Interview with underwater photographer Mark Harris about hoe he got into photography.
How did you first start photography? Was it something you have always wanted to do?
I had a horrid old Kodak with no adjustments at all, but it did start me off looking through a lens. Later in life, I started producing a charity calendar. It was a stupid comment that turned around and bit my bum. We are in our ninth year of raising money for The Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund. The calendar is called “The Naked Huntress”.
You have some impressive skills. Are you self-taught, or do you go through education to learn them?
I’m entirely self-taught, and I’m sure it shows. I don’t know all the smart jargon used by the more experienced and professional guys. That said, the calendar has raised a tidy sum for charity, so I guess I can’t be all that bad!
Can you tell me what the most challenging skill to master was?
Underwater photography is probably the most significant challenge, though my ventures into film and wet collodion are also quite daunting!
I see you also conduct photoshoots underwater; how did that start?
I qualified as a diver some years ago and went through various stages to get to where I am now, a rescue diver. I’d spent years photographing fish, of course favouring the big pelagic fish sharks and Mantas, as many do. I then contacted a guy who photographed models underwater. (Andy Riley, uwvision2). For the past four or five years have worked side by side with him, learning a vast amount.
What is the hardest part of an underwater shoot (Is it trying to find models?)
The hardest part of an underwater shoot is finding CAPABLE models. Models love having U/W images on their portfolio, but it requires a very special set of skills and determination to achieve them. Pool shoots have become relatively easy from my perspective as a photographer. I use dive equipment to remain static and with constant air while the models pop up and down in pose. Working in open water is another level of difficulty. Without a side for the model to hang on to and no air supply for me, depending upon location, it’s a tough gig. Success rates drop from perhaps 1:10 in a pool to 1:20 in open water. Other variables add to the difficulty, such as water clarity and bottom sediment.
Where do you find your inspiration for your next project from?
My main inspirations come from my work. For the past forty years, I have specialised in lighting fine art collections. Doing so often allows me unique opportunities to see private collections from both contemporary and old masters.
Do you prefer shooting in Digital or Analogue, and why?
So far, I’ve only shot digitally underwater, but watch this space! My passion has moved to film and vintage cameras and lenses. My earliest is an Eastman-Kodak made in 1897. I constructed a back to accept 5×4 and love the feel it gives the images. I also use a Rolleiflex and a couple of old bellows cameras alongside my modern digital Canons. My love of film is due to the anticipation and surprise when the film comes out of the tank. We have somewhat lost that with digital.
Can you let me know your current camera setup, including lenses?
Land cameras Rolleiflex 3.5f. Canon 6D, 24-105 lens. Underwater Canon G9X with a Fantasea Housing and INON UWL-100X0.60 wet wide angle lens. Combined with two Inon S2000 strobes.
What do you get up to when you are not a photographer?
The list is long, but for starters…
I scuba dive, and I deer stalk. I ride motorcycles and love to fly fish.
If a friend came to you and wanted to become a photographer, what advice would you give them?
Learn to shoot manually and preferably using film, so you don’t become reliant upon a camera doing all the clever technical stuff for you.
Secondly, shoot for you and your model if you have one. Don’t get hung up on winning prizes or getting lots of love and attention. Do what you love and ignore what the rest think or say. Do it with passion, and for the joy it brings you.
Do you have any goals that you want to achieve in the next 2 years?
I’d love to shoot more open water images, because the greatest challenge is working where nature and the weather have control. I’d like to see my film photography move from “lucky” to “accomplished”. Wet Colodion is also high on the list of things I want to grasp B&W
If you are looking for more of Mark’s work, check out his Instagram
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