Vania caught the attention of Scuba Diving magazine editors with her photo submissions in the 2016 Through Your Lens photo contest. Her image pictured below took home the Grand Prize.
Q: How long have you been a scuba diver/what’s your certification level?
A: I got my OW in August 2009 and I am now a rescue diver.
Q: How long have you been an underwater photographer, and how did you get started?
A: I’ve enjoyed photography since I was a kid. Nothing serious though, pretty much just point-and-shoot for fun on land. I tried several DSD before deciding to get my PADI OW in 2009. I had a minor drowning experience when I did my DSD with a local DM in Sabah before I met my OW/AOW instructor in Phuket in early 2009. He was very knowledgeable with the marine life and very patient and I felt like if I ever wanted to get my OW/AOW I would go back to him. Then later that summer in 2009, I learned that he went to Sipadan. I needed a break from work, so I decided to go to Sipadan to get my OW/AOW. A friend of mine, who is also a diver, knew I was going to Sipadan and told me I must bring my camera; he gave me his Canon housing (I have the camera) because he lost his camera and he had no use for that housing anymore. I took my camera with me to my OW class and my instructor told me I could not bring my camera with me while I was doing my OW but could use it for fish ID in AOW. Later on, I learnt that my OW/AOW instructor actually studied photography in the States and he encouraged me to take photos underwater for the fish ID in AOW and that’s how I started shooting photos underwater!
Tell us about your camera rig(s):
• Camera: Nikon D750
• Housing: Nauticam
• Lens(es): Nikkor 60mm, Nikkor 105mm, Tokina 10-17mm, Nikkor 10-24mm, Sigma 15mm
• Lights/Strobes: Inon Z240 x 2
• Extras: Nauticam SMC
Q: Do you prefer to shoot on scuba or when freediving?
A: It depends on what you are shooting. For whales, freediving is a must in some places such as Tonga and Cairns. I like both.
Q: What is your favorite photo-sharing platform?
Follow Vania Kam on social media:
Q: What are three of your favorite social-media accounts to follow?
Q: What hashtag best describes your underwater photography style?
Q: What or who inspires you?
A: I am very blessed and thankful that there are many kind people who have taught me something new and/or inspire me along the way. I’ve always loved whales and shortly after I completed my OW/AOW, I came across Tony Wu’s blog one day and I was so amazed by his photos! I have been a loyal reader ever since and finally joined two of his trips and became friends. Tony is definitely one of the first people to have inspired me a lot. Then I came to know Alex Mustard in person, two years ago when I joined two of his workshops and I learned so much from him!
Q: What do you love most about your work?
A:The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know — about nature, marine life and photography — and I love being a humble learner everyday! Also, I love it when I travel around the world taking photos, I get to meet new friends and learn about their photography style and their culture.
Q: What’s been the biggest challenge and/or your most rewarding moment?
A: CMAS Asia 2016 Competition (Tulamben) – I only had two strobes with me and one wasn’t working properly – anything stronger than power level 4 didn’t work, the photos turned out to be completely dark. It was a very strict, zero Photoshop competition where we had to finish five categories in four one-hour dives (and they also sealed your camera and your housing – absolutely zero touching of your camera as well during the competition). It is a miracle that I got the first place in the Wide Angle with Diver category and third place in the Close Up with Theme category at the end! It was a very frustrating competition experience (with all the strict rules too) yet very rewarding (and surprising) at the end!
Q: Any advice for budding photographers?
A: Be creative, there is no right or wrong in art — try every angle, any light settings you can think of!
- Photoshop/Lightroom is not a sin, it is a skill! Sometimes you learn how to shoot better when you touch-up your photos. It helps with learning better composition when you crop your photos or better lighting when you adjust the exposure or white balance in editing software like Photoshop or Lightroom. Learn how to use it!
- Know your camera! I shoot a lot of other things for fun such as landscapes, weddings, street photography, birds, and I find that that is the best way to understand your camera and your camera settings.
ABOUT: Vania Kam is an award-winning photographer who was mesmerized by the beauty of the underwater world when her parents took her to Guam, where she did her first Discover Scuba at 14. She is a barrister-at-law by profession and has enjoyed photography since she was a teenager. Vania became a certified open-water diver at the end of 2009 and has been shooting underwater photos ever since in her spare time. Her hard work and dedication has earned her 26 international photographic awards, and her photos are published and exhibited worldwide.