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Doubilet's Nudi Beauty!


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#41 jeremypayne

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 04:16 AM

I'm not impressed ... am I the only one who thinks that Doubilet's photos were EASY to capture???


I agree that the actual execution of this idea was not "brain surgery". I'm still impressed.

Some of the best ideas are very, very simple. It's HAVING the idea and actually doing something about it that tends to be hard.
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#42 mtnman

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 04:22 AM

Simply because it is DD and the images are in Nat.Geo. doesn't justify the process. The ends rarely justify the means and that is the case here. While I love the images their beauty doesn't mean the technique was appropriate. The fact that they will be seen by so many people is a good reason not to have done it in the first place. The no harm/no foul argument while probably correct in the no harm aspect could be used in too many situations. Is it okay to move that mimic into the water column?

#43 scorpio_fish

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 05:31 AM

I'm not impressed. I won't dispute the beauty of these photographs. BUT, am I the only one who thinks that Doubilet's photos were EASY to capture??? After all, by using this technique, he has managed to control virtually all of the environmental factors which would normally limit an underwater photographer, including: background, lighting, angles, escape routes for the nudis, and even time/depth.


I disagree. The beauty of the photographs is what matters. The ease of capture is irrelevant, lest we have "I know it's just a Christmas tree worm and poorly framed, but he only used his left hand to take it" kind of response. Shooting nudibranchs isn't particular difficult. Even I can keep up with a fleeing nudibranch.

I find this thread interesting, even though we've beat the topic to death before. When someone linked to the gallery on another board without knowing the method of capture, I posted that I talked to a dive guide that was there when he used this technique.

I'm ambivalent about manipulation, but what always strikes me as ironic is that those who most zealously assert the no touch/manipulation/interaction also admire the old photographic giants and legends who took far greater liberty than most people imagine. Putting nudibranchs on a card pales in comparison to other techniques employed in the past and to some extent even today.

I find the greater good rationalization weak, yet I personally I can't condemn them for doing things I woudn't. Trying to draw a line in the sand on who can do what or even what should be allowed is difficult, if not impossible.

If we are against having a bucket of fish in the water for sharks, are we not also against killing a starfish to feed the harlequin shrimp?

We've managed to give a pass to Cousteau on his dynamite fish surveys, why not famous photographers?

BTW, extracting nudibranchs from a scene would be fairly easy. Extracting a crinoid or feather duster would be far more difficult. As someone mentioned, the lighting would not be the same.

BTW, all those great macro insect photographs we admire? The insects were probably captured and held captive in a refrigerator in order to make them "less active".

BTW, if we won't to cause no deaths, we should ban identification of all new species.
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#44 Marjo

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 06:46 AM

Still, in my experience diving around people who make a living at this game (and not speaking about David specifically here).....animal manipulation as well as reef ravaging isn't exactly an uncommon occurance.


I am sad to hear that that is your experience. It is not my experience at all. I see a lot of clumsy tourists with cameras doing unintentional damage with their fins and cameras and sometimes also some uncalled for poking or moving of sealife. However when diving with people who make a living as photographers I have not seens any "reef ravaging".


And were these images EASY to make?

Well, I don't think that shooting ANYTHING underwater is "easy". But I guess everything is "relevant", it all depends on what other task you are comparing to. But if it was or wasn't "easy" is really irrelevant. Sometimes the simple ideas are the best and at lelast I find these images amazing. They suck me in and I want to keep watching them. They inspire me and make me wonder how something as estetically pleasing and intriguing as Nudibranch could have evolved.

You know. there is that old joke: How many photographers does it take to make an images? The answer is 100. One to actually make the image and 99 to say "I could have done that". :)

Edited by Marjo, 18 May 2008 - 06:56 AM.


#45 Giles

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 07:28 AM

Speaking of the latter, does anyone really think that he took his 'studio' with him to 25 meters? I seriously doubt it. He probably had his assistants collect, and bring them to 5 meters of calm water where he could take his sweet time.


