How did you get started in underwater photography?
I have always had an interest in photography, but never the time or money to really progress with it until digital photography became mainstream. I only started diving about 11 years ago and when this new world was opened up to me, I just had to record what I was privileged to see. So underwater photography became the perfect combination of my two favourite past times.
What came first – diving or photography?
This was, and still is, an ongoing evolution. An interest in wildlife photography came first but since diving, my love of underwater photography has grown and this has in turn, re-enthused my surface wildlife photography. You could call it a virtuous circle!
What’s in your underwater photography kitbag?
Although I use DSLRs for my surface wildlife photography, I exclusively use a compact set-up underwater. While this is in part down to expense, I actually don’t think that I want to be using a bigger rig underwater. The standard of modern compact cameras and equipment is so good acceptable images can be produced. It also suits my underwater photography style where I see it akin in a way to street photography – candid photography of chance encounters and random incidents. While I admire the technical ability and planning of those who set up shots, that is not for me – not for now anyway! For me, the dive always comes first and if I see something interesting then I will try and capture it in an interesting way.
So, my kit is currently a Canon G7x Mk II, Nauticam housing, Fantasea wide-angle lenses and Nauticam macro. I use twin Inon s2000 strobes.
With the advances in technology and reduction in size of mirrorless full-frame cameras, I can see me one day plunging for one of these.
Favourite location for diving and underwater photography?
I have been lucky enough to have dived in many places around the world – New Zealand, Fiji, the Caribbean, Indonesia, Philippines, Malta, Egypt and many places around the UK. I do not have a particular favourite – as long as there is water and there is life I am happy. I did enjoy the range of life in Indonesia and the Philippines, but equally I’m an avid UK diver and as I am writing this I am planning my next trip to Chesil Beach.
Most challenging dive?
I believe all dives should be approached as a challenge and I don’t think as divers we can ever afford to be complacent – it’s just that those challenges differ. Carrying kit over rough terrain to the dive site, dealing with strong currents, not losing buddies in poor visibility, losing equipment, elusive wildlife – I have probably had no more incidents than any other regular diver but one of the lessons I have learnt from being a diving instructor is to be prepared for things to happen. Be thorough in your training, practice your training, understand the risks and plan for them. I’m a great believer in the mantra in any situation that presents a challenge, not just diving, stop – breathe – think – act.
For photography, while the life was stunning in Indonesia and the Philippines the currents at times did make it very challenging.
Who are your diving inspirations?
It would be easy to run off a few well-known names here, and there are many that have inspired me, but my greatest diving inspirations are those who have taught and encouraged me, particularly in my early years. Those infectious people who, whether it rains or shines, just live for the dive and will jump in week after week just for the sake of getting wet! I think underwater photography can be a great way of introducing and keeping young divers interested.
That said, I will mention two people that have influenced my underwater photography. First Alex Mustard MBE and his willingness to share technique and skills in a clear way – he has done so much to make underwater photography accessible. Most recently, listening to Ellen Cuylaerts at the GoDiving Show this year I found truly inspirational.
Which underwater locations or species are still on your photography wish list and why?
With water covering two-thirds of the world, anywhere and anything – the list is too long, and the way humanity is treating the oceans the time too short. I just need to get in the water…
What advice do you wish you’d had as a novice underwater photographer?
Just do it! Buy, borrow or hire a basic set-up, get in the water and practice. Don’t worry what people think of your pictures – do it for yourself – you’ll be surprised how many others like them too. Enjoy it but accept that it’s not for everyone and that’s OK. Not to worry too much about the technicalities – concentrate on getting the picture.
Once you have the basics, you can learn and practice the technicalities of photography and post-production – there are lots of good courses out there. Digital photography these days is so forgiving – so practice, practice and practice and above all enjoy it.
Hairiest moment when shooting underwater?
Yes, there have been ‘moments,’ but I haven’t had what I would consider a truly hairy moment – and long may that last!
What is your most memorable dive and why?
I can think of lots of dives I would consider memorable but for different reasons – whether it be the colours, the large or small marine life, the people you were with, or even because I was up far too early in the morning! I just love diving, but I do have a soft spot for seals.
Early on in my diving career, I was diving in the Caribbean, and while carrying out a safety stop at the end of the dive out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a large grey object heading straight for me at great speed. As I turned to face it, with my SAC rate rapidly increasing, I was overjoyed and relieved to see it was a dolphin who proceeded to look each of us up and down in turn and then, having apparently satisfied its curiosity, it disappeared as quickly as it appeared. Unfortunately, those where the days before I had an underwater camera, and this may have been the moment I decided I needed one.
Martin Edser has a love of wildlife, photography and scuba diving, and tries to spend his time involved in one or any combination of these interests. He has dived in many parts of the world including New Zealand, Fiji, Philippines, Indonesia, Egypt, Malta, Jamaica as well as many parts of the UK.
Martin was named Winner (and a Highly Commended) of the British Waters Compact category of the Underwater Photographer of the Year 2019.
Martin believes in using photography as a means to capture what he encounters in front of his during walks and dives and sets up very few shots.