As divers, we get to see part of the world that the majority of people don’t. And if you are an underwater photographer or an underwater videographer, you get to share that world with others. We’re very lucky. However, it is easy to take this for granted. Quite often, as divers, we hang out with our diving friends and nobody stops to think how amazing what we do is. So it is very precious when, every now and then, we get a good reminder of how lucky we are and how the non-diving world is staggered by the places we explore and the things we see. This has been happening to me recently as two of my underwater photos from British waters are currently being featured on a new series of postage stamps, here in the UK. And lots of people have been in touch about them.
The series of stamps is called Wild Coasts and, as all British stamp designs are, were approved by the Queen. I wasn’t involved with the selection of the pictures. They were put together by the Royal Mail working with Professor David Sims from the Marine Biological Association and University of Southampton, who commented “The stamps are a great opportunity to celebrate the UK’s wonderfully diverse marine life but also to acknowledge our responsibility to protect these increasingly impacted species and ecosystems.”
I was thrilled to see my two photos selected. They show a large male cuttlefish, photographed in Devon, England, and a long-snouted seahorse, photographed in Dorset, England. The UK is the northern edge of the range of both these species, which grow larger in our cooler waters. Seahorses in the UK are a protected species and any activity that could disturb them, including diving or photographing them, requires a special licence. Around the world there are quite a few species and sometimes locations that require a licence to photograph from local authorities. I have held photographic licences for species ranging from sockeye salmon to blue whales. The seahorse licence was free but required me to plan my photography and submit that plan for approval. The bureaucracy was worth it, as my photos from that shoot have been used in many marine conservation campaigns and to promote the life in British seas in magazines and books.
As an underwater photographer, my photos have appeared in many unusual places, including on several occasions being used as tattoos! I've had photos on stamps before, but this is the first time in my own country. It is always exciting when something you spotted underwater and photographed is seen widely. But seeing my photos on the stamps that come through my letterbox is the best yet!