Inspiration

My favourite ocean images of 2019 by Hannah Prewitt

Nikon Australia just posted the finalists for the Surf Photo of the Year competition. There are some amazing images in the final 20, but I’ll be honest, there are a couple that just don’t do it for me. I guess that’s part of the joy of photography - it’s all subjective. Anyway, in light of this competition, I thought I’d share 10 of my favourite ocean images that I’ve come across so far this year.

  1. Greg Lecoeur

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I believe this photo was taken in 2017, but Greg shared it on his Instagram this year. Greg Lecoeur is a french photographer who lives in the ocean and shoots all kinds of amazing marine creatures. But my favourite has to be this crazy cute shot of a sea lion sitting on the seafloor. He’s shot for National Geographic and all his photos are available to purchase as prints on his website.

2. Warren Keelan

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I couldn’t possibly create a portfolio of beautiful ocean images without including this guy. Warren is a seascape and ocean photographer based in New South Wales, and his photos are often abstract like this one. Absolutely beautiful! Check his website for prints.

3. Alex Voyer

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Alex is a french photographer who I believe spends a lot of time doing trips on this boat called Diatomée (but the website is all in french!). He shoots in some cold water and his freediving shots are also fantastic, but I’m just drawn to this incredible motion shot of this boat. He’s captured it in a way that makes me feel as if I’m on it too. Alex doesn’t seem to have a website but you can see more of his photos on his Instagram.

4. Mitch Gilmore

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Mitch lives on the Gold Coast and shoots solely with a GoPro. I love the clarity of the water he captures, and this shot where you can so clearly see the city too is just gold. Mitch doesn’t have a website but you can find more of his photography on his Instagram.

5. Jess Parkes

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Well it’s about time I included a female ocean photographer! Jess is based in Byron Bay and shoots all kinds of things but her ocean images are my favourite. She brings a feminine feel to the ocean. Jess also doesn’t have her own website but you can check her Instagram for more beautiful imagery.

6. Phil De Glanville

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Phil is another Aussie-based ocean photographer but he only uses a drone. I personally have a hard time enjoying aerial photos anymore, since the internet has become so saturated with them, but Phil brings a really unique style to drone imagery. His photos are moody and full of contrast and he quite often shoots my favourite animals - sharks. Check out more of his work on his Instagram.

7. Paul Smith

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Noosa-based photographer Paul Smith actually had an image included in the 20 finalists of the 2019 Nikon Surf Photo of the Year competition but I much prefer this one. He shot this on Noosa’s main beach during Cyclone Oma. I’ve seen this printed large in his gallery, and it’s simply stunning. Check out more of his work on his website.

8. Brandon Verdura

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I’ve admired Brandon’s work for quite some time. He’s based in Hawaii and his underwater images are high in contrast and moody - just the sort of stuff I love - but this image of palm trees reflecting in the water is one of those I could never get sick of looking at. You can see more of Brandon’s work on his website.

9. Kirvan Baldassari

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I only came across the work of this Tahitian photographer very recently and found his images to be very memorable. Living in the tropics he naturally shoots surfing, sharks, palm trees and beaches, but his wave photos are the ones that capture me. You can see more of his tropical images on his website.

10. Alana Spencer

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I’ve finished off with what is probably my favourite surf image of all time. Hawaiian-based photographer Alana Spencer is the name behind the brand Coconut Comradery. Her style is vintage-tropical and, similar to Jess Parkes (#5) she brings an air of femininity to her photos.

Thanks for reading! Hopefully I’ve introduced you to some new names that you might want to continue following. I’d love to know which one is your favourite. Leave me a comment below.


My favourite ocean images of 2019

Swimming with sharks in the Bahamas by Hannah Prewitt

December was a pretty crazy month for me. I left Fiji, flew to Australia, picked up a new underwater housing for my camera and flew to the Bahamas. There was a very good reason I was desperate to get a decent housing for my Nikon camera - I was going to swim in some beautiful clear water and with a lot of sharks.

