has garnered high praise has come from all quarters of the publishing world. Publishers Weekly has called Within a Rainbowed Sea "one of the most remarkable photographic books ever published.” while Playboy Magazine referred to it as "the ultimate coffee table book." The 10th Anniversary Issue of Islands Magazine has included Chris Newbert's work in a portfolio of photographs from those who they consider ten of the world's great contemporary photographers.

Perhaps the ultimate accolade bestowed upon Chris occurred when the "Limited Edition" of Within a Rainbowed Sea was selected by the White House as an official Presidential Gift of State to be used by the President as a gift to visiting dignitaries. On May 4th, 1986, President Reagan gave copy number 85 to Emperor Hirohito of Japan, on the occasion of his 85th birthday and the 60th anniversary of his reign. Yes, there is no denying that Within a Ranbowed Sea is an incredibly brilliant book by a true master of his craft.

In 1987 while on a live aboard dive trip in Chuuk (formerly Truk Lagoon) while onboard the SS Thorfinn, I was fortunate to meet Chris Newbert. It was only the day before during our flight over from Vancouver that I was told by Neil McDaniel, then editor of Canada’s DIVER Magazine, that the first article I had ever written was going to be published. I was keenly looking forward to meeting Mr. Newbert because his book was a creatively inspiring tome. During the flight, I jotted down some questions for Chris in the hope that he might agree to being interviewed by me. I felt like such an upstart. I mean, really, why would someone of Chris Newbert's stature ever agree to being interviewed by someone whose work had actually not yet been published.

Apart from getting to know Chris during this trip and availing myself of the opportunity to observe how he went about his work underwater, he did generously agree to being interviewed by me. I believe the deal was sealed when I stated that I would buy the beers. My good friend, Gary Bridges, sat in during the interview and took a picture of a very young Chris (right) and Jett (left).

Upon returning home, I approached Peter Rowlands, the editor of a British Magazine called Underwater Photography. Peter liked the Newbert interview and published it word for word in their July/August 1988 issue. Peter gave it the title "Jett Britnell Interviews Chris Newbert" and the interview was illustrated with some images from Within a Rainbowed Sea, so it seemed like a good win for all parties concerned.

All in all, our Truk Lagoon trip turned out to be an amazing adventure shared with my good friends, Gary Bridges, Neil McDaniel and the late, great, Jack Van Hove. I remain forever grateful for the generosity that Chris Newbert showed towards me, a neophyte underwater photojournalist, and equally so to Peter Rowlands for providing a stepping stone on the path of my photojournalistic pursuits.

Some of my favorite quotes from the Chris Newbert interview…

Within a Rainbowed Sea is considered to be one of the finest collection of marine images ever published. When was the book conceived?

Newbert: The idea of doing a book occurred to me right after I started underwater photography. In fact, a girlfriend thought my early pictures were fabulous and suggested I publish a book. I felt my pictures were terrible, but the idea of a book took root in my mind. All I was at the time was a college drop-out dive guide. The thought of being an author had a nice ring to it. Over the years the concept of the book evolved. It went through many stages in my mind. Several years ago, I wrote on a piece of paper what I felt the final product should contain. I still have that piece of paper today.. It’s astounding to read how close I came to my ideal vision – it’s very close.

There were no diver pictures in the book, any particular reason?

Newbert: Yes, I think diver pictures are the most boring and redundant photographs on the face of the earth.

That’s a strong statement given the popularity of diver photographs in magazines.

Newbert: I hate to say it as I fear it might insult a lot of people. It’s just my personal feeling; what fascinates me about the ocean is the marine life, not divers. Most modern day underwater photographs portrayed in the media features the diver. The marine life and the reef become a prop. To me it’s embarrassing to be an underwater photographer when I know the public’s image is what they see in magazines. Somehow, underwater photography has been taken over by this moronic concentration on the diver. For example, you never saw Ansel Adam’s photographs feature hikers in color-coordinated backpacks and hiking shoes. It also promotes something that I feel is detrimental to marine life. Everybody is into this idea that they have to touch, feel, hold, pose and do silly things with marine life. Ultimately, you end up with a “stupid picture”. It’s a ridiculous trend. I think the diving magazines have been irresponsible in this regard.

