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Scubaverse Underwater Photographer Interview: Conor Culver



Conor Culver

In a brand new ongoing series,’s Underwater Photography Editors Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown talk to underwater photographers from around the world that they admire.

The first interview is with US-based underwater photographer Conor Culver.


I am Conor Culver from Golden, Colorado. I have a BFA with a duel emphasis in Photography and Digital Design from the University of Colorado Denver. My diving career started when I was 12 years old and has taken over my life since then.

My awards include: 2nd in 2014’s Our World Underwater in the Conceptual/Fashion Category, 3rd Place in 2015 Scuba Diving Magazine Photo Contest, 1st and 3rd place in Liquid Capture: Masters of Underwater Photography, 3rd place in 2014’s contest (Creative/Manipulated), and 1st in 2015’s annual contest (Creative/Manipulated).

N/C: How did your underwater photography start?

CC: I started diving 18 years ago and began shooting underwater 14 years ago. The first time I ever shot underwater, I was 16 years old diving the island of Dominica. It wasn’t until I attended the University of Colorado Denver years later that I began to explore surreal art and photography. At first, I just created any surreal image that came to mind, but I didn’t start manipulating underwater images till my junior year. I began my thesis my senior year and that is when the foundations of my body of work titled “Underwater Surrealism” began. I wanted to say something unique about the animals in each image, but as a body of work I wanted the meaning to bring awareness to the reefs and oceans. I’ve found it interesting that ocean disasters almost always are not widely known or publicized, but disasters on land are always front-page news. Many people, even today, do not know about the lionfish invasion in the Atlantic, but I’ll always remember the cover of the news paper being a heard of elk that was struck by lightning here in Colorado. Both are horrible occurrences, but only the land disasters make the news. So with this work, if I bring these animals above water and into scenes on land, are they now just as important?  My work is created to bring awareness to these fish, animals and reefs.

Conor Culver

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

CC: I shoot with a Nikon D800E with and Ikelite housing and have 2 DS-160 Sunstrobes. For lenses, I shoot mostly with a 60mm macro because I can usually get the entire animal in the shot. For really small animals I use my 105mm macro and for wide-angle for the larger animals I use a 16-35mm. I’ve always loved Nikon and their lenses; my first DSLR was a Nikon D80, so I’ve always been shooting Nikon. My first underwater camera was a Sea & Sea MX-10 35mm camera. Loved that camera and being able to change between wide angle and macro underwater. The major downfall was being limited to only a few shots and not knowing if they came out immediately. Also since all my work is digitally created in Photoshop, it makes it easier sticking with digital and moving away from film.

N/C: Tell us how you go about creating the images in your Underwater Surrealism series. Do you plan the final image and then go and take the underwater and above water images? Or are you inspired by images you have already taken whilst diving?

CC: Creating my images can go either way. Sometimes my ideas are imagined before I go on my trips and other ideas come after a dive or even when I’m back at home. A good example of an image planned ahead of time was Clownfish Circus where I placed clownfish swimming around circus tents. I developed that idea way before I got the images of clownfish. I even shot the circus tents months before I left for my next trip.

Conor Culver

Home SecurityMost of my ideas for images are developed afterward. I don’t always know what I’m going to find and how that animal or fish will be positioned underwater. Most of my images and ideas are created afterwards when I have the shot of that animal. Sometimes immediately after the dive, I begin to think of the scenes to put the animals in. When the idea is envisioned, I search for background shots here in CO or wait till I can get them when I travel. I always have my camera around me.

Then in Photoshop, I clip the animals out and put them into the scenes on land, mask them, create the shadows, adjust the colors and lighting and finally add texture over the entire image. Texture helps trick the eye into believing the image. Many of the edits are just experimenting with what works and what doesn’t and just messing around letting things happen. That’s the surrealist in me coming out; most of my images never completely turn out exactly how I envisioned them and that is probably my favourite part.

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

Conor Culver

CC: My absolute biggest inspiration in photography is Jerry Uelsmann. When I saw his work in Introduction to Photography in college I knew what I wanted to do as a photographer. I wanted to create images that challenge your sense of reality. It wasn’t just him – the early surrealists Rene Magritte, Salvador Dali, Man Ray, Max Ernst, and Joan Miró played a big role and photographers Maggie Taylor, Robert and Shana Parke Harrison, and Ben Goossens are big inspirations as well. My parents for helping me along the way and the professors at UCD who helped develop my vision and meaning for my work are all responsible for the work I create today.

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

CC: My number one place I always wanted to go was Indonesia, but I just travelled there in November and was blown away. If I could photograph any one thing, it would be the Great Hammerhead Shark. With all the 18 years of diving, I’ve never seen a hammerhead and they have always been my top creature to see. I was trying to plan a trip to Bimini this year, but it didn’t work out. So now I’ll try for next year!

You can view Conor’s work at


Twitter: @Conor_Culver

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit


Nauticam Housing for Nikon Z8 available for pre-order



The Z8 is arguably the most hotly anticipated full-frame mirrorless camera from Nikon

The excitement for the Nikon Z8 rivals that of the release of the Nikon D850. Nikon shooters have been eagerly waiting for this “mini” Z9. The D850 long ruled the Nikon roost for incredible image quality, amazing autofocus and a wide dynamic range all in a high-resolution package.  While the Z6/7 and Z9 have bracketed the spectrum of specs, the Z8 is the system that many D850 shooters have been waiting for.

The Nauticam NA-Z8 is the most intuitive and reliable underwater housing available for the Nikon Z8.  Building on the successful and field-tested designs for the NA-Z6/7 and Z9 housings the NA-Z8 embodies Nauticam’s Mission Control design philosophy placing essential controls within easy reach of the reinforced molded handles.

For more information or to pre-order please visit:

Nauticam UK

Nauticam Worldwide

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Nauticam NA-S5II Housing for Panasonic S5 II/S5 IIX available now



Introducing the Nauticam NA-S5II underwater housing, a robust and ergonomic solution designed to accommodate the Panasonic Lumix S5 II and S5 IIX for underwater photography and videography. This housing provides unfettered access to all camera controls and functions, enabling users to fully utilize the camera’s capabilities while diving. Its durable construction and user-friendly features make it an ideal choice for underwater storytellers seeking a dependable and efficient underwater housing option.

Nauticam’s tagline is “Innovation Underwater”, and the company is dedicated to following through with that promise in the industry, while helping to protect customer investments in existing Nauticam gear whenever possible. The NA-S5II/X is a prime example as this underwater housing is designed to work flawlessly with the Panasonic Lumix S5II and the S5X. This NA-S5II allows completely unrestricted access to all of the camera’s controls, positioning critical controls like AF-ON directly at the photographer’s finger tips.

The NA-S5II underwater housing features the rotary housing lock which is now standard on their more compact line of mirrorless camera housings. With this feature, you can easily open and close the housing with one hand.

Nauticam engineers are obsessed with usability and the Mission Control philosophy means placing essential controls where they are needed, unrestricted by where they are located on the camera body. Placing the controls as close to the handles as possible and within easy and natural reach, the user can focus on composition and timing their shot while adjusting exposure or focus without taking their eye off the EVF or LCD.

The NA-S5II has a thumb lever on the right rear side of the housing that comfortably accesses AF-On without ever letting go of the handle. An additional lever on the rear of the NA-S5II allows for focus mode switching between C/S/MF, while a multi-directional pad gives the ability to navigate the menu or move the focus points.

For more information head to the Nauticam UK or Nauticam Worldwide websites.

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