Raja Ampat’s Blue Water Mangroves provide unique opportunities for shooting underwater photos and video
Sonja Geier is a well-known videographer who works in Indonesia. Originally from Germany, she has really made her mark in underwater imaging while working in the waters between Sulawesi and Papua. She shoots any and all subjects, and has done a remarkable job documenting the marine environment. Whether it is a tiny macro critter, or big fish action on a reef, Sonja is known for her beautiful and steady clips. Her editing is built around short videos that highlight a single subject. In this age of Instagram video, her style has found a very receptive audience.
Sonja is the perfect example of how it is the person behind the camera that creates amazing images. She shows us that you do not need Hollywood level gear to create professional eye-catching videos. DPG sat down with Sonja Geier at the recent ADEX 2019 dive show in Singapore to talk to her about what she has been up to. She was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions for us, and to share some of her work.
Sonja’s showreel features an excellent collection of clips and shows her rock-steady hands
DPG: How did you get into underwater videography?
I was up for a new challenge after teaching beginner scuba diving courses daily. The students were always accompanied by an underwater videographer, and I loved the souvenir videos they produced for them. Whenever I was diving for fun, my first compact camera was always with me. Therefore, it was a logical step for me to do an introduction course to underwater videography, which taught me the basics.
DPG: Can you tell us the story behind your most memorable underwater footage?
I’ll never forget when I was swimming in a massive baitball of silversides in the south of Raja Ampat, and the mobula rays turned up. It was insane how fast they swam in-between the divers, chasing and hunting down the silversides. At some stage I stopped filming, just to enjoy the moment, being surrounded by a curtain of fish. I couldn’t even see the surface anymore! It was an incredibly exhilarating experience and a moment which I will always remember.
Mantas, sharks, pygmy seahorses and frogfish: Sit back and enjoy Sonja’s highlights video from Komodo, Indonesia
DPG: Where is your favorite place to shoot?
Raja Ampat in Indonesia. But to be fair, I haven’t really been anywhere else but Indonesia—probably because it has absolutely everything a videographer could want! In particular, Raja Ampat has so much to offer: pristine coral reefs, blue water mangroves, overhangs, and deep undercuts, a fantastic diversity of fish life including manta and mobula rays, different species of sharks, pygmy seahorses… did I forget anything?
DPG: What camera equipment are you currently using?
I’m currently shooting with a Panasonic Lumix GH4 in Nauticam housing, and I’m still pleased with my current setup. I’ve been playing with the idea of upgrading to the newer model, the GH5, but I decided to wait until the next generation is released.
90 seconds to give you an impression of what diving in Raja Ampat is like. You will not be disappointed!
DPG: What has been the most exciting point of your career?
Working full-time as a video and photo pro with Mermaid Liveaboards. I still can’t believe how fortunate I was to get this opportunity. I’ve spent almost three years cruising throughout Indonesia, diving some of the world’s best sites daily! I have had some incredible marine life encounters, for which I’m very grateful.
DPG: Have you ever missed an epic shot due to unforeseen circumstances?
If we can count schooling hammerhead sharks in the Banda Sea as an epic shot, then yes! I remember it as if it was yesterday: The group of divers and I were at around 80 feet. The big school of hammerheads had just appeared, I was beyond excited, getting myself into filming position, hitting record… and then the leak alarm of my camera went off and I had to surface. The End.
Are you a macro lover? Then you should put the Lembeh Strait on the top of your diving bucket list
DPG: Do you also shoot stills? And if so, how do you balance the two?
I’m a typical woman, unable to make a decision! So yes, I shoot both stills and video. I go through phases where I take more stills but have always preferred video. It also depends on the subject. For example, unless nudibranchs are moving, I find them boring for video. They are excellent subjects for stills, and if you want to experiment with different shooting techniques. Schooling fish life, on the other hand, has this crazy dynamic and lots of movement, which you can only fully capture in video. You will always find me on a dive with both video lights and strobes, ready to shoot whatever swims in front of my lens.
Sonja uses a torch to backlight a Rhinopias, one of the most sought-after macro subjects
DPG: Have you any advice that you’d like to give aspiring underwater videographers?
Use whatever camera you already have to get started. Do an introduction course to underwater videography, which will teach you the basics. This might also give you the chance to try different cameras and setups before purchasing your rig. In general, keep on diving and practicing your underwater skills. At the end of the day, practice makes perfect!
DPG: Is there any particular footage that you are still after?
The list is very long, and I definitely would like to get another chance to shoot schooling hammerhead sharks—Galápagos or Cocos would be an absolute dream. Also, I’d love to dive the cenotes, since I’m missing caves and wrecks in my portfolio so far. The leafy seadragon has always fascinated me, as has the psychedelic frogfish and certain species of nudibranchs—Glaucus atlanticus, for example—when it comes to macro.
A beautifully lit Chinese sea snake off Manuk, a volcanic island in the Banda Sea
Sonja shoots regularly and is very active posting new and amazing videos. The best way to follow her work is on Instagram at Flowave Films.
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