In an ongoing series, Scubaverse’s Underwater Photography Editor Nick Robertson-Brown talks to underwater photographers from around the world that he admires. In this blog: Daniel Brinckmann
NRB: How did your underwater photography start?
DB: Back in 1998 on the Greek island of Zakynthos. I was 18 at the time and had been an avid scuba diver for six years then and I coerced my girlfriend at the time to spend our holiday there as I was aware of the resident loggerhead turtles. I bought a couple of one-way cameras, which is unthinkable of today, and the same goes for the diving: I just borrowed a set of equipment and marched straight into the water on my own and came back an hour later with a handful of nice shots. Thinking of it now, it was a really beautiful initiation. A year later on the Azores I had ambitions…
NRB: What is your favourite u/w camera equipment (past & present) & why?
DB: I rely on my good old Nikon D7100 bodies in an Ikelite housing with two DS-161 strobes and ports for 10-17mm, 12-24mm, 50mm and 105mm. I have owned four Ike housings and like them not only for weight and price, but for the the fact that all camera functions are accessible, that there is a tripod thread and other details. There is a shark site off a power plant in Israel that has a reputation of a “housing killer” due to all the sediment from the turbines. I feel relatively safe in such places as I can at least judge the amount of sand on my major o-rings thanks to the transparent housing. For whales, dolphins and wrecks I am also very happy with green and red Magic Filters.
Also, I always have a Actionpro X9 in their 200m waterproof aluminium housing mounted on top of my DSLR housings with 2 Codylight lights on my strobe arms to do videos at the same time. Both actioncam and housing are great – even in caves or mounted to a baitbox for shark dives.
I started out on Nikonos V with Velvia and Sensia slide film and must say I still miss those blue tones.
NRB: What would be your advice to anyone new to underwater photography?
DB: First learn photography on land, then attend a course or read a good book on underwater photography to learn about differences and peculiarities, then adapt and modify your knowledge about topside to what is needed underwater. Avoid too much water in between your camera and the subject and just go closer. Pay attention to maintenance – a hair or sand in the wrong place might ruin your entire gear.
NRB: What, or who, has been your single biggest inspiration for your underwater photography?
DB: Kurt Amsler (73) from Switzerland. He comes from the era of dive pioneers (and worked with them) when people needed to build equipment themselves, went from black & white in the 1960s to colour slide films and flash bulbs in the 1970s and to digital photography in the 2000s, always embracing new ways while retaining his style and ambition. Enthusiasm at this age enabled him to photograph the birth of a sperm whale about 5 years ago. His episodes on different topics of underwater photography in German diving magazine “tauchen” were a huge inspiration to me. He always remained very approachable and it is always a delight to meet him at the dive shows.
NRB: What image are you most proud of and why?
DB: Tough question. I tried a free-handed panoramic of the rim between Dahab’s Blue Hole and the outer wall once and I was surprised the fourth attempt worked with 11 photos stitched together.
NRB: Where is your favourite dive location, and is it for the photography?
DB: Lembeh Strait (macro), Yap (big fish close up), South Africa (diversity)
NRB: What are you views on marine life manipulation, moving subjects?
DB: I used to detest shark feeding, but now I am rooting for it as the commercial aspect is the sole means that allows populations to survive, so I am guilty here. Generally I don’t like marine life manipulation and moving subjects at all. Not only does it put stress on the animal, it means a very unhealthy competition among underwater photographers for “that” shot evoking emotions from non-divers. Wrapping seahorses around a q-tip, moving harlequin shrimps from an aquarium to the sea, placing shrimps on nudis or putting frogs from the freezer in front of a pike, will not get much respect from me.
NRB: What do you look for when you are making your images?
DB: The right moment.
NRB: What motivates you to take u/w photos?
DB: Hunting & gathering, immense love for nature and the outdoors, even if it’s a pond with frogs in front of your doorstep; sharing with non-divers to create awareness, making a connection with the text I write as a journalist.
NRB: If you could photograph any one thing/place what or where would that be?
DB: Let’s say there are some ancient buildings in a big lake in the Near East. Other than that, I would love to photograph on the Gorringe Seamount way offshore from the Algarve or the Orcas in the Straits of Gibraltar.
To see more of Daniel’s work click here.