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Photographer Spotlight: Steve Woods

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.

Steve Woods has been a photographer for many years. He began his career working for the U.K. national newspapers as a press and sports photographer. He’s recently relocated to Norway from Indonesia and has always been passionate about the oceans. He contributes to marine conservation in many ways, one being photography.

How long have you been an underwater photographer?

I’ve always dabbled in underwater photography, but only shot professionally in the last four years.

What got you interested in underwater photography?

I’ve always been fascinated by wildlife, especially underwater wildlife. As soon as I was able, I learned to scuba dive — wow, 24 years ago now. I was totally hooked. It was a pastime until a few years ago when I decided to ditch my life as a newspaper photographer in the U.K. and move to Indonesia. I really wanted to work underwater, so I seized a chance.

What’s your favorite style of underwater photography?

There are so many different types of underwater photography — I love it all. I just love to flick through people’s images and get inspired by their ideas and passion. I prefer a journalistic approach to underwater image-making, one which tells the story of the animals and the environment. This generally means fast-paced wide-angle work, though I am absolutely amazed at the creativity and technical knowledge of some of the more innovative macro photographers. I would love to explore that side of things one day.

Any favorite subjects?

I spent a lot of time working with manta rays in Indonesia. The way their bodies interact with the swells and ripples of the surface of the sea is mesmerizing. I always like photographing marine megafauna, as you must predict their behavior and adjust yours to suit the situation. I have also worked with oceanic sunfish (Mola ramseyi) a lot. Working in deep, cold water with very strong currents is very taxing, but quite rewarding on the odd occasion that it works in your favor. I worked on different aspects of marine conservation with mantas, molas and sharks in Indonesia, so I managed to have good access to them each day to photograph them. Recently I spent some time in South Africa on the sardine run, which was quite amazing. Working with sharks and whales is so thrilling; I really enjoy the challenge. 

Any favorite destinations?

I lived in Indonesia for a few years, working extensively on different exploratory expeditions. Raja Ampat is one of the planet’s most amazing places for wildlife — a true paradise. I also love Komodo, southern Lombok, Sulawesi and the islands of Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan, just off the coast of Bali. I’ve been lucky enough to dive in a lot of places around Europe and Asia but I live in Norway now, so I have been exploring the higher latitudes. I’ve had few trips this year to South Africa, which I just fell in love with.

What’s your underwater setup?

I am an ambassador for Ikelite, so I use their DS161 strobes. The new Canon 1D X Mark II, is my camera of choice. I put it in a Subal CD1DX MKII housing. I also use the Canon 11-24L and 16-35L lenses in a Zen DP-230 dome.

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

I think the most important thing is to enjoy what you do. Make mistakes, have fun and learn from them. You are your own biggest critic, so try and take a step back sometimes and gain a different perspective. There are many other people out there with better gear, a better eye and in a better location. This will never change, but you can always work harder. Never let anyone else work harder than you. That way, whatever images you end up with, at least you gave it your best effort, which is what it’s all about. 

By guest author Steve Woods

For more of Steve Woods’ work, check his Facebook and websites for underwater and topside photography.