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Tom Collier Nov 2009
My wife and I scheduled a trip to Australia in November 2009. Since we are avid divers and amateur u/w photographers we wanted to do some diving and try our hand at getting some shots of the rare Leafy Sea Dragons. We did not have much time allotted for diving so we researched, via the internet for recommended dive sites and dive guides related to the dragons. It quickly became apparent that Carey Harmer was the dive guide of choice; information on the best dive locations was a little more elusive.
We contacted Carey several months in advance of our trip to schedule a weekend of dives with him as our guide. That turned out to be a very wise decision. Pre-trip correspondence with Carey resulted in invaluable help regarding an itinerary of southern Australia sightseeing, suggested dive locations, water temperatures, tank rental locations, etc.
We dove several locations prior to meeting up with Carey; truly fascinating dives with sightings of weedy dragons on each dive, but the leafy's eluded us. Two days before our scheduled meeting, a phone call to Carey revealed that leafy dragon sightings were rare this year and none had been sighted in our scheduled dive location in Edithburgh. Carey hastily re-arranged his schedule, managed to cancel our reservations in Edithburgh without any cancellation charges to us and rerouted us to Rapid Bay .
Some leafy dragon sightings had been reported at Rapid Bay so that's where we went. My wife and I dived RBJ before meeting with Carey and this resulted in no sightings of the elusive dragons. The next day, at the pre-appointed time, we met with Carey. I must say that Carey is not your average walk-on dive guide; he pulled up with a trailer fully equipped with all the necessary spare gear, tools for field repairs, dollies for hauling the tons of gear and weight and this resulted in a leisurely and trouble free weekend of diving.
True to his reputation, Carey found leafy's on every dive, actually several on each dive. My wife and I got all the face time we wanted and we did not have to share because there were no other divers in sight. The first day, Carey was accompanied by his friend Luke, who was also an excellent spotter. The personable Luke was an added bonus that paired my wife and me with a guide for each – an absolutely perfect day that yielded multiple 60+ minute dives until we cried ‘uncle' and sent Carey and Luke home.
Carey, himself an avid u/w photographer, was of immense help to both my wife and me sharing information about the desired camera and strobe settings. Because of his help, we both got the shots we traveled half way around the world for and we exceeded our expectations. The attention to his clients continued to amaze us when at lunch time he produced a splendid assortment of cold cuts that rivaled any of the local bakeries. And of course, none of this would have been possible without his flexibility in adjusting the itinerary at the last minute. He traveled an extra two hours each day to dive with us at one of the few sites in the entire area that had recent sightings of leafy sea dragons.
Being from Texas , we were obviously not familiar with the diving conditions present in southern Oz. The temperate water required additional weigh on our belts, the lower viz was unfamiliar, the tidal currents were unknown and the recent shark attack in a nearby area was definitely disconcerting. Carey's knowledge of the dive sites, his superb diving abilities, his professionalism and his uncanny ability to locate the object of our travels, resulted in a fantastic weekend. If you want to photograph the dragons, Carey Harmer is definitely the man to see.
Tom Collier – http://www.tpixs.com
Mark Goyen Feb 2009
I have been wanting to photograph Leafy Sea Dragons for many years, but it was clear that this required some expert knowledge of sea dragon location, behaviour and most importantly an ability to find these elusive animals in their natural environment.
I contacted Carey Harmer after viewing the "Vanishing Dragons" DVD.
This proved to be a great move.
Carey organised the whole weekend, not at Rapid Bay, but at Edithburgh, 3 hours from Adelaide. My friend Owen and I had 5 terrific dives with the dragons ( each about 70 minutes), and Carey managed to find 5-6 dragons on every occasion. While I was photographing one, Carey would find others for me to go and shoot, so whole of the dive was productive.
The jetty was also a great site for other life.
I was very happy with my results and would love to go back in November when the males have eggs in situ.
