Into a Different World

After a long winter with much snow and low temperatures, I openly admit I have immensely enjoyed two weeks of the warm, dry season in Belize. It’s been two fabulous weeks of holiday. No chores, no schedules, no stress and no phone calls.

Belize is foremost know for its amazing nature, whether we talk about the lush rainforest, the many impressive caves, or the country’s extraordinary coastline protected by one of the biggest underwater reefs in the world. I got to spend one of my two holiday weeks exploring these reefs with their colourful abundance of corrals, fishes and other sea life.

The photographer in me went wild as soon as I immersed myself into this different world. Since I wasn’t on assignment I felt free to do whatever I fancied. I could play and I could let go of any inhibitions or fixed ideas about how a photograph ought to look like. The pure change of environment—compared to what I usually photograph—was inspiring in and of itself. It was just as if the different nature, literally and figuratively, of the underwater world impelled this more playful approach—all the way from the moment of capturing to the final processing.

To capture the extraordinary life you find in and around corral reefs in a compelling way requires both extensive experience as an underwater photographer as well as good diving skills. Since I don’t possess either—as I am not diving enough on a regular basis—I tried to bring my regular photographic vision down into the underwater world.

Instead of looking for amazing creatures and trying to capture them, I would rather play with many elements within the frame, whether it was divers, a fish incidentally passing by or the corral reef itself. I would try to find meaningful or funny juxtapositions and above anything I was looking for space and trying to create a stage for everything to coincide on. This idea of a stage has become one of the backbones in my visual approach. It has the same purpose as a stage in a theatre. It holds the story of the photo together and creates a three-dimensional impression. In the underwater world, instead of photographing a fish up against the corral reef, I would turn around and try to capture some of the open sea behind it or even a diver in the background. It’s like props and backdrops on a theatre stage.

With this post I have selected a handful and a half of the many photos I took at the reef in Belize. I hope you enjoy them as a glimpse into a different world.

101 thoughts on “Into a Different World

  1. First, I’m very happy for you. It’s hard to have constraints on your time and on your creative expression – balancing what’s needed for the market and what you are interested in isn’t easy. So it’s nice that you had this free time, and the photographs show that. What really struck me was the idea of the stage, because now I can see that in your work. I never articulated it myself – I could see that you have a particular style, and I noticed that you often tilt the horizon, and show action and use strong contrast, etc., but those are more stylistic aspects of the photos, and I think the staging idea may be more fundamental to your approach. You explained it well. I can see how you could bring the idea underwater (or anywhere) and make compelling images, even though as you said, you’re not a highly experienced underwater photographer. You succeeded in making images unlike any I’ve ever seen – full of life and movement, very fresh looking. Thank you for this post!

    1. Wow, those are incredible words, Lynn. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed reading your analysis of my photographic expression. And I think you articulated very precise how I see the world with a camera to my eye.

      1. Well, it was at least partly because you articulated it so well in your words. 🙂 Again, I’ve got to say, I really like this idea of looking for, or creating, a stage-like space for everything to coincide in. (Is it too early to wish you a good weekend?).

  2. What a delightful experience for you, and what lovely memories for me. Even though I only snorkel and don’t dive, there are several sea-creatures here I recognize, and seeing them again is wonderful. My favorite of the photos is the last. The blue of the diver and the blue of the fish are nearly identical, but even more delightful is the position of the diver’s body and fins, which echo the line of fish. It is a different world — but not wholly different.

    1. It’s still a world of living creatures, whether humans or others, isn’t it. I enjoy snorkeling just as much as diving, but find it harder to take photos when I have such a limited time for each capture. 🙂

  3. Stunning images, especially the ones incorporating the divers.
    The 6th shot down is extraordinary. Don’t think I’ve ever seen an underwater shot from that view a diver would see following his diving companions. Very creative and a great shot for us landlubbers to view.

    It must have been heavenly to do something a bit different (from your people/landscape shots).

