My formative memories as a small boy were of having my arms around my mothers neck as she swam underwater. I can distinctly remember the weightlessness, the gliding and the feeling of peace I felt.
I feel that growing up with the ocean on my doorstep, my whole life has given me an intimate relationship with it. I can ‘feel’ what kind of mood it’s in. It has taught me some of the greatest life lessons:
How to overcome fear
To trust your judgment
To be patient
To respect nature
I’m so fortunate to be able to share the intimacy of my relationship with all kinds of people throughout the world. I think that no matter what our backgrounds are, the ocean can, and will, speak to us. After all, we are 80% water ourselves.
If you have been a fan of underwater or wave photography for a while, or considering trying your hand at it during your next vacation, I have compiled a list of 5 important pieces of advice that I’d like to share with you.
Learn to swim
It goes without saying, but if you are going to be in the water making images, you will want to be a competent swimmer. Although elementary, this is one of the most vital points that I really feel the need to stress. While we have the ability to control a lot, if not most things in our lives, one thing we can’t control is the ocean.
Know your limits
Wherever the unpredictability of the ocean is concerned, you have to be prepared for the worst case scenario. When and if in doubt, don’t go out. Currents can easily take you a mile out to sea before you even realize what’s happening. Waves can hold you under and thrash you until you see stars. If you plan on going somewhere remote, always be sure to tell someone.
Buy the best gear you can afford
If you have to save a little longer for your investment, it’s better than buying cheap gear that you will have to replace. I’ve seen people try and shortcut this step and they end up spending way more money on several cheap setups, as opposed to one quality set up.
Regardless of whether your camera gear is worth $1,000 or $10,000, it’s important to take care of the gear you own. Taking it anywhere near water can be intimidating, so you’ll want to provide the best protection possible. When you are in the water, you’ll want peace of mind so you won’t have to worry about leaks or cracks, which could threaten to destroy your gear. No matter what camera I’m using I’ve always got it in an Aquatech waterproof housing. Gear you can trust is a vital element. Also, read the instructions when your housing arrives.
Use the light / Know your gear
The sun and the waves are always interacting dynamically, giving you a beautiful and ever changing studio where no moment will be repeated twice, it is a blessing and a curse, but it is what keeps me going back time and time again.
With these ever changing conditions that occur quickly, you are going to want to have a strong handle on being able to adjust your exposure and focus at a moments notice. When you are balancing the changing light with the next wave hitting you, you will need to be on your game, aware of your surroundings, and comfortable with controlling your camera through the housing.
Shoot what YOU want to see
This is my most given advice. It is what I’ve held on to since the start of my career. Don’t shoot what you think others would want to see. We are all individuals on this planet, our images should reflect that. The moment you start photographing for yourself, you will find it removes the pressure and your passion for photography will go to a deeper level.