How did you get started in underwater photography?
When trying to show friends and family the splendour of the underwater world, to try and peak their interest and love for it.
What came first – diving or photography?
Diving. I find too many people try using cameras before they are completely skilled and knowledgeable enough with diving.
What’s in your underwater photography kitbag?
A Canon 5DSR and Ikelite housing with Ikelite strobes and goodies, plus a couple of GoPros for behind the scenes shots. We always bring our trusted Sherwood dive gear as well.
Favourite location for diving and underwater photography?
The Bahamas is definitely at the top of the list due to the immense variety of large animal life. The fact that the Bahamas is really proactive in its protection of sharks has helped it to become an amazing spot to swim with diverse species of large sharks.
Most challenging dive?
The most challenging physically, would probably be some of the dives in the Revillagigedo Islands. Each dive is different, but at times the swirling currents with up and down currents can keep you on your toes. The most challenging to achieve shots would definitely be some of the maternity shoots that I’ve done. Some of the clients were very buoyant and the time for each shot seemed in the milliseconds!
Who are your diving inspirations?
Too many to list! I find inspiration on almost every dive trip in some manner or another. I love hearing how divers came to be interested in diving, and what excites them about the sport. I also love seeing any and all underwater images. Each image can shape my ideas for the future, about things to try and where to go.
Which underwater locations or species are still on your photography wish list and why?
The very top of my wish list would be orcas in clear blue water! The size, beauty and intelligence of orcas is just amazing, and being in the water with them would be incredible. Right behind those would be leopard seals and narwhals.
What advice do you wish you’d had as a novice underwater photographer?
It would have been nice if someone had forced me to spend more time shooting in a pool, not just waiting for dive trips. Being able to sit in a controlled environment and work with different lighting situations and angles, even if just shooting a toy or a friend is invaluable for learning your gear and settings for when a quick adjustment can mean getting an amazing shot, or missing the moment entirely.
Hairiest moment when shooting underwater?
A moment that spiked my adrenaline more than any other time in the water happened while freediving in Jupiter, Florida. The wind was blowing the boat one direction and the current was the exact opposite direction, so every couple of pictures, I would need to swim for a bit back towards the boat.
As I was swimming back in that direction, I would need to look completely all around me to make sure none of the bullsharks, sandbars or smooth hammers were coming close and getting interested in checking out the splashes I was making as I swam. One of the times that I checked behind me, a small fish about three inches long was about two inches from my mask and due to the proximity, looked enormous! I thought one of the big sharks was rushing at my face!
What is your most memorable dive and why?
Hard to choose, but I guess it would be one time in Bimini. We were diving with great hammerhead sharks and everyone else had run out of air – including the shark feeder – and returned to the boat. My wife and I were alone underwater with a pair of great hammerheads and it was like a dream. They calmly swam all around us and we just coexisted. We consider it the best date we’ve ever been on!
Ken Kiefer is an award-winning underwater photographer who specialises in large animals, including humans. He is always working to create images that will cause people to question their beliefs; and spread love and respect for the underwater realm.
Check out Ken’s work at http://www.kenkiefer.com.