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I was visiting my friend who is the part-owner of Ocean Fox dive centre on the island of Eleuthera. This very unknown but amazing place, also happens to be the host location of Shark School - a shark behaviour education program that enables anyone to swim safely with sharks. If I wanted to get some photos of sharks swimming in shallow water, this was the place to do it.

The first time I went in the water, we were just snorkelling and hoping to see something cool. We didn’t end up seeing any sharks, but I couldn’t believe how clear the water was (and I’m used to swimming in pretty clear water!). So I got my friend and my husband to freedive so I could get some beautiful underwater photos.

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Apparently this water isn’t even that clear compared to what it’s like in summer. Needless to say I’ll be visiting again in summer!

I was slightly disappointed we hadn’t seen any sharks on our snorkel, so the next day we went diving to a site where we were guaranteed to see them - the aptly named Shark City. As we pulled up to the site, there were sharks already swimming around the boat. It had been a pretty long time since I’d swum with sharks so I was VERY excited to get in the water. I remember rolling off the boat and looking down and seeing this:

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Not for one moment did I ever feel scared or threatened, but there is something very comforting about wearing dive gear. We pretty much spent the entire dive sat on the sand and watching the sharks swim up, check you out and then swim off. It was magic.

But deeper water isn’t really my thing from a photographic point of view. I wanted to see these animals just below the surface, under the natural light of the sun. So on the surface interval, I did just that. Following a very strict set of instructions on how to behave in the water, and what not to do to overexcite the sharks, I got in on my own to shoot. I hate to admit it, but this time, I WAS nervous.

And rightly so. Since there were no divers in the water this time, it looked more like this:

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This was shot at 16 mm, so these sharks were a lot closer than they appear. And there were lots of them. Some were about 6-7 ft long, which looks a lot bigger when it’s swimming straight towards you. The ocean was pretty choppy at the surface too, which made keeping my composure and shooting all the more difficult. I held onto the back of the boat by a rope, maintained a vertical position with my body and was careful not to kick bubbles into the sharks faces, and managed to get a few photos I was happy with.

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After this experience, I honestly wasn’t sure if I wanted to get back in the water snorkelling with them again. It was pretty nerve-wracking and difficult to shoot with intention. But I wanted more photos. So we decided to take a different approach and go without anyone else and just swim at the site without having dived beforehand. This way the sharks were much more relaxed and the whole experience was completely different.

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We still had to be careful not to excite the sharks by kicking too hard or splashing around, but we were able to freedive down and swim right next to them, which made it a lot easier to get photos.

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My aim with these images was to show sharks for what they really are - graceful and beautiful, and not at all interested in eating humans. However, they are to be respected and I wouldn’t recommend swimming in these conditions without understanding the species and how they interpret human behaviour in the water.

I would highly recommend this experience (in this location particularly) to anyone, especially if you are afraid of sharks. It was incredible and unforgettable and I’ll definitely be heading back when the water is even clearer!

If you have any questions at all or are interested in going here yourself, please feel free to contact me and I’ll put you in touch with the right people.

Swimming with sharks

Deconstructing my photos - October favourites by Hannah Prewitt

I’d never really thought about looking back at my past images until I read Mikko Lagerstedt’s blog post about how to find inspiration for your photography. By the way if you haven’t checked out his blog, please do. He’s one of the only photographers I’ve come across who write about his process to stay motivated and inspired, which is the kind of stuff I love to read.

Anyway, I got this idea from him to analyse my past work. The idea is that by focusing on the best images I’ve created, it will inspire me to create more, to help me find my direction, and also create work that others like to look at too (I know they say you should create for yourself but knowing that other people appreciate my work is part of what keeps me going). So I decided to start doing this for my most liked image (on the gram), and my personal favourite image each month. And I figured, if it helps me, then it might help you too.

