Erez Beatus was born in Israel in 1974. He currently lives in Sydney, Australia, where he teaches freediving with his wife, Ally.
He was shortlisted in the 2016 ZEISS Photography Award, with his images from the series ‘Life in Blue’.
Hi Erez, tell us more about the series images that were successful in the inaugural edition of the ZEISS Photography Award
The series ‘Life in Blue’ was conceived when I visited an underwater cave in Tonga. We were freediving around the island before the whale swimming season began in July. The light in the cave created amazing light rays which have created a unique ambiance. I Have taken a few “Selfies” where I have placed the underwater housing on a rock pinnacle at 10m, set the timer to 10 seconds and after clicking the shutter - swam to position myself for the shot. The resulting photos were very interesting so I have decided to explore the possibilities. 3 months later, during the whale swim season in Ha’apai, I took three of my fellow freedivers back to the cave to attempt a few more scenarios.
I wanted to create a scene which looked real. I wanted the characters to be free divers and not “real” climbers or circus performers.
The photo shoot was challenging as it required us to time the shots with the changing light, with the breath-holding ability of both myself and the divers and the fact we needed to work with high sensitivities and long exposures to achieve the desired effect.
When did your passion for photography and the underwater world come together?
My passion for photography started when I was a teenager. I bought my first macro lens and was fascinated by the tiny creatures I could suddenly see. I started freediving when I was very little - my earliest memories are of holding my breath and swimming underwater. I started professionally freediving in 1997 and have been doing this ever since. I always knew that at some point I would combine my two passions and I finally had the opportunity after I moved to Australia. I bought my first point & shoot with a housing and started taking photos of sea turtles and Leopard sharks. I upgraded to a mirrorless when I needed better quality and more control of light.
What makes great underwater photography?
For me, many things contribute to great underwater photography. Capturing the essence of the place - the colours, the flow, the ever changing light and tranquility. I am a technical photographer and love finding ways around the inherent restrictions imposed by the underwater environment and the fact that I only shoot on one breath is key to my photography.
Do you have a photographic philosophy?
Unless I plan a shot which is staged, I always aim to make minimal impact on the subject. I feel that good images should pull the viewer into my world and make them react.
Where in the world are you and what’s next for you?
I currently live in Sydney, Australia. Australia and the Islands around it offer amazing photographic opportunities and I feel blessed to be in a position which allows me to continually explore and develop my skills.
I love working with marine mammals and with sharks. I am also working on a long term project which relates to whales.