Last year photographer Kelvin Trautman joined swimmer and ocean advocate Lewis Pugh as he attempted to become the first person to do a long-distance swim in each of the Seven Seas: the Mediterranean, Adriatic, Aegean, Black, Red, Arabian and North Sea. This aim of the Seven Seas Expedition was to highlight the need for and importance of Marine Protected Areas. Red Bull Illume caught up with Kelvin to discuss how the shoots went…
How did you prepare?
For this expedition, I spent a couple months doing long ocean swims to build up endurance and breath hold exercises so as to improve the time I could spend shooting underwater – in terms of the latter I had decided going into the expedition that, when shooting underwater I wanted to free dive rather than use any scuba equipment because of the flexibility it would give me.
What are some of the challenges you faced on this project?
As with most expeditions, a lack of time was our biggest challenge. Our travel schedule was really tight, leaving only two or three days in each location. This meant our shoot days were jam-packed but which also meant we had no contingency weather or logistic days to play with – we all needed a holiday after three weeks of this back-to-back schedule!
Any close shaves?
Capturing Lewis swimming between big oil tankers in the Bosphorus – the narrow stretch of water that runs through Istanbul and which joins the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara – was a little hair-raising. On this particular shoot day we had gale force winds, cold water temps, strong currents and irate shipping owners to deal with!
How important was your participatory approach to telling the story?
Very important. I looked to swim with Lewis, my underwater housing in tow, for as long as possible during each of the 7 swims for two reasons. One, if any of you have swum before you’ll know how lonely and detached this form of exercise is and so I wanted to try get the layman at home to relate to this swimmer perspective. And two, coupled with the obvious fact that the world beneath the surface looks and feels vastly different to that above, the purpose of the expedition was to raise awareness to as much beauty as well as destruction in each of the 7 Seas marine environs.
What gear did you use?
In the water I mostly shot with Nikon D800 and a 16mm fisheye in an SPL housing.
Any tips on how to shoot with a waterproof housing?
Two things. One, remember saliva and saltwater are your two best ingredients in making a solution that prevents water droplets from sticking to your lens port. And two, remember your underwater housing is very buoyant and so if you plan on shooting below the surface then you likely to need a weight belt to keep you down.
Let’s just say I have started to do some cold swim water training!
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