Selfie with the Jacks: A school of horse-eye jacks encircles the photographer, USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman
When it comes to underwater photography, we can all appreciate a dramatic multicolored reefscape, an in-your-face marine life portrait, or a powerful capture of a shipwreck. But if you can make a selfie look incredibly cool, you’ve surely achieved something a bit special. Welcome to the world of freediving shooter Mark Tilley, our Photographer of the Week.
Born in the UK, Tilley took a childhood passion for the ocean and turned it into a marine biology degree as a young man before ultimately discovering his true calling as a freediver. Now based in the Cayman Islands, he has brought that love of breath-hold into everything he does, from competitive freediving to underwater imaging. In the process, Tilley’s work has wound up in half a dozen UK newspapers and enjoyed an enthusiastic following on socia media, as well as being displayed in exhibitions in the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands.
With divers unencumbered by scuba tanks as his principal subjects, Tilley has created a perfectly choreographed world where the human form—often a mere silhouette—blends so sublimely into the surroundings that you almost forget that everyone involved (photographer included) is working with only a single lungful of air. The result is an inspiring portfolio of highly relatable underwater images that stay with you much longer than most—and make you wonder, “Hey, maybe I could lose the tanks, too?”
Funnel Vision: After the USS Kittiwake was knocked onto her port side in 2017 tropical storms, the funnel angle lent itself to a beautiful framing of diver Jean Louis Lebreux, West Bay, Grand Cayman
Canyon Embrace: Freedivers Jean Louis Lebreux and Britney Ouelette ascend slowly together framed by the canyon in the dropoff, McCurley’s Wall, Grand Cayman
North Wall: Freediver Cara Heller is used to illustrate the sheer scale of the dropoff at the Babylon Pinnacle, North Side, Grand Cayman
Bubble Ring Halo: Freediving model Coral Tomascik finds a beautiful body position under a bubble ring in the blue, offshore north from Grand Cayman
King of the Ring: Diver Jean Louis Lebreux is framed perfectly in his own bubble ring, West Side, Grand Cayman
Bubble Interaction: As two bubbles interacted during their ascent, they created a spectacular display around national record holder Richard Collett, Sunset House, Grand Cayman
Suspended in Silver: Diver Kaili Kappler observes a huge aggregation of silversides at the entrance to one of the many caves in the shallow reef at Eden Rock, Georgetown, Grand Cayman
USS Kittiwake: Jean Louis Lebreux stands on the seabed at 60 feet observing the famous wreck in West Bay, Grand Cayman
Mark Tilley and a southern stingray
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