Crabeater seals on an iceberg in Antartica
Over the past few years, French photographer Greg Lecoeur has made a name for himself as one of the most succesful and prolific underwater shooters in the business, and his images have won many prestigous awards and contests. We recently caught up with Greg to find out what makes him so successful and what plans he has for the future.
DPG: How did you first get into underwater photography?
Ever since I was a teenager, I have been exploring the Mediterranean Sea, where I discovered the incredible biodiversity of marine life. I started to use a camera to share my experiences with family and friends who did not dive. After that, my underwater camera never left my side. Everything I know about underwater photography is self taught, and I have spent a long time practicing in the water and experimenting until my results improved.
DPG: What equipment do you use?
I currently use a Nikon D500 DSLR camera in a Nauticam NA-D500 housing. For wide-angle work I use a Tokina 10–17mm fisheye lens, and for smaller critters I switch between Nikon 60mm and Nikon 105mm macro lenses. My strobes are Ikelite DS161s.
Sperm whale portrait
Getting close to the action is important, even for giant subjects like this adult humpback whale
DPG: What is your favorite dive destination and why?
An interesting and difficult question to answer! For me every place on the planet has something to offer, and I like to get off the beaten track and discover interesting species in new locations. Some of my favorite dive destinations are the Galápagos, South Africa, Antarctica, and above all, the Mediterranean Sea.
DPG: You have had great success in photography contests. What advice do you have for our readers about how to approach shooting images for competitions?
The most important thing is to have fun and never obsess over a particular image. For contests, it is important to submit strong images that tell stories, and to do this, you need to spend time studying the behavior of your target species and understand their way of life and their environment. Also, never underestimate the importance of being in the right place at the right time! When selecting which images to submit, it is always complicated because what makes an image appealing is very subjective. Ask your friends and family for their opinion, and you will see how they interpret your images in different ways. I like to show my underwater pictures to children—they are my favorite audience.
Seals play with a starfish in Cabo, Mexico
A large pod of dolphins flies by
DPG: I know you enjoy exploring the open ocean and shooting pelagic marine life. Can you tell us a bit more about your Mediterranean expeditions and what makes them so special?
Yes, I really like the open sea for different reasons. I like being in the middle of the ocean with nothing around—I mean, far from civilization. In particular, I like to explore by sailing, to take the time to observe the slightest trace of life, and to understand the ecosystem of the open ocean. Sometimes, you won’t see anything for hours, but when you do finally discover life in the pelagic zone, it is very exciting. You never know what you’re going to find and when you jump into the crystal clear, deep blue water with big animals, it is always a special experience, especially in the Mediterranean Sea.
A seabird investigates what’s happening below the surface
Hunting blue marlin in Baja, Mexico
DPG: Your image of crabeater seals was a winner of this year’s Underwater Photographer of the Year contest. What is it like diving in Antarctica and what are the challenges of shooting in such extreme environments?
It’s cold! But it’s so exciting. During this particular expedition, with freedivers Guillaume Néry and Florian Fischer (from Behind The Mask), the water temperature was –1°C and we used 9mm wetsuits. The worst thing is that the hands and feet suffer the effects of vasoconstriction, and at times you are no longer able to feel your fingers or toes—which quickly puts an end to the dive. We were very lucky with the wildlife and the visibility, even though the weather conditions for sailing to the Antarctic Peninsula were very complex. I can say no more—I am currently working on the book for the expedition, which will be released at the end of this year.
A clownfish contrasts perfectly with its host anemone
A peacock mantis shrimp with its hands full!
DPG: Recently you have been involved in a number of research expeditions. Can you tell us a bit more about those and why you think it is important to take part in these projects?
I think that photography is a very powerful tool for communication. Through my images, I try to fascinate and captivate the public in order to make them aware of the need to protect the oceans and their marine life. Today, the time for raising awareness is over; we must take action. I try to be more involved in conservation projects and use the power of images to serve the environment. Also, the scientists are doing an exceptional job, but they do not receive enough recognition, so I try to help them with my name and my art. Most of all, it’s just great to be involved in these exciting projects with other experts in the field.
A colorful coral reef perfectly captured in the afternoon sun
DPG: Your images have a distinctive look. Can you tell us a little about your editing process and what software you use to enhance your images.
I edit my images in Adobe Lightroom, which is very easy to use and perfectly suits my needs. It’s true that I have a style and I think that is very important for any photographer. When I’m shooting underwater, I adjust my settings according to the post-production I’m going to apply. Then, I try to recreate the atmosphere observed through my mask in post by adjusting the brightness, contrast, white balance, and saturation.
DPG: What are your future plans and projects once we are able to travel freely and go diving again?
As I mentioned, I am working on a book about Antarctica, which has taken up a lot of my time, and I have been spending a lot of time in the Mediterranean preparing for another ambitious project. On top of that, I am working on a project with the apneist Pierre Frolla, and we plan to travel all over the world, starting with French Polynesia at the end of September.
Dolphins hunt a baitball during the sardine run in South Africa
Greg and his tools of the trade
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