Having been his extremely bored assistant for a day, I can tell you for a fact he would have been right down where the creatures were and have his assistants bounce dive all day bringing him different camera's with diff lenses and diff studio stuff, new lights etc etc He even made us do this for him at Stingray City as he didn't want to leave the water and miss anything even though it was 15ft deep and right under the boat. Almost 12 hours I think we spent at Stingray City that day ..
I really don't want to defend DD, I have never been his hugest fan, but without trying to offend anyone who is against how these images were taken I have to say something. Shut Up. Outcrys of he shouldn't have touched these animals is almost as bad as an onslaught of people going out and trying to imitate him. I don't care how perfect of a diver anyone thinks they are, you leave your own footprints of damage, guaranteed. What's worse is you probably don't even realise. So who are you to talk, at least he knew what he was doing and probably did it with as little damage as possible.
This is an inevitability when diving, you are trespassing in territory you don't belong in, therefore your mere prescience is an imbalance. How many times have you been in an overhead environment .. do you really think your bubbles didn't affect anything? How many times has your peeking in a hole or finding a creature scared them to run away, how many night dives has your flash light lit up a critter for the predator hanging over your shoulder. Have you ever sat in the sand ? brushed against coral, blinded a animal with your flash, used fish food to attract fish. OMG the list could go on and on .. and I am pretty sure everyone is guilty of some underwater damage just by being there; if you know it or admit it or not.
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#46 yahsemtough

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 07:29 AM

I feel fortunate to have known David Doubilet was taking these kind of images before they were published. I dove with him and Jen in Raja Ampat and saw what he was working on at that time.

Not that David Doubilet needs me to vouch for him but my experience showed that each and every time the subjects were replaced to exactly where they were found by the guides and handled delicately.

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#47 loftus

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 07:51 AM

but without trying to offend anyone who is against how these images were taken I have to say something. Shut Up. Outcrys of he shouldn't have touched these animals is almost as bad as an onslaught of people going out and trying to imitate him.

Just a little disclaimer here; I have no issues with the moving of the nudis. Simply that these are highly 'manipulated' images in one sense or another, and anyone who has no problem with how these images were taken should not have any issues if they were created with the help of Photoshop.
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#48 TheRealDrew

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 08:31 AM

This is an inevitability when diving, you are trespassing in territory you don't belong in, therefore your mere prescience is an imbalance. How many times have you been in an overhead environment .. do you really think your bubbles didn't affect anything? How many times has your peeking in a hole or finding a creature scared them to run away, how many night dives has your flash light lit up a critter for the predator hanging over your shoulder. Have you ever sat in the sand ? brushed against coral, blinded a animal with your flash, used fish food to attract fish. OMG the list could go on and on .. and I am pretty sure everyone is guilty of some underwater damage just by being there; if you know it or admit it or not.



That is the ultimate issue. And there is not going to be an easy answer as to when the line of what an individual thinks is too much interference. It all comes down to the "ends justifying the means" and no one will have the same answer. The one extreme position is that scuba diving should not be done at all and effectively we are all hypocrites about the subject. And of course this thread and other threads have covered all the shades of gray.

Discusssing these issues is something that hopefully gets people thinking about their impact underwater a bit more. To the extent they make adjustments to help lessen their impact, and further assess their true abilities to do something with proper knowledge and skill, I think it helps.

I would gather that you have seen way too many photographers doing things beyond their skill level or without regard at all to their surroundings. I know I have. Standing in the sand, strobes banging against the coral, gloves on and grabbing live coral to steady themselves. Hopefully they read threads like this and take something away from it.

#49 Poliwog

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 08:35 AM

My, My, My......

It's amazing how things change when you take a real hard look at the issue.

When I first saw the images by DD I couldn't help but think they were just the ordinary standard studio product shot type of commercial photography practiced by all kinds of photographers on a daily basis. However, I did give him credit for using a tried and true technique in a completely different surrounding that being an underwater one. Fair enough.

What intrigued me was the creative process with which he was able to come up with something that I thought was fresh and new, as I had been swayed by comments posted by other Wetpixel members.

I also decided to read the newsletter that Bottomtime mentioned in his post about this technique being utilized before. That newsletter can be found “here”.

Indeed, this technique has been done before, and for quite a long time as a matter of fact, by Susan Middleton and David Liitttschwager. Susan Middleton chaired the California Academy of Sciences department of photography from 1982 to 1995 before striking out on her own. She produces these images in conjunction with David Liittschawger who used to work as a studio photographer under Richard Avedon.

More information on Susan Middleton and David Liittschwager can be found “here”, “here” and “here”.

This web page, located “here”, is especially enlightening (no pun intended) as to how they actually photograph their underwater specimens. It is quite elaborate and I wouldn't use the term “minimal” when trying to quantify the amount of manipulation of the critter.

Both Susan Middleton and David Liittschager have worked with National Geographic on several occasions and have even had film crews document their methods. As you well know, DD is also affiliated with National Geographic, so I can see him as being aware of this technique simply through the connection with National Geographic.

