INTERVIEW WITH OCEAN PHOTOGRAPHER @hannahprewittphotography
Firstly, can you start with a little bit about yourself?
I’m originally from London, but I have been travelling for the last 8 years. I’m a Marine Biologist, Divemaster and surfer, and I only bought my first camera 3 years ago. I am completely self-taught, and still, have a very long way to go!
What kind of equipment do you use to create your images?
My underwater equipment was actually very basic. I had an Olympus Pen EPL-5 and the Olympus EP-10 housing for it. I purchased a dome port for my housing and the whole setup was fairly inexpensive. All my other gear is Nikon, and I splashed out a lot more on it. Equipment however doesn’t really matter. Whatever body or lens you have, there’s always something to shoot.
A more expensive camera won’t make you a better photographer. However, I Just recently decided to upgrade to an Aquatech Housing for my full frame and I am enjoying the results and I have written a review about this journey here.
What would you say is your favourite lens and Why?
My favourite lens is actually my wide angle of 16-35 mm. At 16 mm, you can look in the viewfinder and see more than you can actually see with the naked eye all in one place. Lots of photographers say that 16 mm is too wide, but I personally love to shoot dramatic skies at this length. You can just get so much in the frame.
What photography equipment do you take when you travel?
A Pelican case for all my stuff! I can just fit all my camera equipment into one case that is the correct hand baggage size. I travel so much that I have to consider how I’m going to take it all on a plane and keep it safe. I’m also sometimes caught in the rain or on boats, so it’s great to have something I know is waterproof.
What inspires your photography vision?
I’m pretty new to the photography game, so my inspiration changes all the time. But I get to travel to some pretty incredible places and that was my main reason for buying a camera – so that I could show other people where I go and what I see. So I aim to take a photo that encapsulates the essence of a place all in one image if I can. I think that’s why I’m so drawn to half and half shots.
Among all your work what is your most memorable capture?
I think it’s actually this one I took very early on when I was still too scared to use manual mode. This was one of those most stunning sunsets I’ve ever seen and was the first image I was really proud of. It’s also not edited at all.
What settings do you tend to use?
It really depends on what type of photography I’m doing. I shoot so many different things. I always try to keep my ISO as low as possible, and fiddle with the shutter speed and aperture depending on what I’m shooting. If I’m shooting surfing or wildlife, then I always use a continuous 3D tracking focus mode – it makes the world of difference in getting sharp images. I also always use back-button focus. Especially for shooting surfers.
Once I made this change, 99% of my shots were in focus rather than about 70%. I could never go back to shutter button focusing. Also, always shoot in RAW.
Do you prefer to shoot Sunrise or Sunset?
I prefer sunsets. I’ve seen a lot more sunsets than sunrises, and I find that they are usually more dramatic. More weather tends to build up during the day, and stormy skies often create the most amazing sunsets.
What is one thing you wish you had known when you first started your photography journey?
I don’t think there’s anything, in particular, I wish I’d known, I just wish I’d decided to get into photography much earlier. And switched to manual mode much earlier. But I guess that’s why they call it a journey.
What methods do you use for editing? Can you explain your workflow?
I use Adobe Lightroom for all my editing and for sorting my photos. I’ll create Raw images collected from a shoot, and then flag the ones I think are good, and then go through the flagged shots and star the really good ones. Then I’ll edit the starred images. But be sure to go back through your raw folder at a later date, because you always miss some gems. Over time, I’ve created presets for different types of images, so I’ll choose a preset and then make changes from there. I also like to use the Nik Collection from Google for a bit of additional editing that I can’t manage in Lightroom, particularly for underwater shots.
How do you educate yourself to become a better photographer?
I’m always reading photography blogs and watching tutorials on YouTube. I’m completely self-taught so I still have so much to learn about even the basics of photography. My favourite tutorial site is Phlearn (www.phlearn.com). They have a YouTube channel as well as tonnes of videos on their website. A lot of their info is free to access and a Pro membership is also very reasonable.
I also like to look at other people’s images and ask myself what it is that I like so much about their image. Being a photographer is not just about knowing how to use a camera, but also about developing your own style and deciding what type of photographer you want to be. While I’m still figuring this out, I know what I enjoy shooting and also what I find pleasing to look at. This is where everyone is unique, so it’s really useful to start asking yourself these questions.
Who would you say are your greatest inspirations and influencers?
One of my biggest inspirations would have to be the legendary surf photographer Peter ‘Joli” Wilson. I met him in the Maldives and he inspired me to buy my first camera. He also helped me choose what equipment to get. Without him, I don’t think I would have ever gotten into photography.
Instagram has been the most influential place for me to find other photographers that I love. The three that stand out the most for me are Amy Pearl (@amypearlphoto), Warren Keelan (@warrenkeelan) and Nolan Omura (@nolanomura). They all photograph the ocean but all have very unique styles, and I love them all! They are also all at very different stages in their career. I think it’s important to have some mentors that are close to where you’re currently at, rather than just world famous photographers.
What is the most memorable travel destination?
Madagascar is probably the most memorable for me. It’s such a unique country and it was actually the first country I ever moved to and worked in. Unfortunately, I wasn’t into photography at all back then, so I’d love to try and get back with a camera!
What country are you dying to shoot in but have yet to explore?
Anywhere in French Polynesia. The south pacific has the clearest water in the world, and French Polynesia has a beautiful landscape as well.
What motivates you to continue taking photos?
Getting messages from people who tell me how much they love my work. I try not to get wrapped up in the world of ‘likes’ etc. but when I get a genuine message of encouragement from a stranger, it really gives me the motivation to try harder.
You take a lot of stunning ocean shots what do you enjoy most about this?
I think to be able to show people how beautiful the ocean is when they can’t see it for themselves. I’m a total water baby, but some people aren’t, but that shouldn’t mean that they miss out on seeing the beauty of the ocean. Also, if I’m shooting the ocean, it means that I’m in it.
Finally, what is one piece of advice you would give someone starting out in photography?
Try not to compare yourself to others and don’t copy other people’s work. Take the photos that you genuinely enjoy taking, and not because you think other people will like them. Learn as much as you can and get out there and start snapping away.
Hannah has also written - A beginners guide to shooting the ocean