PhotograSEAries I: Subjects on Black Backgrounds

When friends ask what it is like to take a camera down into the deep, I always tell them that it is quite similar to bringing down a 6 pound darkroom. Playing with light underwater can get rather tricky as instead of just dealing with the invisible air between you and the subject (on land), in the water, there’s an entire water column that separates you and the subject. And light. Light comes from the sun, which is directly above you and fades to black as you go deeper. The first color to vanish as you go deeper is red which is why new divers who get cut or bruised underwater panic upon seeing that their blood has turned green. Nope they’re not poisoned — the color red is merely absent.


3 Things I Learned from Joining an Underwater Photography Competition

jayvee fernandez diver

Above: Lighter moments during the competition .. a #selfie below the boat.



Into the deep. You literally step in.

Then you sink.

Then sort of float up to the surface. Someone hands you the camera from the boat. And off you go.

Ah, photography. But underwater. The agony and the ecstasy of it are what contributes to the addiction.

Imagine the work it takes to set up for a shoot on land — lugging all your reflectors, lights, backdrops and what have you and set it all up on set. Now imagine having to bring all of that down with you into the deep. With SCUBA gear.

Imagine how it feels using a snorkeling mask to look into your camera’s viewfinder (I shoot with a DSLR). And it’s not just the mask that makes it harder — it’s the protective housing that keeps your camera waterproof that adds to the inches between the viewfinder and your eyes. Roughly put, it’s about a total of 3-4 inches of shooting distance between what you see in the camera and your eyes.

Now imagine doing all this while you’re running out of air.


Wide angle reefscape shots of Anilao

Over the weekend, I flooded my camera. Thank heavens I was able to save everything. Luckily it happened when I dunked the system into the freshwater basin to check for leaks and when I saw the flashing red light on the moisture sensor, I immediately pulled the housing out, set it down on a towel and opened it.


Dedicated to the Mantis Shrimp

Subject: Peacock Mantis Shrimp
Photo taken in Secret Bay, Anilao
Click on the image for bigger version

In an episode of Radiolab titled Colors, Jad and Robert explore the inner workings of how human beings (and other creatures) perceive color. For instance, in Ancient Greece, the color blue was absent in all the documented pieces of literature. Why?! Were the ancient Greeks and Romans colorblind?

In another segment, the show takes a look at how other animals view the colors of the rainbow. Surprisingly, I have several photos of the only creature in the world that has the highest spectrum to discern colors — the mantis shrimp. I see at least one every weekend.

Cheers to you, mantis shrimp. Aside from being the only creature in the world that sees the full spectrum of the rainbow, you also pack quite a punch.


The Whale Sharks of Oslob

BIG 2015 UPDATE: I was part of an underwater video crew that helped document whale shark tourism practices in Oslob and Donsol. You can watch the trailer below. It is titled ‘On the Brink’ and will be shown next year (2016).

MAJOR DEVELOPMENT: DENR has ordered that whale shark feeding be stopped in Oslob.

DENR-Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim gave the directive in a letter to the DENR regional executive director.

It was made in response to an email of whale shark researcher Elson Q. Aca addressed to DENR Secretary Ramon Paje “regarding the practice of feeding whale sharks by tourists and scuba divers in Oslob, Cebu.”

SunStar Cebu


EDIT: There is a similar practice with swimming with whale sharks in the island of Leyte and it seems to be more sustainable.


I promised myself that I would write about the controversy behind the whale sharks of Oslob on the condition that I see the phenomenon myself. Being there, seeing it — it contributes to being informed. Frankly I’m tired of “armchair activists” who pile on issues like this — making sweeping generalizations about what’s best for these fish yet are so far away removed from the situation while they drink their lattes and sport clothes that apparently have buttons made out of poached Philippine shells. All oblivious.