Having said all that, I think we should be looking at these images in a different light (again no pun intended).

I tend to look at these images as technically well executed, and well presented, although not ground breaking in any sense. To think of them as anything else we would, unfortunately, have to introduce the nasty “P” word to this forum, and I know DD is to good for that.

P.S. I also read about those Bamfield Barnacles in the newsletter and wished I could do that too! :) :) :D
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#50 Giles

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 08:59 AM

Indeed, this technique has been done before, and for quite a long time as a matter of fact, by Susan Middleton and David Liitttschwager. Susan Middleton chaired the California Academy of Sciences department of photography from 1982 to 1995 before striking out on her own. She produces these images in conjunction with David Liittschawger who used to work as a studio photographer under Richard Avedon.


Posted Image
Doubilet Shotting Underwater Photos Liittschawger shooting things in a tank... not quite the :) same


Are you kidding me .. it's not even underwater photography ... it's kidnapping and then ransom photos !

Can't even begin to compare these two styles of photography and their impact. I am sure that Susan and David are not the first to do that style of remove and photograph either, it's as mentioned how science has been doing things for years.

Doubilet may even have shown us how we can better research the ocean. Rather than removing bits of it and its inhabitants go and watch their behaviour and get all the information you need while underwater.

Edited by Giles, 18 May 2008 - 09:02 AM.

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#51 Poliwog

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 09:52 AM

Can't even begin to compare these two styles of photography and their impact.


I can, and in fact, do. I would go further and say that these are not different "styles" but are in fact the same technique. Both use standard classic studio lighting techniques to illustrate an object, or critter in this case. High key portraiture comes to mind if your really want to put a name on it.

The only thing that has changed in the two images you have included in your post is the atmosphere one is working in, as far as I'm concerned.

I said I was interested in creative inspiration for the photographs. Being able to attribute the technique to the past works of others that DD may have crossed paths with in the past is fine for me. DD may have taken the technique and adapted it to his own style of shooting, which from the images you have provided, seems to be the case. Whom of us have not done the same?

If that is DD in the first photograph of your post, then I would commend him for finding a less manipulative way for photographing the critters.
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#52 Giles

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 10:29 AM

How ridiculous.

Doubilet is in a hostile environment, one in which no man can survive without aid of man made quipment. Much like space.
Liittschawger has the fish in a hostile environment, one in which they can never procreate and carry on their species, and probably as there is no food, survive for very long. (but thank god for those pumps pushing airated water through)

We aren't talking about photographic technique here, of course there is nothing new about creating a studio environment to achieve better images, what people are saying is it is wrong that he moved the critters to get photos. Your example of Liittschawger one of the images even shows someone prodding a pencil in the water to make the fish move.

My point is Doubilets technique while yes some may take offence to it is WAY better than anything people have done before, is less invasive and I would guess almost interruptive to the life of the Nudi's. Your example really does not help to prove any point apart from mine, Doubilet has improved upon what others tried to do.
As for people trying to imitate, i seriously doubt it, thats a lot of equipment. It would take hiring a crew and your own boat to get that sort of stuff done.
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#53 Marjo

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 01:26 PM

I agree with Giles.

Setting up your gear and shooting underwater, dealing with buoyancy and the elements, being on lifesupport (SCUBA), dealing with the challenges of clunkky underwater photography gear, limited viewfinder (well.... he shoots a Seacam so I am not THAT sorry for him :P ), time restrictions and all the other challenges that one faces when shooting underwater is QUITE a different matter than having Nemo in tank, sitting comfortably in your studio, taking all the time you want with unlimited opportunities as to equipment, time, light etc etc.

Also, in the first example, the Nudi in its natural habitat, except it gets to do a short stint on the catwalk slugwalk whereafter it gets to go right back to exactly the spot it came from, resuming its normal Nudi life. In the second example, it is removed from its habitat entirely, and God knows for how long. There is nothing natural about the second technique at all. Clearly there is no comparison between these two techniques. We're not even talking about underwater photography in the second example!


Poliwog, personally I do not think that Doubilet even was "influenced" by Susan Middleton and David Liittschager. Putting a background behind your subject is hardly a technique that they "invented", that's just got to be the oldest and most common technique known. Doubilet shooting NUDIS on a background IN THEIR ENVIRONMENT (GOING to them in their environment, rather than BRINGIN THEM them to your environment) is what is clever about this.

