Monday, 18 November 2013

Cool California - From Trash to Jewels. Glass Beach, Mendocino County

Visiting Mendocino County in California is a sensory tickling experience. Driving through the redwood forests, the smell of pines, foliage and sea air combine in the cool morning air and create a delightful atmosphere in which to drive a convertible along the winding roads. The scenery is stunning and our lodgings are situated right on the seafront, with a wild pacific ocean on our doorstep. We are welcomed by the hotel ( and by the county tourism board as if we were dear friends returning after a long absence. This is the way here it seems.

We had come here to photograph Glass Beach. Having done a bit a research on the internet before our arrival, I was still unsure as to whether our trip was going to be worth it. But the environmental angle to the story made us make the drive north from San Francisco and we were not disappointed. The beach in Fort Bragg used to be the city rubbish dump. Locals and collection vehicles would simply reverse up to the edge of the cliff and dump all the cities waste over the edge and down onto the beach. Out of sight - Out of mind. Appliances, cars, you name it - it was dumped here. And this is not that long ago really. It just shows how much we have all changed. In the 1960s the local authorities decided that this could no longer be tolerated and a clean up was underway. The large items were removed first, and then the rest of the trash was taken away, all but the broken glass, that was left scattered along the shoreline. It seems incredible now that this ever happened and with California being one of the most environmentally friendly places on earth - it is even harder to image this happening here! But now, nature has done the rest and made a spectacular site from what remained.

The glass has spent decades being broken up and washed against the rocks and along the beach, to create smooth glass pebbles of all colours. The relentless wave action of the Pacific Ocean has transformed this whole area.

Glass beach is a place you can spend hours, we certainly did, taking in a picnic (that to be honest was mostly stolen by a squirrel as we took photos), running the cool glass beads through your hands, paddling in the shallows and enjoying the special atmosphere of this place. We stayed until sunset, certain this would provide some great photos.

We had also hoped to snorkel to take some underwater images of the glass pebbles, perhaps finding some shallow fish or anemones to show the beach below the waterline, but we were a little unlucky with the weather, with large swells hampering our efforts. We did wade in though and try to get some shots to show the wave action on the glass. 

Just as we were leaving we spotted a Pigeon Guillemot sitting on the glass at the end of the day. Nature really can heal itself, but we have to give it a helping hand when we can. They seem to have got it right in this case.

The region also offers great local food and drinks. Mendocino County is a great wine region, has local micro breweries that make some stupendous beers and local food produce that the residents are proud to shout about. For an evening out, after a day at the beach, we visited Piaci's ( which has a huge array of beers, pizzas (like you have never tried before) and locally sourced ingredients. 

There is something to please all your senses here in Fort Bragg, Mendocino County.  

Monday, 10 June 2013

Wining & Diving - Montdoyen, France

Nick and Caroline have set off on a new adventure - Wining & Diving. We hope to bring you some of the most wonderful wines, along with great diving, from different countries around the world. Our first trip in the series was to France, in our VW Caddy, along with Caroline's mum and Paddy the golden retriever. We toured all around France, and will relive all our tasting and diving experiences here on this blog, we will also let you into some of the small "incidents" we encountered along the way. But first, we want to share a very special vineyard with you.

Chateau Montdoyen can be found on the sunny hills of Monbazillac in the Bergerac region. We first visited this vineyard about 13 year ago. We were doing a wine tour of France in our TVR Tuscan sports car and had pulled into a small village in search of some coffee. Having wondered round and found nowhere providing such refreshment, we headed back to the car. We found a frenchman leaning into the car and looking at the inside. We greeted him, and he wanted to know where the car was made, why were here in this tiny village, and in France in general. Having established that we wanted coffee as an emergency and then wine as the main reason for the trip, he introduced himself as the owner of the vineyard. Jean-Paul Hembise then invited us to his kitchen for morning coffee, and followed this up with an extensive tasting of his range of wines. We liked then so much, we bought 200 bottles for our wedding!

