From Kona on the Big Island of Hawai’i, Sarah Lee is incessantly glued to camera viewfinders, DaFiNs, and the sea. Her passion for photography, particularly underwater and surf photography was shaped by a childhood where she was constantly playing in and around the ocean. As a long-distance swimmer and surfer, her strength as an athlete in the ocean and tide allows her to capture swimmers and surfers in the special way she does beneath the sea.
“My aim in making photos is to capture and accentuate the beauty in what surrounds me. Photography to me is a mode of visual problem solving and a way to perpetuate the stoke, whether it be above the surface or below” says Sarah Lee. In a candid conversation with her on Underwater photography, she started flowing full of ideas from her experience and imagination.
1) What does “underwater photography” mean to you?
I’m attracted to underwater photography because of the lack of control I have in such a massive body of water and its constant state of change in the lighting, water clarity, currents, surf, etc. It’s somewhere where you have to be completely switched on and be able to adapt to anything it throws at you. It’s also a form of “play” for me. Composing shots can be difficult in the water, but I like to think of it as a creative challenge! Imagine being able to move up, down, left, right, and even upside down to compose a photograph. It can be a lot smoother and sometimes faster in the water to get the angle you want, since there’s not much gravity at play!
2) What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in underwater photography?
Shooting under waves can often turn into a waiting game, so it helps to have patience! Swimming against currents can also be a challenge when shooting in the ocean, especially swimming to shore after a long shoot with heavy gear and props. You don’t have control over much except yourself and your camera settings when taking underwater pictures in the ocean. Whether you’re photographing waves, people, or sea life, you just have to go with the flow, and watch out for changing ocean conditions.
3) How do you communicate with your models, while shooting underwater?
All photos are taken on a breath hold and we’re not under for very long. So I thoroughly instruct my model before we go under.
4) What is the best advice you could give someone who wants to cruise into underwater photography?
Like any sort of photography or creative practice, you need to try it out, play with settings, and figure out what works for YOU. That’s how I did it. 😉
5) What is the best advice you could give someone who wants to click amazing pictures in all formats of photography?
I like to approach every photo session as an experiment. Be open to whatever nature and the elements give you, and work with it. Take it easy, and adapt to whatever happens.
– Take a look at a breathtaking glimpse of Sarah Lee’s inspiration for life underwater –
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