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Interview with Photographer Scott Stevenson
How much do you know about underwater photography? It really is a completely different world. I knew fairly little until I sat down with a local underwater photographer, Scott Stevenson. First, let’s talk about underwater photography and some unique challenges photographers face. Water reduces colour, contrast, and sharpness, which means the photographer needs to be very close to their subject, within a meter or less. I don’t know about you but that might be a little too close for comfort with some marine animals. Also, colours such as red, orange, and yellow are absorbed in water; the deeper you go the more colour is absorbed, which is why underwater photos will look blue if you don't use a flash or strobe.
Alright, time to let the expert do the talking now.
Q: Why underwater photography? Which came first, love of scuba diving or photography?
I started shooting underwater before I had ever really shot anything on land. I was working as a dive instructor and had many students and customers in the shop asking me about this animal and that, but I didn't have any really solid reference books on hand. I bought an old Nikonos film camera and starting shooting when I wasn't teaching and printed the images. I tried to shoot as many of the local species as I could and it just went from there. I replaced the film camera with a digital one shortly after that.
Q: What gear do you shoot with?
Canon 5d, Canon 5d Mk3, Canon 6d, Aquatica housings, Ikelite Strobes, Lens - Canon 8-15mm fisheye, 100mm macro, 17-40mm, 24-70mm. My equipment is specific to my needs and the job I may be doing at the time or the animals I may be shooting.
Q: Can you give us an idea of the process of a typical shoot?
It really depends on the job that I'm asked to do or the animal I'm looking to find. Understanding the water conditions, tides and area your diving is key to a successful shoot. Underwater particulate plays a huge role in a clean and sharp image. All of these factors are important, whether you’re shooting divers, shipwrecks or critters. Understanding the patterns of whales, seals, sea lions, sharks or fish—do your research. Getting to a spot at the right time of day, during the right season, these are huge if you’re looking for behavioral shots. Having a good guide or boat captain is a must, someone who knows the area and the dive site.
Q: What is the biggest challenge in underwater photography?
Being a diver first and a photographer second. Being totally comfortable in all of your scuba gear, it needs to be like a second skin. The actual diving needs to be second nature, then you can set your shots, find your animals and have the best chance to shoot amazing images.
Q: What is your most memorable underwater shoot?
I have two if that’s allowed. One cold water and one warm water.
I've have spent most of my life on the west coast of British Columbia; I grew up here. I love it here. The cold water is my home and diving here in BC takes a lot of effort due to the amount of gear required and water temperature. People diving anywhere in temperate water will understand this. My best cold water dive was at Race Rocks Marine park, here in Victoria, with all of the juvenile stellar sea lions. This is not a bias answer, just because it’s close to home. I've dived with lots of sea lions all over the world. Diving at Race is unique due to the shallow depth of the dive, the inquisitive nature of the sea lions and the rest of the marine life that lives there. The sea lions are like playful puppies underwater.
The second memorable shoot is diving in a place call Malpelo. It’s located 500km off the coast of Columbia in the Pacific. Malpelo is a military protected marine park; it’s amazing, pristine, and almost perfect. It’s what the oceans looked like before we fished the heck out of them. Why did I come to this remote island in the Pacific? Hammerhead Sharks, thousands of Hammerhead sharks. Yes, there are countless other marine species that reside there, but to see the many Hammers in one place is just amazing.
Q: Do you have a favorite marine animal you like to shoot?
Q: What advice would you give aspiring under water photographers?
Learn to dive and dive well, it will make creating images so much easier. Respect the marine world that you’re in and shoot what you love, no matter how small or large.
Q: Can you tell us a little about the Fish Eye Project that you are involved with?
The Fisheye Project is a live interactive dive experience. Anyone anywhere in the world can be a part of this immersive experience as long as you have a phone, computer or tablet. We can broadcast anywhere in the world as long as we have a cell phone signal. You can talk to the diver and ask questions as the broadcast is going on. The technology is the first of its kind in the world, there are companies that broadcast live underwater, however, they don’t have the interactive component, which is what sets us apart. As it sits right now, we are focused mostly on education and showing our audiences what is under the waves around the Pacific North West. We have completed over one hundred live dives and we were the first group ever to broadcast a live, interactive show in IMAX. We can provide content both to theaters anywhere in the world but also stream via YouTube, Facebook and others.