(see the pics at ) http://www.markgoyen.com/seadragons/
Thanks once again Carey for a fabulous experience
Mark Goyen, Sydney.
Helen Rushton August 2008
I took the long trip to Australia hoping to dive with the amazing Leafy Seadragons and was put in touch with Carey through a professional photographer friend of mine who highly recommended Carey having dived with him previously.
What can I say?
Carey's passion and understanding of the dragons was amazing, he found them straight away and could even name each of them and tell me their history!We had a couple of fantastic dives and all the information he gave me out of the water made the experience even more unforgettable.
I can't recommend Carey highly enough, I hope his dedication and tireless work with the dragons leads to a greater understanding of these wonderful creatures and hopefully we'll see more in the future.
Helen Rushton - http://www.sealifethroughthelens.com
Alex Mustard - December 2007
Living in the UK, there are few places further from home than Adelaide. But my desire to see and photograph leafy seadragons encouraged me to invest both time and money in travelling so far. Wildlife photography can never be 100% guaranteed, a fact that provides both the frustration and satisfaction of the challenge. As an underwater wildlife photographer I have learned the importance of investing in local knowledge, which makes all the difference in tipping the odds of success in your favour.
And when it comes to Leafy Seadragons the cognoscenti will all tell you that Carey is your trump card. For many years, the man and the encounters he can unlock for you have been something of a secret. Carey has worked hard to protect the seadragons he has been studying for at least a couple of decades, and so has shied away from publicity. His name has gotten around really by word of mouth.
My (first) visit was in December 2007, when I travelled to Adelaide with my friend and underwater photographer Shannon Conway. We'd been told by so many other underwater photographers that leafy seadragons were rare, hard to find and often deep. We were prepared for a frustrating week.
Carey took us to one of his favourite spots and within 10 minutes we had seen 6. By the end of that dive Carey had identified more than 10 individuals, all in water so shallow that we could spend as long as we wanted with them. Being an experienced underwater photographer and videographer himself, Carey knows exactly what we wanted to get the best shots.
Carey was also able to take us to spots where we had the dragons to ourselves. Indeed, for the entire trip Shannon and I did not see another diver with a camera. All the locations we visited also had a number of individuals to photograph, meaning we would not be competing for subjects so we could photograph slowly, taking time for the leafies to get used to us before pressing the shutter. This is when the best images came, when the leafies were completely relaxed. They got so used to us that I had one leafy using me to hide up against as it fed on small critters in the seagrass. Perhaps that says more about the lack of elegance in my floating debris diving style! Yes, this was an underwater creature coming too close to photograph.
Perhaps most importantly, Carey also installed in us a respect for the creatures built on an understanding of their unique biology. I am delighted that he is going public, so that more people can see and learn about leafy seadragons from him, and most importantly enjoy encounters with them "the right way" in the ocean.
Dr Alexander Mustard - http://www.amustard.com/
Shannon Conway - December 2007 / Return Trip Jan 2010
Carey Harmer, what can I say, Master of the Leafy Seadragons. As an Underwater Photographer what more could you ask for than an enthusiastic, knowledgeable guide that comes up with goods. Carey was the diamond in a 3 week photographic road trip Alex Mustard and I organised around the South and South East of Australia. We had a planned expensive trip to Kangaroo Island thinking this would be our guaranteed Leafy Seadragon spot. How wrong we were.
Carey's knowledge and experience put us in shallow and photographic friendly waters on the Yorke Peninsula . We spent several days there then had to leave for Kangaroo Island . Within three days we cut our charter short and phoned Carey eager to get back to the Yorke Peninsula via Rapid Bay Jetty. Carey gave us his local knowledge for Rapid Bay and then joined us back at Yorke Peninsula .
If anybody is interested in seeing, photographing, filming Seadragons or marine life around these temperate waters I would only recommend Carey. He is honest and knowledgeable; he knows his subjects and what photographers require to get great images.
Shannon Conway - www.underwaterphotography.com.au