Deepblu’s youngest beta tester, Garri ‘Iggy’ Tadlip, is also the youngest underwater photographer in the Philippines. At 10 years of age, Iggy got certified as an open water diver. By 11 he shot his first underwater image, entered a photo competition, and won. Now 14, he’s showing no signs of slowing down, using his own experiences to inspire other young divers and doing what he can to promote marine conservation. Deepblu dives a little deeper with the inspiring young man behind the lens.
You got certified when you were 10 years old. Were there any challenges you met getting certified so early?
I got my license when I was pretty young, but I wouldn’t consider what I went through much of a challenge. It’s more the excitement of getting certified that I felt at the time. From the moment I completed the Discover Scuba Dive, there was no turning back. I experienced the underwater world and loved it.
What first drew you to underwater photography?
It was accidental, really. My dad decided to get me my own diving gear, and we thought, why not check out eBay for cool deals? We then came across another diver who dove the Philippines while she was on vacation and was selling her gear online. The package happened to include an Olympus camera with underwater housing. That was how I came to try out underwater photography.
What was the first prize you won for your photography?
My dad’s college friend encouraged me to try out for the annual Philippines underwater photography contest, Splash NUDI Underwater Photography Shootout (SNUPS). I competed in the beginner category. All I had was that camera—no light, no editing—but I was lucky to win the title for 2nd overall photographer of the year. I also won 1st prize in the wide angle category which was really awesome because I won a strobe and a video light. They were perfect for me, and dad went on to buy me a set of arms to complete the kit.
A wide angle photo shot by Tadlip of a beautiful coral garden.
Do you still remember the first photo you took?
It was a clownfish in a sea anemone. Finding Nemo was just released in the Philippines and it was very popular at the time.
Winning that first award opened many doors for you, what do you plan to do in the future with underwater photography?
Winning that award at age 11 was very special for me. Because of my own personal experience, I want to teach young people how to protect marine resources in whatever little way they can, such as not polluting the seas with plastic. I want a healthy ocean so that its beauty may continue to be captured through the lens for future children to appreciate.
A closeup of a favorite subject of many underwater photographers: the anemonefish.
What’s your most memorable dive story so far?
I went diving in Dipolog city off the southern island of Mindanao and it was memorable. The dive sites were pristine with amazing untouched reefs. It’s diver heaven! Some sites are especially great for macro photographers like me!
Were there any bad experiences? A worst moment?
I attended one of Alex Mustard’s underwater photography workshops in the Philippines and on day one, my camera wasn’t working. I was so worried! Alex was very helpful though, and gave me his spare camera to try out instead. We went diving and I had a lot of fun in the workshop, which gave me the opportunity to test different types of shooting and lighting techniques. By the second day I had the error figured out and was able to use my own camera.
Garri Tadlip with professional underwater photographer Alex Mustard at a photo workshop.
When things get difficult, what do you do to relax?
I always pray for guidance and safety. That’s the first thing I always do in every difficult situation I encounter. Aside from scuba diving and underwater photography, I relax by folding origami, playing basketball, and being with my little twin sisters who are so gorgeous (they just turned 4 last year!)
How do you juggle school and shooting underwater all the time?
Time management is very important to me. My parents’ rule is: No diving if I don’t do well in school. I’m lucky that my school is so supportive. My teachers give me extra work so that I can make up for my absences. It can be tiring to balance school and diving but at the end of the day I can cope because I love what I do with underwater photography.
‘Iggy’ in action doing what he does best.
What are the major environmental concerns related to diving in your area? How can we help?
There are a lot of environmental concerns we are facing like climate change and the acidification of our water. Promoting marine conservation and protecting the underwater world for future generations is really important. We need more seminars and workshops specifically for fishermen here in the Philippines who are fishing illegally or use dynamite to fish, which causes a lot of harm to marine life. We need to show them that there are alternatives. We can also promote diving as a profession. They can work to protect marine sanctuaries as dive guides, and collect sanctuary fees from tourists who want to enjoy pristine dive sites. This is one alternative way to earn and feed the family as well as protect the environment.
You were our youngest test pilot for the Deepblu Android app before its release. How do you find logging dives digitally? Have you gone back to logging dives on paper ever since?
Since I was first introduced to digital dive logging, I’ve never looked back to traditional log books. COSMIQ and Deepblu have made it too easy to log dives for me to want to go back to paper logs.
Because I’m constantly shooting photos, I need to keep an eye especially on depth and time, as it is very easy for me to jump between depths. Imagine going up and down 20 meters in a short space of time. That’s dangerous! I like the COSMIQ because it is easy to read. The graphics are clear underwater so I can correct myself whenever I jump from certain depths too much.
I find the Deepbu app great to be able to organize photos with the time and depth where they were taken. I really like being able to share my photos on social media too. The app makes it easy for me to share my love of underwater photography with others.
This interview was conducted by Quyen Tran, Associate Editor at Deepblu