Through Oceans Campus, and Fiona Ayerst's Underwater Photography Internship, operating at Guinjata Dive Centre, Mozambique, I became aware of that inner beauty the ocean held. Beneath the blue blanket that covers 71 percent of our earth, there are beings many of us didn’t even know existed. The coral reefs, like cities, thrive with various communities. As interns, we became aware of the diverse species working together in a network, with so many scenarios yet to play out and be captured on camera.
10 Lessons I Learned In Mozambique
Scuba diving with wild animals in itself is an exhilarating encounter. Throw in an underwater camera and photographic experience… and presto-- you have before you an image you could only have dreamt to capture! By becoming more knowledgeable about scuba, you will be more relaxed in the water. Feeling more relaxed can lead to more dive time, in turn leading to further chances of obtaining that prize-winning shot.
From cleaning o-rings, checking the batteries in your strobes and camera, making sure that your memory card is loaded cleared for the next days’ use, to arranging the arms underwater for the perfect lighting. It is important to take time to carefully check and double-check EVERYTHING. The last thing you want is to be out in the water, ready to take that awesome shot, only to have your camera malfunction due to a simple mistake. Get to know your equipment and changing your settings. Spend time reading the manuals and practice using your camera on land. You don’t want to waste ANY time underwater figuring out what is what before the animal you dreamed of shooting swims away.
Study your subjects, read about them and observe natural behavior. It is intriguing and fun to learn about not only the animals you are viewing, but their behavior as well.
This term is borrowed from Levi Fenton, an Instructor at the Dive Centre, who is a master at discovering the smallest of animals hidden from the passing eye. Essentially, it is like playing “Where Is Waldo?” except with nudibranches (tiny marine gastropod mollusks), porcelain crabs, seahorses and the like. Many animals use camouflage and hide themselves very well within the reef and beneath the sand, and I can guarantee, not all is what it seems!
Avoid the “predator approach”, which they will assume you are if you begin to chase any large or small animals you encounter. They can feel your excitement and swift movement, which can make them very wary and stay further away. Let their natural curiosity work for you and they may even be so intrigued as to come and circle you.
On land photography is great practice for the time spent in between lessons and diving. Remember - before obtaining photographs of local residents, it is important to ask the permission of those you encounter. You must keep cultural differences in mind, since in various cultures, some may believe that their soul can be taken when a photo is taken of them. Just be polite, ask, and if denied – find another interest!
One of the most important lessons I learned was to visualize taking a photo before you even take the camera into the water. Talk to others about what you want your photos to look like, where you want the subject in the shot, and what kind of effect you’d like to achieve. As a studio artist, I began to paint the subjects I encountered. This made me become more aware of what position I should place myself in while taking the photograph, so as to not only obtain a great photo, but have my subject in a position that would be flattering to later paint. A friend of mine, and field-specialist, Shalini Tewari, recommended I begin putting the images next to each other, which led to a series called ‘Painted Images’.
This is one of the most challenging things about underwater photography. When you begin to feel and take notice of which way the current is pulling you, you don’t exhaust yourself trying to constantly swim against them to get at your subject. Also, be cautious and aware of your surroundings – Steer clear of sea urchins and refrain from touching the reef or any animals.
Enjoy the little things, don’t fret if the subject you wished to photograph is not available or in the area. Usually you will find something better and have that opportunity to take a shot you didn’t even expect.
Some of the best shots that were taken were during our “free time.”
The point of photography, on land and on water, is to not only capture amazing experiences - however, to simply enjoy them as well.
This blog has also been posted on the Oceans Campus Blog page, located here: My Underwater Photography Experience