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Scubaverse Underwater Photographer Interview: Johan Sundelin

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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/

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 supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

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Book Release: Diving the Thistlegorm – The Ultimate Guide to a World War II Shipwreck

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Diving the Thistlegorm is a unique in-depth look at one of the world’s best-loved shipwrecks. In this highly visual guide, cutting edge photographic methods enable views of the wreck and its fascinating cargo which were previously impossible.

This book is the culmination of decades of experience, archaeological and photographic expertise, many hours underwater, months of computer processing time, and days spent researching and verifying the history of the ship and its cargo. For the first time, Diving the Thistlegorm brings the rich and complex contents of the wreck together, identifying individual items and illustrating where they can be found. As the expert team behind the underwater photography, reconstructions and explanations take you through the wreck in incredible detail, you will discover not only what has been learned but also what mysteries are still to be solved.

Find out more about:

  • One of the world’s greatest dives.
  • Incredible ‘photogrammetry’ shows the wreck and cargo in a whole new light.
  • Meticulous detail presented in a readable style by experts in their respective fields.

About the authors:

Simon Brown is an underwater photographer and photogrammetry/3D expert who has documented underwater subjects for a wide range of clients including Historic England, Wessex Archaeology and television companies such as National Geographic Channel and Discovery Canada. Jon Henderson is Reader in Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh where he is the Director of the Underwater Archaeology Research Centre. With specific research interests in submerged prehistoric settlements and developing underwater survey techniques, he has directed underwater projects in the UK, Poland, Greece, Italy, Egypt, Jamaica and Malaysia. Alex Mustard is a former marine biologist and award-winning underwater photographer. In 2018 he was made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for “Services to underwater photography”. Mike Postons pioneered the use of digital 3D modelling to visualise shipwrecks, as well as the processes of reconstructing original ships from historic plans. He has worked with a number of organisations including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Historic England and the Nautical Archaeological Society.


About the book:

  • Release date 25 November 2020
  • Limited run of Hardbacks
  • RRP £35
  • ISBN 978-1-909455-37-5
  • 240 photo-packed pages
  • 240 x 160 mm

Available to pre-order now from Divedup.com, Amazon, online, and from retailers.

Check back on Scubaverse.com for a review of the book coming soon!

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Deptherapy’s Dr Richard Cullen becomes a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society

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Dr Richard Cullen, Chairman of Scuba Diving Rehabilitation Charity Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education, has been recognised as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society is a prestigious Fellowship that is open to those who demonstrate a sufficient involvement in geography or an allied subject through publications, research or professional experience.

Paul Rose, Deptherapy’s Vice Chair, and a world renowned explorer, author, broadcaster, who is a former Vice Chair of the RGS said: 

“This is a huge achievement by Richard. His Fellowship is richly deserved, and a direct result of his steadfast commitment to preserving our oceans through Deptherapy’s very powerful ‘Protecting Our Oceans’ Programme.  I know the top team at the RGS are looking forward to welcoming Richard into the Society.”

The RGS was founded in 1830 to advance geographical research, education, fieldwork and expeditions, as well as by advocating on behalf of the discipline and promoting geography to public audiences.

Paul Toomer, President of RAID, said:

“I have been close friends with Richard for many years and his passion for our seas, even at 70 years of age, is undiminished.  Deptherapy are the world leaders in adaptive scuba diving teaching and are our much valued partners.  Taking UK Armed Forces Veterans who have suffered life changing mental and/or physical challenges and engaging them in major marine biology expeditions, is to most of us beyond the realms of possibility.  The skills these guys have to develop is just awesome.  This is a great honour for Richard, a great honour for Deptherapy, and also for us as their partners.  The diving world must come together to celebrate and acknowledge Richard’s achievement.”

Richard joins some distinguished Fellows of the RGS.  Former Fellows include Ernest Shackleton and many other notable explorers and geographers.

Richard said:

“I am both honoured and humbled to become a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. When I was invited to apply for a Fellowship, I was, which is very unusual for me, lost for words.  I hope it will allow me to take our message of Protecting Our Oceans to a larger audience and to further develop our programmes.  The Fellowship is a recognition of the charity’s work to raise awareness of the plight of our oceans.  The credit belongs to a group of individuals who have overcome massive challenges to let alone qualify as divers but now to progress to marine biology expedition diving”.

For more information about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education visit www.deptherapy.co.uk.

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Sharks Bay Umbi Diving Village is a Bedouin-owned resort with stunning views and a lovely private beach. It is ideal for divers as everything is onsite including the resort's jetty, dive centre and house reef. The warm hospitality makes for a diving holiday like no other. There is an excellent seafood restaurent and beach bar onsite, and with the enormous diversity of the Sharm El Sheikh dive sites and the surrounding areas of the South Sinai, there really is something for every level of diver to enjoy.

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