IFLScience Meets: Underwater Photographer, Cinematographer, And Stunt Man, André Musgrove

'One of the dives was me swimming between these two large [~4-to-5 meter] 14-to-16 foot tiger sharks... I was right between them, almost like a sandwich.' Image courtesy of André Musgrove 

It’s hard work trying to pigeonhole André Musgrove. As an underwater cinematographer, photographer, Ocean Photography Awards judge, professional freediver, and underwater stunt performer, to say his career is varied would be an understatement. Born and raised in the Bahamas, where he is still based today, his experience and knowledge have seen him work on projects with Discovery Channel, National Geographic, GoPro, Canon, Rolex, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Here, he tells us how he came to be so at home in the water and what it takes to secure the perfect shot when grappling with the ocean and its wildlife.

From underwater stunt performer to TV presenter, you have a very varied career – which would you say is your dominant role?

I would say my most dominant career is underwater photography and cinematography.

You recently judged the Ocean Photography Awards, what do you look for when trying to select and secure award-winning shots?

For me when I'm taking my own shots I'm looking for composition, color (because color is usually lost underwater very easily so when it's actually there it really stands out) and basically just how unique or difficult the shot may be to get based on what the photographer or models have to do. These are the things I would use when I shoot my own work and when judging other work also.

Pit Full Of Colors by André Musgrove. Image courtesy of André Musgrove

What did it take to get here?

I was born and raised in Nassau, Bahamas, and a lot of my free time was spent freediving and spearfishing out with my dad on the boat on the weekends. And most of my friends and people around my age never actually did what I did. So, I'd have to tell them stories after the adventures were finished. So that encouraged me to pick up a camera to share those experiences with my friends who weren't able to actually call them or who didn't have an interest in that yet until I showed them the videos.

And that was basically my introduction to my underwater photography/underwater cinematography role. I started just with a little GoPro action camera. Took it everywhere I went when I was freediving, spearfishing, then I got scuba certified and I got into that. Then once I graduated high school, I began working at a local dive shop that had an underwater photography lab.

It was kind of a training ground for me for the stuff that I do now. I learned a lot more about high quality equipment and shooting different things for production companies, working with sharks, doing a lot of scuba diving, working with tourist scuba divers also. I worked there for two years, and then I resigned to freelance and do my own thing as [an] underwater photographer and cinematographer, working as [a] private dive guide when I had time.

What are some common misconceptions about your line of work?

I think some people think it’s very simple and easy to get into which it is not, especially if you're shooting in the ocean. Shooting in a pool or just with a little waterproof phone is completely different than being in the ocean and having to work with and understand wildlife in a way that makes it possible to capture those moments. Also, whether you're doing scuba diving or freediving makes a big difference. On top of that, the equipment itself is pretty expensive because not only are you buying the camera, but you also have to buy the underwater components to make sure everything's safe.

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