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  Field Notes From
Fiji's Reefs

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Fiji's Reefs On AssignmentArrows

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From Photographer

Tim Laman

Fiji's Reefs On Assignment

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From Author

Les Kaufman

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Tim Laman (top) and Justin Lieder Kaufman


Fiji's Reefs On Assignment Photographer Fiji's Reefs On Assignment Photographer
Fiji's Reefs

Field Notes From Photographer
Tim Laman

Best Worst Quirkiest
    This was my first totally underwater assignment for National Geographic, and just being able to dive as much as I could and explore the underwater world of Fiji every day was fantastic. I truly love spending time underwater and learning more and more about the creatures of the coral reefs I've been fascinated with since I was a kid. If you really pay attention, on every dive you can see new and interesting things you haven't seen before. If I had to pinpoint one moment that stood out during the more than 200 dives I made in Fiji, I think it would have to be the one when I took the manta ray shot that appears in the article on pages 68-9. The giant manta passed so close to me that it had to lift its wing tip up over my camera. It was a magic moment.

    Making four to six dives a day for weeks does have its risks, but we were very fortunate that we had no major disasters. The worst experience, however, was seeing some of the severe damage caused by human disturbance to the reefs. Although many are incredibly vibrant with life, others are in bad shape. Near developed areas, sewage, silt, and polluted runoff have killed reefs. Even in remote areas, I saw signs of coral bleaching, which has increased in recent years due to global warming. Fiji's reefs are better off than in a lot of places, but seeing the destruction first hand was a reminder that we need to do more about moderating our impact on our planet's natural ecosystems.

    Diving on a coral reef at night can be surreal. Most evenings we made our last dive of the day after dark. It gave us a chance to see a whole different set of creatures on the reef: the night shift.
    Vision is limited to the cone of light cast by your dive light. It's especially eerie when diving on a steep underwater wall. As I faced the reef looking for interesting subjects to photograph, I hung suspended in the water with a black void below, behind, and above me. I was never quite sure what larger creatures might be lurking beyond the edge of my light. If I turned it off or closed my eyes, I had no sense of up or down. I just floated weightless in the blackness.
    On these dives I concentrated on macro subjects. The pictures—with the help of strobes—ended up being close well-lit studies of small creatures such as an arrow crab on a soft coral. As I peered through my viewfinder, I sometimes thought of how a reader looking at the picture would have absolutely no idea what it felt like hanging there in the blackness, making the picture.


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