Map Pufferfish with Red Cleaner ShrimpMany dive sites turn into cleaning stations early in the morning or in the evening. They often yield interesting behaviour shots for the patient and prepared photographer, such as this cleaner shrimp giving the mouth of the map pufferfish a once-over. It's all about being at the right place at the right time, and cleaning stations make it that much easier.
As this photo gallery of images demonstrates, Mathieu Meur is comfortable shooting wide-angle and macro, and he’s been fortunate to dive in many of the world's most renowned spots. Recently, we had the chance to talk to Meur about his work.
Sport Diver Asia Pacific: When did you start diving?
Mathieu Meur: I’ve been diving for close to 20 years now. Surprisingly, my first dive was in the Mediterranean, even though I grew up on Mauritius. I actually started shooting underwater well before I got into diving. My first images were captured on waterproof disposable film cameras while free diving. My first real underwater camera was a Nikonos IV, but what really got me in front of the scene was my very early conversion to digital technology.
SDAP: What camera system do you use now?
MM: I use a Nikon D800E in a Seacam housing as a primary system, and a D300 as a backup, along with a number of other cameras that I use for special purposes.
SDAP: What type of photography do you prefer?
MM: Honestly, I’m happy taking any kind of images. I love wide-angle images, as they allow me to share the beauty of the underwater world with others. I also revel in macro photography, as it highlights the incredible colours and patterns of marine animals.
SDAP: What is your most memorable moment underwater?
MM: I was diving in Oman with a friend. We were the last ones to go in the water, there was a strong current, and the rest of the group was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly, we saw a large whale shark cruising by, and we ended up spending most of the dive with it. I’d seen whale sharks many times before, but this was really exhilarating as it was totally unexpected.
SDAP: Have you ever had a scary moment underwater?
MM: I’ve had my fair share of scary moments underwater. I remember one time waiting for a sea snake to come down from the surface where it was taking a breath. I wanted to capture it with the sun and waves in the background. Suddenly, it started charging at me, chasing me relentlessly for several minutes. When I finally managed to get away, my heartbeat must have been going well over 200.
SDAP: Where have your images been published?
MM: I've been published in many magazines and newspapers in Asia, Australia, Europe, USA, and even Africa. I've also co-authored two books on underwater digital photography with fellow underwater photographer Michael Aw. In keeping with today’s technology, I’ve written a new comprehensive book in digital format, due to be released initially as an iBook in early 2013.
SDAP: What are you proudest of?
MM: I wrote what I believe was the first underwater digital photography course in the world back in 2001, years before any other formal courses came out. This is something that I remain very proud of to this day. I’ve also been a member of the jury at numerous photography competitions, but the one that remains special to me was being one of the judges at the World Underwater Photography Competition in 2007.
SDAP: What advice do you have for beginning photographers?
MM: If you’re just getting started in photography, developing a keen eye for action and composition is more important than buying the most expensive camera available on the market. Sharpen your diving skills so that you can focus on honing your photographic talent.
SDAP: Which underwater photographers do you admire?
MM: I do admire the works of many underwater photographers — too many to list — but I also seek inspiration in other forms of plastic arts, like paintings and films. These media have a lot to bring to aspiring photographers.
SDAP: You travel quite a bit — where are you going next?
MM: I’ve got a short trip lined up to explore new destinations in the Middle East, followed by a longer stay in Derawan, off the east coast of Borneo. This is a very diverse location, offering opportunities for shooting macro, reefs, pelagic animals, etc.