Underwater photographer Francis Pérez won the single shot Nature category this year and, here, reveals how it has changed his life.
When you saw the sea turtle, was your first reaction to help it or to photograph it?
“Naturally I wanted to do both. But, of course, I first checked it over and made sure it was not in distress before I took pictures. I was with another diver at the time, just off the coast of Tenerife and we spent a couple of minutes with it before we cut the net off and watched it swim away. In the Canary Islands, strong currents from the Atlantic Ocean sometimes carry the turtles close to the land and on this occasion the sea was so flat and calm that we could see it very clearly under the water. I knew it would make for a breathtaking photograph.”
What makes your approach to photographing underwater different to others?
“I am a quiet person and my friends tell me that my pictures show that same peace and calm that I enjoy in my life. I prefer wide-angle views and I feel that my preferred choice of lenses allows me to show that peace and tranquility when I am underwater.”
How challenging is making a living as a freelance photographer?
“It’s not easy for a wildlife photographer to make a living. For an underwater photographer it is harder still. But having won this prize, I am busier now for sure!”
How did you feel when you first heard the news that you had won an award?
“It was actually quite funny how I found out that I had won. After submitting my entry, I was asked to send in the RAW file [standard procedure to clarify authenticity] so I knew that they liked the image but then I heard nothing more. On the day World Press Photo announced the winners I went to check the website but it was down. As I was doing that I got an email from them saying I had won the first prize in Nature! I couldn’t believe it, I cried a little bit, then I called my parents and my wife and asked them to check the site because I thought I was dreaming.”
How will this award help your career?
“It gives me visibility. In this world that is important, especially for what I do. It’s as simple as that. I have been entering this contest for many years and finally I have won.”
What camera do you use?
“I have been using the 5D series for many years. I love the full frame, the size of the camera is perfect for underwater shooting and the focusing is exceptional when it is in a Seacam housing. Even when the water is not very clear it can still focus very well. I use the 5D Mark III with the EF8-15mm and 15mm Fisheye lenses most of the time. The Fisheye is the king of the ocean.”
What did you learn from taking this picture? Did you know it was going to be a special one?
“I knew it was going to be a powerful image because the turtle is looking straight into the lens. The water was really clear and the sea turtle was face to face with me; the picture is like an arrow to your hearts.”
A loggerhead sea turtle swims entangled in abandoned fishing gear off the coast of Tenerife, Canary Islands, in the northeast Atlantic Ocean. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens; the exposure was 1/125sec at f/9, ISO 200.
© Francis Pérez