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Blind scuba diver makes a splash with stunning pictures

Mark Jeffrey
Mark Jeffrey

A blind scuba diver from Stratford has been making a splash with a stunning set of underwater photographs.

Despite being registered blind with a degenerative eye condition, Mark Jeffrey, a member of Stratford Sub-Aqua club, has discovered a hidden talent as an underwater photographer.

Mark, 48, has captured a number of amazing pictures including close-up encounters with anemone fish, a shark, crabs and other wildlife.

Mark’s vision has got worse and worse since the age of 23 when he was diagnosed with the hereditary disease Stargardt’s macular dystrophy.

The condition affects around 1 in 10,000 people and is characterised by central vision.

Mark said: “It’s left me with little to no central vision therefore relying on peripheral vision.

“My brain does a magic thing and tries to make a picture, from the information it gets.

“It’s a bit like looking through a child’s kaleidoscope but not like beads going round and round, just a patchwork of shapes and colours.

“It means I can see the outline of a face without being able to see any features.

“I've learned to adjust and cope with my loss of central vision at all times but when I'm diving I don't feel I have a disability, it gives me a sense of real freedom.”

Mark has taken pictures whilst diving abroad and at dive centres in the UK such as Stoney Cove in Leicestershire.

Mark said: “Clive (Mark’s regular dive partner) and I both enjoy taking pictures. It’s more difficult for me obviously, and I need to memorise camera settings and things like that, and I use automatic focus.

“It really is a bit hit or miss for me and I might waste a lot of shots but with digital cameras it doesn’t matter.

“I got a wonderful picture of a pike in Stoney Cove, it would have been an award winning shot but for the fact I managed to chop its tail off the image.”

Mark prefers to dive with people who understand his condition and who share his love of aquatic wildlife.

He says he has never had any complaints from people he has dived with, but he does need help with some aspects such as getting on and off boats.

Mark said: “It’s important the people I dive with understand my parameters.

“My lack of vision doesn’t hamper me too much when I’m diving.

“So long as I can manage to use my peripheral vision to read my gauges and see my buddy diver I’m absolutely fine.”

Fellow Stratford-upon-Avon SAC member Clive Shepherd, who regularly dives with Mark, says some of the images his buddy diver produces are the envy of club photographers.

Clive said: “Mark’s underwater navigational skills are unbelievable; it’s almost like a sixth sense.”

“He’s an exceptional diver and a wonderful photographer despite his lack of vision. Quite how he manages with only peripheral vision I don’t know.”

Mary Tetley, chief executive of the British Sub-Aqua Club added: “Mark’s passion for scuba diving is a wonderful example of why our members love their club.

“Being underwater gives us all a sense of freedom, and it’s wonderful to see the photographic results Mark’s managed to achieve. I hope he keeps on going for years to come.”

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