“I learned to dive in winter, in a home-made wetsuit...”
“I was, like my colleague Matt Ruglys, inspired by Jacques-Yves Cousteau and craved that lifestyle. I was lucky to be accepted by Bangor; they wanted three “C”s and I got a B, an E and a fail... The careers master at school asked me if I had considered Town Planning as a career. I hadn't. But Bangor graciously accepted me for a “Combined Science” degree. For the first time in my life, education was interesting and I did well enough in the first year that I was allowed to switch to Zoology with Marine Zoology.
After I graduated I was lucky to get a job in the Zoology Department as a technician. I bought a three-bedroom house in Caernarfon Road for £5,300 which I renovated in my spare time. When it sold, I had enough to buy Eila, a 35' yacht built in 1935. I sailed with my girlfriend across the Atlantic where she met someone taller, richer, better looking and with a bigger boat. So I sailed alone to Panama and across to the Marquesas of French Polynesia, a voyage of 34 days on my own.
Polynesia was everything I had dreamed of. I spent 20 years sailing all over Polynesia, sometimes working on other boats but mostly diving, shooting pictures underwater with home-made camera housings and writing articles for magazines. In 1998 I was accepted by Getty Images and my stock photo income increased dramatically. I bought a bigger drier boat in New Zealand which had a fridge, which was a novelty for me and I installed an electric piano. I applied for a Distinguished Talent Visa for Australia, and when it was granted, sailed to Cairns. I put the boat up for sale, bought a nice house and tried to “settle down”.
One day I received an email from someone; “My dive instructor says that you can teach me underwater photography...” I replied, and suggested we meet for a coffee. The next email explained that the sender was female, Thai, 24 and studying in Sydney 1000 miles away... I was 48, never married, always looking for a cute girl who could model underwater and had an interest in photography. By day three we were on videocam and at the end of the week I proposed to her on the phone, having never met. She accepted, we were married three months later and just celebrated our 15th anniversary. Once Darin got an Australian passport we moved to Phuket, Thailand, where she has become one of the best wedding photographers in Asia.
I wrote a book about my adventures, Polynesia ~ An Ocean Realm, which you can find on www.peteatkinson.com More recently I have been photographing beautiful women, and swimming pools, particularly over/under shots.
Now that photography has reverted to being a hobby again, I sometimes wonder if training as a plumber might have been a better career choice.”
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