From building a cage in a shallow river in an effort to capture bear hunting-action, to coming within inches of tusks from both elephants and walruses for the perfect shot, Moscow-born award-winning underwater photographer Mike Korostelev has captured some incredibly unique images of marine animals. With a unique style and grittiness in his images that resemble the fantastic imagery of those underwater photography legends of the past.
We caught up with Mike for a quick Q&A to discuss his images and fantastic career:
What made you want to become an underwater photographer?
A dream. Once I was at a photo exhibition in Moscow and I saw an underwater photo of an elephant, made by a famous photographer Steve Bloom. The photo was taken from under the elephant, the water was crystal clear – it seemed that this was simply impossible. Since then, a dream to shoot animals underwater was born. I wasn’t a photographer, so I bought an underwater case for the camera of my wife and started shooting, learning from my own mistakes.
Your first underwater shot?
The first experience was in South Africa, where I trained my skills on various sharks and sea lions. And after a couple of months I was in the water under the same elephant, which was shot by Steve Bloom.
The story behind your most memorable underwater shot?
Again, this is a picture of the elephant. I’ve already told you what has led me the Andaman Islands (India). Now I’ll tell you about this exceptional elephant, whose name is Rajan. In general, all elephants swim well, but usually they cross muddy rivers somewhere in Africa, where it is impossible to make underwater pictures, and they are afraid of swimming in the sea. However, on the Andamans was a whole generation of elephants, which many years ago were used by locals to transport logs from one island to another. Elephants swam and pushed forward the timbers. They were taught from their childhood not to be afraid of the waves and swim in the sea water. Later because of the technology developments the need for elephants disappeared. All those elephants have died of old age, and Rajan is the last swimming elephant out of the unique generation. In 2013 he was already 63 years [and has now, sadly, passed away].
Where is your favourite dive destination?
Our planet! Speaking seriously, for a long time my favourite country was South Africa, as it has lots of exciting spots for underwater photography. Seals, penguins, many types of sharks! Now I’m not tied to places. I come up with an idea of what I want to shoot and start looking for the most appropriate place for this in the world’s oceans.
The site you’d most like to dive, but never have?
The weirdest thing you’ve seen underwater?
An elephant, whose trunk sometimes rises up to take a breath.
What camera equipment are you currently using?
Canon 5D Mark II, lenses 15mm and 17-40. Flash Inon 240. Housing Ikelite.
What is the highlight of your career?
Oh! Hopefully, these moments are still ahead. For now this is underwater photographs of brown bears, hunting for salmon in Kamchatka in the area of the Kuril Lake.
…And the lowpoint?
For me, underwater photography is a hobby that gives only pleasure. I’m not upset, even if I don’t have a good outcome after a trip. It is wildlife, and a lot depends on luck. Nevertheless, I cannot complain – I’m usually lucky to have wonderful moments underwater.
Have you any advice that you’d like to give aspiring underwater photographers?
Go your own way. Take photographs in new unexplored locations, rather than going on the traditional day safari. Do not be afraid to improvise.
Is there any particular shot that you still want to get?
Underwater photo of a white bear.
For more of Mike’s work click HERE.