Most Amazing Encounters at Lady Elliot Island
One of my favourite places to visit is Lady Elliot Island, as it’s incredibly rich with a variety of vibrant marine life and is, in my opinion, the jewel of the Southern Great Barrier Reef.
Capturing underwater photography has given me the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the ocean’s most incredible creatures. From grand, majestic whales and mighty sharks, to serene turtles and schools of the most beautiful fish imaginable.
I am lucky enough to capture this underwater world in all its natural glory, and some of my absolute favourite encounters have occurred at Lady Elliot Island.
Encountering Humpback Whales
Back on my first trip to the island in 2013, I had the most breathtaking encounter with a mother humpback whale and her calf.
I was lucky enough to witness these amazing creatures swimming slowly past me, allowing me to truly take in their wonder whilst also gifting me the opportunity to capture this beautiful memory on film.
At one point, the mother whale stared right at me; an unusual stranger in her underwater kingdom. The memory of the way the shafts of light broke through the water and illuminated these humpback whales still takes my breath away.
“Most vocal of all whales [they] ‘sing songs’ that can last for hours and can be heard by the human ear from up to 16 km away.” - Lady Elliot Island, Humpback Whales Fact Sheet
I captured Magnificence during my first time swimming around a cleaning station on Lady Elliot Island.
I lined up the shot in my mind’s eye, positioning myself with the sun ball in the background whilst making sure I had taken enough test shots to ensure the lighting was going to be perfect, I made sure to adjust my strobes, with enough light falling on the manta ray to show up the detail of this beautiful creature, whilst avoiding too much white light from the sun.
I still love the way that the light creates a halo around the manta, making it almost seem like she has emerged from some far off universe.
Capturing Majestic is without a doubt one of my best memories from my Lady Elliot Island photography encounters.
Having the chance to free dive with this incredible manta ray and capture her in all her ethereal glory was something I’ll treasure forever. The prismatic light marbling the water shows just how astounding our natural world is; it’s as though we are surrounded by real paintings. The stark contrast between the luminous turquoise water and the manta ray’s slick dark skin is natural beauty in its most striking form.
For me, this image holds both beautiful memories and the potential to inspire those who are yet to see it. Whilst most people will dive in the hopes of encountering a whale, dolphin or turtle, the majesty of manta rays shouldn’t be forgotten.
“Manta rays range among the largest fishes in the ocean, growing up to approximately 7 metres disc width (from wing tip to wing tip).” - Lady Elliot Island, Manta Ray Fact Sheet
Ethereal and Serenity at the Lagoon
Some of the best photography sessions for me on Lady Elliot Island have been when the tide is high in the late afternoon at the lagoon. It’s a gift to work with this glorious dappled light and capture some more dramatic or atmospheric compositions.
The Ethereal turtle print was captured whilst out on an afternoon swim in the lagoon at Lady Elliot Island, my intention being to show both the serenity of this green turtle, as well as the richness and splendour of the underwater ecosystem. I hope that this image helps others to recognise just how precious our oceans and its inhabitants are.
Capturing Serenity brought with it an overwhelming feeling of tranquillity. I found myself face to face with this incredibly beautiful and endangered animal, the light shining down from the surface, and it was hard not to be completely in awe of its quiet nobility.
Sea Gypsy and Contemplation at the Coral Gardens
One of my favourite experiences at Lady Elliot Island is to visit the reef on a warm, bright day, working with natural light and vibrant corals in the background.
The endangered sea turtle captured in Sea Gypsy was photographed while I was free diving near Lady Elliot Island. The contrast between the turtle herself and the brilliant ocean floor below is truly a thing of beauty, making for a truly striking piece of turtle wall art.
The pensive look on the face of the old green turtle in Contemplation never fails to catch my eye too. It was particularly placid, emanating a wise and curious aura as it drifted closer to inspect me, an unusual stranger in its underwater domain. The spark of unique personality and warmth in their eyes only makes me more determined than ever to support this endangered species’ conservation.
“Sea turtles are one of the earth’s most ancient creatures, dating from the time of dinosaurs, over 100 million years ago.” - Lady Elliot Island, Turtles Fact Sheet
Turquoise at the Beach
The clear, turquoise waters, full high tide and calm conditions at Lady Elliot Island are an underwater photographer’s dream. In fact, when diving at the Great Barrier Reef and capturing this image - which I think is aptly named Turquoise - I was fortunate enough to share a quiet moment of connection with this green turtle.
The magical greens and blues in this image, partnered with the direct and earnest front view of the beautiful green turtle, are a stark reminder of the purity and precious nature of our oceans. With the preservation of the coral reef and endangered species like the green turtle at the forefront of my mind, I always hope that my wall art highlights the importance of protecting these underwater worlds.
So there you have it, some of my most amazing encounters at Lady Elliot Island. If you’ve never visited, you can see why I’m such an enthusiast about this area can’t you?
I feel incredibly fortunate that I have been able to experience the wonder of the ocean firsthand, and that the marine creatures that live within have allowed me to share their waters and capture them in their most natural states.
If you would like to learn more about Lady Elliot Island, then make sure to visit their official website here. There’s some fantastic information on here, such as Top Snorkelling Locations on Lady Elliot Island and guidance on What Time of Year is best to visit - depending on what you hope to see and do.
Don’t forget to also check out my journal on Capturing Underwater Photography at Lady Elliot Island too. In it, I share personal anecdotes of what a typical day looks like for an underwater photographer and my process for capturing and editing my photos.