Greg Annandale is a travel, landscape and expedition photographer based in Bristol UK. He started shooting more seriously back in 2011 while traveling extensively, often alongside fellow photographer and good friend Conor MacNeill. Initially, it was just to scratch a creative itch, documenting travels and producing fine-art style photography, but Annandale’s love for expeditions soon had him shooting adventure sports in extreme environments, like ski touring in the Swedish Arctic or mountaineering in Siberia and sailing in Patagonia.
Scuba diving is another one of Annandale’s loves. He’s been doing it for 12 years now, and during a recent trip to Mexico, he was able to combine this passion with his two others: photography and traveling. He documented this adventure in a story on his website, and sat down with Resource Travel to discuss his experiences.
This particular shoot was over the course of three days and six dives, during what has become a pretty regular family trip to Mexico. I’ve been diving for over 12 years, my father-in-law has dived in Mexico on a number of occasions, and my wife recently got certified, so we’ve been enjoying some diving together on the reefs just off Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, as well as the many cenotes dotted along the coast. We have a great relationship with two fantastic guides & cave instructors, and one of them, Peter Broger is featured in these photos.
Can you tell us a bit about the art of underwater photography?
There are a few unique challenges. The first, unsurprisingly, is water, and how to keep water away from the camera. We’re in a pretty good place now where there are a lot of great quality camera housings to choose from, and the main concern is ensuring the seals are clear when closing them up. Whilst I’d love to shoot with my D800, it’s far more economical to take something more compact. I’ve found that the Sony RX100 is a stunning camera for the job. It’s just about wide enough (I fit a wide angle “wet” lens to the housing to maintain the RX100’s 24mm equivalent – water has a magnifying effect) and the sensor’s performance is extraordinary.
The second challenge, leading on from this this, is light – or the lack of it. I chose to shoot using only natural light (and our flashlights) rather than strobe. This meant that the camera had to work pretty hard in order to expose the scenes correctly, since I was shooting in aperture priority with some pretty heavy-handed underexposure. The RX100’s sensor coped amazingly well, pushing it up to ISO 3200 and even 6400 when needed.
The bigger challenge is being confident enough as a diver to be able to concentrate on composing and shooting whilst being completely aware of your surroundings and the variables that need constant monitoring – air, depth, time… – along with the other divers around you. Perfect buoyancy is a must, especially since even the slightest disturbance of the cavern bottom can stir up silt and sediment that can sit in the water for a considerable amount of time, ruining visibility. Planning how and where to take the shots in advance is also key, since communication whilst underwater is extremely limited!
Diving in the cenotes, limestone pits and sinkholes usually filled with freshwater (some also contain saltwater), is a particular challenge due to their enclosed nature – the lack of a relatively easy exit and in many cases poor (or non-existent) light pose some fairly obvious risks. So whilst regular diving should never be undertaken lightly, cave and cavern diving require a considerable step up in terms of confidence and skill level. Not forgetting redundancy of equipment either – a catastrophic failure in air supply in these circumstances is far from ideal. Safety must always be the absolute priority and it’s only ever worth thinking about taking shots when completely comfortable with the situation. I can’t overemphasize the number of hours training that go in to it!
You have been all over the world, from Southeast Asia over Lofoten, Norway to Iceland. How high would you place this Mexico-trip on your list of favorite destinations?
This is definitely pretty high up there! I love diving, which might have something to do with growing up constantly reading about Jacques Cousteau, and I am really enjoying combining it with photography these days. Mexican food is also utterly amazing, so that’s a damn good combination right there.
I’m looking forward to visiting Arctic Sweden once more in April, this time leading a ski touring and photo expedition for my good friends at Vertical Shot Expeditions. In terms of an ideal trip, I have a pretty much endless list that’s almost impossible to choose from, but I’d love to combine diving with a sailing expedition around the South Pacific – a perfect combo in my book!
If you want to take a look at some more of Greg Annandale’s photography, head on over to his website. Specifically interested in the man’s travel adventures, then his stories-page is where you should go. And take some time to visit his Facebook and Instagram too.