Steve Benjamin is – first and foremost – an ocean human. Living in the seaside village of Kalk Bay, Cape Town, he’s a prime example of a photographer and filmmaker who uses his passion for the water to make a difference in the world.
Through his passion for the water, marine life and photography, Steve has worked with a wide range of clients including the BBC and National Geographic, and his work has taken him to the Seychelles, Mexico, Peru and the Galapagos.
Renowned for his visually stunning and emotionally impactful films that showcase the beauty and complexity of the ocean, we caught up with him to find out his advice for aspiring underwater filmmakers. From a typical day on set to how he came to specialise in underwater filmmaking, Steve shared everything you need to know to become a successful underwater filmmaker.
What exactly does an underwater director of photography do?
In my case I work on natural history films, which tend to be small productions despite their big impact. The underwater cameraman or director is responsible for the look and feel of the captured footage, and delivering the correct interpretation of what the director wants. So, a director might come to me and say they want to get intimate, character-building shots of a particular fish or marine creature, and I have to get in the water and ensure I have the right lenses and equipment to get what most people can’t see. Most directors of production companies aren’t divers, which means they trust me to create beautiful imagery by using backlighting and symmetry and framing. I try to work in an unobtrusive manner, because most of the time these creatures don’t want to perform in front of the camera; trying to be unobtrusive with big camera gear can mean a lot of hard work, so (in short) it involves using your underwater skills to bring to life a production vision.