Tammy Gibbs

WAUPS Vice President

 WAUPS President 2012

When, where, how did you learn to dive?
I learned to dive in Perth over the Christmas break in 2003/04.  I was encouraged by my husband Julian and the fact we were heading to Bali for my sister’s wedding in February with the lure of clear, warm water.  I had never been a beach/ocean person but after some convincing from Julian, I finally did it.  A few weeks after getting my ticket, we headed to Bali and dived Nusa Lembongan.  I loved it but didn’t do a lot of diving in the following year or two.  In 2006, I sat mesmerised in front of the TV, watching a travel show on the Cocos Keeling Islands.  The next day, I had booked a two week trip for later that year, with a week on Cocos and a week on Christmas Island.  That trip cemented my love for diving and underwater photography.  I’ve since done my Advanced Open Water, Nitrox, Solo Diver and Rescue Diver qualifications, the latter in the middle of winter in the Swan River where I froze while trying to rescue blokes twice my size.  But it was so much fun!

How did you get into underwater photography?
It was the Cocos/Christmas trip that really got me into underwater photography.  I had bought an Olympus C8080 digital compact camera with an underwater housing and decided to add a strobe prior to the trip.  I didn’t really know what I was doing and spent a lot of time researching stuff online.  But I came home with some photos I was really happy with and stuck with that camera for a couple of years.
It was Shannon Conway who helped me to better understand underwater photography and encourages me to always work harder to get “the shot”.  I met Shannon while diving at Rottnest, he was DM on the charter boat.  He noticed I had a camera so handed me a flyer for an underwater photography competition.  I couldn’t make the date but ended up doing a one-on-one course with him.  I learned a lot that day – about my camera’s capabilities, the mindset of the underwater photographer and most importantly about patience.  Shannon also introduced me to WAUPS.
I ended up hitting the limit of what I could achieve with the compact camera and upgraded to SLR.  The learning process started all over again as I got familiar with new settings, lenses and a much bulkier system.  But I wouldn’t go back, I love it too much.

Your camera equipment/toys?
My current set-up has been acquired over a number of years, adding new bits of kit when the budget allows. I currently shoot with a Nikon D7100 in a Nauticam housing after I upgraded from the D300.
I use a few different lenses for underwater – the Nikkor 40mm, 60mm and 105mm for macro work and the Tokina 10-17 fisheye and Sigma 10-20 for wide angle.
I have two Inon Z240 strobes, a couple of focus lights and a few other accessories like Kenko teleconverters and SubSea +10 dioptre for supermacro photos.
Other things that form an essential part of my kit are my backpack (which I use as carry-on luggage when travelling), my stash of eneloop batteries and my little bag of “stuff” which includes o-ring grease, cotton buds, air-blower, etc.
For land photography, I have the 70-200mm lens, the Sigma 120-400mm (for birds) and also use my macro lenses a lot too (the 60mm is great for people portraits).  My Lowepro passport sling bag is permanently attached to my shoulder when I’m out and about shooting on land.

Favourite dive site (local, interstate, overseas) dive buddies, accessories?
Locally, I love Rotto.  I prefer the shallower sites so I can spend longer taking photos.  The shark cave at West End is also a favourite, and some of my family and friends can’t believe we intentionally go there to find sharks.  Ammo jetty is my favoured shore site – there is always so much to find and being shallow means you can literally sit under there for hours trying to get that perfect shot.
The most amazing place I have dived has to be Raja Ampat.  The diversity of not only the diving but the critters, is just awesome.  I’m definitely going back!  I also love the Tulamben area of Bali – easy diving, friendly people and so much to see, love it!
As I mostly dive with the camera, my favourite dive buddy is Eleanor Hodgson as she too is there to take photos.  I dive a lot with Julian but find it difficult to keep up with him as he searches every nook and cranny for lobsters.
My drysuit is my new favourite dive accessory.  Being warm and dry both during and after the dive is such a great feeling.

Most memorable UW moment?
There are so many – diving with mantas, a dugong, sealions, minke whales, dolphins.
But one that most sticks in my head was spotting a hammerhead at Rottnest.  Three of us were diving around Kingston Spit and I was under a ledge photographing a scorpionfish.  As I looked up, I saw a large shark swimming away from me.  I quickly searched for the bubbles of the other two and found them about 20 metres away.  I swam over and did my best to signal “I (pointing to myself) SAW (pointing to my eyes) A BIG (stretching my arms out wide) SHARK! (hand making a fin on my forehead).”  Response was, “Are you OK”.  My response, “YES!”  Seeing such a big fish had my heart racing but once I’d calmed down, the pages of all my fish ID books started flicking through my head.  I started thinking about what it was and remembered the tail was elongated so thought it must have been a grey nurse.  We continued our dive and I kept a lookout for the shark.  Sure enough, it came back towards the end of our dive, appearing only a few metres away, facing us head-on probably wondering what strange creatures we were.  That’s when I saw the bulging eyes and realized it was a hammerhead.  As it swam off, we noticed an injury on its side, probably the reason for it being in shallow water.  It felt as though the shark was asking for our help, if only we could.  I’ve since seen a baby hammerhead on the surface around Rotto but still wonder what happened to that beauty who came to say hello that day.

Tammy’s Portfolio

Clockwise from top left: rhinopius , sea lion ,grey nurse, shrimp, seahorse, coral reflections

Clockwise from top left

Rhinopius – I’d never seen a rhinopius scorpionfish before and they were high on my wishlist in Bali in May 2011.  We not only got to see this weedy variety but a paddleflap rhinopius too.  Seeing them for the first time was a real highlight of the trip for me and one of the reasons I really like this shot.  I used a low f-stop to get a narrow depth of field so that the mouth was blurred but the eyes in sharp focus.  f7.1, 1/250 sec
Sealion – I’ve dived with the sealions at Jurien Bay several times and never get bored of them.  They are so playful and fun as they zoom around you, trying to sneak up to bite your fins or camera.  A fast shutter speed is needed to capture their super-fast movements.  f18, 1/200th sec
Grey nurse – This shot was taken at the cave at Rottnest Island where grey nurse sharks are often spotted.  My heart always races when I dive with these sharks, not through fear, but because it is so exciting and exhilarating to share the sea with them for a brief time.  This female came in so close to check me out, that her nose was almost touching my dome port and you can see the algae growing on her teeth.  f5.6, 1/80th sec
Shrimp –  It took me several dives and lots of patience to get this shot while on a photo workshop with Shannon Conway in Bali.  I’d taken many side-on shots but Shannon suggested I try getting a front-on shot with the eyes at the top of the frame.  This is no easy task given these shrimp are only a few centimetres, tend not to sit still and I was using a low f-stop and a diopter.  I spent whole dives moving very slowly towards the shrimps, getting low and close, and then choosing the right moment to press the shutter.  This shot is a favourite of mine because I know how hard I worked to get it.  f8, 1/250th sec
Seahorse – One the creatures I most enjoy photographing in the local Perth waters is the seahorse.  They are fairly shy critters and will tend to go about their own business even when human eyes are watching them.  This photo was taken at the Rockingham wreck trail where ropes, planes and other structures provide perfect places for them to wrap their tails.  f10, 1/250th sec
Coral reflections – My first time diving mangroves in Raja Ampat in February 2012.  What an amazing place – tree roots reaching down into the water towards the hard and soft corals, archerfish hunting and cardinalfish and juvenile batfish seeking shelter.  The water was flat this day, allowing me to capture the reflection of the coral with the trees and sky above.  f7.1, 1/200th sec

Visit Tammy’s website.