Quiksilver Pro 2017

With the Quiksilver & Roxy Pro wrapped up for another year we were lucky to receive a descent size swell which hung around until the very last day of competition. The weather gods were not as kind with only a hand full of sunny days with the last being a wet one which made it a bit tricky for the photographers keen to photograph the action. However this didn’t deter the crowds with arguably the biggest turn up I have seen over the past few years. The competition surfing was first class as per usual and the free surfing before the heats was just as good. To top off the week local girl Stephanie Gilmore took out the Roxy Pro and crowd favourite Owen Wright putting in a winning performance to seal the win. All images © C Level Media


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When people ask us scuba divers on the Gold Coast why we carry knives the first thing that comes to their mind is protection against marine life such as sharks, eels, stingrays ect. Well the truth is probably more frightening. Underneath our waterways lay kilometres of discarded fishing lines, hooks, ropes and whatever else fisherman use as part of their recreational activities. Most dives taken around the Gold Coast Seaway entails releasing marine life (if they are lucky enough to be still alive) and removing the endless amount of fishing line that seems to be growing day by day.

The Reluctant Model




One of the many problems underwater photographers encounter is a little-known phenomenon called the reluctant model. Now when I’m mention the word model this could be referring to anyone such as your dive buddy, dive guide or even a complete stranger. Many times while diving I have approached someone swimming alongside a marine animal, gone to take a shot only to have the diver pose with a confused look on their face or disappear behind a large rock or coral head.


It’s all about showing scale. © C Level Media


So lets look into a few reasons why underwater photographers like to include people in their photos.
One of the main reason that I feel is it brings scale to an image. When photographing underwater compared to that of above land it’s harder for the human mind to reference and judge the size, height and weight of  a given subject.  Also another factor is when shooting with a wide lens it can distort the perspective even more by making the main subject look smaller than it really is. Take for instance a medium size marine animal such as a Loggerhead turtle. Without having something to reference its size against such as a diver the turtle may appear smaller than its original size. The same can go for reefs, wrecks, other divers, fan corals, caves ect.


Diver shows the true size of a Fan Coral. © C Level Media


Next up is all about the perfect image. There is nothing more inviting then seeing a picture of someone swimming around with an assortment of marine life and colourful coral in crystal clear water just as you would see in a travel brochure or holiday advertisement. The fact is that we all like to imagine ourselves doing just that.

Finally with social media taking control of our lives, people like to see themselves in photos. How else would your friends know you have just dived with Great White Sharks or swam with a pack of albino Dolphins. At the time you might not have enjoyed posing for the shot, however after the dive people seem to have a greater appreciation for the image in which they appear in.


This could be you. © C Level Media


So what would be the some of the main problems working with a reluctant model?

Here are a just a few that I have come across.

  • The model is a new diver and wants to concentrate on making it back to the surface alive
  • There is no model so you end up doing selfies for the whole dive
  • There are too many models and you end up with people photobombing your shots
  • The model doesn’t understand your hand signals. Come to think of it either do you
  • The Model wants to be in every shot and will hunt you down the whole dive
  • And the number one problem is……. the model will not get close enough to the subject (especially sharks, stingrays, Irukandjii jellyfish)


Sometimes you may have to many models. © C Level Media


Next we find out ………..What are some of the things a person can do to perhaps become a better underwater model?


Gold Coast Bulletin Sea Slug Census Article



Organisers of next weekend Sea Slug Census say it isnt just a frivolous search for slugs. Image C Level Media

 Divers to search entire Gold Coast to count all the sea slugs they can

Nicholas McElroy, Gold Coast Bulletin

SNORKELLERS, divers and even swimmers are being called on to pull on their sluggos and join the hunt to count the number of sea slugs in Gold Coast waterways.

The city’s first sea slug census will cover from the Tweed to the Seaway, with organiser Deb Aston saying it was not just a frivolous search for the tiny, colorful creatures.

Join the great Gold Coast sea slug census! A local diver with a Spanish Dancer. Image C Level Media

Data collected from the two-day survey next weekend will be used by researchers, some of them

looking into the colours of sea slugs and trying to find toxins that could be used in the fight against cancer.

But she said the main aim of the census was to identify new species and see if there were any seaslugs in Glitter Strip waterways that shouldn’t be.

“The discovery of new species in areas where they shouldn’t be can help track global warming,” Ms Aston said.

Join the great Gold Coast sea slug census! A bubble shell sea slug. Image C Level Media

“There are a lot of questions to be answered.”

Ms Aston said anyone with sluggos and a snorkel could take part in the initiative with Southern Cross University.

So far about 50 people have signed up to collect information, which includes underwater photos, size and where the creatures are found.

