A Wild Life with Johnny Gaskell

Johnny has had a passion for underwater photography for over 20 years. His passion for underwater photography started at university in the cold waters of Southern Australia where he spent hours a day exploring the kelp gardens and rocky reefs.

He has authored two photographic based books and developed several marine life smartphone Apps including ’Sea Life Australia’ using his underwater photography from all around Australia.

More recently, Johnny currently works as a Marine Biologist in the Whitsundays, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park where he has used his photography to assist with many scientific research projects, particularly on coral.  In 2019 Johnny’s mission was to photograph random roofscapes right up and down the Great Barrier Reef spanning over 200kms. The overall goal is to film and photograph all these sites to demonstrate to the world that although the reef faces challenges, there are spectacular coral gardens that spread the full length of the reef.

Johnny’s interests all revolves around photographing marine animals and exploring marine habitats that are rarely seen while educating the world on his findings. Through years of underwater exploration with a camera, photography has allowed Johnny to share his experiences visually, which has in recent years helped uncover some of the Great Barrier Reef’s most spectacular hidden sites, that can hopefully inspire others to want to protect the Reef.

Where Wild Things Roam caught up with Johnny for a chat all about his wild life.

What drew you to be so passionate about the underwater world and photography?

Photo Credit: Johnny Gaskell

Growing up I always had a passion for the underwater world, particularly in clear freshwater streams and rock pools. I could sit and watch aquatic animals for hours, trying to understand their behaviour and the underwater world they live in. It was such an intriguing world that ultimately inspired my studies in marine biology.

While studying marine biology and exploring the underwater habitats along Western Victoria’s coastline, I started to see incredible and unusual things underwater and found myself struggling to explain to friends and family what I saw. So in 2002, I got my first digital camera, the Canon Powershot A40 (2 Mega Pixels) with a plastic housing. At the time it was a pretty big deal for a uni student to have a digital camera, let alone an underwater one. It was a new space and to be able to show people who didn’t dive or snorkel what lived beneath the waves would blow them away… 20 years later and the megapixels have changed but the drive to explore and photograph unusual underwater animals and scenes is the same as it always was.

Do you have a favourite underwater subject to photograph?

Photo Credit: Johnny Gaskell

Everything and anything underwater. I guess my favourite underwater subject is the full ecosystem scene itself. I love to capture an untouched habitat in a totally natural setting with its natural inhabitants in the foreground. Particularly if you can make it an over-under to represent above and below. That’s what has drawn me to reefscape photography. A close second is macro. I don’t do a lot, but its great to help understand the smaller critters by getting a closer look.

Is there anywhere you haven’t been but is top on your hitlist and why?

Photo Credit: Johnny Gaskell

The Dream is Wreck Reefs (Coral Sea) – 430km offshore, East of Gladstone, southeast of the outer southern section of the Great Barrier Reef. It’s a far offshore group of reefs that are rarely visited that sits in a coral sea channel that drops down to 3km deep all around the reefs!! Like an underwater Hawaii. The reefs there are spread over 30kms and a couple has sand cays and islets on them. I can only imagine the clear water, reef health and incredible encounters with the ‘big stuff’ you could have out there…. One day. Note: I got with 230kms of it this year out at the Swains but still a fair way to go.

Follow more about Johnny at journeybeyond.com/the-real-life-aquaman/ and reefcatchments.com.au/people/johnny-gaskell/

There is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new sun. This is Where Wild Things Roam.