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Underwater Photographer Spotlight: Beth Watson

By Scuba Diving Partner | Updated On August 25, 2023
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Underwater Photographer Spotlight: Beth Watson

whale shark

A juvenile whaleshark (Rhincodon typus) patrols the waters in the Sulu Sea.
Tubbataha Reefs National Park, Philippines

Beth Watson

It was a beautiful wall dive in Tubbataha Reef National Park in the Philippines. A huge dark mass was slowly approaching closer and closer from the distance. It was exciting and my adrenaline was pumping. I was about to have my first encounter with a whale shark. I thought this majestic fish was massive but found out later he was a juvenile and would eventually double in size. He made three very intimate passes. At the time, it was a bit frustrating because I had just put on a 1.4 teleconverter before this particular dive. I don’t typically add the teleconverter and that made it difficult to frame a shot with the entire fish in the frame. It was a breath-taking experience and one of my most memorable underwater encounters.

Q: How long have you been a scuba diver/what’s your certification level?
A: In 2001 I received my NAUI Open Water Certification and have logged over 1600 dives.

frogfish photography

A frogfish (Antennariidae) sits on the wreck of MV Alama Jane.
Puerto Galera, Philippines

Beth Watson

Q: How long have you been an underwater photographer, and how did you get started?
A: In 2000 the St. Louis Rams went to the Super Bowl. I received my first digital camera (Canon G2) to take to the game. The idea of capturing an image, editing, and printing intrigued me. The following year I began diving and started taking pictures underwater. This was my inspiration to learn more about the camera and photography in general.

Q: Tell us about your camera setup.

Camera: Canon 5D MK IV
Lens: Canon 8-15 4.0L, Canon 100 2.8L, Canon 16-35mm 4.0L, Canon 24-70mm 2.8L
Housing: Nauticam Housing
Flash: Ikelite DS 125’s, handheld torches, various Snoots, light shaping devices, special filters, colored filters, diffusers

underwater macro photography

The orbs were created in this seahorse (Hippocampus) image by light reflecting off suspended particulate matter in the water.
Puerto Galera, Philippines

Beth Watson

Q: Do you prefer to shoot on scuba or free-diving?
A: I prefer scuba diving but would like to learn to free-dive. Someday, I would like to photograph whales and free-diving would be a great skill to learn.

Q: What is your favorite photo-sharing platform?
A: My website is my favorite photo-sharing platform. However, I post regularly on Facebook and Instagram.

Q: What are three of your favorite social-media accounts to follow?
A: Underwater Photography Guide | Scuba Diving Magazine | Dive Photo Guide

Q: What hashtag best describes your underwater photography style?
A: #bold

Q: What or who inspires you?
A: Experimenting with photography and lighting techniques inspires me.

Q: What do you love most about your work?
A: I am a fan of unique, colorful and thought-provoking imagery and that is what I try to produce. If someone has to look twice at one of my images to figure out what it is, I consider it a success.

underwater photography

Fish schooling underneath the dive boat during a safety stop.
Turks & Caicos

Beth Watson

Q: Please tell us more about your process, including post-production?
A: Shooting wide angle images is my favorite technique, scanning the underwater world, looking for interesting compositions and visual interest.

I think of post-production as a necessary tool to replicate what is seen through the viewfinder. Recording RAW files is a necessity. My Canon G2 recorded camera RAW files in 2000 and I have been using them ever since. Lightroom is used for cataloging, color balance, and correction. Then images are imported into Photoshop for the final edit. I get great satisfaction from printing my images. Many images look good on social media and websites, but the true quality of an image is revealed when it is printed. Creating a print and having it match what is seen on the computer screen is my ultimate goal.

Q: What’s been the biggest challenge and/or your most rewarding moment?
A: One of my biggest challenges is self-promotion. My most rewarding moment is when someone tells me they recognize my images before looking at the author’s name.

underwater macro photography

This small spinyhead blenny (Acanthemblemaria spinosa) was peeking out of a hole on a piece of brain coral (Faviidae).
Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean

Beth Watson

Q: What was your favorite trip and why?
A: My last trip is usually my favorite. However, my first trip to Puerto Galera, Philippines in 2011 was especially memorable. During this trip, I began to take my photography seriously. After the Philippines trip, I built a website, began entering print/photography competitions and sharing on social media.

Q: Where do you most want to go?
A: The Solomon Islands in the South Pacific and Sipadan in Malaysia are both top on my list.

Q: Any advice for budding photographers?
A: Keep an open mind. Be willing to experiment and not afraid to risk failure. Continue to learn new skills and practice photography techniques above water before you trying them underwater. Do not become content and keep pushing forward to the next level.

underwater photographer

Beth Watson

Courtesy Beth Watson

About Beth Watson

Photography and scuba diving are Beth's passions. She adores the ocean and everything it has to offer. Striving to capture images that are unique, creative and thought-provoking by illustrating the beauty and wonders of the sea. Ultimately, she hopes to raise awareness and inspire others to conserve and preserve our ocean environment.

See more from Beth Watson on her website and Facebook page.