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 interview is with Johan Sundelin.
My current passion, or even obsession, in underwater photography did not come as a surprise since I’m born in Aquarius, I’ve been an amateur photographer since the age of 10 and a diver since the age of 15. The time (and money) spent on this hobby started to seriously increase five years ago when my whole family of four jumped on the same interest. We do dive in our home country Sweden but like most people we prefer tropical waters.
Last year’s victory in the Nordic Championship for underwater photography improved my Swedish ranking to the level where I will represent Sweden in the World Championship this year. However, my proudest moment was when in competition with 17,000 entries from 50 countries, I managed to win the underwater category of the Outdoor Photographer of the Year 2016.
You can see more of my work at www.instagram.com/sundelinsphoto
N/C: How did your underwater photography start?
JS: Snorkelling with the family and young children in the Red Sea everyone got out of the water and tried to describe what they have seen. To make the job easier we bought a Canon underwater house for our compact camera. Then we all got hooked!
N/C: What is your favourite u/w camera equipment (past & present) & why?
JS: The Canon G12 was a fantastic camera to both take some decent pictures with and learn all the basic of underwater photography. Now I use a Nikon D600 in a Sea & Sea housing. Often I take action photography of sharks without looking into the viewfinder. The extra opportunity of cropping that the FX format gives is then appreciated. I also often use the extra dynamic range that the format provides.
N/C: What would be your advice to anyone new to underwater photography?
JS: Firstly, start small. Today’s compact cameras can take some really high quality pictures. I would however make the investment of a separate flash. It makes all the difference. Secondly use manual settings. I was first hesitant of using manual settings considering I often use different auto modes for land photography. I did however quickly learn that manual mode is almost a must underwater.
N/C: What, or who, has been your single biggest inspiration for your underwater photography?
JS: Magnus Lundgren has been kind enough to share a lot of his tricks that made him a National Geographic Photographer. The UW photographer and Marine Biologist Anders Salesjö has taught me the importance of knowing the behaviour of your subject.
N/C: What image are you most proud of and why?
JS: My personal favourite is the picture of two divers in a cenote in Mexico. The reason is that for me it captures the essence of diving; the natural beauty and the weightless feeling of the divers.
N/C: Where is your favourite dive location, and is it for the photography?
JS: I’m a positive person and tend to think the last dive was the best. This time it actually might be right since when I snorkelled with a couple of humpback whales in the Dominican Republic I actually cried of happiness after the extremely intense experience. To be in the middle of two 40 tonne whales that play with you and copy your behaviour was truly out of this world.
N/C: What are you views on marine life manipulation, moving subjects?
JS: I’m against everything that could be harmful to animals including moving them. Moving subjects is one of the few negative aspects of this hobby and needs to be stopped.
N/C: What do you look for when you are making your images?
JS: My ultimate goal is to evoke an emotional reaction. If the picture touches the viewer, then I believe they might care a little bit more about our oceans. I believe this is what most underwater photographers aim for with their pictures.
N/C: What motivates you to take u/w photos?
JS: The most fundamental reason is to craft my memory. The more beautiful my picture, the more beautiful my memory will be. The creative process of pre-studying, planning, diving and post-processing is also fun in itself. Finally I must be honest and admit that a bit of recognition also boosts the motivation.
N/C: If you could photograph any one thing/place what or where would that be?
JS: A 50/50 picture of a bear catching a salmon would be amazing.
N/C: Finally, can you describe how you took the winning picture in the Outdoor Photographer Of the Year 2016?
JS: The location is Santa Fe Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. While snorkelling with a colony of California sea lions I quickly noticed two particular photography challenges. The first was how to avoid the attention of the large, aggressive and protective alpha male. The second was the enormous speed of the animals in the water. Lying very still in the water and using high ISO solved the issues. That allowed me to freeze this moment of tenderness using only natural light.
You can read more about The Outdoor Photographer of the Year competition in our book review here: www.scubaverse.com/outdoor-photographer-year-book-review/