Sue Morrison

  • How did you get into …diving, underwater photography, mentors or inspirations

My interest in marine life goes way back to traditional British family summer holidays swimming in icy, pea-green waters and exploring rock pools on freezing beaches. Despite the conditions, I just loved it! Later I was inspired by Jacques Cousteau’s books and adored those early colour images. After getting my first mask & ping-pong snorkel set one Christmas (yes, I had to wait 6 months until British summer to use them), I got pretty scared with all the dark seaweed when out of my depth. Consequently I didn’t really see very much marine life, but thought I was pretty brave.

I was delighted to get my first SLR camera for my 21st but it was strictly for above-water work. I did get to hold a Hasselblad in a housing, but it was so incredibly heavy I was somewhat put off the thought of using it (besides being terrified of damaging it). I attempted underwater photography with a second-hand Nikonos II with minimal success for a few years, but in 1984 when Ann and Wayne Storrie founded WAUPS, help was on the way!

  • When, where, how  did you learn to dive…dive statistics if that’s your fancy

I had the opportunity to do a BSAC SCUBA course at Bristol Uni in 1974 with a good friend I persuaded to join me. There weren’t many females in the Uni dive club, so there was much encouragement to join up! We had great fun learning in the pool over the winter, and making our own wetsuits….. We then braved the Cornish waters at Easter where the chill literally took my breath away (5mm home-made suits aren’t terribly cosy). The only way to summon strength to go for a night dive was to down a few beers at the Five Pilchards beforehand. I enjoyed trips to Cornwall, Devon, South Wales and Mull in Scotland, thriving on 40 minute dives in generally low viz. Our club saying was ‘We’re here to dive, not to enjoy ourselves.’ I was having the time of my life & really thought it couldn’t get any better.

After finishing uni 2 of my close diving friends & I travelled overland to Australia. My main aim was to dive on the Great Barrier Reef, which I achieved in 1977 doing volunteer work at the Research Station on Heron Island. I was in heaven! There were no rules & regulations back then – we could take the dinghies out on our own, as long as we were back before sunset. Since then I have dived in all states & territories of Australia except Tasmania (still on my to-do list). I’ve also been fortunate to dive in the Maldives, S. China Sea, Indonesia & PNG. Since 1994 I’ve worked in the fish section of the WA Museum, where I’ve had the privilege of being involved in field trips to document the WA fish fauna all around the state. Not sure how many dives I’ve done since I’m getting slack at recording, (not helped by my dog consuming one of my dive logs). It’s somewhere around 3000.

  • Your camera equipment / toys etc

First land camera a Baby Brownie, first underwater camera a Nikonos II. I progressed to a Nikonos V, then a couple of years ago a Nikon D300 in Nauticam housing (a late digital starter). It took a free trip to Komodo to catapult me into the digital age – first immersion for my new set-up after the laundry tub was in Komodo waters. My dear friend Ann Storrie was incredibly patient helping me through my first steps. However, since then I haven’t looked back – I just love it (& especially not being confined to 36 shots). I have a 60mm Nikon which covers so many opportunities, a 105mm Nikon which I’m still coming to terms with, and recently the arrival of a 10-17mm lens & dome port (still to be tested underwater).  I have a single Inon Z240 strobe & have just obtained a second (thanks Daniel). Yes, the list goes on! Underwater photography is satisfying in itself, but I also like the fact that it makes me stop & observe marine life and scenery, making me learn much more about the underwater environment. I don’t think that I shall ever get tired of it, even if I’m not taking top shots. I also enjoy above-water photography, especially wildlife, and have a second Nikon D300 (thanks to Sue My) for this purpose, which also acts as a back-up in case of watery disasters with the housing.

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

I still love Busselton Jetty – partly because of ease of access, but the conditions can be superb and there is almost always something incredible to see down there in the way of stunning marine life or animal behavior. On the more adventurous side, Albany always holds a special place in my heart – the magnificent granite drop-offs covered in colourful sponges, ascidians, gorgonians, black corals etc where one of my favourite fish, the Western Blue Groper lives. Overseas I am in raptures with Komodo and Raja Ampat – there is so much to see that I am overwhelmed every dive. Peter has been my faithful and patient dive buddy over many years, but I really enjoy diving with fellow WAUParians when Peter doesn’t feel like hanging around while I take pictures!

  • Most memorable UW moment…good or bad

Something is tugging gently on my leg and I can see my buddy ahead of me….it is a wild dolphin with his teeth around my calf, but he does not hurt me. He then ‘stands’ on his nose, turns in circles and allows me to stroke him. This friendly dolphin seemed to be an outcast from his pod. Every day we went diving in South Wales, this lonely individual appeared out of nowhere & followed us to our dive site and down to the bottom. It was a wonderful experience. I heard newspaper reports of him for years afterwards in that region.

My second dive in WA was at Carnac and I found a Weedy Seadragon. I could not believe my eyes as I did not know that anything like that existed! My first dive in tropical waters was at The Bommie at Heron Island – totally awesome. I even collected a nudibranch to show the others, but was soon told that is not the done thing……

  • Anything else others may find interesting

We thought it was fun to camp in a damp farmers field with an outside toilet two fields away and a horse-trough to wash in, while diving each day in freezing cold waters of South Wales. Each evening we would check our home-made wetsuits for holes and glue them up with Black Magic. The good old days huh?

Manta Rays. A spectacular spot for watching these graceful rays in Raja Ampat. They literally ’flew’ right over our heads, almost touching us with their wing tips. They showed no fear of us and came around many times. Shannon was very generous to lend me his set-up for wide-angle on this dive, which was greatly appreciated!

Tailspot Coralblenny. This curious little blenny was a challenge to photograph as it didn’t stay still for very long. Patience was eventually rewarded, but keen to return and take more shots.

Commensal Shrimp. I am so enjoying having a 60mm lens to take better images of small critters like this. There’s also so much more detail to be seen once back on the computer.

Mangrove flower reflection.  Shannon introduced us to the blue-water mangroves in Raja Ampat. A stunning place with clear, calm waters providing endless opportunities for wide-angle above-below shots, but I only had a 60mm lens so had fun with close-up reflections instead.

Redlip Morwong. Some of our local WA fish are real characters – this one posed for me on a Rotto day-dive comp – lucky for once.

Red Urchin. A red urchin with luminous spots caught my eye one night dive in Komodo.