In a brand new ongoing series, Scubaverse.com’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 Underwaterphotography.com’s contest (Creative/Manipulated), and 1st in 2015 Underwaterphotography.com’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.
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.
Most 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?
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 www.conorculver.com.
Discover North-Eastern Bali dive sites in a talk with Saeed Rashid
Join Dive Worldwide on Tuesday 28th November (7:00pm – 8:00pm) for a virtual talk discovering the vibrant and varied dive sites in North-Eastern Bali. The talk will be led by Saeed Rashid, an award-winning marine photojournalist.
Saeed will host an introduction to the Island of the Gods, where, both above and below sea level, there are magnificent photographic opportunities. For those inspired, Saeed will be leading a trip later next year, Bali Photo Safari: Reefs and Rice Fields Tour. Here is an opportunity to experience the magic for yourself, with ten days of mesmerising adventure, exploring famous wrecks, waterfalls and an abundance of marine life, all guided by Saeed’s expertise.
Trip Price: from £2,095pp excluding flights. Includes 10 nights accommodation, meals, up to 24 dives, tanks and weights, evening talks and transfers, departing 23rd June 2024.
For more information about the talk and the trip, visit www.diveworldwide.com/events/discover-bali-28-nov-2023.
For further information about Dive Worldwide, visit www.diveworldwide.com or call 01962 302087
DPG Masters Underwater Imaging Competition 2023 Announced
DPG is excited to announce the launch of the DPG Masters Underwater Imaging Competition 2023. This long-established and widely respected contest celebrates the splendor of the oceans and the challenging art of underwater photography and video. The organizers call on underwater shooters of all levels, from novice to professional, to compete in what has become the “World Championship” of international underwater imagery events.
The prizes, worth more than $75,000 in total, include dive trips with the world’s top resorts and liveaboards, as well as the latest underwater photo and video gear. Entrants compete for prizes in eight categories—Traditional, Macro, Wide Angle, Over-Under, Conservation, Black & White, Blackwater, and Short Film—with the top image among the category winners receiving an additional cash prize of $1000.
Organizers Joe Tepper and Ian Bongso-Seldrup issued the following joint statement:
“With the Masters Underwater Imaging Competition being among the most prestigious contests in the underwater imaging world, we’re expecting to see another flood of incredible pictures. Our judging panels always have their work cut out for them, and we’re sure they’ll have a challenging time choosing the winners this time around. We’re excited to see what jaw-dropping images and videos you’ve captured!”
As well as the coveted prizes, there is also huge status and kudos in being placed among the finalists. The selected winners are the world’s best underwater shooters, judged by an all-star panel. Their images and videos will expose millions of dive, travel and photography magazines and websites to their work worldwide.
The organizers are once again pleased to announce that 15 percent of entry proceeds will be donated to marine conservation efforts.
For more information on how to register and enter, visit https://www.underwatercompetition.com/Competitions/dpg-masters-underwater-imaging-competition-2023.
Blogs2 months ago
Discover Peace and Tranquillity in Egypt’s Eastern Desert and its Amazing Red Sea
News1 month ago
Emperor Echo liveaboard sustains “irreversible damage” in lightning storm at Fury Shoals
Blogs2 months ago
A Flying Visit to Nusa Penida, Bali
Blogs2 weeks ago
My week on Scuba Scene: simply the best Red Sea liveaboard experience
News2 months ago
2023 Ocean Art Underwater Photo Competition Announced
Marine Life & Conservation2 months ago
Book Review: The Lives of Octopuses and Their Relatives
Equipment2 months ago
Oceanic+ Now Has Freedive Mode on Apple Watch Ultra
News2 months ago
Miss Scuba UK on Bridging the Gender Gap in Commercial & Recreational Diving