SHUTTER SPEED: 1/2000
CAMERA: HASSELBLAD X1D-50C
FOCAL LENGTH: 21MM (XCD 4/21)
© JACOB DEGEE
What made you become the photographer you are today?
I am an animal person. I love nature. I love wildlife. Watching the wonders of this world is the biggest pleasure for me. I have realized that some parts of our world are disappearing so I started documenting what I see so that people could understand what harm we do to our planet. I started small but with time I wanted to show what I see on a bigger scale. I wanted to be able to print high quality photos in huge format. Size matters. Detail matters. If something is the size of a fly, people will never care about it. If something is the same size as them or bigger, then they start paying attention. This is how I ended up with my X1D-50c. I show the world what is disappearing.
What does the X System camera do for your photography?
The X System is the only camera system is the world which allows a photographer to use underwater flash and still use the highest shutter speeds like 1/2000s. This is thanks to Hasselblad’s unique leaf shutter. No other system, even among smaller sensors, offers this opportunity. So, I use the X System because it is portable, and I can take it on all my trips to the end of the world. It provides all the advantages of medium format which is especially important as it is much darker underwater, but with my Hasselblad I can get much more details from the shadows. I achieve the perfect spectrum of colours. To take this photograph, the small size of the camera was key in allowing me to swim quickly and effortlessly in order not to make unnecessary movements and noises.
Tell us the story behind how you created your image.
The first challenge with this photo was being able to take my Hasselblad underwater. There is no branded housing on the market, so I custom-built one for my use. It took me 6 months and many underwater trials to have a X1D housing fully operational. The second challenge was to find an interesting wildlife subject. A few years ago, people discovered a congregation of whale sharks in the north of Isla Mujeres in Mexico. Once a year, some of the biggest fish in the world are drawn to this area for food.
The final challenge was to approach the animal and position myself properly. I was freediving and photographing whale sharks when I was lucky enough to spot a manta ray circling around. This manta was so happy with the huge amount of food that she was even swimming upside down continuing her feast. I needed to get closer to minimise the amount of water between the subject and the lens and to be angle my shot from the right side in order to catch the sun beams. I wanted to present the manta as if it was flying in the sky, framing the photo in such a way that the surface is at the bottom and the crystal-clear water seems like the sky.