Above and below the water’s surface, British photographer Christopher Swann captures breathtaking images of cetaceans such as whales and dolphins. With over 25 years of experience diving with whales and dolphins and leading whale- and dolphin-watching vacations all over the world, the photographer has finely polished his understanding of their behaviors, allowing him to get up close and personal with them for intimate and eye-opening photographs.
Swann’s captivating photographs have a minimalist aesthetic, focusing on clean framing and delicate tones to bring out the delicacy of his subjects up close. Swann has been playing with a black-and-white approach recently, as evidenced by some of his most recent pictures, which he shared exclusively with us. Unexpected features, such as an orca glimpsed through watery ripples or the modest glint of a dolphin’s tail just below the surface of the water, are highlighted in these achromatic photos. The visuals are subtle and delicate, bringing the romance and beauty of the sea and its inhabitants to life.
Swann graciously agreed to answer a few questions on his love of shooting marine creatures. Check out the video below for the unique interview.
What is it about cetaceans like whales and dolphins that you are drawn to?
I’ve been sailing since I was 17 years old (40 years ago), and I adore the sea’s beauty and perfection. Cetaceans exemplify this, and nothing is more perfect underwater than a cetacean, but whales are truly exceptional. It’s breathtaking to see animals who are so massive yet so graceful, so at ease and at one with their surroundings.
Can you tell us about some of your latest images? What made you want to experiment with a new B&W aesthetic?
I’ve been experimenting with B&W for a while, but the brilliance of the blue brings most underwater photographs, especially those in clear water, to life. B&W, on the other hand, emphasizes when a detail or shape shines out.
How do you manage to get so up close and personal with your aquatic subjects?
For the past 25 years, I’ve been watching whales. It’s something I do on a daily basis. My desire to swim with cetaceans began when I ran whale-watching holidays in the Hebrides (on my 75-foot boat, the Marguerite Explorer; the company was called “Western Isles Sailing and Exploration Co. Ltd.”) on Scotland’s west coast and then in the Canary Islands–two very different locations: one cold and grey, the other in clear blue sunlit water. I’ve spent that time learning about a variety of animals and how they behave, as well as how to get yourself in the appropriate spot.
Starting in October 2016, you’ll be saying goodbye to the whale-watching vacation company and concentrate solely on photography. What are you most looking forward to in this new chapter of your life?
I’d love to be able to spend all of my time to photographing whales. Running [whale-watching] trips requires me to seize opportunities, sometimes navigating till the last possible moment and then sprinting up the deck, often with an obstructed vision, and continually positioning other people in the ideal position for a photo while I can only watch. For the next few years, I’d like to try to improve my photography, which means I’ll have to focus on it.