Today I’m delighted to welcome new-to-me author, Demelza Carlton, to my blog with a fascinating passion.
She has since swum with sea lions, sharks and sea cucumbers and stood on spray-drenched cliffs over a seething sea as a seven-metre cyclonic swell surged in, shattering a shipwreck below.
Sensationalist spin? Hardly. She tends to carry a camera with her to capture the moment to share later.
Demelza now lives in Perth, Western Australia, the shark attack capital of the world.
The Ocean’s Gift series is her first foray into fiction, followed by her suspense thriller Nightmares trilogy. She swears the Mel Goes to Hell series ambushed her on a crowded train and wouldn’t leave her alone.
Welcome to my blog, Demelza. Thank you for being here today.
Do you have a passion other than writing? Please tell us about it.
Wildlife and landscape photography – particularly underwater photography. There’s just something about venturing under water with a camera and taking pictures of things that people on the surface rarely see. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from photographing things on top of the water, either – I will take every opportunity I can to go whale watching.
That sounds fascinating. How long have you been involved in your passion?
Since I was a kid in primary school, with a Hanimex film camera on Rottnest Island during the school holidays. I’d hope I’ve improved since then, as has my equipment – I use an Olympus PEN Mini, one of the smallest and lightest DSLRs on the market, for surface photography, and a GoPRO Black for under the water. There’s something about the fisheye view lens of an underwater camera like the GoPRO or even my old Olympus Tough.
I bought my first waterproof camera for a ski trip in 2010 and discovered that the hardest thing in the world to photograph is in fact a three-year-old learning to ski. I managed, though, and there started my love affair with photographing fast-moving creatures that I couldn’t control, much less predict. I even slogged down an entire ski trail on foot in Japan in 2012, following my daughter and her ski instructor. By comparison, sharks and sea lions are far easier to photograph. As are humpback whales breaching.
I took the Tough on research trips up to Christmas Island, the Houtman Abrolhos Islands and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, all in the Indian Ocean. While I didn’t manage to get into the water at Christmas Island because of Cyclone Iggy and the Tycoon shipwreck, both Cocos and the Abrolhos was another story – two, in fact, given they were separate trips. This natural aquarium was taken at The Gap off Direction Island, in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, with just my Tough.
Wow, you’ve certainly had some adventures – especially photographing 3 year olds. They’re slippery beasts 🙂
What is it about it that brings a sparkle to your eye / motivates you?
Most of the time it’s a case of, “No one will believe this unless I take a picture,” or, more frequently for my work and research trips, “My daughter wants a present from this trip and she’s asked for a cool photograph.” How can you turn that down? Every evening I worked away from home, I’d sit down, download the day’s shots, and compose an email story for my daughter about my day. One was about the cheeky crabs of Christmas Island – I swear I must have photographed around a hundred of the things over the course of my hiking around the island that day, from tiny little nippers through to coconut crabs that were bigger than the tyres on my four-wheel-drive. I was terrified of those.
Seriously, have you seen a coconut crab? I had one play chicken with my four-wheel-drive. It was pouring with rain at Christmas Island. The muddy tracks were full of fallen trees and huge puddles because of the cyclone. I rounded a corner and found a huge coconut crab in the middle of the road – which was a single-lane, four-wheel-drive track with dense jungle on either side. It just sat there and kind of reared up, those big claws out, ready to take the front grille off my car. The car hire staff had warned me that it could do just that, too – or puncture my tyres. The ink on my research permit was barely dry and here I was, considering running over one of the protected animals in the Christmas Island National Park. If I killed the crab, I’d lose my research permit and if I didn’t, it was going to take my car apart and probably leave me stranded on the far side of the island, 50 km from the Settlement.
I beeped, I shouted, I flashed my lights and that crab just wouldn’t back down. So, I gave in.
As I stepped out of the car and into the downpour, I shouted one last, ill-conceived threat, “If you don’t move out of the way, I’m going to take your picture and post it on Facebook so all your mates can laugh at you!”
Would you believe it worked? I advanced on the crab, waterproof camera in hand, and it backed down. Seriously, backed down, away and off the road entirely. Yep, there he goes…
Ha, who would believe a coconut crab was scared of being named and shamed on Facebook 🙂
Do you have a funny story about something that’s happened to you while involved in your passion?
No, probably not. Only frightening ones about giant crabs and amorous sea lions. (The crab story sounded funny to me – but I guess it wasn’t if you were there 🙂 )
At the Abrolhos, we decided to take the dinghy over to Little Sandy Island, to take photos of the resident sea lion population. By my estimate, it was breeding season and I hoped to see some more babies, like I had my first trip out there. Well, we pulled the boat up on shore and I pulled out my camera, but it looked like there were only adults. That was still cool – I figured there were about a dozen of them and Australian sea lions make for cool photos. Now, you’re not meant to venture within ten metres of them and I knew never to get between them and the water, but this island was about ten metres in diameter and one big bull was smack in the middle of the island. There was no way you could NOT get within ten metres of him and you were always between him and the water. He was absolutely huge and I had to get a photo of him, especially as he rose up and tried to look superior.
I snapped a few shots of him and then took photos of the other animals. They all seemed to be camped out in pairs…
I dropped to my knees on the sand to get a better angle. Somehow, that’s when King Sea Lion decided I was in his way, so he came lumbering down, right for me. And he was fast. When a hundred and fifty kilos of sea lion is bearing down on you, suddenly running is a really good idea.
I made it almost to the dinghy until I realised that there were sea lions in the water, too – right by the boat. So it was His Majesty or two of his subjects. I hesitated, as the watery sea lions decided they were done swimming and emerged from the water. A male…and a female.
Oh, my – I was right about it being breeding season – but it was much earlier in the season than I’d realised. They weren’t done making the babies yet. Lucky for me, King Sea Lion suddenly decided I wasn’t suitable Queen Sea Lion material, or perhaps he was just too engrossed in watching the couple on the beach.
I must admit we didn’t linger long on the island after that – and now I have a healthy wariness for the huge creatures. I mean, how do you politely tell King Sea Lion that not only are you not interested, but you’re married?
Ha! I’ll bet that made you run fast! Can you share a photo of you indulging in your passion?
Indulging? Passion? How about the two romantically inclined sea lions that saved my hide (and possibly my virtue!) on Little Sandy Island?
And people wonder why I write books about mermaids…
Thank you so much for that fascinating look into your world, Demelza! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your entertaining interview.
Demelza can be contacted via: