Giants of the sea
Encountering large marine animals in their habitat never gets boring. Photographer Jacques de Vos’ love for cetaceans blossomed at a young age. Every Saturday he went to the library to borrow new books about the oceans and marine life. His passion turned into his work. Not only does he photograph and film large marine mammals, but he also organises diving trips. Recently, he went to the Arctic region to document orcas and whales with the LUMIX S1. ‘The LUMIX S1 has a large sensor and incredible low-light performance. This is a critical feature during winter in the Norwegian Arctic where the lack of sunlight can be very challenging for photographers.’
He’s not sure when his love for all things ocean-related began. ‘It might have had something to do with my father’s naval career, which meant we always lived close to the ocean.’ Cetaceans have always intrigued him. ‘Apart from the fact that they are just all-round “awesome”, it has a lot to do with their intelligence and their capacity for altruism. Plus, they’re very similar to us in some ways. I was intrigued by the idea of a mammal living in the vastness of the world’s unexplored depths.’
Even after so many encounters with the animals, he still gets excited before a dive. ‘Every time is different and it never gets boring! Often the guests who join me on our Arctic-Freediving Expeditions are amused by my excitement, which rivals their own, assuming that after all these years for me it would be a matter of routine. It’s definitely a humbling experience and it’s challenging to try to convey this sensation through images and video.’
His favourite ocean dweller is the orca. ‘As the largest member of the oceanic dolphin family, they’re at the top of the food chain, have extremely complicated family structures, diverse methods of communicating, hunting and coordinating, and to top it all off, they look amazing! As one of the most widespread vertebrates on earth, there’s no other animal that so perfectly represents the pinnacle of evolution as a species, and their intelligence plays a major role in this.’
He hopes his photos and films will contribute to the preservation of marine animals. ‘We humans are causing almost irreparable damage to the oceans and all its inhabitants, from the smallest creatures all the way up to large creatures like the orca.
It’s unbelievably tragic that animals like orcas are currently considered to be among the most polluted marine creatures on earth. Biopsies performed on dead orcas in the past few years have detected the highest levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) ever recorded. PCBs are human-made organic chemicals known to cause a variety of adverse health effects.’
Jacques is regarded as an expert on orca behaviour. ‘One of my personal interests and contributions lies in their complex methods of communication. As technology improves and newer methods of recording, analysing and processing large amounts of data are developed, small advances are being made in how much we understand. That being said, we’re still a long way from deciphering their language.’
For the past few years, he’s been using LUMIX cameras to photograph and film underwater life. ‘My first LUMIX camera was the GX85. As a micro four-thirds camera it impressed me immensely in terms of the video quality and stabilisation, and I used it to shoot most of the topside footage for my award-winning short film, From the Shadows. The S1 series is simply mind-blowing. Besides its large sensor and incredible low-light performance, being able to shoot high frame-rate, 4K-video as well as high bit-rate video (important for colour correction) is very helpful for my work. For topside filming, the inbuilt image stabilisation is also a blessing. Until recently, it was almost impossible to shoot stabilised video while sailing without the aid of a gimbal, which often resulted in lost opportunities. I also really love the 'look' of the stills from the S1. Images look great straight out of camera. All in all it’s very impressive!’
Jacques de Vos
Jacques de Vos is a Underwater Photographer, Cameraman and Filmmaker who started his journey by following his passions for the ocean and diving by exploring both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans of the Cape Peninsula in Southern Africa. He has been freediving the unknown reaches of our oceans capturing stunning images of everything from kelp forests to freedivers and large marine life such as orcas, humpback whales, dolphins and sharks. While he has received many prestigious awards along the way for both his media work and films, he has also become an expert on orca behavior through his time running orca expeditions in the Norwegian Arctic as the the founder and co-owner of Arctic Freediving, as well as contributing his time to year round research linked to these incredible cetaceans. Jacques work has been published in magazines and books throughout the world and he has worked as a cameraman for companies like the BBC, Epic TV and Red Bull. In addition to a Bachelors Degree in Chemical Engineering, Jacques is also a Freediving Instructor Trainer, SCUBA Instructor as well as a Commercial Diver.