However, if you went out today and used a technique (whether it would be the "slugwalk" technique or any other underwater photography technique) that another photograher had "invented" that would still not be "Plagiarism" (if that is what you mean with the "P word"). If that was the case, everone of us that ever shot a CFWA image would be plagiarizing Jerry Greenberg... :huh:

Edited by Marjo, 18 May 2008 - 01:42 PM.


#54 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 02:42 PM

Gosh this thread has grown a fair bit since I last checked it, with some fairly strong opinions.

I think it is important to note and give credit to DD that he tried this technique on hardy creatures that I am sure were not harmed by the process. I think we would all have felt differently if these shots were of other critters. Indeed it is not that rare to see a nudi get pecked by a fish, or even tumble down a reef in a current and carry on afterwards. They are tough little guys (and gals, at the same time).

I also think that there is an important distinction in the moving of subjects for these shots and with others (that we see). And that is there is no intention to deceive. You see plenty of shots of slugs on scorpionfish, frogfish, very pretty backgrounds etc etc. And while many of these are surely natural - I am sure some are not and involve subject movement which the photog never owns up to. In DD's shots there is no intent to deceive, which I think is an important difference.

Plus in the end I am sure the slugs were all fine after their modeling. And I think that this shots must be put in to context of the many much more harmful activities that go on in the oceans everyday. There are worse things in the world than sticking a nudi on a piece of plastic for a few minutes.

Finally, DD does offer in the video commentary some comments about not harming them - and I'd imagine there are similar words in the magazine. I agree with others that these shots will do far more good than harm to the oceans.

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#55 loftus

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 02:43 PM

Looks like my next gear purchase is going to have to be one of these

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#56 Nakedwithoutcamera

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 03:06 PM

Finally, DD does offer in the video commentary some comments about not harming them - and I'd imagine there are similar words in the magazine.
Alex

The magazine clearly states "DD found these creatures in Indonesia, photographing them where they lay or on a white background before returning them unharmed."
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#57 Poliwog

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 03:18 PM

The amount of effort that you go through to get a photograph, unfortunately, does not increase the merit of said photograph(s). To an average person, whether you climb a mountain by foot or take a helicopter ride to the top is of no importance when they see the photos. The average person is only interested in the end result – is the photograph good? So on that basis, you can say that whether you are in the water, or out of it, is of no consequence.

There is an axiom in the photography industry that states, “You are only as good as your last photograph.” And, I believe that sentiment is valid here. While I am not taking issue with DD's notoriety, I do not agree that these photographs are historically significant, ground-breaking images. They are good technically well executed images and should be thought of only as such.

As far as the issue of fish in the tank is concerned, I'm sure a lot of aquarium workers both professional and amateurs alike will be amazed to hear that all their efforts have been for naught as conditions for life and species propagation can not be duplicated in a aquarium tank as we all had previously thought.

Yes, DD has improved on the technique, but only in an incremental way, and not the hugely visionary way some people at the start of this thread were expounding.

With regards to critter manipulation, it's like being pregnant, to use an analogy. Either you are, or you aren't -- there is no such thing as being a little bit preggers, and so should it be with critter manipulation. Either you are manipulating the critter or you aren't. Whether you are famous, or not should not factor into it.

With respect to the “P” word, people posting at the start of this thread were attributing the use of a standard photographic technique used by DD to a new revolutionary way of seeing and photographing the underwater world. I stated I didn't think this was the case, as others, such as the two photographers mentioned above, had been producing images very similar to DD's for quite a few years previously. DD was photographing in such a manner that could have been construed as plagiarism if, and this is a big if, he was to take the credit for coming up with this technique as other posters in this thread had assumed he had done. I am sure DD hasn't done this. After all, if you look up the word “plagiarism”, you will see a definition of the word as follows: “the act of plagiarism; taking someone's words or ideas as if they were your own”. With respect to the three photographers mentioned in this thread, who incidentally are brilliant in their own rights, I felt that the posters in this thread were “conferring” an element of the “P” word on DD at the expense of the honest efforts of other photographers who had been producing images of this nature for years before this.
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#58 underwatercolours

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 04:27 PM

What an interesting topic this has become and I agree and disagree with everyone. I don't think those images would have received the same reception had it been no-name Joe Diver's gallery published in Alert Diver Magazine.

I'm not the kind of person to put anyone up on a pedestal except perhaps a shooter, amateur or pro who comes out with truly amazing, original images. For example Dave Fleetham's shot of the flying fish skimming over the surface of the water. I don't know if he did it first, but I sure was impressed when I saw it the first time.