We were delighted that our route on this trip was going to take us right back to Chateau Montdoyen again, some 13 years after that first visit. On this visit, we discovered, to our delight, that they are now completely organic. They have an affinity with the natural wildlife that is really pleasing to hear about. They have insect houses to encourage plenty of bug life, have completed surveys to increase the number of bats roosting in their cellar and use no chemicals at all to protect the vines. To keep the deer from eating the vine leaves, they mash up herbs and spray the vines to put the deer off!

The wine is even better. They are a range of wines that vary in price from their entry level wines called "Un Point, C'est Tout!" which means "A point, that's all" which they describe as party wines to share with your friends. "Ainsi soit-il" which translate as "So be it" which are very good mid-range wines and then their best wines are individually named, with the red being as good as any of the neighbouring, and more revered, bordeauxs.

The range of wines is excellent with red, rose, white and sweet wines in each of the price ranges. Even the most expensive, and very deliciou,s red "Tout Simplement" is a bargain at only £15. Alas, it is not available in the UK market just yet - so you will have to head over to France and fill up your car! Or watch this space as we are in discussions with a UK organic wine importer to bring this wonderful range into the UK.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Diving into Politics

As divers and underwater photographers, should we be getting more involved in politics? Having written a series of articles for Sport Diver called the Conservation Diaries, what has become very clear to me is that we have the ability to change the world around us for the better. I hear so many people complain, whilst sat around a dinner table, or over a beer in the local, about topics close to my heart and I wonder how many then go home and do something about it? Many would, in an Eeyore tone of voice, say that one person cannot change anything and it is all too late anyway, but I disagree with this. Here is why...

Social networking has changed the game. If you are passionate about a particular conservation topic, it is now easier than ever imaginable to find like minded people. There will be a charity, who will have a Web & Facebook Page, who will lead you to all the right petitions, offer pre-worded letters to send to your MEP/MPs and give you dates, times and locations of where you can meet up with others to peacefully protest or discuss such topics. It strikes me as a suitable dating opportunity for those looking for a like-minded partner too! Social networking has also changed the game, by being able to quickly form flash-mod style pressure. Take, for example, the amazing Fish Fight programme on Channel 4, that managed to get 40,000 tweets to 3 supermarkets in a single advert break, to challenge the shrimp feed industry. Or images posted by Michael Aw on Facebook, of countries in secret talks to try to stop CITES protecting sharks, that sparked an emailing frenzy overnight to lobby and ensure the laws got through.

Supporting a cause, protesting against those that do the marine environment harm and getting involved in protecting the oceans could not be easier. But what about the bigger picture? In an interview with Doug Allan (BBC Wildlife Photographer) about climate change and the effects it would have, he argues that we should be voting for the Green Party. I have always, in the past, thought of this as a possible wasted vote - letting in another party that I definitely do not want. But if the last 10 years of UK politics has taught me anything, it has convinced me that whatever of the 3 main parties we vote for - we simply will not get what we want.

Take the current lot in power. They commission a huge undertaking to look at what areas around the UK coastline need protecting. They spend millions doing this and then ... throw the results out of the window and select only 31 of the 127 Marine Conservation Zones (recommended by their panel of experts). I could go on about alternative energy, fishing policy, austerity measures causing diving business to close all over the country and their lack of support for a great scheme to sink a huge wreck that would certainly help both marine life and the diving community. In fact I could go on and on... instead I will be voting Green whenever I can from now on. Why not - they cannot do any worse than the last lots - as Doug Allan put it!

Really what I want to say is - there is no excuse for sitting and doing nothing. Supporting causes you believe in costs nothing, joining a charity costs very little, and getting involved will make you feel great! The images in this blog are taken from the Conservation Diaries series published in Sport Diver every month.

