How did you get started in underwater photography?
When I did my Divemaster course on Malapascua in Philippines in 2008, my instructor was doing a lot of underwater photography. He got me very enthusiastic about nudibranchs in particular, and we would go on ‘nudi-hunt’ to see who could find the most nudibranches and he would take pictures of them. After this, I got my first job as a Divemaster in Perhentian Islands in Malaysia, where I bought a canon G9 that I took on the many dives I was guiding. Since 2009 I was mainly freediving and shooting marine life during fun freediving. Only later did I become more interested in freedivers. The quality of my compact camera felt like a big limiting factor though and a few years ago I was finally able to invest in a upgrade.
What came first – diving or photography?
My passion for water and the ocean has been there since my childhood. Later came scuba diving, then freediving and then my love for underwater photography.
What’s in your underwater photography kitbag?
Well, my boyfriend Guillaume Bihet’s camera, a Sony a6300 with Nauticam housing. Since his camera is better than my Sony Nex5N, my own camera has been staying on the dry for the last few years. Most of the shooting we do together, alternating in front of and behind the camera, all on one breath while freediving. No flashes, as it’s such pleasure to work with natural light. What we create is 100% teamwork.
Favourite location for diving and underwater photography?
The Cenotes in Yucatan Peninsula are just an amazing playground for photography. I hope to go back there in the near future.
Most challenging dive?
In general, freediving underwater photography has a lot of challenges, which makes it a lot of fun for me too. To name an important one; photographer and underwater model need to have a good breath hold and stamina. I truly enjoy the physical aspect of freediving, and at the same time the model needs to be relaxed and comfortable underwater. Without this, the person will not look graceful underwater. Not always easy, especially when diving in cold water places like in Iceland, where time in the water is limited due to the cold.
One of the most challenging and fun dives we did for underwater photography, was a shoot next to an artificial reef in the shape of an elephant at a 27 metre depth in our home town Dahab in Egypt. It was actually me posing in a dress, on one breath without any freediving equipment. It involved some good planning, as time at that depth was very limited and it’s not easy to strike a pose in such a short time. Also, most important for all our dives, safety and staying very well within our abilities. Do not try to freedive if you’re not a qualified free diver – please take a course and be safe!
Who are your diving inspirations?
For freediving underwater photography, there are actually not that many photographers around. In general it’s the places we visit (or want to visit) that make me bubble with ideas. Inspiration comes as I explore new locations.
I love the work of Christian Vizl, such a beautiful style. I also admire some underwater studio photographers like Zena Holloway who manages to take underwater modelling to another level; very creative and arty.
Which underwater locations or species are still on your photography wish list and why?
Places like Baracuda lake in Philippines, Kaindy in Kazakhstan and somewhere with giant kelpforests like in Baja California – because the topography is just so different and spectacular. As for species: I am looking forward to fulfilling my dream of freediving with a whale, but I also dream of interacting with seals and encountering giant schools of fish.
What advice do you wish you’d had as a novice underwater photographer?
I think I have a good eye and lot of inspiration for what I want underwater, but my weak point lays in some technical aspects. I’ve been working on this a lot in the past two years; but I wish I had started earlier, for example to use and learn proper photo editing tools. I was also shooting in JPEG instead of RAW for many years, wish somebody had told me off about this much sooner.
Hairiest moment when shooting underwater?
I almost got run over by a tourist boat in Marsa Alam. It’s very sad as they choose to not keep any distance at all from the dugong or snorkelers and divers. No awareness and respect at all, just a chase to get their customers to see a dugong.
What is your most memorable dive and why?
For photography: freediving with a dugong in Marsa Alam, Egypt. This is such a magical creature, it has been a dream for me for very long time. The dugong is so beautiful and peaceful, it was simply amazing and unforgettable.
Wendy was born and raised in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. She developed a passion for water from a young age; during her teenage years she was a competitive swimmer. She first learnt to freedive whilst on holiday in Thailand. Wendy soon realised this was her true vocation, and all she wanted to do from that point on. In 2007 Wendy became an AIDA Instructor and was involved in her first competition, setting the first of many national records. Wendy has been in the top of the world rankings for all depth disciplines over the last years and won silver medal in CNF at the 2011 World Championship. Besides the teaching and training, she enjoys underwater photography. Freediving is Wendy’s addiction and passion.