Photographer Brooke Pyke explains how she unexpectedly entered the world of diving and photography. And how other aspiring ocean enthusiasts can too.
WHERE MY JOURNEY STARTED
During my early childhood I have vivid memories of being terrified by of the power of the ocean. One of my earliest recollections of the ocean at a young ages was walking along the shore with my parents. The large noisy waves breaking the shore beside us and the immense power I felt will always stay with me. As a child the waves felt huge, as if they would crash onto us and pull us into its depths.
This fear of the water stayed with me for quite a few years until I learned to snorkel a while later. Once you see what's below the surface, it suddenly becomes less frightening. As most of my fellow Australians would agree, many of us are lucky enough to grow up near the coast and as children have a close relationship with the ocean early on.
My true love and passion for the ocean didn’t 't really start properly until I tried scuba diving while on holiday in Thailand at the age of 21. I had just finished University (studying commercial arts) and had decided to take a few months off before beginning a career as a designer. Within my short trip to Thailand and learning to scuba dive I had suddenly been thrown into a new world, one where I felt instantly at home. Once back in Australia I didn't really feel settled, I knew I wanted something different. So I decided I wanted to pursue a career in diving and I moved to Thailand a few months later to start a divemaster traineeship. A few years later I then became a dive instructor and worked and traveled around South-East Asia before finally settling on a small Island in Indonesia called Nusa Lembongan. I lived there for over 3 years and it was there that I discovered my love for underwater photography. When I was in high school I did have a keen interest for photography and much of my final creative portfolio when I finished was based around film and dark room photography. I actually had applied to study photography at university but wasn't successful at getting in. So that's when I ended up training as a designer instead. Teaching myself underwater photography came naturally as I already had a good foundation and understanding of how a camera works as well as having a creative mindset.
During my travels I had picked up a small point and shoot underwater camera to take on dives with me. I began by using it on my days off as a bit of fun. But soon I was booking dive trips to various locations around Indonesia such as Raja Ampat to dedicate time to taking photos and improving my skills. As my camera equipment expanded and gradually upgraded, so did my passion for taking photos.
After spending a few years teaching diving, I was feeling very ready for a new challenge and for a job with a little more creativity where I could grow and develop a career. I knew if I wanted to take photography seriously, I needed a serious camera. Buying a professional full frame set up meant I needed to save some serious money and perhaps look into getting a loan. I also was thinking about where I wanted to work, and where would be a good start as a career in photography.
I had been following the work of a few of the photographers who were based on the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia for a while through social media. This seemed like a heaven for photographers so I began by emailing the companies in Exmouth and Coral Bay hoping to get a job for the following season. To do so, I compiled a CV with a couple of pages showcasing some of my best photos, as well an my extensive knowledge and experience working in the dive industry. Having years of experience as a diver as well as some nice photos definitely helped me get my foot in the door. Getting a job as a photographer on the Ningaloo reef is increasingly sought after and competitive. But I got lucky and landed a full time position as a photographer!
Before starting my first season on the Ningaloo Reef I knew my small point and shoot camera needed to go, so I bought a brand new Canon R6, 15mm Fisheye Lens and Nauticam housing. It took me the whole season to pay off my loan for this setup, but it was one of the best decisions I made and was essential for me to get the job done. My small compact camera (Olympus TG5) had done it's work well but I knew I couldn't progress further with it. So I was ready with the tools for the job and the excitement of a kid at Christmas. My first season on the Ningaloo started off in March 2021 and while it wasn't without its own challenges, it was one of the most rewarding experiences.
Over my first season on the Ningaloo Reef I learned more than I can imagine. And not only about photography, but also about setting up and managing business (starting my print store), promoting my work on social media and creating a brand for myself around my work and my passion. I wasn't only working on growing my photography skills but also growing my style, my reputation as a photographer and creator. Along the way I have gained a huge connection with the ocean, the marine animals I photograph, myself and what I want to achieve with my career in photography.
Working with mother nature, particularly the ocean can be such an invaluable way to spend your time on this planet. I cannot wait to see where this journey will take me next...