Mexico-born Anuar Patjane may have only recently begun capturing images underwater, but the self-described social anthropologist and photographer has spent his entire life taking pictures of the natural and man-made environment around him. The result is an impressive portfolio of “topside” images from across the world, many rendered in exquisite detail in black and white, recalling the beauty and power of Ansel Adams’ work.
Just a few years ago, Patjane began to take his art below the waves and, with a landscape photographer’s trained eye for composition, has created some breathtaking underwater imagery recognised in various prestigious competitions. His stunning shot of divers with a humpback whale and her newborn calf, entitled “Whale Whisperers”, took first place in National Geographic Traveler’s 2015 Photo Contest and second place in the Nature category of the 2016 World Press Photo Contest. Here, we showcase just some of Patjane’s incredible work and find out a little more about his passion for photography and conservation.
What made you want to become an underwater photographer?
I still don’t see myself as an underwater photographer. I enjoy and do photography above and below the water, so I see myself as a photographer in a more general way. Underwater photography caught my interest during a diving expedition in the Galápagos in 2012. Witnessing the beauty and grandeur of that place made me realise the vast possibilities of photographing underwater and that’s how I began in underwater photography.
Your first underwater shot?
A photo of a Galápagos sea lion, if I remember correctly.
The story behind your most memorable underwater shot?
The “Whale Whisperers” photograph. While on an expedition in Roca Partida, in the Revillagigedo Islands, we kept encountering a mother humpback whale, her baby calf and an escort whale. The whale mother and her calf started swimming towards the rest of the diving team, and that’s when I got the shot. The day after I took the photograph, two male orcas arrived and hunted down the baby whale. It was an impressive thing to witness – the beautiful and brutal side of Nature at the same time.
Where is your favourite dive destination?
Galápagos and Isla Del Coco. I’m also diving in Iceland right now and I’m loving it!
The site you’d most like to dive, but never have?
Below the ice in the Arctic, or with blue whales.
The weirdest thing you’ve seen underwater?
Haloclines in the sinkholes in Mexico. Also, I’ve not seen but rather heard incredibly weird sounds, very mammal-like sounds. But maybe it was just narcosis or some kind of inner ear problem!
What camera equipment are you currently using?
Underwater, I use a Sony RX100 in Nauticam housing and Nauticam wide-angle wet lens (WWL-1). Sometimes, I also use a Sony RX1 in Recsea housing. Above water, I shoot with a Nikon D800 and Leica M, and many different lenses, especially the 21mm, 28mm and 50mm.
What is the highlight of your career?
The highlight is witnessing my images being used in conservation campaigns around the globe.
…And the low point?
No low point so far. At the beginning, it was hard to get my work seen or used, but this is very normal.
Have you any advice that you’d like to give aspiring underwater photographers?
Find your style, your voice and your vision. Don’t try to copy the images or the look of other photographers. Pay more attention and respect to the ocean and the planet than photography or your own success. Pretty photos are not enough. Powerful messages are what we need.
Is there any particular shot that you still want to get?
Yes, so many, but I cannot tell you – they exist only in my mind. You will see them when I get them!
For more of Anuar’ amazing images, click HERE.