In an ongoing series, Scubaverse.com’s Underwater Photography Editors Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown talk to underwater photographers from around the world that they admire.
This week’s interview is with Christian Llewellyn.
My Name is Christian Llewellyn. I am 43 years old and was born in Harrow, North West London. My passion in life is creation. I enjoy being able to share my life through using various mediums with others. My background revolves media and art, specialising mostly in corporate communications, film, television and photography. Social media has given us all a platform to share our Scuba lives. Thanks to social media, people are able to read my articles, see my photography, watch my films, join my photography groups and enter my underwater photography competitions.
I became a Scuba instructor in 2004 in Cyprus, and left there in 2009 as a dive centre manager and an IDC staff Instructor. After this point I was able to concentrate on the type of diving I preferred, which is visual. Videography is where I really came from but photography seems to be the more important for me as time passes.
I run a successful underwater photography group called Wrecks Of The World, which I have been building slowly over the last two years into a viable business venture. At the moment we hold monthly photo competitions, sell dive t-shirts and with the help of nearly 5000 members we inform each other on wreck news, destinations, eco-awareness, artificial reefs, history, equipment and friendship. At the end of 2016 our group climaxed with our second yearly photograph competition final with over 60 competitors, hundreds of photographs, a half hour live results feed with hundreds of people watching and even a special report on wrecks of the world and our winner on television.
From April we will be open for business with plans for a new website, wreck directory, T-shirts and dive wear, wreck itinerary escorted trips, and a splash photo competition event held in Malta at the end of the season.
N/C: How did your underwater photography start?
CL: I first learnt photography from my Grandfather. He worked at Kodak for a time, and for him photography was one of his passions. Learning the fundamentals with an old 35mm and a wonderful Mamiya c33 medium format camera I started various photography, art and media courses at college.
Now the underwater section comes from teaching myself how to snorkel at a very early age, fondly remembering watching Jacque Cousteau in the 70’s, learning how to free-dive, and finally in the 90’s scuba.
When I used to free-dive I only had disposable uw cameras, which had limited success and only at shallow depths. Then scuba brought me my first SeaLife 35mm with macro attachments, then various digital compact cameras until I upgraded to the mirrorless rig I have today.
N/C: What is your favourite u/w camera equipment (past & present) & why?
CL: I used to love the retro look of my reef-master camera with the square crosshair viewfinder, and the bulbous yellow housing, as it felt so 007. These days my favourite equipment is lighting. I have slowly built a collection of continual light sources, which can give me more control on experimental shots. As I sometimes find with all the logistics of underwater photography. It is somewhat easier to see the shot lit before a strobe goes of, as then you can use them to fill the gaps where needed.
N/C: What would be your advice to anyone new to underwater photography?
CL: My advice for anyone new to underwater photography would be the fundamentals:
- Never task load – always be familiar with all your diving and photography equipment before you enter the water.
- Positioning – Practice your buoyancy, always get close and try to take photos looking up.
- Lighting – natural lighting will only get you so far. So think about investing in strobes or continual light sources.
- Education – Learn about marine life. Learning the habitats and behaviours of marine life makes it surprisingly easier to capture images.
- Skills – Lastly try an escorted photo dive trip. You will find them truly inspiring, pick up loads of tips, skills and friends.
N/C: What, or who, has been your single biggest inspiration for your underwater photography?
CL: I would have to say photo guru Paul Duxy Duxfield has been my biggest inspiration for progressing my underwater photography. From the shop floor to the bottom of the sea, his calming no frills approach at improving your diving and photography are a true investment in your time. Every trip, meeting, lecture or dive is always a respectful pleasure, for all the patience and photography knowledge he shares with you.
N/C: What are your boundaries on post-editing image manipulation?
CL: The aesthetic line between taking a photograph and creating a piece of art is never an easy subject matter for discussion. I think it truly comes down to you. What you are prepared to do to an image to give yourself a sense of satisfaction is your choice. Living and working in the media world, I realise how courageous it is to even show your work or yet have someone’s opinion obliterate any pride you had in it. So I would truly leave it up to what truly makes the individual happy with their photograph.
However if you are talking about image manipulation for competition entries, or magazine articles, then I follow the standard white balance, colour correctness, sharpness, backscatter, lens scratch procedures set out by the rules of the competition jury or the magazine editor.
Plus an experienced underwater eye can always see if an image has been over-manipulated, so for photography I would sway with less is more. However if I was creating art then the gloves are off and my editing palette is open.
N/C: Where is your favourite dive location, and is it for the photography?
CL: My favourite dive location is Shaab Abu Nuhas Reef in Egypt. I love wrecks and this site has four accessible recreational level wrecks including the Kimon M, Giannis D, Carnatic and Chrisoula K (& for the technical diver there is one more wreck at this location named the Sea star, which lays at a depth of 90m).
