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An underwater photographer reveals the secrets to shooting the marine world

Photographer Ajit SN on the joy, and the necessary skills, of shooting the marine world

HT48HRS_Special Updated: Jun 09, 2016 15:58 IST
Soma Das
A Silky shark
A Silky shark(Photo: Ajit SN)

For the last three years, Bengaluru-based automobile photographer Ajit SN (38) has been a globetrotter. But unlike other travellers who notch up air miles, or visit cities or quaint villages, he’s been busy exploring the world under water.

Manta ray (Photo: Ajit SN)

His aquatic quest has taken him to all the corners of the world, from Mexico to Komodo Island and Antarctica. His collection of photographs includes images of World War II historic wrecks and a diversity of marine life, ranging from coral reefs to killer whales. He is displaying some of his photos as part of Pigment, a group exhibition, this Saturday.

Read: This photographer is headed from Mumbai to Goa, on foot

Each trip, he says, has been memorable: diving with crocodiles in Mexico, diving between tectonic plates in Iceland, or wreck diving in the Bermuda Triangle. “Fiji was nerve-wracking because I was centimetres away from a feeding frenzy of 35 to 40 bull sharks. They circle and bump into you. While I was exploring World War II shipwrecks in Sri Lanka, there was a near-death experience during deep-sea diving to 160ft. I blacked out and as my mask slipped, I started inhaling water and rising too fast. Luckily a diver came to my rescue and helped me put my mask back on,” he adds.

Hawksbill turtle (Photo: Ajit SN)

Unlike over-the-surface photography, the nature of underwater photography makes it fraught with challenges. “Strong currents can drift a diver several kilometres away, while down currents can pull a diver from 10ft to 100ft suddenly. Plus, there is venomous marine life surrounding you,” he says.

Ajit’s journey started in 2013 when the erstwhile marketing professional went on a scuba diving adventure to Sri Lanka. The expedition whet his appetite for diving. Over the next six months, he trained for an advanced open water certification from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and underwent courses in wreck and technical diving.

Lion fish (in stripes) (Photo: Ajit SN)

Realising his calling lay in photography, Ajit quit his job and enrolled for a photography course (specialising in automobile photography) at the Light and Life Academy, Ooty. “I thought, ‘If not now, then when?’ My grandparents supported me and I was able to pursue my passion,” he says.

Ajit’s photos have been featured on the National Geographic Daily Dozens (editors’ pick of photos) and he has been felicitated by the International Photography Awards, USA. But within India, Ajit admits, the scope for underwater photography is limited. “This is a field of art and creativity. Just follow your passion, money follows,” he says.

View Ajit SN’s photos at Pigment on June 11, 10am to 6pm
At: Taj Land’s End, Bandra (W)
Call: 98207 58738
Entry: Free