Imran Ahmad has been capturing the magnificence of life below and above the water’s surface for over 20 years. A celebrated and internationally published professional photographer, he is committed to showcasing, preserving and protecting the ocean’s environment and its surroundings. Imran is also the brand ambassador for RGB Lights (Japan), and a member of the Ocean Artists Society.
For our Underwater Photographer of the Week, we caught up with Imran for a quick Q&A:
What made you want to become an underwater photographer?
“I wasn’t going to back down, and my research and testing paid off when I shot ‘Bokehlicious’. It was a black frogfish with yellow spots. That got the hype going.” © Imran Ahmad
As a child and with Asian parents, the stress was always on being a doctor, engineer, dentist, etc. On a quiet evening while hanging out with my mum, I saw footage of divers with a big box and I said to her, “Look! Frogmen! I want to be like that and swim all day”… Like most Asian parents, she said “NO!” That image was plastered in my mind. Later that year, my dad took us on a beach holiday. He brought his new camera and I did what all aspiring underwater photographers do: I dipped my dad’s new SLR into the water, pressed click and with a big smile, called out to him. He spanked the “Asian” out of me and yes, I killed that camera.
From that day, I knew that I wanted to be different. I wanted the world to see through my viewfinder and most importantly, I wanted to be unique.
Your first underwater shot?
Horrible… Only my mother can appreciate it. Hence, my advice to all photographers: Never show your images to your family – they love you too much. But I must stress, all bad photos are stepping stones to better ones. Learn from it, be patient and keep shooting.
The story behind your most memorable underwater shot?
Shooting Aldabra, Seychelles. Being the only Asian to photograph it and being there with my wife… That’s magical. Getting to photograph one of the most iconic shots for my latest book “Seychelles Unexpected Treasure” – priceless.
I walked down the steps from our research station and set up a three point lighting for the ocean’s model. I had seen clean shark images in my research but I wanted more. I was more interested in creating a more cosmopolitan, Her World, model kind of shot. I wanted “liquid art”. In Aldabra, you don’t have to bait them to come; all you have to do is get in the water. Thirty minutes and eight shots later, I got my shot.
Another memorable underwater shot was shooting reverse ring macro (RRM) – an old technique used by insect photographers, or “The Poor Man’s Macro”. Everybody I knew said it was impossible. Some even talked it down. I wasn’t going to back down, and my research and testing paid off when I shot “Bokehlicious”. It was a black frogfish with yellow spots. That got the hype going. Today, RRM is being further explored and the variations coming from all over the world is inspiring. There’s never a right or wrong in photography. There’s preference. However, it’s always good if we can raise the bar and create something different.
“When I’m in the water, I’m home. I make the best out of the situation no matter the conditions.” © Imran Ahmad
Where is your favourite dive destination?
That’s like a trick question. It doesn’t matter which ocean and what subject. When I’m in the water, I’m home. I make the best out of the situation no matter the conditions. I’m just blessed to be in the water and that’s the best destination, the ocean.
The site you’d most like to dive, but never have?
I’ll keep my options open and I’m always intrigued by ice… Maybe I’ll give that a try…
The weirdest thing you’ve seen underwater?
Can I rephrase this to the saddest thing I’ve seen underwater? To watch humans destroy the very ocean that they claim to love. Underwater photography is not just a hobby. You are basically educating yourself on the importance of the ocean’s inhabitants and protecting our surroundings. Your scuba training plays a huge role and it’s important that you practise before attempting underwater photography. And lastly, respect the locals – the subjects, I mean. Our next generation must see and protect what we have today… It’s too beautiful to be ignored.
“Underwater photography is not just a hobby. You are basically educating yourself on the importance of the ocean’s inhabitants and protecting our surroundings.” © Imran Ahmad
What camera equipment are you currently using?
I’m blessed with a Nikon D4 and D3 with Seacam underwater housing, Seacam Seaflash 150D with CM diffusers and RGBlue Premium Colour System 02 lights.
What is the highlight of your career?
Being able to always inspire and help others improve their images, constantly.
…And the lowpoint?
When I’m stuck in a room wondering what the next “game changer” could be… But that’s the drive that motivates me.
“From that day, I knew that I wanted to be different. I wanted the world to see through my viewfinder and most importantly, I wanted to be unique.” © Imran Ahmad
“Our next generation must see and protect what we have today… It’s too beautiful to be ignored.” © Imran Ahmad
Is there any particular shot that you still want to get?
Many. I believe in making the ordinary, extraordinary.
For more of Imran’s work, visit his website.