We have an open office. I sit right next to my boss, so every now and then, when he’s busy (I can tell when he’s busy because he tends to have on his headphones, from which emits screaming guitars and drums that sound like machine guns), I lean over and start asking him questions about things non-work-related that eventually spin out into (almost) an interview.

I have convinced myself that he actually enjoys these interruptions because he keeps answering me.

Do you remember that time you went diving in the Philippines, went swimming with whale sharks and made us all incredibly jealous?

(Laughs) Yes.

A closeup of a soft coral

A closeup of a mouth of an anemone, from Timppa’s dive in Bohol.

Have you gone anywhere else than the Philippines to do this kind of photography? Where was your favourite place to photograph?

I did my Open Water Diver (OWD) course back in the day in Porkkala. Back then my scuba instructor warned us that “compressed air is the most addictive substance in the world”, and that’s how things ended up. After hundreds of dives and a lot of studying (currently I’m an open water scuba instructor, EFR Instructor and Enriched Air Instructor for PADI & IANTD Advanced Nitrox diver), I’ve only had a few dives in Finland, which is a shame. I’ve been diving all around Europe, Africa and Asia, and I usually choose my destinations by what they have to offer. So far, my best and most challenging dives have been in Philippines, where I’ve done hundreds of dives. Egypt is also one of my all-time favourites, but too bad that it’s basically impossible to get there at the moment.

Nowadays I’m focusing my enthusiasm on things, creatures, and details that are as small as possible. It’s awesome to find some (at least to me) unseen 10mm thing in the depths and get a full-frame close up of it. Nonetheless, diving in to a huge school of jacks or barracuda is always an awesome experience. And then of course there are whales, mantas, molamolas, whale sharks…

 

A closeup of a soft coral in darkness

Another soft coral, possibly from the same place as the one above.

The clarity in these photos is amazing. What equipment did you use? How deep did you dive for these?

I have a Canon G12 with underwater housing and two really awesome INON S-2000 strobes. I really prefer that over a huge housing for an SLR because of its portability and ease of use. Of course, there is always the debate on the image quality.

When using strobes, it doesn’t matter how deep you are, but without them, depending on the visibility of course, you can only get decent photos at depths of a few metres. I think most of these images are taken no deeper than 30m.

Shooting underwater is a completely different art form from taking photos above. The clarity in these images is a combination of choosing what to shoot and when, but even more it’s a technique thing, meaning, for example, how to place the strobes to “hide” the flying sand and silt, or how to optimise aperture and shutter speed. Also, being a pro with Photoshop does wonders!

 

A closeup of a clownfish hiding in an anemone

An angry clown fish among the anemone.

Do you do anything with your photographs – like share them with sites like Unsplash – or sell them? Where can we find more of your work?

Back in the day I was thinking of setting up a gallery or blog to showcase the images and describe the techniques behind them, but then I had so many of them that I ditched the idea. Now these thousands of images are just sitting at home on my backup hard drives waiting to be edited. :)

 

A closeup of plankton and sharp growths on a buoy line

A growth of razor-sharp ‘nasty things’ along the length of a buoy line.

You have so much in your archive of photos. Every now and then, do you feel like setting up a projector, grabbing some beer and going through them all?

I usually try to avoid that because it’s such an easy way to develop a huge travel fever, but I do use a lot of them as screen savers. And these underwater photos are just a part of my nature photography.

 

A closeup of a purple medusa in darkness

This medusa, shot in Thailand, was enormous – almost a meter wide at the body.

Any big plans for your next diving trip?

We have been planning for a longer live-abroad expedition to deep south Sudan, closer to the Eritrean border, for some time now, but so far no luck getting there. Indonesia and the Philippines are always on the list. Another place I want to go is the Molnár János caves under Budapest.

 

A closeup of a nudibranch sea slug resting on coral

A frilly little (less than 2 cm long) sea slug called a nudibranch.

Take a moment. Enjoy.