National Geographic aquatic photo-journalist David Doubilet has spent a good chunk of his life underwater documenting ''the largest story on the planet, which is the planet itself.''
The 67-year-old began diving when he was 12 and has since spent an average of 100 days a year doing daily three hour dive sessions - nearly two years beneath the waves.
Doubilet is here promoting his latest illustrated talk Coral, Fire, & Ice for the magazine's Live! series, which chronicles through his photography the icebergs and shipwrecks of Antarctica and the world's coral triangle, an area that stretches through the tropical waters of Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and the Solomon Islands.
Over 70 assignments for the renowned magazine Doubilet has seen his fair share of wonder and intrigue, including the time he and partner Jennifer Hayes had $20,000 in US travellers cheques, batteries and chewing gum spirited away by thieving monkeys in Botswana.
Although it's his first visit to Wellington Doubilet has chronicled the Antipodes before, most notably in a 1998 National Geographic piece called New Zealand's Magic Waters that took him from Northland's Three Kings Islands to Stewart Island in the deep south.
''It's an extraordinary place because it's so unique - you have all sorts of endemic creatures.''
The native New Yorker was particularly enamoured of Fiordland where the first few metres of rainwater give way to murky depths that contain marine life that would usually inhabit much deeper waters.
''You go beneath that layer and it's like going through the looking glass.''
He was also full of praise for Te Papa, a museum he said did a wonderful job of capturing New Zealand's natural history and culture in a narrative that was ''full of drama, darkness and light.''
Upcoming projects include capturing the transitory world of the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda, a piece on the caviar-producing sturgeon species and an in depth study in to the nature of water itself.
''I want to get hold of people's imagination - pictures have the power to influence, to illuminate, to amaze and they also have the power to protect.''
■ Coral, Fire, & Ice screens at Te Papa's Soundings Theatre, Wellington tomorrow night (Thurs 7/8) and at Auckland's Aotea Centre ASB Theatre on Saturday (9/8).
- The Dominion Post
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