In this ongoing series, we’ll chat with prominent and up-and-coming underwater photographers. Today we highlight Brent Durand.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up next to the ocean in Southern California and got certified in 1997 at 14 years old. I only dived a few times a year through college, but then re-discovered scuba and started diving all the time. At time of this interview, I’m in the process of moving from Playa del Rey to Marin County in Northern California. My photography revolves around portraying the wildest sides of California kelp forests, and needless to say, I’m excited to start sharing photos from the rugged NorCal coast.
How long have you been an underwater photographer?
I’ve been shooting underwater about eight years as time permits in and around work.
What got you interested in underwater photography?
I’ve always loved the ocean and been a very visual person. I got into underwater photography during a period where I would drive up to Malibu after work to shoot sunset seascapes, then pack away the camera and go for solo night dives. One day it dawned on me to try underwater photography, so I borrowed my brother’s SeaLife camera and was immediately hooked, slowly buying used compact gear and practicing during all those night dives.
What’s your favorite style of underwater photography?
I’m drawn to photos that are different from the mainstream — photos that immerse the viewer in an underwater landscape that helps them feel like they’re experiencing the energy I’m experiencing. The more wild and rugged, the more I like it. This can be tough though, because photos of sharks, turtles and whales are much more marketable. That said, everyone who has been on a macro workshop with me knows I geek out just much as any other photo pro.
Any favorite subjects?
Seal pups and dolphins all day, every day.
Any favorite destinations?
California’s Channel Islands are my favorite. I try to never turn down an opportunity to hop on a dive boat to the islands. After that, my favorites are Papua New Guinea and Raja Ampat.
What’s your underwater setup?
Right now, I have a Canon 5D Mark IV in a Sea & Sea housing. For wide-angle, I shoot the Canon 16-35 mm f/4, and for macro I use the Canon 100 mm f/2.8L. I love the color tonality and contrasts produced by Canon full-frame sensors, the accurate auto white-balance for underwater video and amazing autofocus. I also use Sea & Sea YS-D2 strobes and Light & Motion Sola Video Pro LE video lights.
Do you have any tips you can share with new underwater photographers?
Absolutely. First and foremost, practice the art. Use your camera to shoot macro of flowers in the garden, dogs zipping around at the park, landscapes, star trails, and anything you can think of. It’s easy to set the camera to default underwater settings. But your photos will start to really improve when you understand the principals of exposure, autofocus and lighting. This allows you to start at the basic setting and then adjust for specific subjects and compositions.
Also, be sure to practice using your camera in the housing before your trip. It’s tragic to spend the first two days re-learning the camera gear during your vacation. I actually offer private Skype workshops to help divers brush up for upcoming dive-photo trips.