rush | 26th january 2016

We take a deep dive with underwater photographer amber jones as she gives us the low-down on her 10 favourite photographs.

words: amber jones

photographs: amber jones & riley elliott

 

photograph: riley elliott

photograph: riley elliott

1. Although you cant see it, I am crying in this image. It was the first time my partner (Riley Elliott, Shark scientist) had taken me out with his finned, underwater colleagues. It was the most insane experience of my life. My senses didn't know what to do being surrounded by the prowess and beauty of these creatures. I couldn't make a sound so my eyeballs just leaked. Still to this day the most surreal day of my life. I pride my photography on taking a bit of a backseat approach in the first instances whereby I’d rather put the camera down and be with the animals in their environment a few times before I bring the camera in with me. Even with humans, my “photographic style” has always been non-invasive/documentary based and I intend to keep it that way with animals as I transition largely into water based photography which is where my passion truly lies.

 

2. What could have been just another day on the boat was about a million shark encyclopedias thrown at me all at once. The beauty about filming nature is that you are constantly learning, constantly pushing your limits and constantly being surprised. I wanted to learn how to get into the Mako sharks world, so Riley was coaching me through their naturally skittish and shy behaviour, in order to gain their trust to come close. These sharks have likely never seen a human before so for this girl to bump her nose right on my underwater housing, was truly a unique experience!

photograph: riley elliott

photograph: riley elliott

"I felt like an underwater conductor"

3. The second most surreal day of my life (are you beginning to see a pattern here?). It was 5.20am on the Big Island of Hawaii and we had heard rumours of these bait balls in the local area, so after some sliced mango and Kona coffee we headed to ‘Spot X’. I have an entire gallery dedicated to this particular morning that I intend to print because if you can’t experience this first hand, you need to treat your eyeballs to the imagery. I felt like an underwater conductor. You move your right hand, the fish twirl and disperse into another kaleidoscope towards the left. Sit still enough and they’ll create a whirlpool around you. Again, nature giving us an incredible show.

4. My father always said “be a leader, not a follower”. Usually I would take what he said as gospel but in this case it was really nice to sit at the back of the pod and observe. Dolphins hunt at night and come into shallow water in the morning to catch up on sleep. Each of the pod take turns at watching/guarding on the outside of the formation, so the dedicated hunters can sleep peacefully within the centre. Respecting animal behaviour and being as least invasive as possible is not only essential while working with animals, it’s also productive, enabling natural behaviour and raw emotion to be conveyed in each image.

"I’m so stoked to say New Zealand has an incredible female surf community full of talent, good vibes and humility"

5. It was at a place I’ll call Treehouse in Sri Lanka where we woke up literally in a treehouse in the mornings to a perfect right hand point break and a bitter but lovely brew of Sri Lanka's finest beans. This particular morning, two girls paddled out on their logs and as I sat sipping my “kopi” I watched in pure amazement a truly elegant display of female surfing. The way these girls danced on top of their boards wearing crotchet bikinis alongside nature had me in some hypnotic trance until I finally realised I wanted to frame this moment forever and ran down with the camera housing. It was being able to capture that session that catalysed yet another reason I want to tell stories to the world with my camera. The female surf community has unfortunately been painted by large surf companies in a highly sexualised, semi-pornographic way that solely relies on how great a bikini sits on a girl's butt rather than how many buckets of spray she sends or the amount of toes she can hang off the nose. I’m so stoked to say New Zealand has an incredible female surf community full of talent, good vibes and humility and we are going to be a part of the change with some powerful imagery and stories. Watch this space.

6. I think this is the best image I’ve taken and it was my proudest moment for a number of reasons. Mainly, I realised the free dive course I completed the previous week had worked as I could change all my camera settings several times underwater with one breath and not miss a second of this magnificent show the fish were putting on for us. Secondly, it was a true moment of being an observer, recording natural animal behaviour, in this case the hunting tactics of Blue Trivially.

7. This is the same morning with the Akule ball in Hawaii. My partner looks as though he’s about to become invisible and I love when humans and nature can co-exist so I guess that’s why this one resonates with me

8. Paku Hill, Tairua at first light. The place where I bought my first home overlooking the ocean

"The way these creatures dance to the light will forever be imprinted in my memory"

9. The very first interaction I had with a Manta Ray. The way these creatures dance to the light will forever be imprinted in my memory. We took a couple of dive torches down just after sunset and shone them straight below us into the darkness. As plankton were drawn to the light, soon the angels of night treated us with their ballet. I thought they were going to rub up against my belly they came so close. I remember being absolutely mesmerised and my fear quickly melting into some kind of hypnotic enthralment.

photograph: riley elliott

photograph: riley elliott

10. Not Woman vs. Shark, rather Woman with Shark. We can all co-exist and after being thrown in with a number of different species of sharks in my short career I am compelled to spread some awareness of what goes on in the finning industry and just how harmful it is to the shark species. I have never been, nor do I claim to be a shark biologist, zoologist or a conservationist but spending time with these animals in their habitat I have developed a passion to at least try and change the world's perspectives on it using this gift of photography I’ve been given. There are some awesome individuals and organisations doing great things for the sharks. Read about it, learn and help speak up for them.

 

links:

amber jones: www.amberandfriends.net

 

grams:

amber jones: @amberandfriends_photography

riley elliott: @rileysharks

 

hashies:

#waterwoman #amberjones #10favouritephotographs #lowdown #stories #storytelling #underwaterphotographer #photography #sharks #baitball #surfing #longboarding #inspiration #underwater #fish #sharkfinning #awareness #interaction #home #hawaii #newzealand #loandbehold #loandbeholdnz #newmediafromthenewworld

 

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