I see underwater photography as an ever-changing adventure. Down below, we get to experience the wonderful feeling of weightlessness. Our senses become heightened, and the freedom of mind that comes with it can be a powerful form of meditation. With every passing second, minute, hour, and day, the ocean shifts and changes. No one single moment is the same.
This assignment — inspired by the March 2018 National Geographic magazine story about Drying Lakes — encourages you to discover not only the physical environment found in underwater, but also to explore the spirituality, challenges, and freedom this world inspires. I invite you to celebrate one of the most important ecosystems in the world by photographing the beauty found underwater.
To do so, you can venture into lakes, waterfalls, rivers, oceans, or even your own backyard pool. You won't need to go too deep to do underwater photography. Most of my images are captured within the first few meters of the surface, where the natural light creates a spectacular display.
And there is no need to travel far or own complex equipment to witness this beauty. You can photograph the light, reflections, and ripples in the water. Or maybe your diving buddies, or the reflections on your own feet. Use the tools you have, whether it is your phone in a case, a point-and-shoot camera, or a specialist underwater housing. Snorkel, free dive, scuba dive, or simply dip your camera underwater. The most important part is that you start.
Regardless of where and how you are photographing underwater beauty, have fun exploring and experimenting. I can't wait for your photos to take me underwater with you, experiencing one of my favorite places in the world.
Photographer and Filmmaker
Opening Up for a 4th Submission...
As the producer for Michaela’s “Underwater Beauty” assignment, you are inspiring me to try underwater photography. Even though I am exploring the Earth as I curate my “While on a Walk…” assignment, I love finding myself transported to another world as I look at your submissions. I love how peaceful it is. I love how seeing underwater beauty makes me feel.
This assignment is tougher — and I knew it would be. Not everyone in our community is an underwater photographer, so if you are reading this Editor’s Update, this assignment is for you. I love Michaela’s work, and I wanted to inspire you. If you haven’t checked out her work, please do. For example, watch her showreel. I just find her work magical.
We are opening the assignment for a fourth submission because we want to see more underwater beauty through your eyes. And because I want to keep being inspired by you. Submission deadline is Wednesday April 18th at 12PM EST.
David Y. Lee
Producer, Nat Geo Your Shot
Editor's Update 02
I have enjoyed getting lost in the underwater world through your submissions. They took me to places I have never been to before and showed me creatures that I am yet to meet — and some of your submissions have simply taken my breath away.
I love seeing the way you see — from the tiniest of creatures, underwater experiments to freedivers exploring the world one breath hold at a time It's thrilling to see all the places we can draw inspiration from.
It is evident that underwater fosters a certain kind of a headspace — for many of us it feels like we are visiting another world, a sentiment that is often expressed in your captions. We love getting lost amongst the bubbles and the stars and through our photographs, we invite others to share this experience. I feel happiness and awe of nature in the photographs you have shared. Personally, I am inspired by shifts within the environment, thoughts of great thinkers and inspiring conservationists such as Sylvia Earle and Jane Goodall, art, dancers and sounds.
Where do you draw your inspiration from? Are there moments where you experience peacefulness, love, energy or strength? Creating from this space will allow you to connect to your environment and continue telling your own stories of the underwater world.
Photographer and Filmmaker
Getting Started with Underwater Photography
I will start off with advice from one of my favorite photographers, Trent Parke: “Photograph what is closest to you and the things that you enjoy and have an interest in. Make the whole process as fun and as least difficult as possible.”
When I got started doing underwater photography, I wasn’t a confident swimmer, but I started off gently in shallow water and expanded my abilities with time and patience. I simplified my set up, using a fixed focal length lens, taking advantage of the natural light, and holding my breath. It allowed me to get familiar with the environment without having to worry about technical aspects of any equipment. I still choose to work this way.
Thanks to incredible advances in technology, we no longer need professional underwater equipment. There are many tools that will allow you to explore the underwater world, such as waterproof point-and-shoot cameras, underwater cases for phones, and remote-controlled underwater drones.
Regardless of where and how you are photographing the beauty underwater, explore and play. Go into the ocean just to swim and feel the water. Go at different times of the day, even when the conditions aren’t great. Go when the visibility is horrible and it's raining. Experiment with different lenses and depths. Go even when you don't feel like it, because that's exactly when you should go. You will always find something new that will inform your work later on.
For more advice on how to get started in underwater photography, go to my blog post called “Ocean Wanderings.”
Photographer and Filmmaker