So this first image has actually been my most liked on Instagram of all time, but it also happens to be one of my favourites.

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What is the main subject?

The ocean - shallow, clear, tropical water.

What colours are used?

An icy aqua blue.

What is the overall composition?

I’m asking myself this question because, if I’m honest, I feel that composition is the creative part of photography that I find the most difficult. But by studying this image, it’s actually really obvious that it’s horizontally symmetrical.

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What do you like about the image?

This shot draws me in. The perspective makes me feel like I am under the water right now. I also love the reflections on the surface.

What don’t you like about the image?

I wish it was just a little bit sharper, and less noise in the background.

How could you improve it?

I shot this at an aperture of f/8, so I could use a narrower aperture to achieve a greater depth of field. It could also be more interesting if there were something swimming in the background, so I could try a Photoshop addition.

This second shot is my personal favourite from the whole month. I just love it.

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What is the main subject?

An isolated tropical island.

What colours are used?

A steely blue and muted emerald green.

What is the overall composition?

The island is vertically centred in the image but the split in the ocean is slightly lower and adheres more to the rule of thirds. The clouds and vignette of the water also act as leading lines towards the island.

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What do you like about the image?

I love the colours and the simplicity of this shot. I also love that it’s not completely symmetrical. I think the clouds on the left side offset the shot nicely. 

What don’t you like about the image?

The water line is a bit too thick (which is because of my equipment) and there is a slight blur to the bottom of the island. I’d also like the seafloor to be a bit more in focus.

How could you improve it?

I could stop down the aperture from f/8 to achieve a deeper depth of field and pay closer attention to water droplets on my dome port.

I’ve asked myself some pretty basic questions here, but by doing so, it’s forcing me to analyse my images and hopefully help me to think more about future photos I take, rather than just clicking away.

I hope this helps you too, and if anyone needs some direction, I’d be more than happy to help!

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5 incredibly inspiring photography documentaries to kickstart your creativity by Hannah Prewitt

Ever find yourself in a creative slump? I do, quite often. I actually wrote a blog post about how to get out of one, which you can read here. My last suggestion in this post was to watch some inspiring documentaries or videos about photography. This is the one thing that always seems to work for me when I'm in need of a motivation boost. So I’d like to share with you my favourite videos, to save you from scouring the internet for your own. They’re all quite different, some are longer than others, but I personally find them all incredibly inspiring, and I hope you do too!

1.     ARCTIC SWELL – SURFING THE ENDS OF THE EARTH

This documentary is similar to the one on Netflix called Under an Arctic Sky, which is an absolute must-see. This shorter video goes more behind the scenes with photographer Chris Burkard and his expeditions to the arctic to shoot surfers in freezing water. Even if you’re not interested in surfing or photography, you might feel inspired by his pure dedication to his craft.

2.     CAPTURING THE PERFECT WAVE WITH PHOTOGRAPHER CLARK LITTLE

This short video from Nikon Europe documents the story of Clark Little and how he got into photography. He started photography later in life with no formal education, just like myself, so I personally find this one really inspirational to me.

3.     NIKON D5: INSPIRED – BEHIND THE SCENES

This is a promo video from Nikon Asia for the Nikon D5 and shot exclusively on the Nikon D5. It goes behind the scenes with a fashion photographer, sports photographer, wildlife photographer, a photojournalist, and a motorsports photographer. Even though I’m not particularly interested in all these types of photography, I find each person inspirational in the way they talk so passionately about their work.

4.     NINE PHOTO COMPOSITION TIPS (FT. STEVE MCCURRY)

As someone who learnt photography almost entirely from YouTube, I’ve watched a lot of photography tutorials. This short 3-minute video stayed with me as one to remember. The tips are to-the-point, easy to understand and inspirational for a reason that I can’t quite put my finger on.

