One on one with photographer Grant Thomas

Originally from Scotland, Grant has always had a fascination with the natural world and in particular, the ocean.

After finishing a degree in Engineering, he took the opportunity to travel. Grant says this was the best decision he has ever made, as it was travelling that really developed his passion for photography.

Soon after leaving Scotland, Grant began working as a PADI Dive instructor and purchased his first underwater housing. Photography was no longer just a part of his life, it had become his life.

He now works as a freelance photographer and expedition guide, leading a variety of tours and workshops to encounter and photograph animals such as humpback whales and orca. His work has taken him around the world from the warm tropical waters of Indonesia to the glacier covered landscape of the Arctic.

Grant is  a brand ambassador for Ikelite Underwater systems who support him during his adventures.

We chat to Grant about life as a photographer and he shares a few tips with us. 

What made you first get into photography?

I always had an interest in photography, but it wasn’t until I started travelling that it really became a big part of my life. I really wanted to show off the amazing places I was visiting and do them justice in my photographs. Then I took my camera underwater and photography became an obsession.  

What gear do you normally shoot with and why do you prefer it? (good to plug your gear here and then you can send link of article to them)

I shoot with Canon 5D MKIII camera’s which are incredibly durable and reliable, something that is extremely important in any situation, particularly when working in wet salty conditions usually associated with diving.

Most of my lenses are Canon L glass which have incredible optics. For underwater I do shoot mostly with a Tokina 10-17mm fisheye which, in my opinion, is one of the best lenses on the market for this purpose.

Both my strobes (DS161’s) and underwater housing are made by Ikelite. These guys have been providing incredibly durable and reliable equipment to me since the day I started underwater photography. In addition to amazing gear they also provide fantastic customer service!

What are some of the places that your work has taken you?

I have been fortunate enough to travel to a variety of amazing places for work, from the warm tropical waters of Indonesia to the glacier covered landscape of the Arctic. This year I have travelled to New Zealand, Malaysia, UK, USA, Cuba, Mexico, Cayman Islands, Tonga and I have more planned.  

Any standout favourite places and why?

Tonga will always have a special place in my heart as I travel to this amazing country every year to spend time with the humpback whales. The feeling of being in the water with these majestic animals is truly incredible. 

What advice can you give someone wanting to start out in photography?

Don’t get frustrated if, at first, your images don’t look like the front cover of Nat Geo. Just enjoy what you’re doing and continue to learn.

Grant’s Top 5 photo tips

Want to up your photography game? Here are a few tips from Grant to take on-board when taking photos.

The rule of thirds 

Your camera will most likely have the ability to display a grid on screen, which is extremely useful for composing your photographs. Try placing your subject on anyone of these intersecting lines, which will create more interesting space around the subject.

Also any straight horizons in your image can be placed along the grid lines, which will help create a more compelling image.

Camera shake

 Blurry images caused by camera shake unfortunately usually end up in the bin however, there are a couple of simple techniques you can try to avoid this. Firstly   holding your camera steady with both hands or if shooting in low light then use a tripod or monopod.

Experiment with shutter speeds

Fast shutter speeds tend to freeze action and movement which can be useful however, try slowing your shutter speed and getting more creative with your camera. Panning shots with a moving subject can help create a sense of speed  and make your images stand out. Subjects that work well are waves on a beach, cars or bikes, people walking, and rivers or streams.

Underwater Photography – Get close

This is specific to underwater photography and it’s probably the most important rule. We have very limited visibility underwater so every centimeter counts which means the closer you are the more vibrant, sharp and clear you images will be. Shooting with a fish eye lens underwater is essential as it allows you to get super close and squeeze your entire scene or subject into frame.

Underwater Photography – Shoot upwards

When shooting in any situation we are always looking to make our subject stand out. You can do this by creating negative space around the subject, this is just uncluttered space that helps make things stand out.

In underwater photography we are extremely lucky in that we have a nice big blue natural background to frame everything against. The trick is to get low and aim upwards this should ensure the subject will really ‘pop’ out.

To see more of Grant’s work visit www.grantthomasphotography.com


Editor | Kate Webster

About Editor | Kate Webster

Kate Webster is a world traveller, ocean lover and conservation warrior who is determined to make every moment count for not only herself, but the world around her. An editor and travel journalist, Kate travels the globe in search of vivid imagery and compelling stories that capture the essence of the people and places she visits. She is a passionate conservation advocate, sustainable traveller and always travels with reason and cause.


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