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Let’s Meet Matt!
Matt McGee is a fantastic underwater photographer from Tennessee, who love taking pictures of sharks and other large animals. He also has amazing macro pictures of some of the rarest sea creatures on earth. If that wasn’t enough, he also does underwater fashion photography.
Matt isn’t a full time underwater photographer, although you wouldn’t have guessed by looking at his photos. Matt’s full time job is as a dentist. (It’s funny how many underwater photographer’s I’ve met are dentists. They all seem to have in common that their profession forced them to get an SLR for their jobs, and somehow taking pictures of teeth lead them to want to take pictures of sea life! )
Matt’s been shooting underwater photos for well over a decade, and his work shows that he has been to amazing places and was able to capture the moment with some fantastic images.
As you listen to the episode, let’s have a look at some of Matt’s amazing photos.
[All photos courtesy and copyright of Matt McGee]
Matt’s Underwater Photography Kit
Like all of us, Matt’s underwater kit evolved over the years, but he currently is a canon shooter and keeps his gear in Ikelite housings. We discuss his setup throughout the episode, but here’s the summary:
- Canon 5D Mark III
- Ikelite Underwater Housing
- Ikelite DS-125 Strobes
- Wide Angle / Shark Lens: canon 17-40, other lense
- Macro Lens: Canon 100mm f/ 2.8 L
- Macro Accessories: Focus light (Light & Motion Sola 800 Photo), Snoots (Fiber Optic and regular), Occasionally using a Diopter.
Check out Matt’s perfect technique as he keeps his find up and uses a muck stick to steady himself, ensuring minimal contact with the reef. Great job Matt!
Shark / Large Animal Photos
Matt’s shark photos are stunning, and really capture the magnificence of these beautiful animals. His various trips to Cocos Islands afforded him the opportunity to take some amazing shots of schooling hammerheads along with other big animals, while trips to Bimini and Tiger Beach allowed him to grab awesome shots of oceanic white tips, tiger sharks and more! These are just a few of his amazing pictures that we happen to review in the podcast:
Cocos Island is a favorite place for big animal photographers to go because you can see all sorts of sharks. But the holy grail is to be able to see schooling hammerheads. Dalton and I have been on 100’s of dives, spending many of them waiting on the chance to see these guys congregate and never gotten lucky enough to see an amazing shot like Matt got here. Perhaps a trip to Cocos is in order!
If you want to get up close and personal with a great hammerhead, then you need to head to Bimini island in the Bahamas. That’s what Matt did to catch his favorite hammerhead photo shown here. (He has some other shots on his website, which i like even more, so go check it out!)
Matt also captured this magnificent shot of an oceanic white tip shark with some pilotfish while on the same trip:
In our podcast episode, we also discuss another white tip shot with the dive boat in the background:
Matt has a bunch more photos of other big animals on his website, so be sure to check it out!
Critter Hunting & Muck Diving
Even though sharks where his passion, Matt didn’t want his portfolio to only consist of sharks and big animals. Dive with enough people, and you will start hearing stories of the most fantastic little creatures that can be found in Indonesia. So, Matt decided to see what the fuss was about and headed to the muck diving capital of the world, Lembeh! Before you know it, he was getting some amazing shots of these beautiful little critters.
Because many of these creatures are just sitting on the sea floor, it’s hard to make them stand out. To combat this problem, Matt often uses a snoot in his shots. This will make sure that the strobe only lights up the intended subject without lighting the rest of the unsightly stuff around it. It really becomes like an underwater portrait session. Have a listen to the podcast to hear more about using a snoot and how to practice before your dive trip so you can get much better shots starting with your first dive.
One of my personal favorite critters is the bobtail squid. It’s like a tiny little gem just sitting on the seafloor. Matt got this wonderful picture of it while in Lembeh:
The Mototi octopus is even more rare than the standard blue ring octopus. Because he only has 1 blue ring to show off, he shows off big stripes when he feels threatened. This was another great shot that shows off animal behavior taken by Matt while in Lembeh:
While the pygmy cuttle fish doesn’t get as much attention as the flamboyant one, it’s hard to resist how beautiful these tiny creatures are. Some of them are also quite curious and thus will make great subjects since they will not run away from you.
Another great example from Matt of using a snoot was to show off this beautiful pink nudibranch with yellow rhinophores and gills. Also notice just how small this guy is by seeing the individual grains of sand on his body. Great shot Matt!
Many people come to Lembeh to see the very rare and super cool looking Hairy Frogfish. Matt got this great shot of one looking right at him as he shows off his lure that he uses to entice his prey close enough to become his next meal:
Last on the critter section, Matt tells us how the Lembeh Mandarinfish are so much bigger than the other places in Indonesia that we’ve seen them. I never did the mandarin dive while in Lembeh, but upon hearing how much bigger they are, I’ll have to check them out on the next dive!
And Now It’s Time For Something Completely Different!
Matt has also ventured in to the world of underwater fine art photography. The basic concept is that you do a studio session with a model, just underwater. But, the level of difficulty goes way up. Matt explains in the episode all the aspects that goes in to getting the shot set up. It’s a lot of work, but the end result is worth it in my opinion!
Research and preparation ahead of time is key. Procuring the right materials to ensure a dark background, and having fabric that will float in the pool, and that the pool has been shocked, and the filters are not going on during your session is just the start. Making sure models know what poses you want to hit and using props like this beautiful piece of red chiffon in the right manner all needs to take place in order to get a good shot:
In this behind the scenes shot you can see Matt making sure his ‘studio’ is set up properly before the session starts:
And here is what it looks like while a session is going on. You can see that Matt has his strobes on either end of the model outside of the pool attached to some fiber optic cable ready to fire. He has his focus light on the model so that his camera can properly obtain focus lock:
Here are some more shots that we reviewed during the podcast. Just beautifully simple and elegant use of nice posing a beautiful bright colors:
Matt mentioned that this model didn’t even have any specific experience, but was just a natural hitting poses while swimming in the water. (Some people are just naturally born to water i guess!)
Thanks so much for sharing your passion for diving and underwater photography and giving us some tips along the way! We look forward to having you back in the future to chat about landscape photography as well on a future ‘topside topic’.
Matt’s Contact Information
Check out all of Matt’s work and follow him on social media:
Watch The Episode On YouTube
Although none of us are supermodels, you may enjoy watching the banter as the conversation was happening. Plus you can see Matt’s pictures as they are being discussed on screen.