Shaab Abu Nuhas has everything you want for photography – wide angles big shots, marine life, coral, macro, history, easy penetration, great natural light, etc. The only negative about the site is it can get busy; so my advice is always taking it slow at the beginning. If you see everyone head inside then find another shot. Be methodical and have contingency plans for your images to receive a better-hit rate.
N/C: What are you views on marine life manipulation, moving subjects?
CL: I grew up with watching Jacque Cousteau on the TV and at the cinema. At this time we knew so little of the underwater world, and the people making these films were celebrated as explorers. Continuing through the years it was seen as OK to handle morays or feed fish for your customers, even feed sharks, make killer whales captive, teach dolphins tricks, kill sharks and whales for nothing…. and then you have people who move a species (without knowing what effect this could have) just so they can win a competition or more likely not even get the shot anyway. I think you might know which way I’m going with this….
N/C: What do you look for when you are making your images?
CL: Diving for me is more second nature than walking through a crowed city street. What I mean is for me, the many years I have had teaching and diving, scuba does not constrict me in anyway. So in the water it is all about the photography. In essence it provides me with endless possibilities to get the shot I want, as you are not limited to gravity. For me it’s all about the combination of the angle complementing the subject matter and balancing the light with the colours and textures. All of which can be enhanced or reduced or even manipulated with all the photographic tools at my disposal underwater.
N/C: What motivates you to take u/w photos?
CL: My motivation comes from my love of creating things using many different types of mediums, and sharing them with people. Underwater I am motivated to capture the illusive perfect shot, to strive forward and take a photograph, which connects to my audience and makes them think. Something that provokes emotion, documents nature, informs and maybe the best is to know that you have inspired someone to pick up a dome port, straddle it to a housing, think out of the box, shoot from the hip, relax and enjoy every process of underwater photography.
N/C: If you could photograph any one thing/place what or where would that be?
CL: For people that know me they probably picture me heading for Chuuk Lagoon which for some is really the mecca of wrecks. However for me what I would most like to photograph are the marine iguanas of the Galapagos.
For more from Christian, click on the following links:
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Get ready for a year of incredible underwater encounters in 2021
Giants from the world of underwater photography have joined forces with Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation to create a unique and stunning 2021 calendar to raise funds for its campaigns to make Britain’s retailers shark free.
The line-up of award-winning contributors includes Alex Mustard, Amanda Cotton, Christian Vizl, David Doubilet, Doug Perrine, Ellen Cuylaerts, George Probst, Greg Lecouer, Jason Isley, Laura Storm, Shawn Heinrichs and Tanya Houppermans.
Each photographer has handpicked and donated a breathtaking image along with commentary that features month-by-month in the top class publication.
Campaign director at Bite-Back, Graham Buckingham, said: “This edition is packed with spectacular images to celebrate the marine environment in all its glory. Significantly every purchase of this calendar will directly fund our campaigns to end the trade and consumption of shark products in the UK.”
Alone, Bite-Back has made significant progress in limiting the sale of shark fin soup, shark meat and items containing shark, such as supplements, nationwide.
Graham added: “For the equivalent of £1 a month, we hope scuba divers and ocean lovers will enjoy admiring this rare and magnificent collection of images all year long. And, of course, it makes a fabulous Christmas present too.”
The high quality A4 calendar is printed on recycled paper using vegetable-based inks by a climate neutral printer. It can be purchased at www.bite-back.com/shop for £12 (including free UK delivery) and shipped worldwide. Don’t miss out!
Tobias Friedrich: Creative Lighting in Wrecks at the November NUPG meeting (Watch Video)
The November NUPG meeting saw Tobias Friedrich take to the virtual stage. Tobias has won several prestigious underwater photography competitions with his stunning wreck images and he joined the Northern Underwater Photography Group to talk about general wreck photography, using panoramas and creative lighting in what was an engaging and enlightening presentation. You can see more of Tobias’ wonderful images on his Below-Surface website by clicking here.
As always, the NUPG members also had a chance to show off some of their images in the monthly competition. This month’s theme was “Natural Displays” and it saw a range of ideas and images from the group.
The winning shot of a displaying cuttlefish was taken by Nick Robertson-Brown
The runner-up was a shot of mating Mandarinfish by Caroline Robertson-Brown
There were three shots in the 3rd place position. An image of mating Peacock Flounder by Ken Byrne.
Maggie Russel’s shot of a turtle in the sunshine
and Nick Robertson-Brown’s image from the Moalboal Sardine Run in The Philippines
The next meeting will be held on Monday 14th December will feature part 2 of a talk from Simon Rogerson: Difficulties with Sharks.
For more information about the NUPG please visit the website by clicking here.
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