Featured Photographer: Leo Moreno
Welcome to the seventh edition of the Featured Photographer monthly post. Please meet Leo Moreno a Florida (USA) based scuba diver. I have been following his instagram and amazed by his underwater photography. Let’s get inspired by his photography works that mostly captured in Florida and Caribbean.
I was surprised when finding out that Leo has been diving for only two years. His images are professional looking that I had an assumption he might have been diving for tens of years! Leo is regularly diving in a famous dive site as one of the best dive site in the world by Sport Diver: Blue Heron Bridge (Florida). More about Leo and his photography, please read the following interview and don’t miss to read how he got his camera as I might do the same, or wouldn’t you? 😉
Leo Moreno as a Scuba Diver
How long have you been diving and how many logged dives?
I have been diving for 2 years, and have somewhere around 125 dives, but I don’t log them. Most of my dives were in my first year. Since I started my new job, I have not had much time to dive, and take pictures in the last year or so. Sometimes reality takes over, but I’ve been going more often in the last couple months, and I have tons of photos that I need to develop, and hundreds that I haven’t even had a chance to look at. So I will be posting more new ones soon.
Why do you scuba dive?
I just love it! I know that’s a boring answer, but it’s true. I just do it because I love doing it. Why would anyone not scuba dive!?
Do you teach your dog to scuba dive? 😉
Haha! That’s Dewey! He doesn’t even like to swim, but he loves the camera, and will do anything as long as he’s getting attention.
Where is your most favorite diving place?
Little Cayman was my favorite for sure. 100 foot visibility! Warm water! Turtles! Sharks! Beautifully preserved walls, and reefs! And Groupers as friendly as puppies! All from beach dives! I can’t wait to go back!
Where do you dive most?
I live in South Florida so I do most of my diving locally, and in the Florida Keys, and the Blue Heron Bridge. Luckily I don’t have to go very far to find great diving.
Have you been diving in your dream diving destination(s)?
Oh! I have lots of dream dive destinations that I have not had the chance to dive yet! Indonesia, Maldives, Great Barrier Reef, Belize, Mexico, Philippines, Thailand, Hawaii… I wouldn’t even know where to start. I will see them all eventually. As soon as I hit the lottery!
Leo Moreno as Photographer
How do you define underwater photography?
I’m not sure how to define it. I knew absolutely nothing about photography until I started diving. I didn’t even own a camera, aside from my cell phone. I just bought a camera, and a book, and started practicing. I’ve never thought about it like that. I just see something I like, and I try my best to capture it the way I see it in my head, or the way I envision it looking through the viewfinder, so other people can have a chance to see how beautiful the ocean is. I don’t really consider myself artistic. It’s just fun!
What is your underwater camera gear?
My current rig is a Nikon D7100, in an Ikelite housing, with dual Sea&Sea YS-D1 strobes. My wide angle lens is a Tokina 10-17 fisheye, and for macro I have a Tokina 100mm f2.8 macro. My friends said I was crazy when I sold my Jet ski to buy this set up, but it is my baby!
What is your favorite subject for underwater photography?
Turtles! I love seeing turtles! It doesn’t matter how many I see, I always get excited. Especially the young ones, because they are curious and clumsy. I’ve even had a couple bump into my camera dome looking at their reflection.
Who inspires you to take underwater photography?
Everyone! I love showing my images to people or posting them on social media. I really like seeing people’s reactions and reading their comments. It makes me feel good that people can enjoy seeing what I was lucky enough to see in person. Especially when they think the image is fake. I used to think the same thing about other photographer’s images when I first started. “That’s not real.” Or “that is photoshopped!” Those are the best compliments!
Stunning Underwater Photography by Leo
I am truly impressed by your image in Cayman Island. How many sharks did you see during your dive? What species of sharks and are they dangerous to humans?
There were probably 4 or 5 Reef Sharks on that dive. It was hard to tell because it was on the wall in Little Cayman. The sharks would come up from the depths, and then disappear back into the darkness. The wall there drops thousands of feet, so it is black when you look down. It’s very cool!
I don’t think they were dangerous at all. I’m sure if they wanted too, they could be, but they don’t waste their energy on divers unless they are provoked. That is my opinion by the way. Don’t go blaming me if you jump in the water with sharks, and they add you to the menu.
Banded Jaw Fish with his eggs is rare to spot! Do you have any tips to find the Jawfish? How big he was?
Luckily, I get to see lots of these Banded Jaw Fish locally at the Blue Heron Bridge. They are not camera shy at all. As long as you are still, and good with your buoyancy, they will pop their heads out and pose. This one had a mouth full of eggs, and he posed for me for about 15 minutes. Yes, the male incubates the eggs. He was probably about 4-5 inches, but I’m not exactly sure because I’ve never seen one completely out of the hole.
Would you like to leave a special message to readers?
Thank you to everyone who took the time to read this, or enjoyed my images. I think the best advice I can give to someone who I interested in underwater photography is just do it. You don’t need any photography experience, or a big expensive camera to get great shots. I learned this the expensive way. Just learn your camera, and practice. Read! Read! Read! And practice!
You’d be amazed at what you can do with a little point and shoot camera if you use it properly. I did not have any experience in photography until I started diving. I bought a little SeaLife camera the day I finished my certification, and I took it with me on every dive. I taught myself everything from aperture to shutter speed to iso, from reading books, and just trying to mimic images I liked.
I highly recommend The Underwater Photographer, by Martin Edge. I read it cover to cover, and it transformed my images overnight. Also, don’t be a “reef crasher” you’re never going to get a good picture while slamming into the reef, or kicking up the bottom with your fins, and it’s not worth the damage.
Can’t get enough of Leo’s Photography?
All images presented here are chosen by Leo as his favorite images. If you click the image, you will be directed to the large version of the image on his Instagram. Leo’s photography is also available in the following social media: