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Cancer survivor’s view beneath the waves

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Ron Lucas was scuba diving 12 days after he completed treatment for his prostate cancer.

He'd endured 42 CT scans and one bone scan.

Then came the 39 sessions of focused beam radiation therapy, which left him 15lbs lighter.

“I had a fairly advanced diagnosis as a result of a biopsy here in 2012,” the 67-year-old said. “When you're diagnosed you think the end is nigh and your options are very limited but I spent three months [in treatment] and only really in the last few weeks did I feel anything.

“Focused beam treatment doesn't hurt, but because it's in that area of the body it tends to upset the stomach — I lost 15lbs; the last two or three weeks were terrifying for me. But overall, considering what I went through, it was a lot easier than surgery and the outcome so far has been good. I'm a cancer survivor.”

He returned to Bermuda from Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, and celebrated the all-clear he received from doctors the best way he knew how: a 50ft dive along the western reef platform.

It was a fitting completion.

Years earlier, Mr Lucas had given the Bermuda Zoological Society hundreds of photographs of fish and creatures he'd taken while scuba diving. He wanted to create a visual guide for divers, snorkellers and marine enthusiasts — Bermuda Reef Portraits was published in 2008.

His hope was to one day see the information produced as an app. It was while he was undergoing cancer treatment in Canada that BZS called to say that financing for the app was in place.

“Liaising with the developer and with folks in Bermuda on the design, and then working on the resizing and cataloguing of the different sections, kept me fully occupied during my cancer treatment,” said Mr Lucas, a former Belco employee and Bermuda College lecturer.

Mr Lucas started diving at 46. He was taught by his son Ben, who was then an instructor. He became a divermaster and took up underwater photography in 2000.

Diving has taken him around the world, to much of the Caribbean, Belize, Hawaii, Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia.

“I've done approximately 1,600 dives — that's 16 times the average lifetime of dives for a recreational diver,” he said. “But I'm really just a passionate underwater photographer now. What I set out to do initially was to produce, for my own purposes, a catalogue of Bermuda fish, but I got interested in photography and wanted to do portraits. So I did a book, Bermuda Reef Portraits. I donated the book to BZS and wrote it all and they produced it.”

The book was truly “a collaborative effort”. Judith Clee oversaw editorial content and BZS scientist Thad Murdoch provided interactive maps. Assistance also came from BZS curator Ian Walker “and of course dive buddies, boat captains and dive resort operators”.

Said Mr Lucas: “Without the assistance of all these folks the Bermuda Reef Portraits book and the app would not have become a reality.”

The four-star app was first sold for $4.99 in 2012.

“I, in particular, wanted BZS to get money back to help pay for the developer,” Mr Lucas explained. “When they published an android in 2014, they decided to make it free so everybody would have access to it, especially young people. One of the main goals of BZS is to educate, particularly young people, in the natural environment, including underwater. Another is so young people can talk with visitors and friends about the underwater environment from a knowledgeable point of view.”

There are more than 260 high-definition photos on Bermuda Reef Life HD. Many of them include information about the profiled fish or creature.

The app also has a section on reef activity, one on reefs and wrecks and there are photos of common dives in Bermuda. As an added bonus, there's an interactive buoyed dive site map — press on a flag and get information about each site.

“So the app has further benefits but mainly for divers, snorklers and marine enthusiasts,” he said.

It took him about 13 years to take the pictures published with the app. According to Mr Lucas, he does about 100 dives a year and “more times than not will have my camera with me”.

The next move depends on the BZS.

“The thought is perhaps to do a section on corals,” the nature enthusiast said. “We've pretty much covered all the common fish and creatures in Bermuda. Another section I personally would like to see is a reef ID section. We could use it as a possible educational tool to support [BZS scientist] Thad Murdoch's annual survey of the reefs. Way down the road I would like to include some video sections to show reef activity. The problem is videos of good quality are very memory-intensive so not sure if it will work — but that's for the future.”

Visit www.ronlucasphoto.smugmug.com for photos Mr Lucas has taken at dive destinations around the world.

Underwater photographer Ron Lucas is solo-certified and in this instance, diving on his own in St Kitts. He's pictured with an extra reserve Nitrox fill tank and regulators. (Photo by Matthew L Wolynetz)
A stoplight parrotfish (initial phase) (Photo by Ron Lucas)
Hogfish (Photo by Ron Lucas)
Red hind (Photo by Ron Lucas)
The Creole wrasse terminal male has been identified by the Smithsonian as a unique variation only found in Bermuda. (Photo by Ron Lucas)
An eel captured by Ron Lucas on Bermuda's reefs
Ron Lucas in the Caraquet Boiler with his camera and settings in August 2014. (Photo by Russell Whitman)
<p>Give it your best shot</p>

Ron Lucas’ top tips for underwater photography:

1. Don’t chase fish. Let the reef creature get confident with you before you take the photo.

2. Get close, shoot up.

3. Either shoot in a clear water environment or have a really nice reef behind the creature.

4. Buy the best equipment you can afford.

“I have a housed DSLR [digital single-lens reflex] and the housing costs three times the price of the camera.

“Typically when I dive I have over $10,000 worth of equipment.

“But you don’t need that to start. I think you need at least one strobe, because you have to recreate the light or you won’t get the colours to come out as they should do but I got great shots with a point and shoot.”

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Published April 08, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated April 07, 2015 at 11:35 pm)

Cancer survivor’s view beneath the waves

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