Diver Profile: John Turnbull

I never dive without my camera now. At last count I had 1637 pictures up on Flickr and three times that on my hard drive – maybe I should find something more productive to do with my time?


1. How I started
I used to work in sales and was on a club reward trip in Mauritius after a good year. I had some spare time so I thought I’d sign up for some diving lessons. After one dive I was hooked! The water was warm and it was all foreign and amazing under the waves.

2. Top dive/s
Ok that’s a tough one. Most of my diving has been in NSW so I’d have to pick between Lord Howe Island; anything at the northern end (Malabar, Ruperts Reef); Fish Rock and The Solitaries. I think coming out the shallow end of Fish Rock, when you can see the Grey Nurse Sharks hovering in front of you, is pretty hard to beat.

3. Top wreck dive/s
One with enough light and lots of fish and invertebrates. I’m not really big on wrecks; they’re often deep and I don’t have the patience to sit for long periods on deco stops. I found this out during my Tec40 training; so much to take care of; deco bottles and stuff – there was no room for my camera!

4. Night dive/s
Shelly’s hard to beat for a night dive; so convenient and so much to see once the sun goes down. Generally I’m not much good at night though; happy to get up early but by nightfall I’m falling asleep.

5. Most scarey dive/s
Touch wood; I’ve not had any real scares whilst underwater. I have been narcked a few times I think as part of my deep training, and I have had a few dives where I swore that my computer was wrong. Yeah, right. Overhead environments and dark caves don’t bother me as I’ve done a lot of canyoning over the years. I suppose I’d have to say my worst ever dive-related experience was the one where we were called in to shore during our surface interval to help with a lost diver recovery in Botany Bay; the diver was found unconscious and we did our best, but she didn’t survive. I know it’s a terrible story but it does make you think hard about safety.

6. Weirdest buddy
This one’s easy – the Galapagos shark that befriended (?) me on Horseshoe Reef at Lord Howe. I was diving solo in shallow water, doing a survey, when the 3 ft shark approached and started circling. It was just curious and for a while it kept me company, but eventually I got the heeby jeebies as it went round and round and round, and I chased it away.

7. Favourite piece of equipment
My camera. I never dive without it now, and I love to re-live each dive once I get home by reviewing and editing my pictures. At last count I had 1637 pictures up on Flickr and three times that on my hard drive – maybe I should find something more productive to do with my time? I’m happy with my camera setup; high quality compact (Sony RX-100 II) with Nauticam housing, strobe and video light. The most important thing underwater is the strobe and light; good lighting can make or break a shot whatever the camera. I can add a wide angle or macro lens whilst underwater. Most of my shots are on manual, with TTL; it’s good to get a camera that can do that.

8. Favourite buddy
I know this sounds a bit naff, but anyone from URG. I love diving with URG people as they have similar interests and are all highly skilled. I particularly like diving with Kris O’Keefe as we both like taking photos and doing surveys, and this means going at a different pace to your average buddy. I have to say something about the dynamic duo too – Janet and Michael have really embraced the reef life surveys, which I enjoy, and they build a lot of confidence as they know the sites so well. Outside URG, I like diving with my friend Tom Cordukes and a few of the guys from Ryde Underwater Club. Tom’s always trying out something new (right now it’s a re-breather) so that’s always interesting.

9. The best days diving ever!
Another tough one; probably any day when I get good photos and see new species. This doesn’t necessarily mean good viz; after all you can take great macro shots at Clifton in the murk, but good viz helps. I love a dive when I can photograph a species that I don’t already have shots of, so Lord Howe and the Solitaries are right up there with all their tropicals. I suppose, if I had to pick, it would be one of the days in the first week of the Reef Life Survey trip to Lord Howe. We were diving, eating and sleeping and that was it. Surveys from sunrise to sunset, camera cards filled up, then data entry at night. I was flogged but loved it.

10. If you can include a pic of you too that will be great, preferably diving or in dive gear
Strangely enough I don’t have many of those; I’d rather you look at my Flickr shots anyway https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnwturnbull/

John Turnbull’s profile originally appeared in the May 2014 bulletin – [ddownload id=”285″]