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Blackwater Photography - The Art of Picturing Creatures From The Deep Sea

As an avid underwater photographer, I am constantly fascinated by the creatures that live beneath the surface of the ocean. The deep sea is particularly intriguing to me, with its mysterious and elusive inhabitants. Blackwater photography is the art of capturing these creatures in their natural environment, often at great depths and in complete darkness. Blackwater photography offers a possibility to capture them at night when they - attracted by light - come closer to the surface. In this article, I'll share some tips for those who are new to this exciting and challenging form of photography.

First, it's important to have the right equipment. Blackwater photography requires specialized gear, including a high-quality underwater camera, strobes or video lights, and a housing that can withstand the extreme pressure of deep-sea dives. It's also crucial to have a good understanding of the behavior and habitats of the creatures you are trying to photograph. Some of the most commonly photographed creatures in blackwater photography include squid, jellyfish, and larval fish.

When it comes to capturing the perfect shot, patience and persistence are key. Blackwater photography often requires long periods of waiting in complete darkness for a subject to appear. It's important to remain still and calm, as even the slightest movement can scare away a timid creature. I recommend practicing your buoyancy skills and developing a steady hand, as these are crucial for capturing sharp and clear images.

One of the biggest challenges of blackwater photography is the lack of natural light. This means that you will need to rely on artificial light sources to illuminate your subject. Strobes or video lights are essential for this type of photography, as they provide the necessary illumination without disturbing the delicate balance of the underwater environment. I recommend experimenting with different lighting setups to achieve the desired effect.

In terms of composition, blackwater photography offers endless opportunities for creativity. The deep sea is full of strange and otherworldly creatures, and capturing their unique shapes and movements can be truly captivating. I recommend playing with depth of field and focusing on specific details to create a sense of depth and dimensionality in your images.

If you're new to blackwater photography, I recommend starting with some of the more commonly photographed creatures, such as jellyfish or squid. These creatures are often found in large numbers and can be easier to capture than some of the more elusive deep-sea dwellers.

Some great examples of blackwater photography can be found in the work of Swiss underwater photographer Thomas Zumbrunnen, who has captured stunning images of creatures of the deep (visit Thomas' instagram feed @uwfoto.ch).

Further spectacular examples follow Joshua Lambus:


In conclusion, blackwater photography is an exciting and challenging form of underwater photography that requires specialized equipment, patience, and persistence. With the right tools and techniques, you can capture truly mesmerizing images of some of the most fascinating creatures on Earth. So, dive in and explore the mysterious world of the deep sea - you never know what you might find.

Here are some great sources for blackwater photography on the internet:

  1. Blackwaterdiver (@divecbr): This website features stunning blackwater photography by photographer Mike Bartick, as well as information on blackwater diving and photography techniques.

  2. Underwater Photography Guide: This website offers a wealth of resources and articles on underwater photography, including a section dedicated to blackwater photography.

  3. Wetpixel: This online community for underwater photographers features a dedicated section for blackwater photography, as well as forums for discussing techniques and sharing tips.

  4. Joshua Lambus Photography (@joshualambus): Joshua Lambus is a fantastic blackwater photographer whose work can be found on his website and social media channels.

  5. Backscatter: This website offers a range of underwater photography gear and equipment, including specialized gear for blackwater photography.

  6. Scubashooters: This online community for underwater photographers features a section on blackwater photography, as well as a gallery of stunning blackwater images.

  7. Blackwater Creatures: This website is dedicated to blackwater diving and photography in Florida.

And some paper books on blackwater diving and photography:

  1. A Field Guide to Blackwater Diving in Hawaii by Jeff Milisen: Kona is the birthplace and world headquarters for blackwater diving.

  2. Planktonia: The Nightly Migration of the Ocean's Smallest Creatures by Erich Hoyt: the greatest migration on Earth happens twice every night. The movement is largely vertical and performed by plankton followed by predatory fish, squid, octopus and other species that have acquired a taste for plankton.

  3. The World Beneath: The Life and Times of Unknown Sea Creatures and Coral Reefs by Dr. Richard Smith

I hope these resources will help you discover and explore the world of blackwater photography!

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