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Deep from underneath the water


By Erick Lirios

 ‘Photos should be able to make people appreciate the beauty and richness of our marine resources to raise their awareness which could translate into them taking action to help protect these valuable resources.’- Danny Ocampo

Imagine what happens when a person not only becomes a photographer but also chooses to immerse himself in an underwater world. Danny Ocampo chose this for himself early on when he became a certified scuba diver. He already was into photography using a Kodak Instamatic with disposable flash cubes. He soon graduated to the venerable Nikonos III. The photos were “not spectacular” according to him and it wasn’t until 2000 that he really got seriously into underwater photography. From that Nikonos, he moved to a Sony point-and-shoot but complete with strobes.

It was when he began diving always with camera in hand that he realized he was really getting seriously into this. He contributed photos and articles to various publications (Asian Geographic, Action and Fitness, Fins Magazine, etc.) and was soon included in the Greenpeace Defending Our Oceans tour in 2006. His photos were made part of the book to help summarize the organization’s global campaign.

  • A green sea turtle dives into the deep after a breath of air (Danny Ocampo)

  • Clownfish (Danny Ocampo)

  • Big-eye Trevally (3rd Place, National Awards, 2017 Sony World Photography Awards|Danny Ocampo)

  • Striking pattern of the Wonderpus octopus (Anilao, Batangas|Danny Ocampo)

  • Purple Stripe Dottyback (Danny Ocampo)

  • Sea Snake (Danny Ocampo)

  • Juvenile Harlequin Sweetlips (Danny Ocampo)

  • A school of scads (Dimakya Island, Busuanga|Danny Ocampo)

  • Pipefish (Danny Ocampo)

  • Crinoid shrimp (Danny Ocampo)

  • Manta Ray (Tubbataha reefs in Cagayancillo, Palawan|Danny Ocampo)

  • A common seahorse with algal extensions on its body (Danny Ocampo)

  • Nudibranch (Danny Ocampo)

  • A diver observes a giant Frogfish on the reef wall. (Danny Ocampo)

  • Hard Corals (Danny Ocampo)

    This is an advocacy which began even in the ‘80s when Danny was struck by the damage in the Philippine coral reefs. Illegal and destructive human activities caused this it was only the start of marine conservation projects. Amazing though, there was still enough beauty there for him to get hooked. His experience in the Greenpeace tour gave him inspiration and genuine hope that the environment could be saved little by little, that the irresponsibility of some humans can be slowly counteracted by those more responsible.

    “Since I was young, I have been attracted to photography because of the way photos evoke emotions and tell a story.  As an environmental advocate, it is also a means for me to use images as a tool and make people act to protect our environment,” he explains.

    This is where the power of photography lies and relies upon: A person’s passion to create images that not only speak of beauty but evoke the need for action. This is so true in Danny’s case as, for him, “photography is a medium to make others see things that they don’t normally see (as in the case of underwater photography) or make people see things from a different perspective.”

    Danny is still hooked on coral especially as it teems with life. “I prefer wide angle over macro since it gives people a more ecosystems-view of our marine life instead of focusing on single critter or creatures. My favorite (subjects) are reefscapes to show the diversity and formations of coral. It is also challenging for me to use lighting (both natural and using strobes) to make sure that my photos bring out the beauty of coral reefs or even large marine life such as sea turtles, schools of fishes, and sharks. Photos should be able to make people appreciate the beauty and richness of our marine resources to raise their awareness which could translate into them taking action to help protect these valuable resources.”

    Beauty, however, is only part of the equation. There is also death and decay and these are part of the oceans’ reality. “However, for me it is equally valuable to show the problems that are affecting our coral reefs, be it garbage suffocating corals or plastics floating in mid-water or near the surface. Sometimes I even take photos of dead or dying marine animals suffocating or trapped in abandoned nets or plastic bags. It is also important to show possible consequences of human actions such as irresponsible divers touching corals or hitting corals with their bodies and fins.”

    While Danny has joined contests and succeeded in some of them, he has remained focused on the fact that his priority is responsible and ethical diving plus underwater photography. “For me, underwater photographers are ambassadors of the underwater world and we help raise awareness about the diversity of marine life and our underwater ecosystems, which not a lot of people have the privilege to see or experience.”

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