Cristina was scared as the sharks swam around her, worried that they might get lost in the ocean in the Galapagos Islands.
Cristina Mittermeier, from Mexico, is a marine biologist who has spent more than 20 years taking photos of the ocean world. Cristina now has more than 1.1 million followers on Instagram, where she shares her travels from Greenland to Rwanda.
On the nearest trip to the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador), Cristina was overwhelmed by the wildlife here. “The Galapagos Islands have been an oceanographic reserve since 1998, everything is there naturally. While in other places, we have to work very hard to find fish or sea turtles.” she said.
Cristina and her boyfriend, photographer Paul Nicklen, want to dive around Wolf and Darwin, the two most remote islands of the Galapagos and as small as two grains of sand in the ocean. The waters here are quite dangerous for diving, with large waves.
The day Cristina and Paul went scuba diving, the sea was raging with waves crashing onto the rocky shore, the water bubbling white as if they were swimming in a milk tank. While swimming, Cristina suddenly turned around and saw a flock of cobia coming with open mouths. She decided to swim backwards to take pictures, but got lost among the hundreds of fish and could not find Paul when she escaped there. Cristina heard the diving instructor’s bell, but could not see anything.
With half her oxygen, Cristina decided to continue swimming. While floating, she caught a glimpse of something but was unsure whether it was a fish or not. The shapes became clearer, and she realized it was a group of hammerhead sharks.
“To be honest, I was a bit scared but thought that I was at the right place, at the right time and something wonderful was about to happen. But I was worried about how much oxygen was left, the protection cord attached to my body was still there.” How long is it, “she said.
It was also the moment that Cristina remembered that she was a photographer, and could not upload low-quality pictures with explanations. She quickly adjusted her shooting parameters and clicked the camera before the sharks swam away.
Despite owning many critically acclaimed works, Cristina herself has never set a goal of becoming a wildlife photographer, or even won award-winning masterpieces. But when a few selfies were on display at an exhibition of the Houston Museum of Natural History, Cristina began to see her own path alongside marine research.
Looking at the reaction of the visitors, she realized that not everyone has enough knowledge of science or biology like experts to discuss difficult topics. But everyone has with them photographic equipment, which makes it easier to start a story. That is why she decided to save images of the natural world on her wild adventures.
Cristina thinks the most essential skill for her job is to be able to operate comfortably underwater, as she is not allowed to drown or get lost at sea. Once you put your eye on the viewfinder, like when you take a picture of a herring, the photographer can completely forget where you are or what you do. In Cristina’s case, just a minute after taking the picture, she lost her companion.
“Underwater photography requires a lot of work on the camera: you have to think about exposure, natural light, strobe lights; and also pay attention to how not to get sunken. So you have to into a good diver before holding the device underwater, “says Cristina. She claimed she did not need too modern machines to take an artistic photo. You just need to understand and make the most of the tools available at hand.