Some divers learn their love for the ocean on some tropical reef during vacation—but not underwater photographer Mark Fuller.
Desperate to spend more time in the water whatever means necessary, Fuller began working as a diver at a local fish farm where his love for the ocean really took off. Here, his co-workers pushed Fuller towards underwater photography—and it didn’t take long for him to become fully immersed in the art.
In only five years of shooting underwater, Fuller’s photos have nabbed numerous awards including top finishes in the Our World Underwater, University of Miami, World Shootout, and Epson International photo competitions. But Mark’s journey to the podium and pages hasn’t been an easy one—often working to refine difficult techniques like super macro snooting and double exposures.
DPG: Living near the Red Sea, you have access to some of the best diving and underwater photography in the world—what’s that like?
MF: It's wonderful! I'm only a 30-minute drive from Eilat, so having the privilege of being so close and able to spontaneously decide to go diving is great. Having all my dive gear and a full tank always ready means I can jump in when ever I have free time, night or day.
DPG: What are some of your favorite underwater photography opportunities in the Red Sea?
MF: The Red Sea has some of the best visibility in the world, so both wide angle and macro are possible. We have beautiful soft corals and a few wrecks here in Eilat that make for great wide-angle images. But to be honest, I love the macro opportunities the most. I’ve adapted a very slow dive style, often sticking to one or two subjects for the entire dive rather than drifting and snapping. If I need to I will do multiple dives at the same spot.
DPG: Your love for macro is pretty evident. What approach do you take to photographing the ocean’s miniature wonders?
MF: I like getting close, as close as possible. So my patience has improved a lot. I tend to really concentrate on composition. When shooting at high magnifications, even being slightly off angle makes a major difference in the end result, whether you are after a large area being sharp or wanting a bokeh effect.
I also have many images in my head that I haven't taken yet, so when I see an opportunity, I strive to produce something similar to what’s in my head. Having the right gear is important as well. I love my +10 SubSee.
DPG: Your macro work is also creative—in fact, you even wrote the DPG technique article on double exposures. Can you talk about your approach to techniques like these?
MF: After getting the hang of macro photography I started getting a little bored, so I started experimenting with double exposures before I entered a shootout competition, a few years ago. I really enjoy this technique, there are some challenges I enjoy, especially like keeping the background black which isn't always easy and of course shooting moving subjects. It takes a lot of dive time and cursing tends to increase as well. I enjoy back lighting and snooting too. Keeping photography creative and coming up with new ideas helps me stay hungry and motivates me to keep improving.
MF: For me it is. Most of the time I will prefer an image with two subjects, over the same image with just one subject even if the image is only 50 percent “real.” Double exposure gives us the tool to create this. If the photographer has the patience and creativity to explore this technique I'm sure they will agree it’s worth it.
DPG: I know you have an obsession with photographing fish yawns—what is it about them that you love?
MF: I think capturing an emotion, movement or behavior in underwater photography makes an image so much more powerful. Capturing fish yawning especially in super macro does just this for me—I get great joy from this. Having said this, it can also be extremely challenging. We can all be in the right place at the right time, but trying to capture a yawn by plan isn't that simple—you have to have a little luck as well. All these elements keep me continuing to capture yawns.
DPG: Your photos have won awards at several major competitions. Is there a shot that stands out as your favorite? Why?
MF: I couldn't possibly choose just one, but there are two that happen to be in my mind at the moment. The first is of a grouper getting a scrubbing from cleaner fish. This was a lucky day, being at the right place at the right time. The second is a shot from below a underwater photographer shooting a huge school of barracudas with Snell’s window in the background taken on a super calm day with great visibility. It’s not your more common model up there, but a photographer shooting instead.
DPG: You actually grew up in South Africa—how did you get into diving and underwater photography.
MF: I did my Open Water when I was 13, which was done at Sodwana bay, a favorite holiday destination in South Africa my parents visited once or twice a year for a few weeks.
Not living close to the ocean meant I had to wait for holidays to go diving. After finishing school I went traveling. Israel was my first stop and that's where I met my Mrs. and where we decided to settle. I started working as a diver at a major fish farm out in the Red Sea, that's where I really started enjoying marine life. One of my co-workers, Amir Stern, was into underwater photography so it was images he was showing me that made me want to get started. So, in 2007 I bought my first camera a Nikon D80, not knowing anything I started researching about photography and started diving and taking pics.
DPG: Other than the Red Sea, what other destinations are your favorites for underwater photography and why?
MF: I did a 5-week trip to Papua New Guinea last year, which was incredible. It has the most diverse coral ecosystems in the Coral Triangle, and over 1000 fish species many still unidentified. It is truly a special place to visit and dive, and I would go back in a heartbeat.
DPG: So what’s next for Mark Fuller photography? What are the next photo stories you want to tell and places to go?
MF: Right now I’m working on a small coffee table book at the moment in my spare time. As for places to visit, I would love to go to Lembeh Strait next—the real pinnacle of macro photography. But as for what the future holds, I'm not too sure. I'm at that place where I want to try something new; I just don't know what it is yet.
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