Whilst I am at it - here are a few of the charities that I follow:

Friday, 8 February 2013

Fantastic Florida

Anyone that has followed Frogfish Photography over the last few years will know that we love to go to Florida in January. Why, well the weather in the UK is usually pretty dreadful, and Florida offers a host of different diving, that you can do at your own pace. Cheap flight to Orlando, grab a hire car, and you are set.  For the past 3 years, we have done this and are still not bored of what it has to offer. We even do nearly the same route each year. First, we head up to Crystal River in the north-west of the county. Initially, we went here for the manatees that gather in the warm spring water when it gets cold. Swimming with them is an amazing experience. We head to Birds Underwater, to hire a house on the water, with kayaks so that we can visit the manatees in our own time, and throw some tanks and weights in the back of the car.

Diving in these fresh water springs is great, and there are loads of different state parks where you can pay a $6 entry fee and try out diving in this crystal clear water. Ginnie Springs, and others, also give the cavern and cave divers something to sink their teeth into. If you ignore the warning signs for alligators, then Manatee Springs is also a dive not to miss, as the green pond weed covering the spring, make you feel like you are diving in a spooky haunted cavern.

Heading south to the keys, we usually stop off to try a dolphin spotting trip in Pine Island, or look for alligators in the Everglades to break up the journey. As you drive south the air and water get warmer. We go to the Keys to get in some wreck diving before we have to head home. As we have been coming here for a while, we know a few of the locals, and often get asked to photograph a new boat, or particular dive site for them. This latest trip saw us on a speed boat, yacht and live-aboard.

Our final dives were on the USS Vandenberg, a simply huge wreck, with radar arrays and a large US flag as good features to get images of. We were also lucky to see vast schools of fish flashing around the wreck avoiding the barracuda and jacks hunting them. You could dive this wreck all week and not get bored.

I keep saying we should go somewhere else next January, but I am sure that by the time we get there, we will be missing the freedom and variety Florida can offer. 

Thursday, 3 January 2013

2012 Review

Before our 2013 projects get underway, we thought it would be good to look back at 2012 and see what happened at Frogfish Photography over the last 12 months. We have picked 10 images from 2012 to illustrate what it meant to us. It was a big year for us, as we moved house in the middle of the year. In the first half of the year, we were busy with overseas trips to Florida, St Eustatius and the Red Sea.

In Florida we traveled with a close friend to visit the Manatees and then head south to the Keys to photograph the Vandenburg.

Nick and I were then invited by the St Eustatius tourist board to come to this magical Caribbean island and get some images of the amazing artificial reefs, one of which, the Charlie Brown, we had helped to sink 10 years ago

In June we accompanied a wonderful group of 24 divers, underwater photographers and friends to the Red Sea. We chartered Emperor Divers Elite boat to do the Simply the Best itinerary of The Brothers, Deadalus and Elphinstone. Great diving, company and weather made this a special trip.

As the summer was now upon us, we were desperately trying to complete our move, so that we could get on with some UK diving before the season was finished! Of course, the Olympics and Paralympics had begun and kept us glued to the TV too. The day we moved, we had a call from The Sun newspaper asking us for an image for their cover for the coverage of the Paralympics.

We did eventually get some UK diving done, and managed 4 trips up to the Farne Islands over the summer months, and while the visibility was never at it's best this year, Caroline managed to get this shot, which came 2nd in the BSoUP/DIVER print competition at the Dive Show.

We also were given the opportunity to do some more work in pools, with a couple of unusual photo shoots near the end of the year. The first was to take some underwater dog portraits for a company called K9Swim in Manchester. This was fantastic, with 18 dogs jumping in over the day. 

We were also asked to photograph an inspirational young boy, who had lost his legs at the age of 1 and now, at the age of 7 had just been made a pair of artificial legs with fins on the end for swimming! This is for a news piece which will come out this year. He was amazing in the water, never keeping still for a minute, which made the shoot a challenge!

Late in the year, we took part in the 3 Deeps Challenge, where we completed 3 deep dives, in 3 countries, in 1 day! We went along to get images for the Sport Diver article and also helped the team raise over £2000 for The Christie and Macmillan Nurses.

