Capturing Nature's Best

The story of the Great Barrier Reef is told through breathtaking images in Life On The Reef, writes Emma Brown. Occasionally a show comes alone that is important beyond its entertainment value. One such show is Life On The Reef, a three part observational documentary series produced by the team who delivered the award-winning Kakadu last year.

Australian cinematographer Nick Robinson is the man behind the spectacular images captured on film which form the backdrop to the story of our Great Barrier Reef.

Filmed over the course of a full year, the three-part series follows people who live and work in this extraordinary environment.

"We spent a year on the reef following characters who are working to save the reef such as rangers and marine park offices, traditional owners, search and rescue crews, scientists and tourism operators," Robinson says.

"Some of the people we followed are very inspiring."

While the series highlights the environmental issues facing the delicate ecosystem of the GBR marine park it is more about inspiring people to care, rather than harping at them to do something, Robinson says.

Although Robinson thinks that if we continue down our current path with the reef the future for it is bleak, he does believe there are lots of things we can do to keep it.

"Many people have come up to me and asked is it (the reef) dead already? Fifty percent of it is but only a small part of this, about ten per cent, is due to global warming. Other things causing this are things we can change," he said.

One of these things is the Crown of Thorns starfish, a predator that eats coral on the reef, which has been responsible for 40 per cent of coral loss between Cooktown and the Whitsundays in the last decades.

"It would cost about $5 million to stop the outbreak of the COTS which isn't a massive investment to stop the decline in the reef. We also need to improve water quality, control shipping and manage risks," he said.

As the most important marine park in the world, the GBR runs from Fraser Island to Papua New Guinea . At 2,300 kilometres long, it is the length of the west coast of the United States. It is the world's largest living structure and one the richest and most complex natural ecosystems on Earth.

"The reef has a vital role in the whole ocean. Whales come to calf there and changes to it have a wide ranging impact on the ocean."

Set against a backdrop of extraordinary marine habitats, ranging from coral reefs to tropical islands, shallow estuaries to deep oceanic waters, Life On The Reef takes the audience above and beneath the waters as nature adapts to the changing seasons.

Above the reef aerial photography from helicopters show the enormity of the marine park, giving macro coverage, while underwater photography shows some of the best microscopic coverage of the reef ever filmed.

Time-lapse and high speed cinematography is used to stunning effect, capturing the true nature of the area and the bizarre, beautiful and sometimes deadly creatures that call it home.

The series is narrated by Australian actor Rupert Reid who is best known for his roles as Declan in TV show Heartbreak High and later, Jack Dawson on Blue Heelers.

For Robinson, a trained marine biologist, the story of Life On The Reef is something he has always wanted to tell. As a cinematographer who shoots and directs documentaries, the success of last year's Kakadu means more opportunities to work on projects of his choosing.

Kakadu took out a gold medal at the prestigious New York Festival World's Best Television and Films competition and was awarded at a local level in January with a Best Cinematography for a documentary at the AACTA Awards.

As a fly-in fly-out worker Robinson and his other two crew members were often assisted by the Great Barrier Marine Park Authorityy (GBRMPA) and Queensland National Parks.

"They helped us out a lot by dropping us places while their scientists were working - we were very privileged."

For people who are interested in helping the reef Robinson suggests there are many ways to get involved from contacting politicians to joining a reef organisation.

"Volunteer, they need the manpower. Connect with other individuals and you can go out and have a reef experience and help at the same time."

Life on the Reef premieres Sunday 1 March 2015 at 7.40pm on ABC.