Roger Steene was born in Cairns, Queensland and began diving in the early 1960's, spending many years diving and photographing the Great Barrier Reef and taking dive travel trips to far off places around the world, visiting the Caribbean, the Galapagos Islands, the Red Sea, Mauritius, Tonga, Vanuatu, Tuamoto's, Indonesia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Japan, Fiji Islands and Papua.
In 1978 he had his first book published. Butterfly and Angelfishes Volume 1 was produced mainly for the aquarium trade as there were few divers interested in identification guides in Australia's early years. Roger's mentor and good friend Dr. Jerry Allen combined forces and during over the next years produced a series of fish and marine life guides.
Since those early days Roger has concentrated on large 'coffee table' style books. He has now written and a number of mammoth publications including "Coral Reefs - Natures Richest Realm" and his more recent "Oceanic Wilderness" as seen in the side images.
Beautiful rendition of two Scarlet Cleaner Shrimps Lysmata debelius working on a Moray Eel at a deepwater ( 20 metres plus) Cleaner Shrimp Station In Milne bay Papua New Guinea. ( photo: Roger Steene)
His favourite dive destinations are Papua New Guinea and Indonesia and he has several new species named after him. Roger has a great passion for diving and especially underwater photography and his contageous personality and unreserved encouragement to all has earn't him many friends on the many expeditions he accompanies.
Spending up to 5 dives a day in the water Roger's experience underwater is second to none and his total dedication to getting " the image right" is astounding, as his unselfish attitude to helping beginners, is ledgendary.
His assistance to the Australian marine scientific community has earn't him honorary titles of Research Associate Australian Museum and Associate Western Australian Museum.
Roger is just as 'at home' shooting 'under and over' wide angle as he is with macro.( photo: Roger Steene)
Like all of us, Roger love's the fantastic brilliance of nature's underwater world and works very hard to share his passion with the world. ( photo: Roger Steene)
This Eightline Flasher Wrasse Paracheilinus octotaenia is a perfect example of Roger's attention to detail. In every shot, every fish must be 'spronged'. ( photo: Roger Steene)
Classic study of a Peacock Mantis Shrimp Odontodactylus scyllarus female holding its egg mass. Similar to hundreds of others, Roger's images of new species and undescribed behaviour have set the standard for thousands of up and coming underwater photographers over several decades. ( photo: Roger Steene)
A giant nocturnal form of the Spanish Dancer Hexabranchus sanguineus found at night on the shore reefs at Tawali Dive Resort in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea exceeded 250 mm in length. ( photo: Roger Steene)
If it had not been for the encouragement of Roger and his " stick it up you" candour I would not have attempted many of my publications. He was especially persistant in giving me the opportunity to present such diverse nudibranch publications as "1001 Nudibranchs" and more recently " Nudibranchs Encyclopedia" with his generous offer to loan me of hundreds of previously unpublished nudibranch images.
How could I resist his reply to my uncertainty as to not being able to afford the printing costs. " Sell your house and eat grass" just get the nudibranch book done!
So, we did it and it turned out to be the best Nudibranch Identification Guide of its time ever produced in the world, with 3000 images.
Many thanks Roger, you were right, it was worth every cent!
Due to the results of a severe road accident in his youth ( motor bike) which resulted in his knee being smashed, Roger has had a permanently stiff right leg since his late teens.
As there few sports open to him, he took up scuba diving in the late 1950's and has been a dedicated diver ever since. Living in Cairns, Queensland gave him easy access to the Great Barrier Reef and he soon became interested in collecting aquarium fishes for the Green Island Aquarium. Collecting, developed into photography as a hobby and by 1960 he was taking pictures with a Nikonos 1 and bulb flash.
In 1965 he went on his first of many overseas dive trips to New Caledonia. Vanuatu, Tonga and the Tuamoto's, taking lots of pictures, mainly in black and white.
Living on Takaroa Island Tuamoto for seven months where the diving was fabulous, he was enthralled by the ability of the locals to free dive to 70 metres.
While endeavouring to build up a collection of pictures and trying to sell them, Roger became very disillusioned with the heartbreaks connected with getting published and in the early years, gave up.
to get that perfect shot!
In the late 1960's Roger changed his camera systems over from Nikonos 1 to a Nikon F reflex system using one of the earliest Ikelite housings and shooting all colour on Kodachrome 25 ASA film.
His Great Barrier Reef trips continued until he met Dr. Walter Stark and Dr. Gerry Allen ( Curator of Fishes at the Western Australian Museum) at Cairns one day on their return from a big fish collecting expedition to Papua New Guinea on board the "El Torito"research vessel.
After lots of encouragement from Gerry and Walter regarding the importance of knowledge collections, Roger became more aware of the scientific side of photography and from then on participated in many scientific expeditions. ( All at his own expense)
Since his first trip with the National Geographic Australian Museum Expedition to Lord Howe island in 1973 his contacts with Gerry have continued to the present day, with Roger taking part in countless expeditions to most parts of the Indo - Pacific.
In 1979 the chance came to work with Peter Parks of Oxford Scientific Films, the world's foremost authority on marine micro – photography. Peter encouraged Roger's interest in this field and this led to many years of field trips to the Australian Museum's Lizard Island Research laboratory.
Armed with a wealth of underwater transparencies Roger entered into the writing field once again and wrote "Butterfly and Angelfishes of the World Vol. 1"which was published in Germany, translated into four languages and marketed throughout the world.
From there he almost single handedly illustrated the Reader's Digest mammoth book on the Great Barrier Reef, the largest and most spectacular book ever accomplished on that subject at the time.
Together with Dr. Gerry AllenJim Tobin and a selected few Roger became a permanent member of the "El Torito"family.
By spending six months of every year in the field and six months running his well established Stone mason business in Cairns, Roger has been able to forfil his dreams and become the underwater explorer/ photographer/author many of us aspire towards.
Since his ealy beginnings he has produced a string of huge "coffee table" books based on his spectacular images and the subjects of his travels and persistant "go get the" attitude.
This man has not let a serious physical handicap to deprive him of an adventurous lifestyle underwater and he stands as an exampe to encourage others with similar problems to give underwater a try!
Roger, with a big grin letting me know he got the BIG wave shots and was I OK?
Then it was my turn for the BIG wave, and turn it was!
Being rolled over and over; one hand protecting my camera and the other holding on my mask.
However, my wesuit protected me from the coral scrapes, AND I got my shots of Roger in action.
FAVOURITE DIVING LOCALITIES
Milne bay, Papua New Guinea - Anilao, Philippines - Bali, Indonesia.
Personal audience with the Crown Prince of Japan, one of the world's most eminent ichthologists and the Emperor who requested to see his slides.
Anybody who has seen any of Roger's artistic masterpieces can appreciate his dedication and determinination. Sparing no expense to locate and photograph every life form in the ocean, Roger has shown that his disability is of little consequense underwater, for on land his work stands up with the best in the World, on equal terms.