We loved the first dive in Loch Long so much that we went back a couple of weeks later! We were married on the shores of this loch, in Arrochar, so it was great to return and finally dive here. It will be a destination for 2013 too! Our final dive was on Halloween evening, and so I love this spooky crab Nick shot.

Other achievements in 2012 include raising over £3500 for The Shark Trust, when a group of Frogfish friends completed a triathlon. In 2013 we will be supporting the Marine Conservation Society and will be giving the triathlon another go, as well as finding new challenges to raise money.

We were published in Sport Diver, with both travel articles and a monthly feature on Marine Behaviour. We have a new series coming out for 2013. New publications that commissioned work from us in 2012 were Wild Travel and NPhoto Magazines. We also had stories about us published in Take A Break, The Metro, The Sun and MEN newspapers. 

Now it is time to look forward to 2013. We hope you will join us along the way. 

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Wet Dogs Shoot

Our first Underwater Dog Portrait Shoot was an experience we will not forget, and we are looking forward to booking lots more in 2013. In just one day shooting in the K9Swim pool we met 18 dogs, in 11 half hour sessions. Each dog had a different personality and so Nick and I had to work out the best way to get a good image of each dog. With such a short time slot, it was not easy! I want you to meet some of the characters we photographed on the day.

Casper and Jess made a real splash! They are both deaf. They are both rescue dogs. And they are both mad for the water. They jumped in right away and would chase toys, duck their heads underwater and were even happy to go completely under, right in front of the camera. This is our favourite shot from the day, as the noses are both in the shot and your can see their entry into the water and the bubbles they create as they dive in.

Alfie, the beagle, was not so keen! He loves the water too, but was very scared of our large camera rigs. It took all 30mins to persuade him to have a swim with us in the water but, with a bit of patience, we did get him to duck his head under in the quest for a tennis ball.

Kira, the lurcher, had never been to this pool before, and did not want to even get into the water. This was going to make it very difficult to get a good shot! Fortunately, the owners were happy to get in the water too, and gave her a cuddle to reassure her. Soon, in their arms, she was going underwater and we got some great shots.

After a full day in the pool and another in front of the computer going through the images, each dog owner was able to come in and look through about 10 images from the day. Most have gone on to buy canvasses, key rings and prints of their wonderful pets. Just in time for Christmas!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Branching Out

It is amazing how new opportunities can pop up unexpectedly every now and then. As many of you know, we have always enjoyed photographing our golden retriever Paddy when we are out diving. We have posted many images of him on Facebook, Flickr and Twitter. And so we were delighted to be asked to come and photograph a doggy pool party at a new facility in Manchester called K9Swim. K9Swim offer swimming session for dogs for fun or for rehabilitation. The dogs love it!

We were there to provide unusual images for a news feature about it, but it has also led to us developing the idea. We get asked all the time if we can photograph dogs in the water, but it has always seemed to difficult to organise in the sea or quarries, as you are so dependent on the weather. At this facility, we will be able to run regular days where we can do underwater dog portrait shoots. So we have setup 2 dates, with the first already fully booked on the 18th November and only a few places left on Sunday 16th December.

Paddy, for all his love of the water, cannot be persuaded to put his head under the water. To get a really spectacular image of a dog underwater, this is what you want. So many of our new customers have been practicing in the pool to get ready. We cannot wait to get in and give it a try.

To see some truly brilliant underwater dog images - here is a link to the best of the best at this - Seth Casteel:

Our day in the pool was a little more hectic for the article. While we thought that we would be getting 1 dog at a time to try to get portrait shots, it turned out to be a dog pool birthday party, with 10 enthusiastic dogs leaping into the water at any given moment. The owners throwing toys at our heads did not help the underwater photography at all! But it was great fun! Hopefully our first portrait session will be a little calmer. We will, of course, post the results on Facebook, the Frogfish Photography website, and our new website:

We will also try to get a blog about the day up as soon as we can. We will have to keep working on Paddy and his dislike of getting his nose wet!