How did you get started in underwater photography?
I was getting very serious about landscape photography, shooting ocean sunsets and then packing the camera gear away for night beach dives during evenings after work. One day I borrowed a camera to take underwater. Then I started scouring the internet for used gear and put together a basic system. I was hooked!
What came first – diving or photography?
I was certified in 1997, and years later was diving a lot and shooting landscape photography simultaneously before taking a camera underwater. So technically diving came first!
What’s in your underwater photography kitbag?
Canon 5D Mk IV, Sea & Sea MDX- 5D Mk IV housing, one Sea & Sea YS-D1 and one YS-D2 strobe, iTorch v10 focus light, plus Light & Motion and Kraken Sports video lights. You can check out my detailed camera gear video on my Underwater Camera Gear page.
Favourite location for diving and underwater photography?
Easy! California’s Channel Islands. I dive the islands about once per year and it’s just breathtaking.
Most challenging dive?
There are a number of challenging dives, but one that sticks out is in Southern California. It was a new moon night and I was kicking out to an offshore pinnacle in Malibu. The south wind made the surface choppy and a dense marine layer had settled in, making my compass and kick estimates the only frame of reference. Upon descending, the surge was rocking and vis wasn’t that good, so I found the most sheltered area I could and worked on lighting some common macro subjects.
What are your diving aspirations?
My diving aspirations are pretty simple – to have fun diving and searching for those magic moments underwater.
Which underwater locations or species are still on your photography wish list and why?
My dive travel has been 100 per cent based on where work takes me, so I don’t rank locations or animals – I’m just stoked to go anywhere and shoot anything. I’ve had magic moments with sea lions, seals, spotted dolphins, and mantas that I dream of repeating, but sign me up for any location, any species, any temperature, any time!
What advice do you wish you’d had as a novice underwater photographer?
I wish I had had a more detailed explanation of the camera settings as they differ from topside photography. Underwater settings groups are different from what you might use topside, and an experienced photographer can quickly create great underwater images from that starting point since they already understand the relationship between exposure variables, depth-of-field and lighting.
Hairiest moment when shooting underwater?
As a newer diver, I had quite a few shallow shore dives under my belt and found myself on a dive boat out at Catalina Island. 80 feet deep was far more than the 35 I was used to, and this realisation set in at depth, leading me to kick around pretty suddenly looking for the anchor line once my tank pressure was below half. Another diver had noticed this and later on asked if I was panicked. I took this seriously and thought about it, realising I was likely experienced a touch of nitrogen narcosis, becoming nervous about the depth and then acting suddenly. I’ve made it a point to be very calm, composed and calculated underwater since then, maintaining a cool head even during rescue situations. We are all constantly learning.
What is your most memorable dive and why?
This is a tough question since so many moments stand out, so I’ll go with the most recent. Seeing several thresher sharks while diving in Puerto Galera, Philippines. They’re such majestic fish. I recently posted a video on my Facebook page.
Brent Durand is an avid diver, writer, photographer and surfer. A longtime beach diver, Brent is constantly exploring above and below California’s shoreline. His work is published in print worldwide, in advertising and across the web in a variety of outdoor industries. He has a reputation for writing insightful yet simple photo tutorials and is currently publishing a complete video tutorial series for underwater photographers, plus a website full of instructional articles.