Friday, February 13, 2009

How I became a "Part Time" Book Reviewer

“I am a firm believer in serendipity ~ all the random pieces coming together in one wonderful moment, when suddenly you see what their purpose was all along"
David Levithan
Source: Boy Meets Boy

Life sometimes does offer us some very strange twists and turns since I never imagined that I would one day become a book reviewer.

This story begins back during Christmas 1999. I had just finished reading the first edition of The Underwater Photographer by Martin Edge, a renowned British underwater photographer.
I thought it was an excellent book, and when I happened to accidentally come across Martin’s email address in an underwater news group forum, I dropped him a quick congratulatory note on what a fine instructional book it was. Martin soon replied that he was keenly aware of my editorial & underwater photography work and that he was honored to have received such high praise from me. I never, ever, expected that.

Anyway, about a year or so later, Martin contacted me by email to ask if I would grant his publishers permission to use passages contained in my initial email to him on the rear jacket of the 2nd reprint of the 2nd edition - The Underwater Photographer. My quote appeared next to quotes by world-class underwater photography luminaries, Jim Church and Stephen Frink.

Then in June 2004, I was contacted by an Associate Editor for Focal Press to request my help with a project they were working on. The Underwater Photographer by Martin Edge was being rewritten towards taking a full digital approach to underwater photography and would be given a title along the lines of 'The Underwater Photographer Goes Digital'. They were asking me if I would be interested in being involved in reviewing the current book in line with the proposed new table of contents and the proposal that the author had supplied to them. It was very important for Focal Press to get feedback when looking at a new edition to ensure that the coverage and level that the author was proposing is suitable for the market. As an individual involved in magazines specializing in this subject area and an underwater photographer, they stated they would really value any constructive feedback I could offer that would help them and the author successfully develop this successful book into a new edition. I agreed to participate and was happy for Martin Edge when in May 2006, The Underwater Photographer, Third Edition: Digital and Traditional Techniques was released to critical acclaim.

In July 2008, I was again approached by Focal Press to review the proposed new edition of another book authored by an award-winning American commercial & fine art photographer. Apparently, this author/photographer thought that I would be an ideal candidate for this task. It would seem in this instance that my own reputation must have preceded me, as I had never actually met or corresponded with this author/photographer. At this point, if I told you who this individual was, I would have to kill you as I’m sworn to secrecy not to divulge any specifics until the new edition is actually published.

So, my endeavors as a book reviewer all began from a single congratulatory email to an author across the Atlantic Ocean. To review books about one's favorite subject and then to comment about them, how serendipitous, indeed…

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Happy Valentines Day!

Love, Love, Love.

Love, Love, Love.

Love, Love, Love.

All you need is love.

All you need is love.

All you need is love, love.

Love is all you need.

lyrics by The Beatles)

Happy Valentines Day to one, and all!

As Valentines Day 2009 looms…I will wax poetic about my lovely wife, Kathryn.

With her infinite grace, beauty, charm, wit, charity, kindness and intellect,
Katie is the proverbial "cat’s meow!" She makes our house a home, and my life a richer one to live. Both family and friends adore her…as much as I. Her beautiful smile... yes her smile is to die for. She is to quote a phrase… Simply, The Best!

Without a shadow of doubt, she is the only woman on this ocean planet that I would most love to be caught in a compromising position with. I am hers… and she... is mine. Ours is a love that lasts forever and a love that has no past. When the evening breeze whispers her name, I am the love struck moth drawn to her flame… I am eternally grateful and thank God above that she is in my life. A loving & supportive wife beyond compare, she is also a fantastic mother, best friend, confidante, lover, mistress, temptress, co-conspirator, seductress, muse, playmate and girlie girl all rolled into one. Ooh La La!

There is a Persian poem that I came across recently that speaks of love...

Even after all this time...
the sun never says to the earth, "You owe me."
Look what happens with a love like that!
It lights the whole sky.

Happy Valentines Day, Baby!

You light up my entire universe. I love you more than yesterday, and always, always, always, less than tomorrow. You mean the world to me. It seems written in the stars that we were destined to be together! XOXO