I spent a lot of time in rock pools as a kid, and I first tried snorkelling in 1997 somewhere off the Gold Coast in Australia. I was super-frightened of open water, freaked out and couldn’t float. I got back onto the boat and was given a “snorkel vest” – a light inflatable item that would help me float. I got back in with that on, and I scooted around amazed at everything. When I finished, I noticed that the vest had completely deflated, and hadn’t helped at all.
My name is Oisín Hurley, and I’m CTO of a company called Swrve. I’m based in Dublin, Ireland, and my job is all about looking after the technologies and people that power our company in its mission to be the relationship management tool for medium to large companies. Day-to-day, I deal with fun things like budgets for operations and hiring, data privacy, and platform security.
My background is technical, from pre-teen electronics dabbler and CD Radio nerd, through teenage programming tiny computer games, then into Computer Science at university. In about 2010 or so, I became the technology side of a small start-up, and four years after that, the start-up was acquired by my current employer, and I’m still here.
Outside my job, I love photography and snorkelling. The photography part was when my dad got me a Praktica camera when I was a teenager. I didn’t get deep into it initially, but as I travelled more, I felt the need to take more pictures. I bought a more modern camera in New Zealand in 1999, then upgraded to a low-end digital SLR, and a couple of years back got Canon 7D Mark II. This will be my current baby for another ten years, but camera nerds I know are all waving mirrorless cameras and expensive iPhones about instead. I’m keeping my hands in my pockets!
The photography part is simple. If you have a garden, some seasons, and a macro lens, you can make some lovely photos. Or if you have a bird feeder and a long telephoto you can get some really fun wildlife shots. If I go down to the sea, I can capture super sunsets over the city of Dublin – thanks, particulate pollution – or shots of boats and people.
On the snorkelling end of it, I blame David Attenborough for the general fascination, and specifically an old ‘dinosaur book’ that I had as a child which had lots of artistic interpretations of extinct Silurian and Devonian fish.
Snorkelling though is the part that can need a bit of planning! You can go anywhere there is something interesting to look at. In Scotsman’s Bay 10 minutes’ walk from where I live, you’ll see wrasse, weird sponges, and potentially a 3 metre long seal or two. However, this is temperate seawater. The temperature ranges from 6C in winter to 17C max in late summer. To your body, that’s cold, and you need your full wetsuit to get into it if you want to stay for a while. My recommendation is: go somewhere warm, it’s much more fun.
I’ve been lucky enough to snorkel off Bermuda, Mauritius, Malaysia, the Gold Coast of Australia, Hawaii and Bora Bora. These are all amazing places, and Bora Bora was an incredible experience. I sat on a (dead) coral bommie, almost entirely submerged, with the top of the snorkel out of the water and just watched the reef do its thing for hours. If I had the required ten thousand euro to spare, I would go back there immediately.
It’s fun, but it’s more than just for fun. It’s an energy recharger for sure. What I do enjoy is the relative silence – I say relative because fish can be noisy enough when they are pissed off or looking for a Mrs. Fish – but there’s no machinery going and no humans jabbering away. Also, you are an observer – you really can’t be a part of this underwater scene, it is not your world, and that’s a sweet sloughing off of all requirements to perform or engage with what is there. It’s meditative. Also, you never know what you are going to see for the first time. That’s a joyful experience for me – that discovery, even though it’s not really a Blue Planet moment. And if you can capture it and collect it, that’s double the experience.
Underwater photography gives you an almost unparalleled opportunity to spend all of your money. Kit up with an SLR camera case, dual spotlights, filters, etc, and you can take pro-quality photos to try and earn your eight to ten grand back! I usually do a bit of processing after the fact using Lightroom to change tones, white balance, and whatever is necessary to bring out the detail in a more eyeball-realistic way!
The type of photography that interests me the most is sports, nature, and astronomy (I’m no good at landscape photography). I like looking at really good photos, whether that is the content, composition, or whatever. I have no limitation on the genre. I’d love to try photomicrography, but we must all have budgets.
The best resource for photography materials is YouTube – there are incredible amounts of how-tos, tutorials and lessons online. For aspiring photographers, learn the basics for free from YouTube, then take lots of photos. I am assuming that since it is 2018 that you are not going to be using film: you’re lucky, take many photos, then throw out the bad ones.
For aspiring snorkelers, buy a snorkel and mask combo and move about in the shallows where you can still stand up if you get the fears. Stay still and the creatures will forget about you and carry on their business. If you have skin that can burn in the sun, you may get fried unless you have waterproof sunblock, or better still, a UV opaque rash vest. You don’t need warm water to snorkel if you can get access to a wetsuit.
The similarity that comes to mind between photography and my work in tech is that you get to throw a lot of substandard stuff out! There’s a similar sense of pleasure in getting something just right, but that’s a standard dopamine reward.
Without a doubt, having another outlet is important. I deal with people a lot, and it’s great to not have to do that – I’m not an extrovert, and dealing with people takes energy. Having a way to recharge is vital. I have come around to the notion that some kind of physical creative activity, where you use your body as a tool to make something, is a super balance for the mental practices you use when programming. The mix of snorkelling and photography hits that balance nicely.