“I want the viewer to feel what I am feeling,” says Spanish photographer Javi Garcia on how he brings a sense of individuality and personalization to his images. Staying calm while in the ocean helps him focus and produce better images. He loves being among the waves and connecting with the vast expanse of the seas near his hometown. Adobe has named him as one of their Rising Stars of Photography for 2022.
When is it ever safe to quit your day job and follow your passion? Is there truly a right time to do this? I spent 14 years in IT before a layoff forced me to pursue my photography talents full-time. It wasn’t like I didn’t do photography on the side all along, but I never felt comfortable taking the plunge and going into it full-time. Whether it was the responsibilities I was juggling or the fear of failure, I honestly never thought that any moment was the right one to make the switch. I know a lot of you might feel the same. I’m going to share something from a video I saw recently: something that resonated with me deeply.
The video was from a lecture by actor and comedian Jim Carrey at a university. He mentioned that his father opted for a relatively safe accounting job, despite wanting to try comedy. Only his accounting job wasn’t all that safe, and his father was let go when Jim was only 12. The family ran into a lot of tough times after that, and it taught Jim a lesson. He summed up that lesson quite succinctly. “I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want. So you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.” If we never take that chance, we’ll always be looking back with a “what if” feeling in our hearts. Javi Garcia (not the professional footballer) took a chance shortly after he began working a full-time job, which he quit to follow his passion. It’s taken him places, and he loves his career as a photographer now. He was actually abroad in the middle of a project in the beautiful Azores when he did this interview with us.
The Essential Photo Gear Used By Javi Garcia
Javi told us:
For my underwater work I use a SeaFrogs housing with two different ports, one dome for the 16-35mm and one flat port for the 24-70mm
The Phoblographer: Hi Javi. Please tell us about yourself and how you got into photography.
Javi Garcia: I was born in 1993 in Castellón, a city on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. My photography career started as a hobby while I was studying for my chemistry degree, playing with an old film camera that my dad had. After a while, I was able to save some money and buy my first DSLR in 2017.
The Phoblographer: Let me start with a technical question please. I’ve found it awfully difficult to freeze waves in a crystal clear, ice-like form without foam. If it’s not a trade secret, how do you achieve images like this?
Javi Garcia: To achieve images like this, you need a really small slab wave and minimum or zero wind. If we dive more into the settings of the camera, you need the shutter fast, at around 1/800, and do not use large apertures because you want the whole wave in focus, at around f5.6 or f8 should be fine to maintain the background out of focus.
The Phoblographer: And if getting clear images above the waves wasn’t difficult enough, you’re gaining some really clear understanding under the surface too. How tough (or not) are these photographs to achieve?
Javi Garcia: Taking underwater images while freediving can be really tough to achieve, but it will depend on the image itself that we want to make. This one, in particular, was quite easy to take; the conditions in the water were absolutely amazing, with crystal clear waters and calm seas. But sometimes you need to position yourself in certain places that require good mental and physical health because it can be really challenging.
Other times it is not difficult to take the image because of where you need to be, but the composition itself, it can be tricky sometimes to achieve in the water what you have in mind.
The Phoblographer: You started photography while studying chemistry, then dropped chemistry to become a full-time photographer. Were there objections to this change from your family?
Javi Garcia: Actually, I finished my degree. I started working in the chemistry industry, and after a while, when I was offered a promotion in the company, I felt something inside that life was not for me at that moment, I was not truly happy, so I decided to quit. Then, I started my journey as a freelance photographer out of my hometown.
The Phoblographer: looking back, after all these years, How do you feel about that? I’m guessing you focus on more than just wave photography as a profession.
Javi Garcia: I am really happy with the decision I made. The journey has had, and I am sure that it will keep having, ups and downs. It is normal, and it is part of the process. Doing what I love as my job is the best, and I am really excited about where this journey takes me. And yes, my ocean photography started taking wave photos near my hometown, but my passion for the ocean was beyond that.
The Phoblographer: The slowing down of physical movement, the shallow breathing, all the exertion down there: how do you manage to focus your thoughts and your camera even under the water?
Javi Garcia: This is a really good question; a lot of people ask me about it. Sometimes it can get really difficult to control your mind underwater. Maybe because you are in a really exciting encounter with a marine animal, or maybe you had a bad day, and uncontrollable thoughts are running in and out of your mind. But even though this happens, it is important to stay present and be sure you go into the water calm, focused, and confident. Do not forget to take a few deep breaths before going in. I am personally, as I am gaining experience through the years, becoming better with this, but I would be lying if I said I can control my mind 100% of the time.
The Phoblographer: Timing matters, of course, but weather and other factors also affect the ability to get the perfect photo. from an artistic perspective, what do you look for when framing these images?
Javi Garcia: When framing these images, I want to share my passion for the ocean and nature. I am always looking for details or moments that catch my eye. I want the viewer to feel what I feel while taking the picture. I also enjoy sometimes more abstract photography, and with this, I want the viewer to be open-minded and let the imagination flow.
“Doing what I love as my job is the best, and I am really excited about where this journey takes me.”
The Phoblographer: What are some of the most breathtaking sights you’ve photographed down there?
Javi Garcia: I had a lot of beautiful underwater encounters through these years with different species of sharks, mantas, and cetaceans. But I will always remember the first time I swam with dolphins; it was, in fact, the first time I saw wild dolphins, and it was an unforgettable and emotional experience. I am currently in the Azores Islands working on a project, and I am really excited about the encounters I will have during the next few weeks, so stay tuned.
The Phoblographer: How did it feel when you were announced by Adobe as one of their Rising Stars for 2022?
Javi Garcia: It was a surprise when they told me and I felt so grateful for being a part of this year Adobe Rising Stars program. It is an incredible opportunity for me as a cameraman for showcasing my work to a huge audience and share my point of view of what surrounds us. It’s incredible how much power an image can have and being able to bring closer to other people my biggest passion, the wonders but also the issues of our oceans, with my work is so rewarding.
All images by Javi Garcia. Used with permission. Take a look at his Instagram page to see more amazing underwater photos by him. Want to be featured? Click here to see how.