Photographer Spotlight: Scott Portelli

In a new series of articles, we’ll shine a spotlight on some of the world’s best underwater photographers, from the famous to the unknown, as well as offering tips for you to capture some stunning underwater photos of your own.

Scott Portelli is an international award-winning wildlife, nature and underwater photographer. He’s also a member of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) and serving NSW Council member. Portelli has spent thousands of hours in remote locations across the globe. Favorites include the Arctic, Antarctica, Galapagos, Azores, Africa and the South Pacific. He films and photographs wildlife, the underwater environment and numerous wild places.

Cuttlefish aggregation in south Australia
The Australian giant cuttlefish aggregation is truly one of nature’s great events. Thousands of cuttlefish congregate in the shallow waters around the Spencer Gulf in South Australia to mate and perpetuate the species. The cuttlefish look like alien beings, displaying an array of patterns, textures and colors to indicate their intentions. As a male courts a female or wards off other males, an entourage of suiters stays poised for an opportunity to mate with her as well.
Camera: Canon 5D MK III
Lens: 15mm fisheye lens
Shutter speed: 1/200, f20, ISO 320

The Australian National Awards announced him as the winner of the Sony World Photography Awards in 2016. His conservation documentary also took two awards at the French Underwater Film Festival in Marseille, including the French Federation of Cinema award.

Atlantic spotted dolphins in the Bahamas
The Bahamas is a haven for many species, and Atlantic spotted dolphins are some of the most interactive around. These dolphins are coming in to investigate slow-moving freedivers, who provided potential entertainment for these curious creatures.
Camera: Canon 5D MK III
Lens: 16-35mm lens
Shutter speed: 1/250, f14, ISO 500

How long have you been an underwater photographer?

I’ve been taking underwater photos since 2001, but only moved into a professional role in 2007. This was also the year I won my first photojournalism award.

What got you interested in underwater photography?

I would say the diversity of life you find in the ocean was the main reason I started to look at photographing subjects underwater. The more I traveled, the more I wanted to explore the surrounding oceans. Learning about the multitude of creatures that inhabit our oceans inspired me to capture their true essence.

What’s your favorite style of underwater photography?

I shoot predominantly wide-angle with big subjects, but shoot macro as well. I have been photographing marine life of all shapes and sizes for many years and appreciate the smallest to the largest creatures.

Any favorite subjects?

I spend a lot of time with whales and have an affinity with these amazing mammals. I am constantly searching the world for my next whale encounter, and photographing as many of these fragile species as possible.

Any favorite destinations?

Antarctica is one of the last remaining untouched places on Earth with an abundance of wildlife and marine life. There is nothing more exhilarating than being in the water with the top apex predator in the polar region, the leopard seal.

What’s your underwater setup?

I use a Canon 5D MKIII in a Seacam housing, with 2 x DS161 Ikelite strobes and float arms.

Do you have any tips you can share with new underwater photographers?

  • Know your equipment before you use it. Spend time going over every inch of your underwater housing. Learn where all the buttons and levers are, and how they work in correlation to your camera body.
  • Ensure your underwater housing is free of hairs or obstructions when you close the housing. It only takes one mistake to flood an expensive housing and camera set up.
  • Check that your lens cap is off your camera before putting it in the housing. This may sound obvious, but once you’re underwater you won’t be able to take the lens cap off and this could ruin a dive.
  • Never put your camera housing together on a boat or in a wet environment. This could get on equipment that has electronics and short out a camera. It can even be the catalyst for equipment rusting and corrosion.
  • Check for dust on inside of the dome. It sounds simple, but make sure there are no loose dust particles moving around.

For more of Scott Portelli’s work, check his website and Instagram.

By guest author Scott Portelli