How did you get started in underwater photography?
I started underwater photography 10 years ago, at the same time as diving. At first, it was just to share what I saw under the water with my loved ones. At the time I bought a small Canon compact with an Ikelite box. Underwater photography and photography in general quickly became a passion.
What came first – diving or photography?
I started both nearly at the same time. I had my first level of diving, but after a few weeks of diving, I quickly invested in a box and a small camera. However, it must be said that before I began diving, I was always attracted to the marine environment.
What’s in your underwater photography kitbag?
I’ve been part of the Subal Pro Team for two years now, so of course you’ll find two Subal housings – one for the Canon 5DS R and another for the Canon 5D Mk IV. All of my housings go to a depth of 120m.
I also have Subtronic Nova flashes, DP-230 dome port, and in terms of lenses, I use a 16-35mm, a 14mm, a 15mm fisheye and a 100mm macro.
Favourite location for diving and underwater photography?
I don’t really travel much. I dived for 10 years in Reunion and Mayotte, and I’ve never gone elsewhere. I can say that Mayotte is really a very beautiful diving destination. This is one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world in my opinion. On the other hand, I do not travel much ‘horizontally’ but I do travel more deeply. In addition to the lagoon of Mayotte, I explore the twilight zone between 70m and 120m. This is the place I love the most.
Most challenging dive?
It was last year during a rebreather dive. We had dipped at the edge of a trimix pass, at a depth of 80m. We had about an hour and a half of decompression. At the reassembly in the pass, the current became extremely violent. Once it was an updraft, then after descending, then whirling. It was very difficult to maintain the different levels at different depths, especially with a big camera. We also drifted about 8km. In short, a dangerous sports dive, but one that ended well. Thankfully.
Who are your diving inspirations?
Explorers. Of course commander Cousteau who rocked my childhood with his films. Nowadays, the person who inspires me the most is the diver Laurent Ballesta. He really impresses me. Other cave divers evoke a lot of respect too, but the one that inspires me the most is Laurent. What he does is really extraordinary – combining exploration, study, understanding and innovation.
Which underwater locations or species are still on your photography wish list and why?
I want to say the whole world! I really would like to go to Indonesia. I have never been there. I’ll go one day. Otherwise, I dream of going diving in the poles. They are destinations that make me dream both of its beauty and difficulty.
What advice do you wish you’d had as a novice underwater photographer?
Perseverance. This is my only advice. You have to practice regularly – if possible – to progress. We must also look at what others are doing, take inspiration from them and perfect our work. What is certain is that you have to constantly question yourself, whether you are a novice or an expert.
Hairiest moment when shooting underwater?
I think it was during a meeting with a humpback whale and calf. The little one was really curious. He constantly came over to me, to the point that I had to back off a little. It lasted more than 15 minutes. I had the calf following me, and just behind him his mother was following him. I had an animal over 30 tons that followed me peacefully. It was really extraordinary.
What is your most memorable dive and why?
I have so many. Maybe the moment I discovered an underwater cave more than 70m deep. It’s always impressive to know that you are the first man to discover a place, but there are so many other memories. For example, the encounter with humpback whales, or the moment a group of more than 100 hammerhead sharks passed over me.
In 1999, on Reunion Island, Gabriel Barathieu discovered the underwater world. Several hundred dives and a few thousand pictures later, he became a rebreather certified diver, discovering bubble-free diving in 2013. He uses Subal underwater housings for his camera and is part of the Subal Pro Team. The group is made up of respected underwater photographers including Barathieu, Brian Skerry and Alex Mustard to name a few.
Check out Gabriel’s work at www.underwater-landscape.com