5.     DAVID YARROW REVEALS HIS PHOTOGRAPHY SECRETS – LEARN PHOTOGRAPHY

This last one is possibly my favourite. I find David Yarrow very likeable and his work is simply jaw-dropping. He claims that in 12 months, he takes only 6 great images. Again, I think I’m inspired by his dedication to getting that perfect shot. If you only watch one of these videos I’ve suggested, make sure it’s this one.

best inspirational photography videos

How I've improved my photography this year by Hannah Prewitt

This year seems to have been a bit of a turning point for my photography career. It is not yet my full-time job, but I have been putting in some ground work so that hopefully one day, I can call myself a full-time professional photographer. While it’s great to keep planning for the future, it’s good sometimes to look back and see how far I’ve come. So here are some things that I’ve done this year that have helped me on my path.

I tried some different styles of photography. Even though I’m pretty certain that ocean photography is my favourite type, there’s no point in restricting myself to just that. And I would like to be a bit of a jack of all trades, since most people assume that if you call yourself a photographer, that you can do any type of photography. So I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried my hand at some portraits, night photography, and motion blurs.

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I’ve watched tonnes of YouTube tutorials. The great thing about photography these days is that you can learn everything about it online. There is so much material out there (most of it good), and I’ve made the time to sit and watch a lot of videos to teach myself how to use Photoshop, how to do astro photography, how to take portraits etc. Listed below are some of my favourite channels:

Phlearn – I’ve used this channel a lot to learn how to use Photoshop. This is such a complicated program, and these are the only tutorials I’ve found that actually explain why you’re doing what you’re doing. They also do some great Lightroom tutorials as well.

Mango Street – I love how concise and to-the-point these videos are. I also love how dedicated this couple are to achieving their goals. My favourite video from this channel is the one about their first year on YouTube.

Peter McKinnon – this guy managed to get more than 1 million subscribers in just one year for a reason. His videos can be a little long-winded sometimes but his tutorials are great. Check out his Two Minute Tuesday playlist for short tutorials.

Julia Trotti – Julia’s channel is based around portrait and fashion photography, which is not an area of particular to me, but I really enjoy her behind-the-scenes vlogs. She also posts some good tutorials for editing portraits, which is what I used to help me edit the few portraits I’ve done.

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I’ve networked. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt this year, it’s that networking is the most important thing you can do to advance your brand. Nowadays it’s unbelievably easy to network using social media, so there’s really no excuse to not do it.

I reached out to some brands. I contacted a brand that suited my style of photography and asked them for some products to shoot. I thought it was a long shot at the time, but they’d re-posted a couple of my shots on Instagram so I figured they must like my work. To my surprise and delight, they got straight back to me and let me choose whatever I wanted from their website in exchange for some marketing photos.

I wrote some tutorials. I believe that the best way to learn something properly is to teach it to someone else. So I challenged myself to write some tutorials on subjects that I felt comfortable with – taking split photos and motion panning photos.

All these things have helped me progress with my photography skills as well as helped with getting my work out there for people to see. If anybody else has some ideas, I'd love to hear them! Just leave them in the comments below.

Photography blog - How I've improved my photography

How to get out of a creative slump by Hannah Prewitt

Like most creatives, I go through serious ups and downs with my photography. I can go weeks sometimes without picking up a camera. If I were to pick one up, I just wouldn't know what to shoot. The motivation is just not there. I don't enjoy these slumps and they can be difficult to get out of. One thing I try not to do is to beat myself up about it. It will naturally come to an end and you will be creative once again. The one thing that helps me more than anything else is to find inspiration from other photographers. 

If any of you are currently experiencing the same thing, hopefully these tips will help you to re-discover your creativity.

