Freedive Photography

freediver diving in underwater cave in Hawaii

Shapes

When you first get into underwater photography everything is an incredible subject and after a little while you push a little deeper, stay a little longer, let the animals get a little closer to get those details you didn't have the ability to see at first, overwhelmed by a sensory overload in a new world. Stepping back to look at rock shapes instead of diving into it for the coolest close up photos is part of that process. Underwater seascapes are limited to 100/130 feet on the best days, but the reef structures are so unique and often an open space becomes the most unusual subject. 

Daniel Koval and Kristin Kuba freediving couple swimming in a bubble ring in Hawaii

A shared experience

Freediving is a sport that changed my whole life and shaped it into what it is today. My photography career in Hawaii wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t take my FII classes and trained with some of the deepest freedivers in the world. Learning from the best helped raise my own awareness and comfort in the water and seeing them practice together is always so inspiring.

 

The ocean has a way to humble you and the only way to experience it at its full potential is to never go in the water alone for your own safety and also your own enjoyment and underwater photography is no exception. We create photographs together and make art dipped in blue water. Sharing the water with someone you trust builds the strongest friendships, and the moments the ocean chooses to gift you are so much more exciting when they become shared memories.

 

In this photo you see two of the deepest divers I know, Daniel and Kristin. They work together with patience and kindness. The respect they have for the ocean is immense and the trust they have in one another unmatched. Freediving is a journey to discover yourself. A journey as deep as the trust you have in the person waiting for you at the surface. 

Where time stops

I would be lying if I told you photography was my passion from day one. The obsession for the ocean came well before my career choice and if anything it’s the sole drive behind it. The desire of living my life underwater made me experiment with many practices and before getting into photography I was on a path to explore technical diving and rebreathing. Then underwater photography happened. I started studying abroad and rediscovered freediving, a practice that not only connects you with the ocean but first and foremost with yourself. No other practice has ever slowed down time the same way. The moment you take that last breath before your dive, the rest of the world disappears from your mind completely leaving you listening to your own body with a silent mind. In my experience freediving is the highest form of meditation.

Kristin Kuba meditating on a breath hold in a cenote in Mexico for redbull underwater photoshoot

Freedom

I consider freediving an art, and as for any art the best part is what comes after learning the techniques. When it comes to freedive photography I like to take everything I know and slow it down. It takes time to synchronize your dive with your model and pick up on the little things. Taking your fins off and slowly sinking into the salty embrace of the ocean brings back a sense of gravity to the photograph changing the comforting feeling that comes with underwater photography. So take your fins off, sink your bare feet in the sand and let the swell push your hair around.

An unexpected adventure

I think what keeps us all hooked is how beautiful yet unpredictable the ocean is. The same dive spot will never feel the same. The more you dive a reef, the more you discover, the more you learn about the animals, the topography and yourself, turning the same dive into an ever changing underwater playground.

 

This is when you take a step back and let the ocean show you its secrets. New life sneaks up on you when you have the patience to look around and enjoy the hidden beauty of the water and even turtles getting curious or competitive towards you will turn your day around.

 

We experience the ocean to take a break from this fast paced world and connect with nature in a place where everything runs at a slower pace but will be gone in a blink of an eye. Awareness and patience will get you the photograph, if you let the ocean do it’s magic for you.

freediver diving with green sea turtle in clear water in Hawaii

Freedive

I still remember the first time I tried to freedive. My mask fogged up immediately and my ears really hurt. I was 11 at the time and my little brother pointed out the easy solution to both those problems. Spain has these beautiful small rock bays near Barcelona and the summer water looked so clear, I was just excited to be able to swim down and see. From then on I was hooked. I’ve always had an obsession for water but the ability to take it to the next level sealed the deal for me. Snorkeling, then scuba diving, then freediving became my passion that later on forced me to consider underwater photography as a career to live and work in the water as much as possible. Freediving is freedom, and not just from gravity. Freediving is freedom from time, and freedom to meditate in an environment still wild where nature has the ability to surprise you daily.