Canadian-born Mike Veitch is a professional underwater photographer and has been living in the Indo-Pacific since the late nineties. Starting his full-time diving life in Palau in 1999, he has since worked in Fiji, French Polynesia, Yap, and Indonesia, with many travels in between.
Now based in Bali, Mike is the co-founder of The Underwater Tribe, a dive centre specialising in custom dive safaris on the island. With a passion for teaching others the art of underwater photography, Mike is also the creator of the Bali Academy of Underwater Photography, a dedicated underwater photography instruction centre in, as Mike put it, “the world’s best classroom”. UW360 interviewed Mike to find out more about his life and his work:
What made you want to become an underwater photographer?
During my first job as a guide/instructor on a liveaboard in Palau, I often watched as camera-toting guests acted like excited kids on Christmas morning when they received their roll of developed film from the photo pro. Of course, that made me want to try my hand at it to see what the excitement was all about! After the photo pro became the captain, I quickly volunteered to take over his job and was thrown straight into the deep end – a photo pro who had never taken an underwater photo before!
Your first underwater shot?
Some random guest for the weekly slideshow on the liveaboard. I am sure there was plenty of backscatter.
The story behind your most memorable underwater shot?
I was sitting on a tender boat in Raja Ampat waiting for our guests as they were socialising after a dive, not ready to head back to the mother ship. I looked up to see some mantas splashing in the near distance and decided to sneak in for a quick snorkel with my camera. Lo and behold, as I approached the mantas I saw it was more than just a few – more like 30-plus individuals in what can only be termed a feeding frenzy! I didn’t want to tell the guests about it but knew they would not be happy if I didn’t!
Where is your favourite dive destination?
Raja Ampat, Indonesia. There is so much variety there and I am always excited for every dive that I do, no matter how many times I have done it before.
The site you’d most like to dive, but never have?
Not really a site in particular, but I would love to spend time with the humpback whales in Tonga.
The weirdest thing you’ve seen underwater?
Not involving people doing dumb things? That is a tough one! Actually, it’s not so tough. I have spent a lot of time diving in Ambon underneath local longline fishing boats, and the number of different animal carcasses I have discovered on the sea floor can be rather astounding at times! Variety is the spice of life as they say…
What camera equipment are you currently using?
A Nikon D7200 with Nauticam housing, FIX Neo lights, and Sea and Sea strobes.
What is the highlight of your career?
Winning the “World in Our Hands” category of the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition [in 2013] and attending the awards ceremony in London.
…And the low point?
Descending on a dive site in a protected national park and seeing the incredible damage from dynamite fishermen, who had destroyed a large coral head and killed thousands of fish just moments before.
Have you any advice that you’d like to give aspiring underwater photographers?
Easy. Please, please, please, perfect your buoyancy before attempting to take photos underwater! Also, respect the environment and the creatures under the sea. No photo is worth damaging the environment to “get the shot”, no matter how many “Likes” it receives on social media.
Is there any particular shot that you still want to get?
No particular shots, but rather encounters that I would love to experience: any and all whale species, tiger sharks, white sharks, and any other adrenaline inducing large marine life encounters.