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TV presenter Nick Baker came to Sabah to carry out his first dives for The Really Wild Show, and together with Jason Isley, Simon found himself filming for the BBC for the first time. Simon and Scubazoo have filmed with Nick many times since then – but Simon has never let Nick forget that they made him wear a pink ‘Laura Ashley’ mask throughout that first show!
Since then, recognition as one of the leaders of the new generation of underwater cameramen has taken Simon to destinations around the world, including as Monty Hall’s underwater cameraman on both series of Great Ocean Adventures.
Within five minutes, totally engrossed in filming, Simon had lost sight of Jason but carried on filming for the rest of the dive ‘having a ball’.
Jason left the island the very next day, and Simon set to work filming dive tourists.
Until then, his degree course had been in terrestrial ecology, his aim to become the next Dian Fossey (of Gorillas in the Mist fame).
Returning to Aberdeen, he changed as many of his courses as possible to marine biology.
He’s worked on high profile productions such as the BBC’s Last Chance to See with Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine, Deadly 60 with Steve Backshall, and Human Planet: Oceans – his work on that project winning him a BAFTA nomination. ‘I consider every time I pick up a camera a training day,’ he says.
‘Even now, I always like trying something new or different, and hate to think that one day I would be so arrogant as to think that I knew it all.
And all this achieved while he is still in his thirties...
He’s now a partner in Scubazoo, which has grown from the initial two-man team to an operation employing 18 people and carrying out work all around the world.
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Whether filming great white sharks underwater in Mexico and the footage being screened 17 seconds later on UK TV sets, or finishing a shoot with saltwater crocodiles and getting out of the water with all my arms and legs still attached.
Or giving presentations on the world’s marine ecosystems to school kids and having a six-year-old vow never to throw plastic into the sea for fear of suffocating a sea turtle, or hearing an entrenched traditionalist Asian say he’ll never eat shark fin soup – to me these are equally great achievements too.’ Cephalopods still remain his favourite subjects.
They would dive with the groups and sell VHS tapes of their day’s diving to whoever would buy them.