Join the great Gold Coast sea slug census! A nNudibranch being checkout by a sea horse. Image © C Level Media

“You don’t even have to swim – people can look under the rocks at Burleigh for them,” said the avid Brisbane diver, who has photographed 155 species of sea slug in the Seaway since 2011.

“You can find them in any rocky areas really,” she said.

Join the great Gold Coast sea slug census! A pink nudibranch. Image C Level Media

Southern Cross University’s Professor Steve Smith said the images taken next weekend were an important expansion in similar NSW research.

“The results have highlighted the ability of citizen scientists to provide important data, some of which has now been published in international scientific journals,” Prof Smith said.

For information on how to sign up, search Gold Coast Seaslug Census on Facebook.

The Real Truth About Aquarium Collectors

TAKEN – from your local dive site

Just a few of the spectacular creatures that call the seaway home. © C Level Media

What would your reaction be if you headed down to your local park, waterhole or nature reserve to enjoy some interaction with the local wildlife and then happen to notice people trapping and catching birds, reptiles and whatever else they can get their hands on? I bet you wouldn’t like it. Well that’s is what is happening right here at our local dive sites.

A aquarium collector ready to take marine life out of the Gold Coast seaway. © C Level Media

They go under the name of aquarium collectors and can be seen at all times of the day/night taking the marine life from away from our local dive sites.

Having dived much of the South Pacific and the east coast of Australia I am constantly amazed by the diversity and range at my local dive spot, which is the Gold Coast seaway. This site extends from the east points of the seaway walls back to Wavebreak Island and down to SeaWorld.

These containers will be filled with marine life by the end of the day. © C Level Media

While the majority of the dive community including myself pay good money and travel 1000’s of kilometres for the chance to see rare and beautiful underwater marine life, it still astounds me that right at my door step, and accessible to everyone is a place that also is home to many of these fascinating creatures we seek to find.  During my many dives around the Gold Coast seaway I have encountered just to name a few, Ornate Ghost and Robust Pipefish, Angler Fish, Mantis Shrimp, Seahorses, Angel/Emperor fish. Many of these marine creatures are on the top of divers list of subjects to see and photograph.

Capture 4
Web shot of what is available from local aquarium shops

However there is a dark side to having this diversity and something that quickly needs to be changed to conserve and protect this unique area, allowing it to grow without the constant threat and destruction from marine collectors.

Many a time I have spent diving the seaway and come across creatures such as seahorses, Anemone fish and Pineapple fish, to name a few, only to have these marine creature taken by fish collectors to be sold to what is an outdated and obsolete aquarium industry. These marine creatures should be for everyone to enjoy in their natural environment and not be taken to be sold just to fill peoples back pockets.

Facebook page selling unwanted marine life
Another FB page. Not much room in a tank to live

For instance most of these species are not prolific breeders and tend to live in pairs for the majority of their lives.  So taking just one species can set back breeding for years. Most of the marine life that are taken from the wild have a slim chance of survival in the aquariums anyway as most need to live in their natural ecosystem that is suited to them. This also applies to the marine habitat such as anemone, soft coral and sponges etc that most of the marine life call home and need to survive. They are also an important part of a delicate ecosystem and should be protected at all cost.

Capture 2
Web shot from a aquarium shop showing a lonely Lion fish to live out its life in a fish tank

So next time you see a lonely Anemone fish or Banded shrimp stuck in a small fish tank at the back of somebody’s lounge room or a hotel foyer just remember they most likely have been TAKEN from your local dive site

Video captured at the Gold Coast seaway where divers and snorkelers enter the water to dive with the marine life

Gold Coast Sea Slug Census


Queen’s birthday long weekend 1-2 October 2016

The Gold Coast Sea Slug Census is in partnership with Southern Cross University and follows on from the successful census conducted over the past several years at Nelson Bay, New South Wales and of recent, the census conducted in Sydney. There are also plans to expand the event to biodiversity hot spots overseas.

The census is a photographic contest with a touch of science along the way.  Divers in buddy pairs are asked to take a photo of every sea slug found on their dive and to note the approximate size, depth and site information.  All divers that provide photos and notes are then eligible for prizes.

Boundaries of the census are southern end of South Stradbroke Island down to Cook Island which includes both boat and shore dives (Gold Coast Seaway and Tweed River). To date 216 species of sea slug have been recorded from this area and 156 species from the Gold Coast Seaway alone.

We also hope to provide a public talk on Sea Slugs from an expert in the field.

