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Instead, it turns out that they are very tolerant of people and sometimes even want to interact. I also found that some of the sharks I have dived with actually enjoy having their bellies or noses rubbed on occasion. I wanted to use my photography to bring awareness to the fact that sharks are not waiting for hapless swimmers to eat.

They are wild animals, and they play a very important role in the ecosystem. To date, an estimated million sharks per year have been killed, either for their fins to make shark fin soup or as by-catch. Without them, entire fisheries would collapse. Instead of fear and loathing, they deserve our respect and protection, and in the end, awareness and education are my inspiration. The dry volcanic islands within the park offer a variety of photo opportunities, from big animals and rich, healthy seascapes to small, camouflaged critters that hide in the sandy seafloor. The area also harbors tremendous marine biodiversity that is spread through numerous habitats.

This image typifies the health and diversity of the shallow coral reefs that fringe the arid islands. This tropical region, part of the Lesser Sunda Islands and the Ring of Fire, is part of the Coral Triangle, which is home to more marine species than anywhere else on earth.

Wide-Angle Shooting Tips for the Underwater Photographer - Go Ask Erin

I keep things fairly simple and carry a wide-angle lens and a macro lens. I also make sure to have two powerful strobes that help add color in an otherwise bluish underwater world. One of the most important aspects of underwater photography is getting close to your subject. Water is so dense and always has floating organisms or debris in it, so getting close to the subject eliminates most backscatter and increases contrast.

Of course, being as comfortable as you can be in the water helps a lot. I used to spend hours looking at National Geographic photographs— images that told stories of nature, travel, and culture. There are now thousands of talented photographers who work throughout the world, and I do my best to keep my eye on those who are shooting in a unique way. But the most inspiration always comes from being in the water and viewing the incredible life that has evolved there— from the microscopic to the massive.

This is a hard question because every diving place, like every sea, has a specific atmosphere. My two favorite destinations are Indonesia because of the fish, the colors, and the coral reefs and the Red Sea in Egypt because the visibility and the coral are unbeatable. If I have to name only one destination, it would be Lembeh Strait in Indonesia.

I dove there last year for the first time, and it was also my first experience with muck diving ever. I had no idea what to expect! My mind was blown. I am used to diving every day, and if I bring my camera, I take around thirty to sixty pictures per dive, but in Lembeh I was going home with around pictures per day. Every three meters, we were stopping to find a critter. The hardest decision to make is whether to take a wide-angle lens or a macro lens.

You need light, of course, as underwater photography is all about the right lighting. Get good strobes, and know how to use them. I always make sure to pack my chargers, the right batteries, and spare gear. You have to know your camera well on land before you take it into the water.

Practice the position of the strobes; learn about composition, and always get closer to the subject. And another important tip: work on your buoyancy. Every dive gives me inspiration. Each fish too. I look at the work of other underwater photographers, and I usually have my image in my head before I start shooting. We are all different, and each of us has a specific style.

My favorite destination for underwater images is actually Baja California Sur, Mexico. The Sea of Cortez has a rich variety of fauna.

How to win in underwater photo competitions. 7 Tips from the inside.

At Los Islotes, an island not far from La Paz, BCS, you can swim and interact with a colony of sea lions and take wonderful pictures of seals. If you are lucky, you might see other species, like manta rays, whales, and dolphins. Two years ago, I started an underwater project called The Seventh Continent. The aim is to take pictures of humans interacting with underwater beings, without compromising their behavior or habitat.

A crazy thing happens when this man tries to shoot himself underwater

Sea lions are the best because they are curious, although sometimes territorial, animals. Last October, I worked for one week with a Mexican model, Cristina Mendoza, who is a superb free-diver, and she was dressed as a mermaid. The sea lions were crazy about it and started to swim around. In this picture, the mermaid and the sea lion look like they are dancing together. I am always sure to pack a fisheye lens that produces superb results underwater.

Also, having two strobes definitely makes all the difference. I recommend using a fast shutter speed and eventually raising the ISO. Everything is moving underwater, and if you shoot big animals, you want them to be perfect. I wish I knew when I was just starting out how difficult it is to take good pictures underwater without a strobe light. I spent a year without underwater flashes, and now I regret it. I get inspiration from the wonderful underwater world I see every time I dive.

Truk Lagoon, in the country of Chuuk, is my favorite. There are thirty-two big shipwrecks sunk in that lagoon, all of them in battle.

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No artificial reefs there. These wrecks have never been commercially salvaged, and thus they are like moments frozen in time. Aside from that, the islands have stunning natural beauty, and the water is always clear and warm. For underwater photographers, Truk Lagoon has almost anything you could want: stunning coral reefs; tons of marine life; massive, moody shipwrecks; clear water, and very easy dives.

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Once divers go there, it tends to become the touchstone that all other locations are compared to. This is an anemonefish living on its wonderful anemone home, which is actually the wreck of the Fujikawa Maru. There is this nice sense of life and warm color, while in the background, the dark industrial shapes of the ship are framed in cool blues.

Honestly, the best gear is the gear you are most comfortable with and know how to use. It is important to be familiar with your camera, and you need to be able to make it respond underwater in a hostile environment. Ideally, you should be able to manipulate your camera without ever looking at what buttons you are pushing. Plus lights can go on other cameras when you change or upgrade in the future. Start off with good strobes and learn how to use them and the camera, and then upgrade the camera when you need to.

I wish someone had told me to shoot macro first and learn that before moving into wide-angle. Start with little subjects and grow from there. Where do you find inspiration for your photography? My inspiration comes from everywhere, but mostly I watch what other people are doing and then make sure I do something different! I do shoot a lot of traditional shots for commercial use, but in my art pieces, I always try and show people something new and exciting. I see a lot of underwater photos every day, and I want to make sure that the ones I do for fun look like none of those.

One of my favorite places is the Bahamas. There are several reasons why I like the Bahamas. First, the water clarity is excellent most of the time. It is not uncommon to have visibility of feet or better in the Bahamas. For an underwater photographer, feet of visibility is spectacular. It means that I can get close to my subjects and have relatively little particulate matter in the water that would have to be removed in post-production.

Second, the light in the Bahamas tends to be excellent. Yes, there can be some cloudy days, but as an underwater photographer, I want relatively clear skies so I will have as much natural light to work with as possible. Third, there are plenty of large animals to photograph in the Bahamas, and I like large animals such as turtles, sharks, and dolphins. I was doing a shark dive and waiting for the shark feeder to arrive and for the sharks to start to get closer to us.

I happened to notice a Hawksbill turtle swimming near me and heading for the surface for a breath of air. The turtle was far enough away from me that I was going to have to swim pretty quickly to get close enough for a picture. On top of that, it meant that I was going to have to break one of the cardinal rules of diving with sharks: I was going to have to move away from the group and be pretty exposed to about twenty reef sharks.

I took the risk and swam upside down and got one image of the turtle from beneath him, with the sun behind him, before he broke the surface. Then I swam back down to the dive group and just kept shooting when the sharks arrived.

The problem with underwater photography is that water removes the red band of light from what is visible within the first ten feet of water. By a depth of thirty feet or so, you have to add artificial light back in. So be prepared to carry some substantial lights.

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My camera rig weighs in at about thirty-five pounds on dry land. There are some days when I get in and out of the water while carrying over pounds of gear between scuba equipment and camera gear. In the water, it is buoyancy neutral, which means I am not hauling around the equivalent of a large boat anchor, but getting offshore into deep water can be quite a challenge.