Shannon Earnshaw

When, where, how did you learn to dive?

I was lucky that when I was young my parents took us to South America and the Caribbean so I’d had a chance to snorkel in some wonderful places and knew that there were amazing things to see in the ocean then I think it was at some point in my early twenties that I became aware that regular people were able to go scuba diving. It seemed to be an incredibly exciting thing to do and I decided that it was something I really wanted to try.

In 1995, when I was getting ready to leave the UK and move back to Perth for good, a friend and I signed up for a PADI Open Water course consisting of lessons in an indoor swimming pool in Essex, then completing our qualifying dives in the Red Sea at Sharm el Sheikh. Of course I just absolutely loved it and my only regret was that we spent just one week in Sharm and we should have spent a month!

When I returned to Australia I couldn’t afford to go diving but my sister gave me a gift of a day trip to Rottnest and after that I decided that I really wanted to continue diving whenever possible. During that time I also gave up smoking and saved all the dollars that I would have spent on smoking so I could purchase ex-rental BCD and regs from Perth Diving Academy – one of the best thing I ever did because I am still using the BCD and regs now.

I then completed my Advanced Open Water Course in June 1996 and have also qualified in the last couple of years as an Enriched Air Diver.

How did you get into underwater photography?

I don’t really recall making a conscious decision about taking up underwater photography, it’s been a gradual descent into an expensive, crazy and frustrating hobby which I absolutely adore and can’t imagine not having in my life.

Your camera equipment /toys?

The first underwater camera I purchased was a bright yellow Sea & Sea MX 10 and, if I remember correctly, I did an underwater photography course with

Anne Storrie at the then PDA in Fremantle. I always rushed to develop the films after diving but must confess that it was always extremely disappointing. After some time I bought the fixed flash unit as well in the hope that it would help.  I don’t think it did.

After a visit to Cocos Keeling and Christmas Islands and meeting an underwater photo-journalist using a digital Olympus camera I purchased an Olympus C5060. It was a great camera for a few years and then I upgraded to a Canon Powershot G12 and 1 x Sea & Sea strobe. Each was an improvement on the one before but I still wasn’t getting the photos I wanted and and wide-angle was something I could only dream about.

In March 2013 we went to Bali for a diving safari with Mike Veitch of Underwater Tribe. He gave me some valuable and much needed instruction and guidance and although I felt that my knowledge had improved a lot, I still felt quite limited by the equipment I was using, not close enough, not wide enough, etc. (I’m sure it was still more me than the camera though!)

Then about a year ago my dream came true and I became the proud owner of “Big Bertha”.

Big Bertha is a Canon 5D Mark III with a Nauticam Housing and 2 x Inon strobes. I initially purchased a 50mm close-up and 16-35mm wide-angle lens plus a Sigma 15mm fisheye but in the last week have added a 100ml lens and Super Macro Converter.

Shannon Conway gave me some valuable tips and advice on how best to assemble and look after her, pack for travelling, etc, as well as some general photography advice, and I can honestly say that the last year of diving has been absolutely fantastic and very rewarding as I’m seeing improvements all the time.

Favourite dive site, WA, interstate / overseas location, dive buddies, accessories?

This is hard, I love diving and the creatures we see so very much that it’s hard to pick locations and favourites, but I’ll try…..

In WA I would say Rowley Shoals. Very beautiful and very untouched, also where we got really close to sharks (grey reef) for the first time. But on the opposite end of the scale we also love diving at the Grain Terminal at the moment because we have started going at night and seeing a whole range of interesting and amazing creatures that we don’t see during the day.

Not sure if Christmas Island counts as Interstate but I’d go with that first because we loved everything about Christmas Island, underwater and above, so have been twice. Last year we also went great white shark cage diving in the Neptune’s with Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions. The sharks are just incredible and I would love to go back to see the big females one day.