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: Frank Schneider
After my Sport Diver certification in 1982 a technical question to the chief editor of the scuba diving magazine “Tauchen” surprisingly lead to the first commission to write a travel report. This article, published in 1983, eventually turned out to be the starting point for my career as travel journalist. My articles have been published in many countries including Italy, Spain, England, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Russia, Turkey and Croatia.
Nearly all my articles feature a female model because, even though images of pure nature can be quite nice, it is always recommendable to liven up pictures with people. An experienced photo model is indispensable – and for professional u/w photography she must have the nerve to pose for the camera both in the close company of sharks and not only on a dreamlike beach.
I entirely depend on my own equipment by Cressi-sub when it comes to reports which include underwater photography. I use a dry suit for cold water dives and neoprene -suits of diverse thickness depending on the waters that I dive in. Other than that, my models and I dive with the Cressi BCD “Travel Light” and “Cressi Ellipse Titanium – Mc9-SC” regulators or “Cressi Compact XS -MC9” regulators.. For our safety we rely on the Cressi computers “Giotto” and “Leonardo”.
NRB: How did your underwater photography start?
FS: I was the little kid trying to make friends with every kind of animal. I was found sleeping in the cats hideaway with her, with kitties in my arms without being attacked like the adults. And while on vacation in the countryside little Frank, together with a dog, was looking after geese, cows and horses. Later, sharks approached the wish list. As my mother was a professional photographer, I grew up with cameras and images. To combine nature, diving and photos was just a logical consequence for me.
NRB: What is your favourite u/w camera equipment (past & present) & why?
FS: After beginning with a Subal housing and a Canon, I worked with Nikonos cameras and a Nikon F3 in a Hugyfot housing. Now, for more than 15 years, I rely on Nikon in Seacam housings and Seacam strobes.
Underwater, I use the “Nikon D850” in a Seacam housing together with the Nikon f2,8/16 mm fisheye lens, the f2,8/14-24 mm wide angle zoom from Nikon and the Nikon 60 mm macro lens. One or two flashlights “Seacam Seaflash 150 TTL” take care of light and colours
Topside, I work with a “Nikon D850” and I use original Nikon lenses. Those range from a “16 mm fisheye” up to the telezoom “VR 70-200 mm”, all of which have a 2.8 f-stop.
NRB: What would be your advice to anyone new to underwater photography?
FS: Take your time. Good photos are no coincidence, they are created. And: go big with your main subject. If you have to explain where the subject in your image can be found, the photo is just bad. Important: no excuses. Only half the fish in the image, because he was too fast? Don’t explain – just delete. Only if you accept that a bad photo does not help you to increase your skills, you’ll make it. Prefer to show five good photos than five good ones and 20 bad ones. Those 20 remain in the head of your audience. Just avoid that.
NRB: What, or who, has been your single biggest inspiration for your underwater photography?
FS: Indeed, it was Jacques Cousteau. When I saw his films as a kid, my dream was just to visit some of the places he dived and filmed, like Precontinent II in Sudan. Then there was the photography in the family, and the combination came by itself.
NRB: What image are you most proud of and why?
FS: I really can’t tell. Maybe the head shot of a whale shark with a “small diver” in the background, or reef shark action with a model. The latest topshot is a photo of my model (this time my wife) in Fuerteventura. She is less then an arm length close to an angel shark, both on rocky ground, the shark rising his head really up, opening his jaws and showing all his teeth while the model watches it. Perfect composition, perfect lighting on both. I love photos of animals with a model. That’s a situation every diver wants to experience.
NRB: Where is your favourite dive location, and is it for the photography?
FS: To be honest, out of several thousands of dives there are only two handfuls without a camera. If you have more than one kid – would you name your favorite?
I love Embudu Island on the Maldives with the diverse options (reefs, nurse sharks, reef sharks, whale sharks), Yap Island with its famous manta places and channels, but I also love the Mediterranean, places like Portofino, Elba and Giglio in Italy. All these are underwater photo locations par excellence.
NRB: What are you views on marine life manipulation, moving subjects?
FS: Stick to the rules. I’d rather prefer to “chase” my human model into the right position. Ask them…
NRB: What do you look for when you are making your images?
FS: As a journalist I want to show how it is, I want to show people the true characteristics of a dive area/destination and of course create an image with a nice composition and perfect lighting.
NRB: What motivates you to take u/w photos?
FS: Photography is a very big part of my life and in general I love to create images. I think like most u/w photographers I want to show impressions of the world underwater. Finally, professional u/w photography has taken me around the planet, to each continent. Even to places one never could have seen without that background. Again it was, and it is, a kind of combination of many things.
NRB: If you could photograph any one thing/place what or where would that be?
FS: It doesn’t have to be mega spectaculous! However, definitely not a photo where one has to stay in a cage. That’s why I call those white-shark-photos boring. It is neither a kick for me nor any kind of photographic challenge – you just wait and click! I am rather after the perfect photo. Whatever it is. But as a pro you forever try the next – the final flawless – one. And repeat, of course. And then again…
To see more of Frank’s work visit his website by clicking here.