Our team –

1Prof Steve Smith, Acting Director, National Marine Science Centre, Southern Cross University. He is the co-founder of the Sea Slug Census program which started in Nelson Bay in December 2013 and has more than 25 years research experience focusing on marine biodiversity, especially of molluscs, in subtropical eastern Australia. Steve is also a passionate underwater macro photographer.



8Matt Nimbs, Honours candidate, passionate sea slug researcher and avid underwater macro photographer. Commencing his research into sea slugs in late 2013, Matt has rapidly become one of the key sea slug researchers in NSW. His current project focuses on the biogeography of sea slugs in subtropical eastern Australia. He intends to continue his passion for sea slug taxonomy by starting a PhD later this year.



3Sonya Karlsson – marine science graduate with a passion for diving and has an infinite love of all creatures with or without a backbone. As a scuba instructor at To Dive For and surf life saver on the Gold Coast, she is always found scanning the marine environment for animal life, behaviour and habitat.





Justin Leigh-Smith – born and bred on the Gold Coast and keen diver and surfer. More recently completed a degree in Marine Science and Management and now currently undertaking Honours in Marine Ecotoxicology. Particular interest in understanding the sources, fates and consequences of contaminants in the marine environment and a passion for underwater photography




5Deb Astonwww.astonunderwaterimages.com  commenced diving in 1983 and soon developed a passion for the marine environment and in particular sea slugs.  Underwater Photographer with particular interest in the macro world underwater.   Since 1 July 2011 has been recording sea slug species found from GC Seaway down to Cook Island. 



Audrey Smith – has several decades of dive experience and an expert sea slug spotter who has found several of the species recorded so far from the Gold Coast.





11143378_1152316984783810_5199680054053107755_nLoren Mariani – Freelance photographer and owner of C Level Media. You will often find Loren spending time at the bottom of the ocean or cruising along the coast line capturing images for Gold Coast businesses and  local community groups.





Sponsorship opportunities are now available

Speakers can be provided to dive shops for club nights to give tips on finding sea slugs with basic fact sheets and dive guides for GC Seaway dives can be arranged. Nights dives in the GC Seaway are a particularly good place to start and this offers training opportunities and will encourage gear sales ie lights etc. The Gold Coast Cleanup dives have shown the enthusiasm of SE Queensland divers to get involved.  We are also hoping to encourage those divers that have been involved in the Nelson Bay Census and are keen to test their skills in a new environment. This census will offer a great opportunity to showcase what the Gold Coast can offer to both local and travelling divers.

In return we are seeking Prize donations for the competition as well as funds to cover costs of travel for speakers, boat charters, venue hire, printing costs etc.


The Gold Coast Sea Slug Census T-shirts are in and  available to purchase. For all details contact Deb Aston @ goldcoastseaslugcensus@gmail.com


With a heap of sponsors locked in and a bag full of prizes up for grabs this is going to be a event that you dont want to miss. So make sure you register on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/events.


We will be revealing more details about the Gold Coast Sea Slug Census over the next few months  including a (first of its kind) CLUB CHALLENGE. This will see dive clubs/groups alike go head to head battling it out in the quest to find and photograph all types of Sea Slugs and Nudibranch around the waters of the Gold Coast and Tweed area. The winning club/group will not only secure bragging rights for the year but will take home a spectacular trophy and prize pack.

If you are a member of a club or group and think this is something that they would want to take part send your inquiries to info@clevelmedia.com.au 



If you want to sponsor this exciting census please email goldcoastseaslugcensus@gmail.com or contact Deb Aston on 0417 001 043.

For divers/photographers keen to be involved in lead up dives, talks etc. send me a quick email and I will add you to the mailing list and ensure you receive updates on this exciting event.


C Level Media images featured in a recent article in Dive Log Australasia about a Scuba Diving Club breaking new ground in the training and development of its members and students


Feature article in the Gold Coast Bulletin in conjunction with Gold Coast Divers. The article is about what is below our ocean at night. Check it out on line


Our stock images used on retractable  banners. This one displayed at the Ocean Film Festival


Some our images featured in advertisements for Ikelite a leading brand of underwater photographic systems.



Check out the interactive view of Gold Coast Divers shop and see some of our images displayed throughout



Images supplied to the Gold Coast Bulletin for a article about a secret reef on the Gold Coast. Check out the full article



C Level Media was part of a team which helped promote and run the Gold Coast first Sea Slug Census. We supplied images and organised media throughout the event Check it out online



Our image featured in a on-line surfing magazine Liquify. For more surfing pictures check out our Instagram account


Our images are great to use on posters, billboards and all types of advertisements.




C Level Media’s image of a Turtle and diver has featured in a variety of Ocean related articles and posters





Winning image


Our images are great to promote various business events


We like to keep an active profile by featuring our images in various local newspapers