For most gainfully employed Americans, a bad day at work means a stolen lunch out of the break-room fridge or the boss asking you to stay late on a Friday.
But for underwater action photographer Jose Debasa, a bad day at the office has the potential to turn deadly.
Debasa has combined his love of free diving with his passion for photography for the last nine years. As with many adventurous career choices, the slightest mistake could mean a permanent end to his days as a free-diving cameraman.
We caught up with the 31-year-old professional photographer to get his take on some of the dangers underwater photographers face the moment they take the plunge.
Reelerz.com: What are the biggest challenges that arise during your underwater photography sessions that you don’t have to consider on land?
Jose Debasa: Underwater photography is full of challenges; you have to deal with a lot of factors when you’re in the water. Blackout is the big thing that worries me. I don’t use scuba gear –it’s all free diving on one breath. I consider myself a pretty avid free diver, but [blacking out] is always in the back of my mind.
It’s more of a challenge to me than anything in the ocean. I can deal with sharks, I can deal with alligators, but what worries me more is blacking out. I’ve never blacked out, but I’ve been very close. I’ve had tunnel vision . . . but I’ve never blacked out. When I do a shoot, I’m pretty much the diver’s shadow. Some of the divers have a pretty extensive breath hold, so I try to hang with them as much as I can. One of the challenges is being able to stay down there safely without blacking out.
Another challenge [occurs] when diving in sharky waters. I know how to read the body language of sharks, and I know when to get out. When I go down and I’m photographing sharks, my head is on a swivel. I’m looking all over at every angle, because sharks will sneak up behind you. Those are some really sneaky bastards, man. [Laughs] I love sharks to death, and I’m a huge shark conservationist, but you’ve just got to watch your back.
Thankfully I’ve had some of my dive buddies right behind me to scoop sharks away from me. It doesn’t mean [the sharks] are coming to eat me or anything, but they are coming to check me out. They might come behind me to see what I am. The way they check you out is they bump into you, or may even take a bite out of you to see if you’re edible.
I haven’t been bitten yet – thank God. But I don’t let them get close to me. If they’re going to touch something, let them touch the [camera] dome. I usually bump the dome into them and let them know I can be dangerous as well. Sharks are incredible, man. You may not see them, but they definitely see you.
Want to take a deeper look into the exciting world of underwater photography? Then visit Jose’s website at www.josedebasaphotography.com. You can also check out his Instagram, and be sure to follow him on Twitter.
Feature Photo: Jose Debasa Diver: Michael Dornellas