Laurent Ballesta: The best underwater photographer of all time?

If you like underwater imagery, the work of French biologist Laurent Ballesta is nothing short of exquisite.

Described as a “Cousteau of Modern Times” his work is the result of big ideas, highly detailed planning, and a relentless pursuit.

“700 Requins Dans La Nuit” (700 Sharks In the Night) yielded a breakthrough in underwater imagery. Each year in French Polynesia, huge schools of Grouper gather to reproduce - and with this phenomenon, so do large populations of Grey reef sharks to feed on the Grouper. Ballesta and his team spent months designing a semicircular substrobe lighting setup, over 3000 dive hours in planning, and the actual dive of the event involved a continuous 24 hours in the water.

His other projects are equally large scale, unique, and visually stunning, and all requiring advanced technical diving skills. “The Ice Monster” is a multiple award winning image of a submerged Antarctic iceberg - so large it encompasses 147 images stitched together. I’ve stitched 6 50 mpx images and my computer was ready to collapse.

“Gombessa” is the journey searching for the Coelacanth, a scientifically important fish as is thought to be the transition animal from backboned fish to the earliest four-legged vertebrate land animals. Incredibly rare and living in sub-100 meter depths, the expedition involved daily deep dives to 120m in an attempt to locate and photograph the animal, which they were successfully able to do. Diving on Helium makes some of the effects of such depths more manageable, but repetitive sub 100m dives are in a class to their own, of which only a very elite percentage of technical divers can safely carry out.

The images are captivating as you are seeing the viewpoint of an explorer, a scientist, an artist, and a conservationist, all combined together in a final image. For me, perhaps the most enjoyable part of viewing these images is to see both the blend and boundaries of each of these interpretations.

It is an incredibly powerful perspective.

See his work here: