The world inside water is both mesmerising and mysterious. Scuba diver, marine life enthusiast and underwater photographer Shashank Pathak talks about capturing it on camera.
It’s a very challenging hobby, where even the best can fail and a novice can get a good shot,” says Shashank Pathak, scuba diver and underwater photographer who has been diving for the last 22 years.
While in Bahrain, he realised that the world underwater is so colourful and yet so unexplored. “There is an entire ecosystem which is totally different from what we see on the surface,” he adds.
Pathak says fish are just a part of a major ecosystem. Corals, gardens, caves, crevices, mountains and a variety of creatures constitute the marine world. “After a dive in the sea, I used to excitedly describe how enchanting the world under the sea is to my friends and family but words were not enough to capture the beauty.
So I decided to bring it on the surface through the lens and that’s how my journey with underwater photography began,” informs Pathak who started off with just a small camera.
The marine world looks breathtakingly beautiful in pictures but diving deep into the sea/ocean and capturing the hidden world is extremely risky and full of obstacles. “There is water in front of your lens and visibility becomes an issue. The water currents can sometimes get so strong that you cannot stabilise to click a photo. The light starts to lose its basic colours right from five metres. The VIBGYOR is reduced to only violet and blue. Further when you penetrate deeper beyond 15-20 metres, you just have grey and dark grey ambient light,” says Pathak who informs that the knowledge of fish and marine life is a very important part of underwater photography. “The technology of underwater photography allows us to create sunlight at 25-40 meters with the help of strobes (special types of lights),” he quips.
The senior diver also emphasises that safety is of prime importance. “As photographers tend to get engrossed in taking shots, at times they forget that the compressed air levels are getting exhausted and they get distanced from their group which is a scary situation in an open ocean.”
Marine life activist
Accumulation of plastic waste and other hazardous stuff in water is something Pathak is deeply worried about. Through his photographs, he tries to create awareness about the threat to marine life due to pollution.
“We see a lot of muck. It is sad to see cans, bottles, plastic bags, oil drums, food packets etc thrown by people into the sea. A tiny fish looking for food starts eating such things or goes inside them and gets trapped.
Large fish too end up eating the plastic and die. I have often seen large fish which have fishing hook still stuck in their mouth or those entangled in a drift fish net. Once we rescued a huge turtle which was trapped in a drift small net. We set it free, it turned around and looked at us as if to thank us,” reminisces the shutterbug. He is also sensitive about the killing of marine creatures for commercial and decorative purpose.
Sharing his most memorable experience of capturing marine life, he recalls, “Once while diving in Maldives on top of a small plateau, I found two baby sharks sleeping under a rock. I went around to locate the mother but she was not in sight. So, I dared a bit to squeeze between two rocks and be up and close with the sleeping baby sharks. I managed to get some 8-10 good shots from various angles, and then suddenly I felt the sunlight above me fading. When I looked up, it was the mother shark trying to come close to ensure her babies were safe. It was not easy to go reverse between those rocks, but somehow, I managed to get out and run for my life, because I could see the agitation in the mother shark’s eyes.”
Pathak urges that marine photographers have to be equipped with all camera settings, as they have very little time to make changes in the setting. “One needs to read and do research on the surface of marine life for colours, eating and mating habits. Some marine creatures/plants/fish are very poisonous. We need to be totally aware of these. Be cautious while clicking,” he says.
So, what does it take to be a good underwater photographer? “One should be a good and stable scuba diver, with a good number of dives across various locations. Patience, fitness and a good eye for creating a picture are important,” concludes Pathak.