An Interview with an Underwater Photographer.
A friend of mine who I like to catch up with for Sri Lankan food and Baileys on Ice, is an amazing underwater photographer. I had to share his work with you so you can see how fabulous they are for yourself.
I asked him to tell me about how it all started, where he draws inspiration from, and what you need to know about up & coming photographer Lachlan Dunwoodie.
A quick bio I guess then, I’m a full time engineer (apparently) and whenever I’m not at work I try to get in the water or out and about to take photos if the conditions won’t let me dive. Growing up in Gerringong within a couple hundred meters from the water with an older brother that was mad for everything ocean related is probably how my love of the ocean started. I got into diving quite young (got my dive license when I was 13) and did a bit of sporadic diving until I was probably 17-18 where uni and partying (and the rest) distracted me from diving and I kind of forgot about it for a while. Once I’d finished uni and was working for a few years I went travelling around Europe for 6 months and I think that’s when I started to get into photography. It wasn’t until I ended up doing a week of diving in the red sea with a point and shoot in a housing case that I really got into it. Since then I’ve done a lot more diving and upgraded to a mirrorless OM-D EM-5 camera and have been amazingly lucky to go on multiple “trip of a lifetime” style trips with friends, Lisa and CT to Tonga and Palau.
Inspirations for me are hard to name, I look at a lot of photos online and spend a heap of time reading articles, looking at how people are taking photos, I’m a complete autodidact (a word I ironically read in an article about another photographer), I try not to limit myself to underwater only. I guess my favourite photographers would have to be Ansel Adams and Vivian Maier (love these guys). My inspiration underwater comes largely from how amazing the underwater world is (kinda a cliché I know) but also partially the people I follow on 500px (Thomas Conrad, Viktor Lyagushkin) and stuff like national geographic/David Attenborough.
As for challenges underwater can I say everything? On top of all the challenges you have for topside photography you have a whole lot more. For starters, it is almost impossible to be stationary (unless the waters are very calm, a very rare thing in Sydney) and so diving skill plays a big part (be a good diver first). Then there is the fact that you’re trying to photograph wild animals and scuba divers are very foreign objects for them. Couple this with the fact that in underwater photography some of the first and most important rules are to get close; and then get closer (the water eats contrast, sharpness, saturation, you name it).
My favourite thing underwater is again hard to pinpoint (sharks, whales, reef-scape etc) but if I had to pick one it would be cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish, octopus). The greatest of all is probably the Blue-ringed octopus, I have never seen blues that are so vivid or electric, its hard to convince people the blue in the photos of them aren’t overcooked in post production or that they don’t quite capture just how blue they are.
I think my technique has improved greatly and I’m now at a stage where I think the main thing I’m trying to work on is a style (don’t get me wrong technique is never at a stage where it cant be improved but now it comes a bit easier I can focus on things like style, capturing emotion etc). It’s very easy to fall into the routine of taking “documentary/ID” style photos or photos that are a formulaic/common (I could put that down as a challenge but I guess that’s all photographers/artists right?). I had set a goal at the start of the year to get some images published and between this and some images I gave to the Australian Museum of a relatively new species mating (to our knowledge the only pics of the event in existence and we’re not sure if anyone else has even seen the act) I think I could just about tick that off . I’d love to be able to make a living out of taking photos but I think I’m a long way from that yet. As a step towards that I’m starting to get into printing photos with the idea to start showing them. If I’m lucky selling some and see where I end up from there (I have a friend in fashion who has mentioned something about underwater fashion shoots which could be interesting to pursue :p).
The only site I put my good photos on is 500px/Ldunwoodie it makes it harder for people to pinch my photos (I had a few pics start to turn up around the place without people asking first) and I was hoping that I would get some constructive feedback there when I started but nobody gives feedback.
You can view more of Lachlan’s images on his 500px page.
All images courtesy of Lachlan Dunwoodie ©