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: Wolfgang Poelzer
Wolfgang Poelzer is a well known Austrian full-time photojournalist and underwater photographer. He is a regular contributor to the leading German diving magazine TAUCHEN for more than 20 years, but his photos also gets published regularly in various media around the world. After getting a Master degree in Marine Biolgy he started taking photos under water seriously. Not to be forgotten at a time when digital photography was not yet invented and you had to limit yourself to 36 shots of a film during a dive. Among the numerous wins in photo competitions, two gold medals in the CMAS World Championships in underwater photography and one gold medal in the prestigious competition in Antibes deserve special mention. After he made underwater photography and journalism his profession, he no longer took part in photo competitions. If he is not travelling arround the world, he is taking pictures of babys swimming in the pool to please their parents. For many years Wolfgang Poelzer has also been an Ambassodor of MARES, the worldwide leader in the manufacturing and distribution of state-of-the-art diving equipment.
Facebook: @wolfgang poelzer
NRB: How did your underwater photography start?
WP: Oh, it was back in the 90s of the last century when I borrowed a friend’s underwater camera just for fun. I bought the used camera including the Seacam underwater housing. That was a Minolta 7000 – the first SLR with autofocus! In the absence of a flash, my then girlfriend (and current wife) Barbara had to illuminate my motifs while taking pictures with her UW lamp. I quickly reached my limits with this equipment and first switched to the Nikonos system and soon after to a Nikon camera in the housing. Funnily enough, with one of my first photos with a fisheye lens in the housing, I won many awards at photo competitions. A landscape shot with my snorkeling wife in a crystal clear mountain lake in my home country Austria. A photo that participants tried to copy many years later when I was already on the jury at various competitions. One of my prizes in photo competitions was a trip to the Maldives, where I got in contact with the leading German diving magazine TAUCHEN, for which I soon wrote my first article. Only a few years later (1998) I became a professional and since then have been working as a travel journalist and underwater photographer.
NRB: What is your favourite u/w camera equipment (past & present) & why?
WP: Nikon D850 in a Seacam Housing with 2 Seacam Strobes. My favorite lens is the former 13 mm Fisheye lens from the Nikonos RS because it’s the best wide angle lens for underwater photography ever!
NRB: What would be your advice to anyone new to underwater photography?
WP: Learn to perfect your buoyancy skills first. Only when you feel completely at home under water, you can concentrate fully on photography and achieve good results.
NRB: What, or who, has been your single biggest inspiration for your underwater photography?
WP: After watching Hans Hass and Cousteau films in my childhood, I was mainly inspired by David Doubilet.
NRB: What image are you most proud of and why?
WP: A fishey photo of mating dolphins in the Red Sea (see top of page), just an arm’s length away from me! That was not only an extremely impressive feeling, it also led to a great result. That was in film times almost 20 years ago.
NRB: Where is your favourite dive location, and is it for the photography?
WP: My favorite diving region is Indonesia. 17,500 different islands offer a huge variety of great diving spots and are enough for much more than a whole diving life.
NRB: What are you views on marine life manipulation, moving subjects?
WP: I don’t want to be “more Catholic than the Pope”. Basically you shouldn’t touch or change anything under water! The least I like to see, if somebody takes a nudibranch and put on another surface, just to get a better photo. However, in my opinion it makes a difference, if you gently turn a sea cucumber to examine it for imperial shrimps or to tap a fan of gorgonians with a pointer to look for pygmy seahorses. The least to complain about environmentally friendly diving is anyone who photographs supermacro. Nobody can tell me that with 10 diopter lenses it is possible to take perfect sharp photos of tiny marine organisms while free floating in the water.
NRB: What do you look for when you are making your images?
WP: I am still looking for spots of beautiful, largely untouched nature on my dives. In order to show the beauty of nature in my photos even in times of pollution, marine acidification and extinction of species. If you only search and show the negative, many think that it is no longer worth protecting nature.
NRB: What motivates you to take u/w photos?
WP: I love the underwater world with all of its creatures or even “empty” landscapes. I can never stop trying to discover new things. And if nothing new, then at least familiar objects in a new light and a new perspective.
NRB: If you could photograph any one thing/place what or where would that be?
WP: There are still so many places, regions and countries left to visit – maybe Antarctica or New Zealand. Believe it or not, the Great White is still high on my bucket list, but also the bizarre-looking Leafy Seadragons from South Australia.
To see more of Wolfgang’s work click here.