This month we have a guest post from the lovely Kate Westaway, who’s been taking amazing underwater pictures of our Water Babies for 11 years.
I was always interested in photography in my teens and I had always loved the sea (I grew up in a seaside town in South Devon and spent most of the summers at the beach in the water). It was while on a diving conservation expedition to Tanzania as part of my gap year that I decided I wanted to become an Underwater Photographer. So when I returned home, I secured a place at Falmouth College of Art to study it - and I’ve never looked back.
It's a tricky subject to master and I’m always learning. Over the years I’ve found the best way to improve my work has been to keep doing personal underwater projects alongside my regular work, as these challenge me to try out new ideas. I'm proud of all of my work, but that doesn't mean I always like it. It’s always going to mean something different to me than to anyone else that sees it, as I have the memory of taking it and all the connotations of the day. As a photographer it's important to understand your target audience, and often the pictures that I like best are not the ones that sell. I don't believe in favourites - or should I say, I have a different favourite every day. I would say that regularly in my top ten is a black and white of two dolphins that I took in South Africa. One of the main rules in underwater photography is to reduce the water column, which means get as close to your subject as possible; but I actually like to give my subjects some space and the chance to breathe. The dolphin image has a lot of space around it, and because of this I find it very calming.
Another of my top ten is a picture of a Humpback Whale calf that I display upside down.This image has great memories for me: I spent an hour in the water with this calf and he was doing his acrobatics the whole time! The reason I like to turn this one upside down is because it then looks like it’s been shot in a studio, which would obviously be impossible!
I've worked for Water Babies for 11 years now and I love it. No two babies are the same – they all swim differently - so each one is a challenge, meaning I never get bored of trying to get the perfect shot, and I love the variety of poses that we capture. In the pool I use a Nikon D3 camera in a professional underwater housing. The whole process is very fast and the babies are constantly moving, so as a photographer you have to really focus your mind to make sure that you get the babies framed in the centre in a great position. In this day and age, where everyone has a camera phone, it’s easy for people to take photographs for granted. But what we do is highly specialised and takes a lot of training, skill and experience - all the Water Babies photographers and dipographers are providing a professional service to capture an image of a baby underwater. The babies’ welfare is the most important priority throughout the process, and that’s why we aim to give them just three underwater dips in front of the camera. So for the most part, we get three chances to get the best shots possible (giving a total of up to 9 images to choose from). Whereas on land (in a studio) you could shoot all morning and take 500 images of one baby to try and get that one perfect shot, we don't have that luxury underwater: we’re trying to get that one amazing shot in a tiny window of opportunity. I only wish my parents had done this with me as a baby, but I'm so old I don't think it existed back then ;)
PS. If you’d like to see more of my work, have a look at my website