André Musgrove: Connecting People to the Ocean with Underwater Photography

Underwater photography and words by André Musgrove. Used with permission.

My name is André Musgrove, I’m an underwater photographer and filmmaker from Nassau, Bahamas. I’ve been shooting for 4 years. I specialize in freediving photography and filmmaking, creating and capturing concepts with freedivers, underwater models and animals in unique marine environments such as shipwrecks, sharks, blue holes, underwater statues, etc. I shoot using only ambient light (no artificial lighting or strobe flashes) in 95% of my pieces and also shoot most of my pieces while freediving (breath hold). Through my images and films, I hope to connect people to the ocean and show how humans can coexist in the marine environment to encourage people to keep our oceans safe and clean.

My two setups for underwater photography are the Canon 1DX MKII (used primarily for video) and the Canon 5DMKIV (primarily for stills). I use all Canon L series lenses, the most frequently used being the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye and Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III. The underwater housings that I use are all Nauticam with a selection of dome ports and extension rings, based on which lens I’m using. If I do happen to be using artificial lighting (strobes) I use dual Sea & Sea YSD2 underwater strobes.

Utilizing only ambient light in most of my work allows for the most natural look so that viewers can connect and feel that they’re there. Most of my concepts are conceived once I show up to a new location. I scout the area trying different angles and adjusting based on many different factors, some being lighting, underwater visibility, time of tides, depth of water, etc.

Photography is important to me, as it’s my way of expressing my creativity and realizing the creative tension that builds up in my head if I’m away from the water for too long. I found my passion for underwater photography and filmmaking when I was very young. Growing up in the Bahamas, I frequented the ocean while spearfishing with my father. Most of my friends at that age did not have easy access as I did to the ocean, so picking up a camera was my way of bringing the ocean to them. I’m a big fan of comic book superheroes and the human aesthetic so I would say this influences my work and what I aim to create.

In my early stages of underwater photography, the three main photographers with the biggest influence on my work were Elena Kalis, Eric Cheng, and Travis Burke. Each with their unique style of shooting, lighting, and concepts I found very rare in the photography world. Eric is a master of using lighting underwater to properly convey the beauty of a marine animal or subject underwater. Elena takes photos that convey more of a feeling than simply a visual piece. Travis has a knack for placing human subjects in a beautiful natural landscape.

I feel that I’m more of a creator than documenter because I make images underwater rather than just capturing what is happening. When shooting with marine animals, I never force an action or movement on the animal but instead place the human subject in the best position possible around the animal(s) for a concept to come to life. When I create images/ films underwater my goal is to outperform my last favorite image or film. I always strive to do better and achieve more than I did in my previous work. I strive to create images that people will feel rather than just view.

I do not use any photo composting or photo layering (aka Photoshop) for any of my work. In post-production, I do mainly color correction, spot removal, and reframing. Shooting freedivers or underwater models while freediving presents many different challenges while on a shoot. The most challenging are the limited time on one breath underwater to capture certain concepts, the lack of ability to communicate underwater, wild and predictable animals along with physical fatigue as some shots can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours on a regular basis.

This portfolio that I’ve presented are 10 of the top images I’ve created during my career thus far. These pieces are all personal project pieces that have been brought to life and that I am most proud of.

What I love most about my work is the process and adapting to the challenges that are inevitable. When working with wild marine animals like sharks, whales or rays you must always expect the unexpected and be ready to take advantage of a situation that may only occur once in a lifetime. Those are the moments I wait for when I’m shooting a photo concept or creating an underwater film. Working along with talented underwater models and freedivers, most of whom are my good friends, is always a pleasure and it never really feels like work.

I depend highly on the equipment I use as it has to be able to perform well and be durable in all of the environments I shoot in. Whether it’s 100 ft under the surface with a large volume of water putting pressure on the equipment or in cold water, I’m very confident in my equipment being able to keep up.

Visit André Musgrove’s website and follow him on Instagram and Facebook to stay updated with his work. Don’t forget to check out his YouTube channel and Vimeo page for his underwater films.