A very inquisitive blue shark bumps the front of the camera off the coast of Cornwall. This seasonal visitor is highly migratory – research has shown that some individuals will travel as far as 5700 miles in a single trip.
for photographic opportunities with freedivers, you can’t beat the cenotes in Mexico. Cenotes form when limestone caves collapse, revealing beneath them groundwater pools that are considered to be sacred gateways to the Mayan underworld Xibalba.
There are thousands strewn across the Yucatan, each with its own unique shape, size, depth and colour.
The water is crystal clear, the sun pours into the darkness from the jungle above as rotating bars of light, and they’re enormous. It’s almost impossible to get a bad picture!
When it comes to shooting wildlife, my favourite animals to dive with and photograph are sea-lions. They’re incredibly playful and interactive, and their speed, agility and grace put us to shame.
One experience that really stands out was in the Galapagos. I watched two juveniles playing with a piece of reed they’d found, passing it back and forth and chasing each other’s tails.
After about 20 minutes they included me in their game, racing up, leaving the reed floating in front of me before careening off, disappearing for a few seconds and racing back to reclaim their toy. It was a special moment that I’ll never forget.
A green turtle breaks up a school of salema at Leon Dormida, also in Galapagos.
One thing I really like about my mono photographs is that they’re a geographic leveller. The style renders images taken in the middle of winter in the UK close to indistinguishable from photos from paradisal dive locations in far-flung locations.
People have this preconception that UK waters are murky and devoid of life, which UK divers know could not be further from the truth. When the conditions are good, the diving here is spectacular.
Unlike the tropics, temperate waters are dominated by seaweeds, so you get these beautiful hues of greens, reds and browns that you don’t tend to see elsewhere.
Even when the visibility isn’t great, these come together to create an eerie, ethereal atmosphere and I can’t get enough of it, to dive in and to shoot.
I know now that I would always have been drawn to freediving. Freediving and photography are so tightly interwoven into the different facets of my life.
The style has allowed me to develop a deeper connection with the ocean and to integrate with a small but global community of like-minded people.
I hope that when non-divers see my photos, it will encourage them to experience the marine environment themselves, and hopefully engender a sense of responsibility to protect it.
For more about James’ freediving experiences, visit discoverinteresting.com/ freediving-with-james-monnington.