I'm not a big fan of macro, so when I see most nudibranch shots I think "hmmm, another nudibranch". Sure DD did something different for NG and got published. Nice pics, cool effect, but as a pro, it sets a bad example in my opinion. Had it been anyone else I have a feeling some of you might not feel the same. I honestly have seem more amazing shots right here shot by many of you folks on Wetpixel.

Unfortunately what typically happens is when a big name photographer does something like this, he is copied, over and over again, even if it wasn't his original idea. How many of you have made the trip to the Florida everglades to feed pork rinds to the alligators to get your own split image alligator shot? Many of us, including myself have wrapped our toes around the swim step of Shearwater to get that shot down the shark's throat as it lunges for the dead fish being dragged across our dome port. Same goes for the shots of the underwater nudes draped with sheer, colorful cloth. We all get our inspiration from somewhere and its most often from something we've seen someplace else. I just hope these photos don't inspire everyone to build little underwater light stages so they too can get this kind of shot. Its not worth it.

#59 BoatMoney

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 06:04 PM

However when diving with people who make a living as photographers I have not seens any "reef ravaging".

On the other hand you are now partaking in a conversation regarding the handling of animals for the purpose of enhancing the photographic image, in which Doubilet is the (for lack of better term) guilty party. Who'd-a-thunk-that last week? And keep in mind if it was me who took these pictures and disclosed the methods and then submitted them to Wetpixel's POTW the response would be far more, shall we say, energetic than what has been leveled against David so far.

While it surprises me that David and NatGeo disclosed his actions I do find it gratifying that he did not tell us one thing and do another. Certainly he knew full well the uw-photo and diving community would do an intensive post-morten on his capture of these images. But it remains disconcerting to think of people without the benefit if engaging in conversations like that going on here, finding allowance to extend their behavior underwater because they know NatGeo and Doubilet did.
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#60 Marjo

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 06:53 PM

And keep in mind if it was me who took these pictures and disclosed the methods and then submitted them to Wetpixel's POTW the response would be far more, shall we say, energetic than what has been leveled against David so far.


Certainly. And rightfully so. While you might be a great photographer and wetpixel is a wonderful forum for us underwater photographers and the POTW contest is excellent... poking nudies would not be approtiate for you or me and I would be the first to tell you so. In my mind this is not a double standard. I reconize that DD's images in Nat Geo have much bigger (positive) impact than our showcases at Wepixel or in other media.

But it remains disconcerting to think of people without the benefit if engaging in conversations like that going on here, finding allowance to extend their behavior underwater because they know NatGeo and Doubilet did.



I doubt it. Only a few people in the world are even going to consider doing this. The pool of potential candidates for this would be limited to underwater photographer at the level of "obessive amateur" or higher. People who have gone out and spent way too much $$$ on gear and travel. People like us. And people like us obsess about marine critters. People who read forums such as wetpixel, subscrive to divemagazines and generally are so much in the "know" that they know full well what the general ethics of underwater photograhy are.

I do think that we the photographers cause much more harm in other ways. Our travels to exotic destinations to photograph marine life contributes to greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Our curiosity and tendency to go look for "off the beaten path" locations to shoot in, and the images we share, unfortunately sometimes opens the path that eventually leads to to develpment that destroys the beauty we came for. As people who can afford this hobby we are at the top of the consumering chain using far more energy resources than the majority of inhabitants of this planet. I could go on.

The point is, because of our unique position, we are also blessed with access to great resources, information, and abilities to make resonable desicions and judment calls and use all this to make a positive change for the oceans and marinelife that we love.

I want my ability to make images undnerwater to somehow be beneficial towards the cause of conserving and protecting the oceans. However, I recognize that my ability to reach and educate the world is not the same as DDs in Nat Geo. Hence I would not "find allowance to extend my behavior underwater because I knww NatGeo and Doubilet did". And I really very seriously doubt that the Nat Geo images will cause an onslaught of photograhers rushing to the reefs to shoot glamous nudies on portable slugwalk studios!!!

We have plenty of real issues to be concerned about. Development causing coastal errosion killing off the reefs, garbage and sewage being dumpped on our reefs, unsustainable fishing methods, greenhouse gasses and global warming, shark finning, the lack of eduation and awareness... Pick one and try to do something about it. you will have your work cut out for you.

Edited by Marjo, 18 May 2008 - 08:58 PM.