Create a board on Pinterest called "Why do I love these photos?" Scour the internet for photos that catch your eye for whatever reason, and save them to your board. You can make this board secret on Pinterest so you don't have to worry about other people seeing what you're pinning. When I did this for the first time I discovered that I actually like different types of images to the ones I’m creating. Most of the images I saved were minimalistic, simple, calm. These are the images that I’m drawn to. Since then I’ve found that I’ve started seeing things slightly differently, and have started creating similar images, like these:

Try a new type of photography. As many of you know, I usually photograph the tropics, particularly the ocean. Recently I was at home in the UK and didn't have any subjects that would suit my current style. So I decided to try my hand at portrait photography. Something I'd never tried before. My twin sister was a willing model and we just practiced taking simple portraits in the garden. This also forced me to learn how to do skin re-touching in Photoshop - a skill that will always be useful.

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Step away from the camera AND social media. The photography world is oversaturated thanks to iPhones and Instagram. Everyone calls themselves a photographer these days. It’s easy to see all these accounts that have large followings and feel depressed about your own work. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to relieve yourself of the pressure to take a photo that other people will like and just enjoy being outside in the environment that you would usually shoot, but camera-free. See things through your eyes for a while rather than through a lens.

Find great photography blogs to follow. My absolute favourite blog site for photographers is by Kat Nielsen of @the.creative.series. She has taken the time to put together interviews from tons of different types of photographers so there's something for everyone. You can find her work here. Incidentally, I'm featured in the Ocean Photographers section :)

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Watch inspirational photography videos or documentaries. There's lots of inspiring stuff on Netflix but there's also a lot on Youtube. I love this short film from Nikon that advertises the D5 by giving it to various photographers to test.

I hope these tips help you a little. If you have any other ideas, I'd love to know! Please leave them in the comments below.

Photography inspiration - How to get out of a creative slump

What equipment do you use? by Hannah Prewitt

I think this is the question that photographers get asked more than any other. I actually find it slightly offensive - as if the only reason I've managed to take a good photo is because I have an expensive camera. That's not true. Give an amazing camera to someone who doesn't know how to use it and see for yourself that it's not all about equipment.

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I bought my first camera four years ago, and I still use it now. I bought it because I wanted a camera and underwater housing package that was reasonably priced and decent enough quality to take good shots in shallow water. Nothing too fancy. The camera itself is an Olympus Pen E-PL5, which is a Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera. It has a cool flip-out touch screen and is super lightweight and easy to travel with. It came with a 14-42 mm kit lens, which is wide enough for me to snap some decent half and half photos.

Olympus underwater housing

The housing I use is pretty basic. It's the Olympus PT-EP10 housing, which comes with a standard flat port, but I also purchased a dome port from Zen Underwater. I've had this camera for 4 years and only had to replace the o-ring once. Now I'm spending more and more time in the water shooting, I'd really love to upgrade this setup!

Nikon camera equipment

The rest of my equipment is Nikon. Lots of people make a fuss about what brand you use, but I really don't think it matters. I chose Nikon because the person who inspired me to buy a camera was a Nikon user, and helped me choose my equipment. If he had been a Canon user, I would be a Canon user as well.

I have two camera bodies - a full frame D750 and a D7200 crop frame. Why do I need two cameras? Because cameras fail. If you're serious about being a professional photographer, you need a back-up camera. Also, the crop frame helps me get even closer when I'm shooting surfers from a distance.

Nikon lenses

I have four lenses. A Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8 prime lens, which is my most recent purchase and is the widest aperture lens I have. A Nikkor 24-120 mm kit lens, which came with the D750 and is a decent all-rounder if you need something versatile. I have a Nikkor 16-35 mm f/4 as my wide angle, which is my favourite lens for landscapes and if I had a housing, I'd take this lens underwater as well. Then I have a Nikkor 80-400 mm telephoto lens, which is the monster on the right. The shots I can get of surfers from a distance with this lens are incomprehensibly sharp. I also get a lot of compliments from strangers when I'm walking round with this bad boy.

And that's it. I have a Pelican case that I take as carry-on when I travel and I just about manage to fit everything in it if I pack it in a very specific way! It fits every airline dimension restrictions but if I'm honest, it weighs about 15kg when full. Somehow I've gotten away with it every time...