  4. That’s so great that you were able to disconnect and enjoy being immersed in nature, especially in an area as lovely as Belize. I once helped paint a very large – and quite accurate – map of the Lighthouse Reef Atoll on a lodge’s reception-area floor, though now most of those details are foggy in memory… i remember the clarity of the water and the beauty, though there was also concern about vanishing marine species…

    It’s good to see images that show that it’s still lovely there!… I really like the ‘flipper fish’

  5. I think you are too self-critical here Otto – your photos are vivid and playful, a window on a world unfamiliar to many of us. My favourite is the second shot where the angle makes the fish look like a massive predator 🐠

  6. How fun! It’s a rainy chilly day here in Florida where I’m spending my holiday so it’s wonderful to see all this color. It must have been an amazing experience!

  7. Otto, I am without words to tell you how delighted I am that you have allowed us to join you on this journey into a world we know little of. These are some of the most enchanting and captivating photographs I have seen of mortals interacting with the inhabitants of this amazing and mysterious world of the oceans. You are and your camera are at home where ever life takes you.

    1. I take your words to my heart. I would like to think the whole world is my home, but it’s not always easy to express in a simple photograph. Thank you for the beautiful words, Holly.

  8. Welcome to my world 😉 Seriously though I don’t get to dive and photograph underwater as near as much as I would like anymore but it is definitely one of my favorites. You got to see some lovely rays and of course the sea turtles are always popular subjects. Thanks for posting.

  9. Totally loved your blog! Looked like a lot of fun to take pictures underwater. I used to scuba dive a long time ago, but before digital. It is like another world underwater!

  10. Ohhhh, alldeles, alldeles underbara bilder Otto. Så lyckat, så vackert och så magiskt du fångat denna värld. Jag njuter till fullo av att få ta del av den. Jag bara älskar alla bilder kan inte välja någon favorit, alla är mina favoriter.
    Bästa hälsningar

  11. A well-deserved break, I’m sure, Otto. My favorite image is the one just following this paragraph: ‘With this post I have selected a handful and a half of the many photos I took at the reef in Belize. I hope you enjoy them as a glimpse into a different world.” The pink on those long sleeves amidst all that green-blue. And the angle. Woot!

  12. Diving is a whole different world, and photography has different considerations down there. Nice that you were still able to take some of your topside style down with you and come up with something unique.

  13. Belize is such a perfect place to relax. There are fantastic photos, thank you for sharing. I wish my camera when I was there to scuba dive! It was such a beautiful location.

  14. Into a different world indeed ~ awe-inspiring photos and great telling of the experience, Otto. It must have felt nice to have no agenda to start and end a day, just live life to the fullest as a true vacation should be. The first photo is my favorite, it is framed so well to match the title of this post. Wonderful and congratulations. Now back to work 🙂

  15. I am in awe of these photographs, Otto. I felt an emotional rush viewing them.
    Truly spectacular and brought back memories of snorkeling (I don’t dive…) on the Great Barrier Reef. You must have been so thrilled!

  16. Oh my! You captured some extraordinary juxtapositions…diving skills aside. Underwater photography is a complete mystery to me. Have never tried it. I’m so landlocked. Lol

  17. What a wonderful take on the amazing underwater world, Otto! I loved all the unusual perspectives/frames you used. Seems like a superb vacation.

  18. Love it, love it, love it! Great pics. Diving is so much fun. Looks like you had a good time too. Glad you could enjoy your two weeks without chores, schedules, stress and phone calls! I need that as well.

      1. Totally agree and I do take the time to disconnect. I have a family that comes first. I hope I will soon find time to disconnect two weeks in a row though! 😉

  19. WOW … a different world indeed … expertly captured. The fact that it was a wonderful experience for you shows in the work. And we as viewer get a much better sense of the experience than if you were to concentrate on fish photos!

  20. Ah!
    You brought me back to my youth, Otto, when I used to snorkeling so much, that at one point thought seriously to dedicate myself to be a professional diver! 🙂

  21. WOW! Dear Otto, this is amazing experience and photographs. Underwater is amazing, diving and also taking photographs. I loved your photographs. You did great. But as always. Thank you, Love, nia

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