Home Underwater Photography Underwater Photographer of the Week: Grant Thomas

Underwater Photographer of the Week: Grant Thomas

We go behind the lens with Scottish underwater photographer and PADI scuba diving instructor Grant Thomas this week, as he shares his once in a lifetime experience diving with humpback whales

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How did you get started in underwater photography?

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I have always been fascinated with the underwater world. When I got my first GoPro camera I would spend all day in the water shooting away blindly, only to find I maybe have one picture with the subject in frame. Totally worth it though! It was only in the last couple of years that I finally managed to save up enough money to buy a full underwater DSLR set-up.

What came first – diving or photography?

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I have always enjoyed taking pictures, no matter where. However, after I took a camera underwater for the first time, I became completely obsessed. It’s important to be a confident diver before you start taking a big camera set-up underwater as there’s a lot to think about such as buoyancy, air consumption, deco times etc…

What’s in your underwater photography kitbag?

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Canon 5D Mk III, Ikelite housing, 2 x Inon z240 strobes, Tokina 10-17mm, Canon 100mm f/2.8, Canon 16-35mm Mk II and various accessories.

Favourite location for diving and underwater photography?

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That’s a tough question! I appreciate each place I dive for different reasons. But if I had to choose one location, it would have to be Raja Ampat, Indonesia. The sheer abundance and diversity of marine life is breath taking. 

Most challenging dive?

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The temperature is sub-zero, the snow is falling sideways and I’m about to step into the Silfra fissure dive site in Iceland. I’m trying to visualise different photographic compositions, but for some reason can’t stop thinking about my lack of dry suit diving experience (I didn’t have any). There are no currents in Silfra and the visibility is practically infinite so the dive itself is not so challenging, but when you combine a lack of cold water experience with a camera in hand it was never going to be successful. Nonetheless, this is a fantastic dive and one that I will definitely return to and conquer i.e get some better images! 

Who are your diving inspirations?

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My diving inspiration would have to come from the photographers whose work has helped shape mine. People like Alex Mustard and Martin Edge, true masters of the underwater world, whose books and images have inspired everything I do. Then there’s Paul Nicklen, Darren Jew and Sean Scott to name a few of my favourite photographers, but also my friends and dive buddies around the world who help inspire new ideas every time we get in the water together.

Which underwater locations or species are still on your photography wish list?

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There are definitely too many to write here, but at the top of my list would have to be Orca. Getting in the water with one of the most intelligent animals in the ocean, not to mention a top predator, is something I have always dreamt of. I am extremely fortunate to be joining the ‘Majestic Whale Encounters’ team in Norway next year to fulfil this dream. We still have some spaces available so if you would like to join then get in touch.

What advice do you wish you’d had as a novice underwater photographer?

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Don’t get frustrated if, at first, your images don’t look like the front cover of Nat Geo. Just enjoy what you’re doing and continue to learn.

Hairiest moment when shooting underwater?

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I was photographing a venomous sea snake in the warm waters of Tioman Island, Malaysia, when it got a little too curious and decided to wrap itself around my arms. I know it’s very rare for these animals to bite and they would usually struggle to penetrate a neoprene wetsuit however, I was in shorts and t-shirt… I stayed calm and luckily after a few minutes of checking me out it lost interest and swam back to the reef.

What is your most memorable dive and why?

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I was in Tonga leading a dive and as we were finishing the dive and ascending for our safety stop, a juvenile male humpback whale passes just inches from our heads and does a 180 degree turn. He gets face to face with each diver in the group checking us all out individually before performing a head standing pirouette, pectoral fins stretched out wide. We all watched in absolute amazement until our air ran out and we had to surface. I didn’t even have my camera but in a way I was glad as I could fully appreciate and enjoy the moment with no distractions.

 

Grant Thomas 

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Originally from Scotland, I have a true passion for nature and the outdoors. Specialising in underwater and landscape photography, I strive to capture the worlds spectacular beauty in order to share with an audience, my experience and vision of our planet today. Travelling the globe working as a freelance photographer and PADI scuba diving instructor has given me a first hand insight into the effects humans are having on the natural balance of our planet. This is why I aim to capture and reveal the amazing nature we have in hope of promoting awareness and conservation for the future.

Follow Grant on Facebook here

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Lorna Dockerill
Lorna Dockerill
Lorna fell in love with scuba diving back in 2011 during a trip to Thailand and Australia. Having always dreamt of seeing a sea turtle in the wild, her dream was realised on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef while training to become a certified diver. Since then she’s developed a passion for the natural world, writing about wildlife photography – both the on land and underwater kind – for the past eight years.

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