Scubaverse Underwater Photographer Interview: Mike Bartick

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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: Mike Bartick…

Originally, I’m from the Southern California coast of the US, where I also learned to dive. I currently reside in Anilao, Philippines and dive almost every day.

At the core, I think I’m a pretty simple guy, I love the ocean. Our planets oceans are full of mystery, beauty and real life drama that is always in the mode of change. I draw inspiration from what I see on land and in the ocean. I enjoy trying different things underwater and experiment with different techniques heavily. I’m a self taught photographer that has had strong mentoring. I believe this has helped me to form my own methods of shooting.

I’m the Photo Pro for Crystal Blue Resort in Anilao, Philippines where I conduct about 15 workshops a year in addition to private coaching. I love to mentor others and to pass along what I have learned, in turn, I also have a chance to learn from others.

My most favorite achievement was being named one of the 101 worlds most inspiring U/W photographers in 2016 by Scuba Diver Australasia + Ocean Planet magazine, I’m so honored.


N&C: How did your underwater photography start?

MB: Well, it started on a family vacation with my dad. I borrowed a friends Minolta sport and set off to shoot the reefs of Hawaii. I was a bit surprised that there was such a disconnection between the images I thought I was shooting and the reality of the images. Lets just say, I mastered backscatter and fish-butts first.

N&C: What is your favourite u/w camera equipment (past & present) & why?

MB: I’m currently shooting a Nikon D500 in a Sea and Sea MDX D500 housing. I use the Sea and Sea YS-D2J strobes. I also use different snoots for different results. For macro and supermacro images I use the Kraken sports +15 diopter with my 105mm lens, CMC with my 60mm and INON diopters. I use off camera lighting quite often and use the Kraken Hydra 1000 for back-lighting.

I live and work in one of the worlds best place’s for Macro photography and even though there is great wide angle ops here, I love macro. The APSC sensor on the D500 offers clean images with greater magnification then a full frame camera. I’m a die-hard Nikon guy so the D500 is currently the best in its class, for me.

N&C: What would be your advice to anyone new to underwater photography?

MB: Enjoy the process of learning, ask a lot of questions and don’t be afraid to try something different.

N&C: What, or who, has been your single biggest inspiration for your underwater photography?

MB: My mentor, Joe Liburdi has inspired me in many ways. I hear his voice often when I’m shooting asking me, “whats the story here” or the best, him shouting, “It’s a chance of a lifetime, don’t blow it”!

N&C: What image are you most proud of and why?

MB: That’s a trick question. This might sound odd but to say I’m happy with any of my images would be a stretch. I can say, I’m amazed at what can be achieved with a simple set up underwater. I just try to make the best image i can while challenging myself to try something different.

N&C: Where is your favourite dive location, and is it for the photography?

MB: Anilao is by far my most favorite place in the world. There are a few other places that i love to visit like Lembeh, Sea of Cortez, Monterey California, even Point Loma. I love macro and I love drifting in the open ocean.

N&C: What are you views on marine life manipulation, moving subjects?

MB: I don’t like it but it happens all the time. Communication with your guide is very important. I think as a new shooter I didn’t really mind, my ego just wanted to get the shot. In time I’ve sensitized to it big time. It’s important that we respect our dive sites and the subjects that live there, even if just visiting an area.

N&C: What do you look for when you are making your images?

MB: I like strong lines, color, behavior, patterns. I often have images in my mind that i want to try and shoot or some kind of goofy method I want to try. So when I see an opportunity I try to make the most of it. It’s not uncommon for me to spend 90 minutes with a single subject just watching and waiting for the brief moment in time to capture something truly special.

N&C: What motivates you to take u/w photos?

MB: I love the challenge of shooting in the open ocean at night. I love day dives and making images but diving in the open ocean at night is the ultimate. There is no possible way to set up a shot or to manipulate. You need to hunt down the subject or that subject finds you. It’s up to you at that very moment to do the best you can relying on your skills as a photographer and as a diver.

N&C: If you could photograph any one thing/place what or where would that be?

MB: Place – I think I would love to dive in the polar regions of our planet. As far as photographing any one thing, I have no idea, maybe spawning Rhinopias?

To find out more about Mike, visit his website by clicking here.

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown are a husband and wife team of underwater photographers. Both have degrees in environmental biology from Manchester University, with Caroline also having a masters in animal behaviour. Nick is a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in underwater wildlife photography and he also has a masters in teaching. They are passionate about marine conservation and hope that their images can inspire people to look after the world's seas and oceans. Their Manchester-based company, Frogfish Photography, offers a wide range of services and advice. They offer tuition with their own tailor made course - the Complete Underwater Photography Award. The modules of the course have been written to complement the corresponding chapters in Nick's own book: Underwater Photography Art and Techniques. They also offer equipment sales and underwater photography trips in the UK and abroad. For more information visit www.frogfishphotography.com.

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