Experienced diver and award-winning photographer Indra Swari W took her camera underwater for the first time and was completely hooked by the experience. Find out more as she shares with us her fascination of pursuing her passion underwater.

You began with macro shots of flowers and one of your photos was featured in a UK photography magazine. Tell us briefly when your turning point was and the compelling reason that made you pursue underwater photography

EOS Professional Indra Swari W

EOS 5D Mark II | F/7.1 | ISO 200 | 1/125s

I got an underwater kit for my diving trip in Mexico in 2003. Since it was a new dive spot for me. Just the thought of capturing my experience was what really prompted me to do that. Having faced the different challenges of underwater photography and the awesome colours the underwater world offered got me hooked from day one. 

EOS 5D Mark II | F/8 | ISO 100 | 1/320s

EOS 350D | F/18 | ISO 100 | 1/100s

Which place did you first shoot underwater?

In Cozumel, Mexico.  I was still drawn to the small critters so I was using a macro set up. My first shot was of a flamingo tongue cowrie, which has a beautiful detail on its mantle.

EOS 350D | F/22 | ISO 100 | 1/200s

Which is your favourite dive spot and how much time do you dedicate for images in one place?

It is always hard for me to say which my favourite is because there are so many great dive spots.  I am never tired of going to the eastern part of Indonesia (Ambon, Komodo, Raja Ampat), but since my favourite subjects are small creatures, I  often return to Lembeh in North Sulawesi as it is a macro heaven.

EOS 5D Mark II | F/10 | ISO 200 | 1/80s

Which camera and lenses do you bring?

For underwater, Canon EOS 5D Mark II with EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM and EF17-40mm f/4L USM. For land, EOS 5D Mark II, EOS-1Ds, EF17-40mm f/4L USM, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM (both are my main lenses). I also use EF50mm f/1.2L USM, EF300mm f/2.8L IS USM, EF400mm f/5.6L USM, EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM and recently, EOS 7D Mark II which will be going underwater as soon as I choose the best housing for me.

EOS 5D Mark II | F/9 | ISO 200 | 1/200s

You won the underwater category of the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition sponsored by the Natural History Museum of London and BBC last year. How do you feel about the win?

It was an incredible feeling. Photography is something I am passionate about and winning a prestigious award like that is a high reward for the hard work that I put into it.  Being judged alongside professional photographers and having my work selected is the best recognition I can hope for.

EOS 5D Mark II | F/9 | ISO 125 | 1/160s

What do you look out for when shooting underwater?

On most of the dives, I keep my eyes open for what is around me, looking for interesting animal behaviour or anything that catches my eye. However, there are trips where I look specifically for a certain subject. For example, I went to Adelaide, Australia, just to look for the leafy sea dragon and to Dominican Republic for the sperm whale.

What has been your most fulfilling experience in this genre of photography?

I have had many positive experiences in underwater photography. The most fulfilling often involves interacting with the creatures that I am photographing.  During one of my early dives, I managed to gain the trust of an octopus such that it came out of its hiding place and followed me around while I was turning over stones to look for critters. It would shoot by my hand to grab any prey that may be lurking under.  

EOS 5D Mark III | F/11 | ISO 100 | 1/100s

What is next on your underwater photography “bucket list”?

I am finally heading to South Africa this year for the Sardine Run, a trip I have wanted to do for many years. 

What advice would you give to those who are considering underwater photography?

Make sure you are comfortable underwater and master your buoyancy before taking a camera underwater.  This is not just important for your photographs and personal safety, but also to ensure you do not accidentally damage your surroundings. Understanding and respecting marine life and the coral is a good start to get the best from your photography.

EOS 5D Mark III | F/22 | ISO 100 | 1/100s

Are there any exciting projects we should expect from you this year?

There is the South Africa trip and nearing the end of the year, we will be going to the Antarctica. Two really exciting trips which I hope will produce some fantastic images.  Apart from these trips, I am excited about collaborating with Canon Imaging Academy for seminars and workshops, which will allow me to raise more awareness and interest in underwater photography.

Are there any links you would like to share with our readers who are keen to know more about your work?

My personal website is http://www.indraswariw.com, and look out for my future involvement with Canon Imaging Academy so you can come and learn more from me directly.