Thanks so much for visiting my site.  I came to Swanage 4 years ago with my point and shoot camera hoping to be able to inspire people about our oceans.  Sadly, my little bus broke down and life as a care assistant took over for 2 years to get it running again!  Even so, amazingly my course guests still did well and David Smith, has recently won Countryfile's "Photo of the Year" competition for their 2015 Calendar with a stunning picture of some cutesque little pigs. He also came 6th in the British Society of Underwater Photographer's "Best Beginner of the Year" photography competition.  Daniel Norwood who came on my course back in 2007 needing help to master his strobe, has astonishly gained over 15,000 followers on Facebook since through his own underwater photography work.

 

Before this, I started scuba diving back in 2003 after taking 3 years to get over my fear of diving.  I partnered up with the Reef Environmenal Education Foundation in Florida and set up their first ever field station in Latin America whilst living in Puerto Vallarta between 2003 and 2004.  I came back to England in 2005 and have been helping lots of lovely guests with their photography since then, having partnered with PADI to launch the first ever Digital Underwater Photography Course and regularly gave talks at the Dive Shows in London and Birmingham.   Incredibly over 20 course guests have scooped prizes with their own point and shoot cameras, Daniel Norwood won Sport Diver's Photo of the Month, BSoUP's Best Beginner of the Year competition beating the now chairman by an incredible 20 plus points!  Rebecca Cole has scooped Sport Diver's Photo of the Month twice, Lin Henson and David Kittos have also won this highly competitive competition and am very proud that David has contributed to photography magazines as a journalist. Erick Higuera who I helped in Mexico with his Olympus 5060 back in 2004 is now a huge inspiration himself in the USA having scooped a highly prestigous Stan Waterman award for his underwater video work.

 

As for me, well, those that know me know that I've always suffered from shyness about my work, so here goes - I still can't believe I've done this.  Firstly, deeply passionate about ocean conservation, I launched shark conservation campaigns at The Deep in Edinburgh, Scotland with our Deputy Prime Minister and the late great Peter Benchley and his wife, lovely Wendy.  I then was invited to have dinner with Flip Nicklin, the world's premier whale photographer for National Geographic whilst meeting the BBC's Natural History Unit in Monterey, California and was invited to film/photograph blue whales on their boat with Steve Leonard (Vets in Practice/Extreme Animals).  I won the British Sub-Aqua Club's Travel Photographer of the Year competition in 2008, I also won a Bronze Medal in Underwater Photography's Annual Competition in 2009 and won two monthly competitions with images taken with a point and shoot camera.  More incredibly one of my images taken with the same little camera was chosen to be in the final 100 for Veolia's Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition in 2013.   And finally, my little book which I wrote in just 4 days won "Book of the Year" in the Dive Industry in 2010 and was invited to the USA to promote my work with DivePhotoGuide,Reef and Nauticam USA at the shows at Long Beach, California and DEMA in Las Vegas.  I was also asked to photograph Stacey Soloman, TV Presenter/Singer/Winner of "I'm a Celebrity" whilst she learnt how to dive in London and was invited to go on holiday with her to Richard Branson's Necker Island.  

 

On the writing side, my work has been featured in Diver, Dive, Sport Diver, Outdoor Photographer, Professional Photographer, I have written for Amateur Photographer, Travellers Tales, Thai Airlines Magazine, the Egyptian Tourism Board and have taught editors of Sport Diver and Wanderlust underwater photography as well as journalists of Diver and Sport Diver.

 

On the charity side, I've absolutely loved and feel very honoured in helping all of the following:-  The Scuba Trust and Diveability to help disabled guests learn how to dive, and donated to Biteback and The Shark Trust as well as volunteering to help protect sharks worldwide. I've worked with Sea Shepherd, campaigning for them outside the Japanese Embassy and was lucky enough to be invited to an event on the Thames at London where Captain Paul Watson was present to say thank you to me for my contribution to help them.  I've worked with Aquatic Alliance, the Manta Trust and PADI's Project Aware over the years and look forward to helping them all again.

 

So that's a little bit about me, phew - what an adventure it has been - and I cannot say thank you enough to all of my amazing course guests and people that I've helped with their photography in over ten years.  After being bolted together with metalwork and having multiple head injuries as well as losing my family, you've all really brought the biggest smile to my face.

 

I've loved saying hello to so many amazing people in my little bus "Nemo", welcoming visitors to my homely studio here in Wareham, Dorset, and hope to be able to say hello to you too and help you create those photos that you've always dreamed of.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Maria

The Story Behind the Smile

 

After being run over twice, the first time left with head injuries by a police car and the second time by a lorry whilst Maria was working overseas as a holiday rep on her first day  left her with fractures to her arm, leg, ankle and a shattered pelvis as well as multiple internal injuries.  She was flown back on a stretcher from Greece, transferred first to London and then up to St James Hospital in Leeds, Yorkshire where she was told that she wouldn't live or walk again.  Astounding the nursing staff with her bright outlook and determination, after spending 6 months in hospital and undergoing 23 operations, Maria was determined to make sure that every day became a new adventure and to always wear a smile on her face.  

 

Whilst in hospital, she fell in love with a programme called the "Aquanauts" which studied whale sharks around the world and as soon as she could manage to walk again (3 years) she became passionate about exploring and helping to conserve and educate children about our oceans.  Maria is also a keen charity helper having helped The Shark Trust, Bite-Back, British Divers Marine Life Rescue, Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society, disabled divers with The Scuba Trust and Diveability as well as funding a project to help "The School of Hope", to give homeless children in Mabul Island, Malaysia an education.   She has also stood outside the Japanese Embassy with Sea Shepherd, campaigning against dolphin killings in "The Cove." 

 

Back in 2012 she also funded herself to go undercover at a shark and manta ray fishery market in Tajung Luar, Lombok, Indonesia to capture data to help get these creatures protected through the CITES Convention in Bangkok in 2013.  Amazingly, manta rays were submitted for protection for the first time in CITES history and equally for the first time ever, were protected immediately thanks to the hard work of many dive and conservation organisations including The Manta Trust, Aquatic Alliance and PADI's Project Aware all of whom she sent the information to.

 

Aside from this, Maria loves helping to raise money for local charities in Purbeck, such as the local hospitals and ambulance service for whom she works when she is on land, as well as the Royal British Legion.  You are welcome to visit her studio page at www.thevisions-studio.co.uk to keep up to date with her latest work.