Love of Photography

Two white rhinoceroses MadeleinWolf photography  

Two White Rhinos playing, Private Game Reserve, South Africa

Underwater Photography

Right after completing my Open Water scuba certification in 2013, I bought my first underwater setup. It was a Canon Powershot S95 compact camera with an Ikelite housing.

Scuba diving was very scary to me in the beginning but having the camera distracted me from the anxiety I often felt. It kept me going back for more. I have been diving for almost 10 years now, having a camera from my sixth or seventh open water dive. I can count on one hand the number of times I did not have a camera with me on a dive ever since.

Scuba diving SharkAlley

A picture of me in the very beginning holding my Canon S95

We mainly dive in False Bay, Cape Town, which is one of the more challenging places to scuba dive. This is mostly because of the cold water temperatures and lower visibility ranges. As you may know, light and color disappear very quickly underwater. Especially on deeper dives or in lower visibility.

I decided to get a strobe light to add to my little underwater housing. This single addition to the setup completely changed my pictures. The strobe supplies much-needed light which helps with sharp focus and colour.

A Snuous sea fan taken without a strobe light An orange Flagellar sea fan taken with strobe light

Image of the reef without a strobe light (left) and with a strobe light (right)

A Flow State

Taking pictures underwater became therapy for me. Photography is one of the disciplines in my life where I get into flow fairly easily. Flow is where you enter into a state of mind where you become fully immersed in an activity. It’s a state of focus where you are highly involved and absorbed in what you are doing. You are fully present. Experiencing this creates great enjoyment and energy.

Once my head goes below the surface I slip into a special head-space where I’ts me, nature, and my camera. Everything else fades away completely. Sometimes I listen to my breath, here, my mind is at ease and highly focussed. Time flies by, I lose track of it. Actions and thoughts automatically flow one after the other with my whole being actively involved. I always have the feeling of excited anticipation of what marine life we might see on every dive. Taking diver portraits on our stunning reefs is just as exciting, I love finding pretty corners and swim-throughs to position the divers in.

My first setup and upgrade

Upgrading to DSLR

The compact setup was great and I got wonderful shots using it. But I started feeling limited by the gear, the slow shutter release of the compact camera was especially frustrating. I missed a lot of great moments ending up having way too many pictures of fish backsides.

For this reason, I upgraded to a DSLR. This was a big jump, it takes some getting used to maneuvering a large underwater setup like this. It can also become quite an expedition when we travel and I have to haul this thing around airports, buses, and taxis with me. But I would never complain, It’s worth it.

Transitioning to Mirrorless

Madelein Wolf underwater photographer

Silhouette of me descending into the kelp forest with my camera

I started doing photography professionally and not just as a hobby anymore and this led me to look into moving to a full-frame camera. My cameras were getting old and it was time for an upgrade. I was impressed by the great functions and perks of the mirrorless cameras and got one to level up my underwater photography.

I still use both my underwater setups and sometimes take both with me when I cannot decide between macro and wide-angle lenses for the dive.

My Brand Preferences

 

Canon 750D with Ikelite underwater setup

Camera-wise, I have always used Canon. I have a Canon 750D in an Ikelite housing as well as a Canon EOS R6 in an Ikelite housing with two Sea&Sea strobes. I have considered a more lightweight setup than the ones I currently have since we travel a lot. But I would probably get frustrated with having limited functionality especially when traveling.

What I Would Like to Achieve with My Photography

Conservation

Hawksbill turtle Eretmochelys imbricata madelein wolf photography

Hawksbill sea turtle Critically Endangered (Population decreasing)

The biggest thing that I want to achieve with my photography is to show people the wonders of nature and the ocean. Conveying my love and passion in the hope that at least some of it rubs off on others. We protect what we love, and the ocean desperately needs just that. Conservation photography is definitely what it’s all about for me, through education and awareness. 

Art

Different tropical fish silhouettes with sunrays shining into the water madelein wolf photography

Tropical fish lit from behind with sun rays

Photography is a way I express myself artistically. The colors of the reef and the vibrance of the sea animals. The beauty of dispersing light rays underwater or especially soft colors lit by ambient sunlight penetrating through the surface. All of this makes creating underwater pictures so wonderful and multifaceted.

Being able to share this with others is very rewarding. I count myself incredibly lucky to see and experience the wonderful things the underwater world offers, which many people never get to see.

Connection

Connecting with nature is an important part of life, it’s a very spiritual experience for me. If we are open and aware, nature lends us glimpses of connection, moments that truly imprint on our souls. I want this for my photography, connecting people to the ocean and nature, igniting a spark in them.

Bottlenosed dolphins Madelein Wolf photography

Bottlenosed dolphins, KwaZulu Natal

Teaching Photography

This is another thing I love. How much better can it get than sharing my passion with others? This is yet another way to inspire future conservationists, creating awareness and most of all, stirring a love for the ocean and its inhabitants in people.

If you’re keen on getting more serious about underwater photography, you can check out this course: PADI Digital Underwater Photography. Not a PADI-qualified diver? Then this course is for you: Underwater Photography Course.

Not a scuba diver yet? Why not book a try-scuba experience to see what it's all about?

m wolf photography ppJpeg

My Canon R6 underwater setup

I don’t know where this journey will lead, but I'm enjoying the ride.

We Protect what we Love. Join the movement!

by Madelein Wolfaardt
All images ©️ by @sealife_madeleinwolf

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