Underwater Photography with Renata Romeo
“Just pushing a button is taking a photo. Thinking, lighting, and lots of other things~ that's making a photo.” - David Doubilet
There’s a general saying between divers that the dive they decide not to take the camera, is the dive they’ll see something they want to capture. But then others would contest that spending a dive seeing coral, marine life or other divers through a lens rather than directly is not the same and doesn’t allow you to commit the moment to your memory forever. We’d say there is a time and place for both, but when it’s your job to spend your dives capturing special underwater moments for others to enjoy, is it a simple case of point and shoot and can you still enjoy your dives?
A good friend of ours, Renata Romeo, is a full time photographer specialising in underwater shoots producing some simply stunning pieces of art (although she’d probably blush if you told this to her directly, as is her reluctance to accepting compliments, especially about her photographs). I sat down with her to find out a little more about what underwater photography means to her and get a few tips along the way.
Like many people who visit Sharm el Sheikh, Renata came 9 years ago, learnt to dive and never returned to her hometown of Milano, Italy. After progressing up to PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, she switched to Underwater Photography around 3 years ago and as the number of dives she did grew above 5000, so did her passion for being underwater with her camera as a buddy. I asked what it was about photography that she found so appealing and her answer was simply “I wanted to relive the memories and when I look at one of my photographs I’m automatically brought back to the moment I took the photo. I feel the same emotion when I spotted the subject; I remember asking myself how I want to take the photo, the lighting, the background, even the direction of the current; so I get to relive my dives over and over again just from looking at a single photograph”.
Photographers often have a favourite subject and Renata is no different, “turtles” she answers without a second’s thought adding that Jackson Reef is her favourite dive site, we think probably because you have such a good chance of seeing turtles there! And were there any common misconceptions about underwater photography that she wanted to dispel? Laughing a little she answers “That I go underwater, see a nice fish, coral, whatever.....I push a button and that’s the photo made, there’s a little more to it than that. I need to check things like lighting, angle, camera settings and they all depend on how I want the final photo to look at the end, based on the decision making process to take the photograph in the first place. There’s a lot of thought that goes in to each photograph!”
So if there were 5 bits of advice Renata would give to diver’s wanting to get more out of their photographs what would they be?
- Start with the basic equipment that you can afford. Get to know it properly, all of the different settings and what they mean then once you know your camera like the back of your hand, add to it, invest in lighting for example, then get to know that; then look at lenses and get to know them. Take it a step at a time so you don’t overload yourself and become someone with all the gear but no idea.
- Whilst getting to know your equipment, jump right in. Take photographs straight away and look back at them and analyse them, what do you like about them and what doesn’t really work. The age old trial and error process teaches you a lot. It’s how I first started and it’s how I learned what I liked and what I didn’t about my photographs and helped me develop my photography mindset.
- Read a book (Martin Edge does a great and easy to read book for introducing underwater photography principles and techniques). Or take a course, read blogs and look at the photographs, they’ll often list the settings they used to take their photographs so you can learn from them.
- Look at professional photographs such as some of my favourites, Italian Francesco Pacienza, Alex Mustard, Paul Nicklen and most of all David Doubilet who introduced split level or ‘half and half’s’ photography. Study their photographs and see what you can learn from them, did you like the angle? Did you like the lighting? Remember what you liked and try it out on your next photo-dive.
- Last but not least, listen to advice from others but also develop your own style; it will show in your photographs and it’ll be how people distinguish between your photos and others.
If you want to see more photographs from Renata you can follow her on Facebook and visit her website at www.renataromeoart.com and when you’re in town, you can purchase one of her canvases direct from Eagle Divers diving centre!