From a wide-eyed kid fawning over underwater Jacque Cousteau movies, to a dive shop owner and underwater photographer today, Kriss Sieniawski is living the life he dreamed of as a child. He shares his experiences with underwater photography, challenges and tips on his craft. (Photos by: Kriss Sienawski, Text by: Natalie Koh)
Hailing from Warsaw, Poland, Kriss Sieniawski grew up watching underwater explorer and filmmaker Jacque Cousteau's movies. "It made a strong impression on me, and made me dream of becoming an underwater filmmaker and photographer," Kriss reminisces.
Now, his dream has become a reality. Currently based in Bali, Indonesia, Kriss runs his own dive shop and spends his days diving in the deep sea - always with his underwater camera. It's a habit he developed since his days as a diving instructor in Egypt back in 2012.
Perhaps the most admirable thing about his underwater escapades is that it requires a certain level of expertise in two areas: underwater photography and diving.
"The absolutely most important thing in underwater photography is to be a good diver and especially maintain very good buoyancy which will allow you to focus on your camera," Kriss says.
Then, of course, comes your photography equipment.
"As a beginner you can start with compact cameras with underwater housings. These days you can find really sophisticated compact cameras on the market which can also shoot great videos. It's essential to know your camera well," he opines.
"For more advanced photographers I recommend DSLR cameras with external strobes," suggests Kriss, who uses a EOS 6D full frame DSLR with Sea & Sea underwater housing and two underwater strobes, also Sea & Sea YS – D1.
If you're looking for the bare basics of underwater photography, Kriss recommends the PADI Underwater Digital Photographer course. "It will give you elementary knowledge about underwater lighting, framing and composition," he says.
That said, even with your photography techniques nailed down, knowing how to approach underwater creatures is an art in itself.
He shares: "I must say that the biggest challenge is taking pictures of big animals like great manta rays, whale sharks, schooling barracudas and turtles."
"The best results you can get using a super wide angle lens but it means you need to get very close to your subject matter. Animals are shy and it is really easy to scare them away. You need to approach slowly and be careful of the bubbles you exhale (they produce the sound which can scare away the animals). In many cases you need to swim against the current which is not easy to stay calm in the same time."
It's easy to get lost in the moment and forget how dangerous underwater photography can be, but personal safety is one of them most important things to think about when submerged. "When you are taking underwater images you need to stay aware, stay with your partner and keep checking your air level, depth and deco."
As a parting note, Kriss offers a last piece of advice. "What I can tell amateur photographers is to do as much photography as they can. Experience is a key. Take many pictures, look at many pictures from other photographs. Learn about composition, framing and lighting - and get good a Canon DSLR camera," he finishes with a smile.
Based in Bali, Indonesia, Kriss Sieniawski hails from Warsaw, Poland and currently runs a dive shop in Bali. His two deepest passions, diving and photography, are interwoven as his dive trips often double up as underwater photography excursions, bringing viewers a unique view of the fantastical world of the enigmatic deep sea.