7 Questions – Nicky Taylor, Author and Underwater Photographer

29th April 2012   |   Jackie Hutchings

New star, Nicky Taylor, is fast establishing a reputation as a leading landscape and underwater photographer.  He has lived most of his life overseas in South America, Canada, Europe, Australia and the Caribbean. His extensive landscape, seascape, and underwater photography reflects this global perspective. He has been published in various international newspapers and magazines, including “El Pais” and “La Provincia” in Madrid, and “Tangent Fashion” in Sydney.  You can buy his book, ‘The Return to Beauty’ here.

When did you first take up underwater photography?

I remember my first experience underwater with my camera very vividly.  17 Jan 2009 –  the day after certifying for open water. And let me assure you, no amount of warning, or practice on land, can prepare you for the physical and technical differences in photographing underwater.

Having been sitting in England during the winter,  deciding that winter was not for me, I chose to follow up on my interest in diving. My diving background was limited at that stage – I had only actually made one single deep sea dive in Sharm el Sheikh, a year or so previously. I decided it was time to go pro. (You can imagine the look on the dive centre owners’ faces when I told them this story.)

I had just finished working abroad, photographing different events and so had a little cash burning a hole in my pocket. Enough to just get me through an internship and support myself while doing so. Determination got me through. 6 months later I was a qualified dive master. A must if you want to be taken seriously working underwater.

Taking the next step up the instructor ladder happened about a year later, with another return trip to ‘Dive Academy’, an English-speaking dive centre where safety is at the heart of all the fun training.

What was the first underwater photograph you took that you were proud of?

To be honest, I don’t think it was until May 2010, just after a year of being qualified, that I really started to match the same quality of photograph underwater that I took on land. Again in Gran Canaria. A place I will always think of as home with my dive family.

At a dive site called ‘La Catedral’. Which also appears in my recent book (more on that later). This was an amazing volcanic maze, which had slipped into the water from volcanic eruptions in years gone by. A must for divers who love the geological aspect of diving.

What inspired you to take up photography as a career?

I have a passion for photography, that comes from my passion for nature. As a young child living in the countryside I would go for epic walks sometimes lasting from sunrise to sunset, fascinated by different objects that caught my eye.

I used to photograph all the wonderful things to prove there were indeed strange creatures and places all  around us. From here, I guess, I developed an eye for photography (since I was terrible at sketching) and so ended up finding myself not leaving the house without some kind of camera on me.

After a long while and with a little push from people around me. It dawned on me that I had a passion that wouldn’t go away, and a skill that was, in some small way, unique.

What is your favourite dive site where you’ve taken your best underwater photographs?

Well that’s easy. Last year I was lucky enough to be offered a job photographing on the Great Barrier Reef. I had heard so many different people telling me both of the extremes, of the beauty, and of the destruction, on the Great Barrier Reef. So I leapt at the opportunity to find out for myself.

One word sums it up – “stunning”. I was lucky enough to be doing “a liveaboard,” on a boat that was able to go out past the usual day boat sites, and off out into the vast expanse of reef to explore. Even as far as Osprey Reef nearly 350km out from Cairns.

From this opportunity alone, I got some of my best photographs to date. “Sweet Lips” from the ‘Entrance’ on Osprey. And also some great macro work on ‘Steve’s Bommie’.

Where did the inspiration come from to publish your book, The Return to Beauty?

Loving my photography and the art world, it dawned on me from going to see other peoples work, that they seem to be drifting away from what is obvious, to you and me, as natural beauty and replacing it with what I like to call ‘shock photography’. The book titled ‘The Return To Beauty’ itself is almost a rebellion against ‘fashionable art,’  against the obsession with the shocking and grotesque, and a return to the world of natural abstraction and scene. In my opinion people try too hard to blur the line of identifiable art. So my book came about as I wanted to show a wider audience that there are still places worth going to see.  I hold such an opinion on the world, and words never quite describe what I want them to. So the book explains it all.

What’s your favourite photograph in the book and why?

That’s a tough one. Obviously each individual photograph is special to me in its own right.

But I think if I had to choose one overground, and one underwater, then my choices would be:-  ‘Mavillette Beach’ on land, this secluded beach was the final destination for many happy days, not only that but the extreme textures and the form of the rock explain the message so clearly of the force of Nature’s destructive, yet beautiful force.

Underwater, I think the photograph titled ‘Stealth Bomber’ taken in St Lucia, would be my favourite in the book.

This was my first encounter with a shark, so you can imagine the blood pressure levels while taking the photograph. That was the defining moment that made me go from dive master to instructor, back in 2010. I WANTED MORE.

It’s 2020 – what’s happened in your life?

Humm, 2020 and the phone rings and it’s Canon, they are just about to release a new camera and value my opinion so much they want me to go and shoot some test shots for them, but then the other line’s ringing and I have National Geographic on the line, and they are asking me if I would be interested in a deep sea submarine dive in search of new species underwater. Great I think I can test this camera. Ha-ha…. people have to have dreams.

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