Photo Finish was born as a platform to offer divers interested in underwater photographers a range of tips and techniques on how to shoot different subjects, based on my experience as a photographer and dive guide.
2017 gave me the opportunity to start working directly with Scuba Travel, teaming up with some of the best underwater photographers in the world as part of the photo pro team.
Today I’m going to talk about some of my favourite shots, the techniques I used and the places where you can practice them.
As an underwater photographer, my bucket list of dive destinations to visit is full of exotic places, but very few are as rewarding as the Egyptian Red Sea. No matter how much I dive here – and I’ve done a few thousand over the year – it always delivers. Plain and simple.
The Giannis D
The Giannis D is one of the most photograph wrecks in Egypt. Last May during a Red Sea photography workshop I decided to use a slightly different approach to photographing the wreck. It was not a groundbreaking change. I simply tried an alternative angle to the more traditional stern view. The aft section completely ripped off, is in my opinion much more dramatic. In this shot, the group of divers gives a sense of scale to the black and white and high contrast treatment, which adds a moody atmosphere that makes this image of my 2017 favorites.
Stingrays of Sha’ab Claudia
Another favorite of 2017 is this blue spotted stingray. Taken during a Shark Quest photography trip in May it shows how an otherwise common subject found on most dive sites can be transformed by composition and lighting. A snoot used to focus my strobe light allowed me to isolate the subject. By framing the shot allowing a glimpse of the open water in the background I added a feeling of depth to the image. The trickiest part of this shot was the approach. Blue-spotted stingrays can be a bit skittish and get close enough to shoot them with a fisheye lens that can be difficult. Good buoyancy and slow movement are essential in these circumstances.
Gorge, King of the Barge
Back to the Northern Red Sea, to The Barge to be more precise, and this shot of the most popular resident, George. I really love this pic personally and an undeniable highlight was finding other people did too It picked up the popular vote at the last Dive Show at the NEC. On this pic, I also used a snoot to limit the spread of light and focus it on the moray face. The snoot enabled me to focus in on the features, and accentuate the texture of the face. Good old George. What a wizened and expressive face.
The Hammers of Daedalus Reef
July took me back to the southern Red Sea. I was able to spend two full days photographing hammerheads sharks of the north tip of Daedalus Reef. These beautiful creatures can be usually found between 30 and 40 meters and are normally shy. Never chase after them, let the school come to you. The deeper you go the less light there is for the camera to work. increasing the ISO is sometimes the only solution you have to be able to shoot at a reasonable shutter speed. For me, it’s the head on position and shark shape that makes this one a keeper.
My last Photo Finish workshop of the year took me to Indonesia. Komodo is a fantastic destination, incredible biodiversity and stonishing dive sites offer a huge range of possibilities for the underwater photographer. From the smallest of creatures to mantas and sharks, this remote destination has everything to offer to the experienced photographer.
This is one of the shots I prefer from this trip, even though it’s not the most exotic! Taken during the check dive it shows a scorpionfish resting on some tube sponges. It was under an overhung and relatively close to the wall. It was a challenge! To separate the subject from the background and to minimize lighting the somehow dull background I used inward lighting. This way I ensured the scorpionfish was lit only by the corner of the light cone. This technique is useful if you only want to light the foreground and nothing behind.
What is in store for 2018
This year seems is looking very busy for Photo Finish. Starting with the classic Winter Warmer at the end of January, I will be running trips to the southern Red Sea, Shark Quest photography, to teach how to photograph hammerheads and other sharks, as well as the wrecks and schooling snappers of the north on the Red Sea Photography in July. Further afield, Malapascua in the Philippines will be the home for a great workshop covering both macro and wide-angle scenarios.
Join Mario on any of the Photo Finish workshops to have the chance to dive carefully selected dive sites and take your underwater photography skills to the next level.
Mario is well known for his patient, calm approach to teaching underwater photography, he will help you develop new skills and build your confidence in a relaxed and fun environment.