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Scubaverse Underwater Photographer Interview: Johan Sundelin



In an ongoing series,’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

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:

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 Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit


Jeff chats to… Underwater Photographer Ellen Cuylaerts (Watch Video)



In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Ellen Cuylaerts about her diving and underwater photographic career.

As an underwater and wildlife photographer, Fellow of The Explorers Club and having a front seat in exploration being part of the Flag and Honours Committee, Ellen is also a Member of the Women Divers Hall of Fame. She travels the world and tries to make the most of every destination and the path that leads her there. Ellen acts as an ocean citizen and believes as divers we should all be ocean ambassadors and lead by example. She is now based in the UK after many years in Grand Cayman.

Find out more about Ellen and her work at

Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Huge thresher shark is the latest of six murals to be painted around the Solent this summer



The murals celebrate the Solent’s extraordinary marine life – marking National Marine Week.

Secrets of the Solent have commissioned street artist ATM to paint a series of marine-themed artworks at various locations around the Solent this summer. The latest mural to be finished shows a thresher shark on the Langstone Harbour Office. Langstone Harbour is an important area for wildlife as well as a bustling seaside destination for sailing and water sports.

Artist ATM, who is painting all six murals, is well-known for his iconic wildlife street art. This, his second artwork of the series, took three days to paint freehand, from a scaffolding platform. The thresher shark was chosen out of six marine species to be the subject of the artwork by the local community, who were asked to vote via an online form or in person on the Hayling Ferry.

Secrets of the Solent hope the mural will become a landmark in Langstone Harbour and inspire visitors to learn more about this enigmatic oceanic shark. The project, which is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, works to celebrate and raise awareness of Solent’s diverse marine environment.

Aiming to highlight the exotic and unusual creatures found close to our coasts, artist ATM says: “I really enjoyed painting the thresher shark because it’s such an amazing looking animal, with a tail as long as its body. I hope when people see the murals, they will become more aware of what lives under the waves and the importance of protecting the vital habitats within the Solent.”

Dr Tim Ferrero, Senior Marine Biologist at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust says: “The thresher shark is a wonderful animal that visits our waters every summer. It comes to an area to the east of the Isle of Wight, and this appears to be where the sharks breed and have their young. Not many people know that we have thresher sharks in our region, and so having our mural here on the side of the Langstone Harbour Office building is a fantastic way of raising awareness of this mysterious ocean wanderer. I really hope that people will come away with the knowledge that the Solent, our harbours and our seas are incredibly important for wildlife.”

Rachel Bryan, Project Manager for Secrets of the Solent at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust comments: “We are really excited to have street artist ATM painting a thresher shark on the side of the Langstone Harbour Office building. We chose this building because of its prominent location right on the entrance to Langstone Harbour so that anyone who’s visiting, whether that’s walkers, cyclists or people coming in and out of the harbour on their jet-skis or sailing boats, will all be able to see our thresher shark. People on the Portsmouth side of the harbour will also be able to see the mural from across the water.”

The thresher shark is a mysterious predator which spends most of its time in oceanic waters. It uses its huge whip-like tail as an incredibly effective tool for hunting its prey. Herding small fish into tight shoals, the shark will lash at them with its tail, stunning several in one hit and making them easier to catch.

Secrets of the Solent hope to work with the species this summer to discover more about its behaviour.

Dr Tim Ferrero explains: “Nobody really knows where thresher sharks go in the ocean. Later this summer we are hoping that we are going to be able to attach a satellite tag to a thresher shark and monitor its progress for an entire year. This will provide really important information that will help us learn so much more about the shark’s annual life cycle.”

The new thresher shark mural is a fantastic start to National Marine Week (24th July – 8th August), which celebrates the unique marine wildlife and habitats we have here in the UK. Over the two weeks, Wildlife Trusts around the country will be running a series of exciting events to celebrate the marine environment. We really hope people will be inspired by our murals and want to learn more about each chosen species.

Events in the Solent include the launch of a new Solent marine film on the 29th July, installation of a new Seabin on the 4th August to reduce marine litter, and citizen science surveys throughout summer.

For more information click here.

Header image: Bret Charman

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Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email

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