In an ongoing series, Scubaverse’s Underwater Photography Editors Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown talk to underwater photographers from around the world that they admire. In this blog: Lisa Collins…
I am a self-taught underwater photographer who has been diving for 22 years and taking photographs for 18 of those. I started off with a little Sea & Sea film camera to show my young daughters how beautiful it was under the ocean. Over time, and with lots of practice, I found I had a talent for both underwater photography and writing about my diving adventures, finally becoming a professional underwater photojournalist 7 years ago, which I felt was a great achievement and something I am very proud of.
Most of my early diving was done in the UK, where I live, but now I am lucky to travel the world to dive and take underwater photographs. I am inspired by different cultures, oceans and marine life you find nowhere else on the planet. Every dive I do makes me happy. There are never any ‘bad’ dives. I love it when I see a fish I have never seen before.
I am really happiest when I am diving in a turquoise clear ocean, with healthy reefs and marine life population. My favourite dive destinations are the Turks & Caicos Islands, Indonesia and Hawaii.
My life changed 6 years ago, after divorce, when I formed INON UK with my underwater photography mentor, Steve Warren. He sold me my first underwater camera, and every other one since, but also provided me with the support and encouragement to progress my photography and writing. We also designed two underwater photography courses. I get great pleasure out of passing on my knowledge whilst teaching our Level One Underwater Photography and Level Two Advanced Lighting courses.
N&C: How did your underwater photography start?
LC: As you can see from above, it was the urge to show my daughters the beautiful underwater world that inspired my to take up underwater photography.
N&C: What is your favourite u/w camera equipment (past & present) & why?
LC: I loved my Nikon D70 camera and love my current Canon EOS 6D in an INON X-2 housing. I have used INON for many years – I purchased my Z-240’s 16 years ago. I believe in the quality of their products, which is why I was happy to form a company to distribute them in the UK. I have now fallen in love with their Z-330 strobes, and am waiting for the time INON release snoots to go with the new strobe. Snoots are another favourite piece of equipment. I also love my compact Canon S95 and S120’s cameras and INON wet lenses, for the sheer ability of being able to take a range of different subjects from fisheye to supermacro, on one dive.
N&C: What would be your advice to anyone new to underwater photography?
LC: My advice for new underwater photographers is to take a course to get the most out of your photography, and to stop you getting into bad habits. A short course will help new photographers tremendously. We spend a lot of money on dive trips, and want to capture the best images possible to remember those dives. Learning the basics of underwater photography can help provide you with memorable images rather than disappointing ones. Above all else, practice is the key to good underwater photography.
N&C: What, or who, has been your single biggest inspiration for your underwater photography?
LC: My daughters, Megan and Camilla, inspired me to first start taking photographs and to continue showing them how beautiful the underwater world is. Mateusz, my partner and dive buddy is also an inspiration to me as he is also my model, and shares in my joy of images taken straight after dives.
One of my greatest inspirations has been my friend and business partner, Steve Warren, who introduced me to underwater photography and great underwater photographers, giving support and technical advice, whilst being incredibly encouraging of my work.
Above all, I am inspired by the incredible reefs and marine life I am lucky to dive with all over the world.
N&C: What image are you most proud of and why?
LC: The images I am most proud of are my very first competition winner on film, back in 2000 – an image taken in a swim through with a small window, off of Grand Cayman, which gave me the confidence to pursue my underwater photography career, and images I have taken of my two (now grown-up) daughters, whilst diving with me. It is a kind of full circle that I started to take photos to show them the underwater world when they were very small, inspiring them both to become divers at age 10 and 12, and for them to still want to dive with me now when they are in their mid to late 20’s.
N&C: Where is your favourite dive location, and is it for the photography?
LC: I get asked my favourite dive destination a lot. This isn’t as easy a question as it looks. I love so many dive destinations for the experiences I have, not just because of the place. If I was pushed, I would say anywhere in Indonesia for the beauty and variety of the dive sites, especially for underwater photography. Hawaii would be another choice for the amazing amount of endemic species and varied diving that can be had. The Turks and Caicos would also be a favourite, for the pure stunning beauty of the islands, the amazing visibility and beautiful turquoise sea.
N&C: What are you views on marine life manipulation, moving subjects?
LC: This is actually a subject I am very passionate about and have written articles about previously. When we dive and take underwater photographs, we are quests in the marine habitat. We should respect that habit as if we were visiting friends. We would never dream to move furniture in a friend’s house just because we think it would be more visually appealing. The same should be said of the underwater marine habitat. Marine life is very delicate and mostly live where they live to protect themselves from predators. Touching them or moving them away from where they are, leaves them at great danger of being hurt or exposed prey.
We, as underwater photographers, are ambassadors of the ocean and should protect it in every way possible. By moving subjects to get a better image, is not doing this. Manipulating subjects, such as stressing them so they display a certain behaviour – i.e. frogfish yawning is a threat display which can be caused by stressing the animal – is not acceptable. We should observe and if an animal seems stressed, move away from them and find another subject. We should NOT move marine life or manipulate them.
N&C: What do you look for when you are making your images?
LC: When I take my images, I look for chance encounters which I can capture to the best of my ability in a natural environment – i.e. without manipulation or movement of the subject. I like taking macro, super-macro and wide angled images equally as much. For wide angled, I like to shoot vertically and try to shoot the sun or an illusion of the sun, even if it is a cloudy day. Close focus wide angle would probably be my favourite technique if absolutely pressed to choose.
For macro and super-macro, I look for subjects in a good position and with high contrast, and, preferably water behind them, to make them stand out. When I am writing articles and taking underwater photographs specifically for that article, I look for interesting images which show a wide range of the dive site. If I know the site is good for wide angle and macro, I will use my Canon 6D for wide angle shots, and also take a small compact camera – either Canon S95, S120 or Olympus TG5 – set up with one INON S-2000 strobe, attached to my BCD, to take macro shots.
N&C: What motivates you to take u/w photos?
LC: My motivation to take underwater photographs is firstly to bring to life the underwater world for both divers and non-divers, spreading the beauty through my published images and articles. Secondly, I am motivated through the teaching of underwater photography. No two dives are ever the same, even the same dive site on the same day, and no two images are the same. There is always something new to see, something new to learn, and I love to pass this on to my students.
N&C: If you could photograph any one thing/place what or where would that be?
LC: There is one thing I would love to photograph and that is whales underwater. I have seen them many times from boats, and have heard them very loudly underwater when diving in Hawaii, but never been close enough in the water to photograph them. This is a dream of mine that, one day, I hope will come true.
Find out more about Lisa Collins by clicking here.