Interview: Underwater Photography Captures Dreamlike Moments Deep in the Ocean

Born and raised on the east side of Oahu, Hawaii, Morgan Halas is obsessed with anything and everything that has to do with the ocean. As evident through the photographs and videos on his website and Instagram, he loves spending time in the open water whether it’s diving, surfing, or capturing incredible and rare footage of ocean life. Many of his images, particularly his Water Shoot series, feature experienced free divers like himself placed within the ocean environment and evoke a sense of surrealism and romanticism. His unique ability to capture light at deep depths and accentuate the graceful poses of his underwater subjects produce these peaceful, dreamlike images.

Halas does not consider himself a photographer. He dabbled in photography in high school but did not fully submerge himself in the activity until around 2014 or 2015. When he realized the surrounding landscape and places he loved most were also extremely photogenic, he decided to delve further into photography and share them through film.

Environmental conservation is naturally a topic close to his heart, as Halas treasures the time he spends among ocean wildlife. His portfolio includes beautiful moments of sharks, dolphins, turtles, and stingrays, as well as awe-inspiring locations in Oahu and throughout Hawaii. We were grateful for the opportunity to ask Halas some questions about his photography. Scroll down to read our exclusive interview.

How did you first decide to start shooting photography underwater? What appeals to you most about shooting these types of photos?

Growing up in Hawaii, you are kind of destined to be in the water. I think it is second nature for anyone from here to pick up a camera and end up taking it into the ocean. Underwater photos to me have a dramatic feeling. I like the high contrast settings and the way the light appears underwater.

How do you select which subjects you work with and what is the process of working with them?

Most of the people I shoot are experienced free divers. The process is easy working with them because the sport of free diving is very relaxed and controlled, which makes for great photos. If I'm not shooting a free diver, I usually have a few basic poses that most people can achieve. Light, the clarity of the water, and being safe is very important when I am shooting. I take all my photos while free diving and it very important to know your limits. Shallow water blackouts are very common in free diving and could lead to death if you aren't diving with a partner.

Besides photos of people under water, you also shoot wildlife and scenic photography. What is the creative process behind these photos?

Wildlife is by far my favorite to shoot. There is no greater feeling than having a positive interaction with a wild animal in the ocean. Most animals in the ocean are very curious about humans. It is so cool to watch them come and inspect you. It is kind of hard to get a good photo of them though, because you can't instruct them. You just have to hope that the moment is right. I think that is why its so fulfilling to get a good shot of an animal. You have to put in the time and patience, and also be lucky. 

What messages do you hope to convey through your photography?

I try hard to portray feelings in my photos and the way I edit them. There is no greater feeling than looking at a photograph and noticing all the little details that help to tell a story. I hope my photos inspire passion to constantly strive and reach goals. I also hope my photos inspire people to love nature more, and to reveal that animals have feelings just like us. It is funny how people are so surprised when they do realize this.

What other projects are you working on, and what is next for you?

Right now I am working with my friend Natalie Parra and Keiko Conservation on projects to spread awareness for ocean conservation. I am not sure what is next for me, but whatever it is I'm excited for new opportunities. 

Morgan Halas: Website | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Morgan Halas.

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