Raffaele Livornese’s passion for underwater photography is relatively new. Born in 1970 in Ludwigsburg, Germany, he first journeyed to the underwater world in 2008—his destination: the Red Sea. Keeping an open mind as to what he may find, and with a bit of excitement at the prospect of a new experience, Raffaele embarked upon his first dive. What he discovered beneath the waters blew his mind—a world of beauty, colour and life. He was immediately entranced, and with little doubt or hesitancy as to his inexperience, he dived into the complexities of capturing the life before his eyes with a camera.
It did not take long before he was gearing up for another dive and shoot. Armed with his Nikon and a desire to travel, he began his quest to journey to the oceans of the world in search of new subjects. He has now performed countless dives – from the seas of Southeast Asia, to the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic.
His amazing pictures have not gone unnoticed. He has won several national photo awards, such as the International Underwater Photography Contest “Città di Siena” in 2012 and “Scubaportal” in 2013. But most notably, he has been given prestigious international awards, such as the “Scuba Diving Grand Prize United States” in 2014, and in 2015, he won the “London Underwater Wide Angle Photographer Of the Year”.
What made you want to become an underwater photographer?
It was 2008, and my wife and I were in the Red Sea on holiday. During a dive at the Elphinstone Reef, we encountered a Longimanus shark for the first time. It was such an incredible experience and there were no words to describe to our friends what we saw. And so, I decided to buy an underwater camera to be able to bring home memories from the deep blue.
Your first underwater shot?
In 2009, we were back in the Red Sea and I took a picture of a lionfish, a simple shot with a Fuji compact camera. Obviously, considering it was my first shot, it wasn’t a good one. I was too far from the subject, so the colours and image quality were very poor!
The story behind your most memorable underwater shot?
In 2013, we holidayed for the first time in October – in the Red Sea once again, funnily enough. After a week shooting wide angle, I tried my macro setup. I was looking for cleaning stations of groupers or barracudas near Ras Mohammed National Park, but I wasn’t having any luck. My wife was taking some pictures – she is also an underwater photographer – when she showed me a small anemone with a couple of clownfish taking care of their eggs. With her equipment – a compact camera – she wasn’t able to take a picture because of the distance from the eggs. I managed to get a few shots, with one winning shot. This earned me the Grand Prize of the 2014 “Through the Lens” contest.
Where is your favourite dive destination?
At the moment, I love Anilao in the Philippines. I’ve been there three times and I still want to go back. The biodiversity of small critters is amazing and you can find a great number of them. That, and the people are so friendly, with great food and accommodation.
The site you’d most like to dive, but never have?
I think it is South Africa, with its big fish, white sharks, whales, dolphins, the Sardine Run, and so much more.
The weirdest thing you’ve seen underwater?
It was a whale shark during a Maldives liveaboard trip. It was humongous and the experience was truly unforgettable.
What camera equipment are you currently using?
I’m currently using a Nikon D810 in a Hugyfot housing with Nikkor 60mm and 105mm macro lenses, Nikkor 18–35mm wide angle, as well as Tokina 10–17mm and Sigma 15mm fisheye lenses. A pair of Inon Z-240 strobes provide lighting, combined, if necessary, with a snoot for more creativity.
What is the highlight of your career? And low point?
I’m not a professional underwater photographer. I take photos for my own pleasure, and so if some of my pictures get awarded, I’m very happy. However, it is not my ultimate goal. So considering that, I don’t really have a career highlight or low point.
Have you any advice that you’d like to give aspiring underwater photographers?
The first thing needed to be a good underwater photographer is to be a good diver. Buoyancy as well as knowledge of the marine environment is vital. When you are taking pictures, you have to be able to stay still without touching anything, and you should also know what you are shooting with your camera—that, and a lot of patience. Keep trying, and trying, and trying some more!
Is there any particular shot that you still want to get?
There are so many I still want to get. The ocean is so big that there are still so many subjects on my list and destinations to visit. But some of the shots I simply must get would be of white sharks and sperm whales, as well as hammerheads, crocodiles and killer whales. I hope to get at least one of these in the near future!