Born in Mexico City, underwater photographer Christian Vizl has created a portfolio of images that present the underwater world in never-before-seen ways. Focusing mainly on using ambient light to create dramatic and emotionally touching photographs, Christian has made a career out of crafting unique portrayals of marine animals. We caught up with the man to talk about his work and personal life, and also to showcase some of his top images:
 
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“I have always loved photography, Nature, and the ocean. As far as I can remember I’ve been taking photographs (above water) and as soon as I could pay for my dives, around the age of 22, I started diving. © Christian Vizl

México, Baja California, Sea of Cortez, Cabo Pulmo. A sea turtle and a school of fish swimming above the remains of a shipwreck. © Christian Vizl

A sea turtle and a school of fish swimming above the remains of a shipwreck, Cabo Pulmo, Baja California, Mexico © Christian Vizl

What made you want to become an underwater photographer?
I have always loved photography, Nature, and the ocean. As far as I can remember I’ve been taking photographs (above water) and as soon as I could pay for my dives, around the age of 22, I started diving. In 1997 I became a diving instructor, but it wasn’t until many years later (in 2011) that I took my first underwater images. Suddenly, I combined my two lifelong passions and that was a turning point in my life. Since then all I can think of is being underwater taking pictures, and the main reason remains the same: For me taking pictures underwater is just a pretext to be exactly where I love to be – in Nature, in the ocean, in the presence of all its amazing life.
 
Your first underwater shot?
My very first shots where in [swimming] pools in Mexico City in early 2011. Then I went to shoot my first cenotes in southeast Mexico in the state of Quintana Roo, and my first shot in the ocean was in December 2011.
 
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A great image comes from the heart, and from passion and love for what you are photographing and then it transforms through the use of your creativity. © Christian Vizl

México, Quintana Roo, Playa del Carmen. A bull shark, two southern stingrays and a cobia swimming some 60 ft deep in a sandy bottom. © Christian Vizl

A bull shark, two southern stingrays and a cobia swimming some 60 feet deep over a sandy bottom, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico © Christian Vizl

 
The story behind your most memorable underwater shot?
It was in La Lobera, a small island outside La Paz, Baja California, Mexico, where hundreds of sea lions live all year round. Usually there are other divers in the area, but this day in particular I managed to stay in the water after everyone had left. It was a perfect, calm afternoon, when I realised one of the males had started to swim in a circular pattern around me. The males can be aggressive because they are always watching out for their territory, and watching over their females (especially during breeding season) and their babies during their first months. But this one was very calm, almost as if he felt his job was done for the day and that he could relax in my presence, and he did!
 
His swimming slowed, and he was getting closer to me. This went on for around 20 minutes, and during all this time I stayed in the same place and eventually took pictures of him as he swam by me. We ended up about a metre away from each other, when suddenly he stopped swimming and just rested at the surface. He only took his head out of the water from time to time to take a deep breath, and went back to just relax and float on the water. I felt very honoured and happy that he had allowed me to be so close to him, and the feeling to be so close and intimate in the presence of such a magnificent and beautiful animal is something I will never forget.
 
México, Baja California, Sea of Cortez, La Paz. Portrait of a male sea lion swimming at la lobera. © Christian Vizl

Portrait of a male sea lion swimming at La Lobera, La Paz, Baja California, Mexico © Christian Vizl

 
Where is your favourite dive destination?
That is a very hard questions to answer, since I love just about everything in the ocean, from the smallest critters to the mighty whales. I have found so much beauty and awesomeness in each animal that it is hard to choose one in particular. But I have been exploring the open ocean in the Mexican Pacific and find so much life there that today it is one of the areas where I have a particular interest in. 
 
The site you’d most like to dive, but never have?
So many! Fiji, Cocos Island, Galápagos, and countless places in Asia!
 
The weirdest thing you’ve seen underwater?
Again, so many! That is one of the things I love about the ocean. One example is a Mexican barnacle blenny biting a starfish!
 
A Mexican Barnacle Blenny coming out of his hidding inside a coral biting a starfish at Ixtapa, Guerrero, México. © Christian Vizl

A Mexican barnacle blenny coming out of his hiding place inside a coral and biting a starfish, Ixtapa, Guerrero, Mexico © Christian Vizl

 
What camera equipment are you currently using?
Canon EOS 5D Mark II, with an Aquatica housing.
 
What is the highlight of your career?
Winning a category in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year in 2014. 
 
…And the low point?
Being stuck on a liveaboard with a very painful lower back injury.
 
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“Get inspiration from other photographers that you admire, go to art shows to find inspiration from other forms of art, read books or guides on underwater photography, but most importantly practise again and again to master techniques” © Christian Vizl

Maldives, North Ari Atoll. Portrait of a giant manta and fish at night. © Christian Vizl

Portrait of a giant manta and fish at night, North Ari Atoll, Maldives © Christian Vizl

 
Have you any advice that you’d like to give aspiring underwater photographers?
I see too many people thinking that they need to upgrade their equipment to take better pictures. A great image comes from the heart, and from passion and love for what you are photographing and then it transforms through the use of your creativity. So if you are not happy with your results so far and want to take better images, I suggest photographers should work on those issues before upgrading their cameras. Go out and shoot with whatever equipment you have. Don’t wait for the perfect dive destination or the most impressive subject. Go to any place where you can get your camera in the water and shoot, shoot, shoot! Even going to a pool to practise your techniques on whatever you find there is useful. Beauty is everywhere but we need to develop our sensitivity in order to see it.
 
Get inspiration from other photographers that you admire, go to art shows to find inspiration from other forms of art, read books or guides on underwater photography, but most importantly practise again and again to master techniques.
 
I also see too many photographers willing to destroy a reef or harass their subjects in order to take a picture. I believe that no image is worth that, and especially in today’s world, where the future of the ocean is in grave danger. Every underwater photographer should be asking themselves how to put their images and love for the ocean in the service of conservation. The ocean and all its living animals need our collective voices… 
 
Is there any particular shot that you still want to get?
Yes, in fact, a series of images with human figures asking for forgiveness to individual animals underwater, for all the killing, suffering and harm we have done to them during our time together on this planet.
 
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“I have been exploring the open ocean in the Mexican Pacific and find so much life there that today it is one of the areas where I have a particular interest in” © Christian Vizl

México, Guerrero, Ixtapa. Two silkie sharks swimming among a school of fish at open ocean, some 10 miles off the coast. © Christian Vizl

Two silky sharks swimming among a school of fish in the open ocean, some 15 kilometres off the coast of Ixtapa, Guerrero, Mexico © Christian Vizl

 
For more of Christian’s images, click HERE.