TEN metres under the crystal clear waters of Mabul Island in Sipadan, Sabah, five divers swim slowly by the coral reef. As they approach a rocky part, leader Zaidi Burok or Scuba Jeff, gives a signal to look at a spot between two rocks.
The divers move closer with their underwater cameras, strobe lights in hand, ready to snap pictures of tiny colourful sea life called nudibranch, one of the thousands of inhabitants of the reef.
Ten minutes later after several successful snaps, they move to another spot nearby. It’s the lair of eels. A curious eel emerges from a hole, and the divers snap away.
This is Scuba Jeff’s routine.
The 37-year-old owner of ScubaJeff Sipadan (www.scubajeffsipadan.com) budget chalets and dive tour in Mabul Island has been photographing undersea habitats for 10 years. He says his heart belongs here, at the reefs, ever since he took his first dive at Mabul years ago.
“The only way I can share these beautiful sea life with others is to capture them on camera and share them on the Internet and social media channels.”
HOW IT STARTED
Unlike many photographers, Seremban-born Zaidi’s photography venture did not start on land but underwater.
The first photography experience started when he was posted to Semporna, Sabah in 1994, after 10 years in the service.
He started to explore the beautiful reef and corals there. “Sipadan is one of the top three diving spots in the world, but Mabul is one of the world’s best spots for macro and micro diving and sea photography,” says Zaidi, who has dived in various locations around the country.
“Here you can see and photograph the tiny, colourful nudibranch and flabelinna as there are thousands of them, and if you like large sea turtles such as the green turtle and the Hawksbill, which can be the size of a small table, there are plenty here too.”
Other marine creatures such as barracuda, jack fish, lion fish, clown fish, ghost pipe fish, red snapper and giant garoupa can also be spotted easily.
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Zaidi started his underwater photography with a second-hand Sony digital camera, which he bought for RM300. And armed with a simple waterproof casing for the camera and a torch light, which he modified for underwater use, he took his first few shots of marine life.
Despite being a skillful diver and having good knowledge of the Mabul reef area, he still finds marine life photography very challenging. “Initially, the equipment I used was not optimised for underwater photography since I didn’t have the budget, but I managed to make use of things around me,” says Zaidi, adding that he once used a red soy sauce bottle as a filter for his torch light for underwater photography.
“The deeper we go into the sea, the darker it becomes and the colourful marine life look pale. But if we use light with some colours, the sea creatures will, in turn, look colourful,” he says.
Most of his marine photography works are available on the ScubaJeffSipadan website and his Facebook pages, Scuba Jeff and Scuba Jeff II.
“This is how I promote the beauty of Mabul and Sipadan,” says Zaidi, who now has close to 7,000 friends on his two Facebook accounts.
Besides showcasing the pictures, he also sells the full resolution ones.
To get the best results from underwater photography, proper equipment is needed, says Zaidi. Although there are waterproof cameras, most can only go about three metres underwater, but the sea life that are interesting and colourful are normally found between five and 18 metres underwater.
“You will need a proper underwater casing for your camera so that it can be taken with you up to 30 metres deep and is still functional,” says Zaidi.
“The casings are normally more expensive than the cameras, as they need to function well and protect the cameras from the underwater pressure,” he adds.
However, Zaidi says one can always opt for smaller point-and-shoot cameras such as the Canon S100, Canon G12, and Olympus E-PL3, which are good for underwater photography and use less expensive casings, which cost from RM500 to RM3,000.
In addition, strobe lights are also needed, although torch lights will do the job too.
“… Sea Gypsea? Bajau laut? palauh? Those are the names referring to the same ethnic. This ethnic group occasionally move their ‘homes’ and usually near the waters of Sabah. It has been a great attraction to tourists in Mabul island when professional photographers see them as rare subjects for their shoot. Mabul island is ‘heaven’ for professional photographers as it always portrays its unique genuine authenticity of its people’s culture and lifestyle.
For me, the main purpose of photography is not its salary, however, its a way to share my love and passion. I am more interested to share the beauty with little children and teenagers so it would be understood and be a part in their lives. It has always been my dream to spread “We love nature”. I believe with sharing the beauty of the amazing under water life, it would (at least) sooth anger, spark love and also spread the love to the world and also among people….” – scuba Jeff
Hi my name is Zaidi also known as ‘ Scuba Jeff the Ocean Traveler’. I am also a writer for Salam Traveler magazine and my writings are focused on scuba diving. My role is to help promote awareness projects on the conservation of ocean by Government agencies, private sector and also individuals. Breathtaking pictures of the ocean and marine life that you see will not exist in the future without great effort of conservation. Developments contribute to the destruction of the ocean. However, there are many efforts have been carried out to maintain the ocean especially the marine life. With that, I have provided pictures, that I have been given the chance to take, that portray the beauty of the ocean and marine life which is to be shared with my blog followers so that it can also be shared with their families, children, and friends as well. The pictures from my blog are for personal use and any form of publication is prohibited.
For 2015 All payment for my videography and photography will go to Madrasah Darul Mumtaz.
In the spirit of donating for my work please do donation to account below . Jeff work, you happy and orphan kids get the money. now everybody happy 🙂 .
MADRASAH DARUL MUMTAZ.
09400 Padang Serai
Kedah Darul Aman
No. Acc: MAYBANK:
No. account :5574 47 502 678
(MADRASAH DARUL MUMTAZ.)