Entering the World of Underwater Wildlife Photography

From a young age, Darren Jew has wanted to do exactly what he is doing now. He has the incredibly cool job of being an underwater photographer and he loves every aspect of it—from the way the light falls in the sea to the powerful experience of swimming with whales. Jew is so passionate about what he does and says being able to share intimate moments with the animals he photographs is a real privilege:

For nearly 30 years Jew has been a nature, underwater and tourism photographer. Of all the amazing places and things he has been fortunate enough to shoot, his favorite is the deep, mysterious world of the ocean.

He especially loves photographing whales and this passion brings him back to the islands of Tonga every year. He describes the spot as a Pacific paradise, saying the water there can be crystal clear, with unmatched visibility.

Jew admits that even after so many years of photographing whales, he is still in awe of their power, their grace, their acceptance of him when he’s in the water, and what they offer up in terms of photographic opportunity.

photographing whales

“Imagine swimming from the boat, over a bottomless sea, shafts of light dancing through the water, and then the lip of a cave which opens up into a huge cavern the size of a cathedral. It’s like another world. It’s the sort of place you can photograph for hours and hours and hours as the light transitions. Time just disappears. You’re just in there, you’re photographing, everything’s changing before you and you just don’t want to leave.”


The thing about shooting in the deep, vast sea, where he can just forget about time, spending hours exploring caves or watching wildlife, is that he needs his gear to be reliable.

Jew shoots on the Canon EOS-1D X because he likes its responsiveness and ability to shoot in low light. He typically uses EF16-35mm f/2.8L II and EF 8-15mm f/4L fisheye lenses and Nauticam underwater housings.

Since he puts so much effort into capturing the best shots he possibly can, Jew says it’s important to transition that into final print.

“I feel a photograph isn’t really complete until it’s been printed. It is the final expression of what my vision was when I took the picture.”

To get the high quality prints he wants, he uses Canon large format printers and the PIXMA Pro range.

He tries to show images of the moments that are most important to him, the ones that touched him, the ones he feels are the most descriptive of the experience he has when he’s under the sea.

photographing ocean wildlife

Darren Jew is so grateful for the opportunities and experiences he has had as an underwater photographer. He says that to be able to capture these meaningful moments and show people what can be achieved is one of the things he really loves to do. And he urges aspiring photographers to find their passion and share it.

“If you’ve got a passion for photography, there’s no reason why you can’t make it your life. It’s a fulfilling career, gives you so much; you just need dedication and you need persistence.”

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