“…THERE’S JUST TOO MANY THINGS I ENJOY DOING TO COMMIT MYSELF TO A SINGLE TOPIC OR IDEA. I NEED TO BE ABLE TO GO FROM PHOTOGRAPHY TO DIY WITHOUT MISSING A BEAT OR HAVING TO CHANGE MY ENTIRE LIFESTYLE…”
My name is Martin Els. I was born in the Freestate, South Africa but spent my life growing up in Pretoria. My parents like to tell the story of me crawling around with a screwdriver in my hand when I was still young, and although the story is a total cliche by now, I still feel that it’s a clear indicator of my most basic interests.
I enjoy learning how things work, and through this I have acquired a knowledge base stretching into science, technology, and biology. I have what I like to describe mild ADD which prompts me to try new things all the time. It’s a blessing really. It broadens my horizons in terms of experiences, and together with my inquisitive nature has extensively contributed to my general knowledge on a wide variety of subjects, as I usually study up on everything I do.
After a while, one gets to a point where you can fairly accurately guess the mechanics of a device without having to open it, which is great for designing things, but not so great for feeding that hunger for the unknown. One of the few fields which are constantly changing and improving, smaller, faster, better, is obviously electronics, moreover computers. Looking back I should have known that it would have become a part of my everyday life. When I was younger, we would have LAN parties which obviously required a level of network know-how and we were determined and all too keen to struggle with it until we got right. Sometimes that would take up the entire night, and it was still fun.
I took up a profession as a software developer after school, which provided me with a dynamic platform where I could exercise my mind while having unlimited internet access to read up on everything I found interesting, and also provided me with the funding required to pursuit all the interests I would still discover in life.
My fascination with gadgets drove me to get into photography because it too was a field wherein the cameras were ever evolving into better, more compact, more powerful versions, yet it got my out of the house and into the outdoors. Shortly after getting into photography, I discovered macro photography which became an instant obsession, I think mostly because it allowed me to, through the use of such a harmonious combination of mechanics and electronics, capture things that no human could see with the naked eye. It instantly shed light on the intricacy of the most tiny things we would usually take for granted.
In 2012, I found a career opportunity in Cape Town which is the most southern point of Africa. After a life no less that 700km from the closest shore, it was a total blessing to be able to move to the coast, and being what society refers to as a “water baby”, it didn’t take me long to realize that diving was the ultimate hobby for me, giving me a chance to combine multiple hobbies into one. Having read up on GoPro during my study of the photography field, I knew that this was the perfect time to get one as it was compact, robust, and much more affordable than a mere underwater housing for conventional cameras. Coincidentally, GoPro announced the release of their Dive Housing the same year which solved the focus problem with the stock housing. The trade-off was that I would not be able to pursue macro with the GoPro seeing as it has a minimum focal distance of about 1ft/30cm, but I did not mind because in turn I was now also able to shoot immersive full HD video of my dives, and this once again was footage that the average land dwelling homo sapiens would never personally encounter in a lifetime.
So photography plus diving led to underwater photography, and that meant MORE GADGETS! Suddenly I developed a need for video lights and shooting rigs, and being the DIY guy I am, I discovered that I could easily build my own for a fraction of the price of a new one. My thirst for going where few have been automatically led me to develop a particular liking in wreck diving, and fortunately the Cape peninsula is riddled with wrecks of sunken ships, covered with marine wildlife just waiting to be photographed.
During my diving adventures, I also became accustomed with the local diving stories and legends. One in particular that captured my fascination was that of Dave Shaw that lost his life at Boesmansgat, a freshwater cave located in the Northern Cape. He was on a mission trying to recover the body of Deon Dreyer who had also died there years before. The story also introduced me to technical diving which goes much deeper, and requires much more gadgets…
And that’s where we are now..