Underwater modelTo create a mirror reflection like this one, have the model sit as still as possible, just below the surface of the water.
An Australian-based commercial photographer, Cal Mero specialises in underwater advertising, fashion and wildlife and has been the recipient of more than 25 international photography awards. His work is displayed in both the foyer of the Australian National Museum and the Australian National Institute of Science.
Cal recently held his first solo fine art exhibition entitled “Cascade,” in which he explores light and movement in the remote freshwater rivers in the rainforests of Australia’s tropical far north.
Growing up in Australia, did you derive motivation from any of the great local underwater photographers who were already established?
As a photographer, I’m very much a product of the digital age. I learnt photography from online tutorials and videos on Youtube. Because of this, most of my favourites are international photographers who have a strong online presence — people like Alex Mustard and Tony Wu. That being said, Australia has some great underwater photographers whose work I aspire to, including Gary Bell and Darren Jew.
You started out shooting wildlife but quickly moved to underwater fashion. What caused that switch?
The reason was actually pretty simple. I moved from Melbourne to Townsville, Australia, for my postgraduate studies in marine biology. In Townsville, it’s very cost prohibitive to dive (at least for a uni student). So I started taking photos in pools to satisfy my cravings for underwater photography. I asked a few friends to model for me and immediately got hooked.
What was the motivation behind photographing Australia’s remote freshwater rivers in the far north?
The remote freshwater rivers are enticing because they are unexplored. You can snorkel/hike up a river for a few kilometres and all of a sudden you are surrounded by nothing but deep, unexplored forest and terrain. Very few people have ever been up some of those rivers. They are also incredibly beautiful. The light streams through the rainforest canopy overhead to create the most incredible underwater-light shows. The wildlife is also incredible — I’ve have had huge colonies of bats fly over my head; I’ve had a three-metre-long python slither down from a tree to look at me in the water; and I’ve swum with freshwater crocodiles.
Have you taken the perfect photo yet?
A perfect photo for me is one that resonates on an emotional level. To that end, I’ve nearly taken one. It was while photographing sea lions around Hopkins Island, South Australia, on a Rodney Fox shark trip. I was talking to the captain, Andrew Fox, and I told him that my favourite photo of all time was by David Doubilet, and that it was of a group of sea lions with a beautiful sunburst behind them. Andrew pointed to a nearby rock and told me that the photo had been taken right there! I snorkelled over to the spot and quickly recognised the terrain from the image. As I was sitting there on the bottom, a beautiful female sea lion swam over and posed right in front of me. I got the shot and it still remains one of my diving highlights.
Where’s your next dive trip?
In October, I’m heading to the remote freshwater holes in the desert region of the Northern Territory. It’s an ambitious trip for a new exhibition. Most of the places I’ll be visiting have never been photographed underwater before.