Photojournalists Stunning Images Of Marine Life Tell Story Of Climate Change

This is the moment an underwater photographer takes up-close images of our oceans’ amazing marine life and documents a world that is being seriously affected by climate change.

Francesco Pacienza, 58, told Newsflash from his home in Italy: “Photography plays an important role in showing people what lies beneath the ocean’s surface, but also what is ruined by human behaviour and increasing pollution.

“Contrary to what many may think, the most frightening things I have encountered underwater are not sharks or other living organisms, but the damage being caused by human behaviour to this ecosystem.”

A photo by Francesco Pacienza, 58, from Cosenza, Italy. (@francescopacienza/Newsflash)

He is unequivocal on the wide effect climate change is having on the underwater world: “I dive in some places where unusual species from warmer waters (Indo-Pacific Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Caribbean mangroves, etc) have found a new home and started competing with native species.

“All these marine organisms have entered into competition with native marine organisms, which tend to succumb to these species that are biologically much more resistant [due to] their great capacity for adaptation compared to others.”

He adds: “Climate change is closely connected with the variation of the water temperature in the seas – and this influences, quite evidently, the reproductive cycle of many species.”

A picture taken by Francesco Pacienza, 58, from Cosenza, Italy. (@francescopacienza/Newsflash)

The underwater realms were not Francesco’s first muse. After abandoning computer studies, he attended the European Institute of Design in Milan to specialise in fashion and jewellery photography.

He went on to a successful career as an advertising photographer and found inspiration in photographic lighting seminars by Oscar-winning cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro.

Now Francesco combines his photojournalism with teaching, and has authored several books on photographic techniques – but it is the sea that really inspires this occasional diving instructor.

A picture of a shark taken by Francesco Pacienza, 58, from Cosenza. (@francescopacienza/Newsflash)

“Being a photographer who specialises in still-life and advertisement photography, I decided that I could apply the same techniques to capture these environments and its inhabitants,” says Francesco.

“Before all this, I knew I had to learn about diving and controlling my breathing as well as the underwater environments I wanted to photograph.”

But it is the delicate balance that Francesco strikes between the story and the beauty that is behind the evocative images seen here: “For me, documentary photography should not be separated from producing an artistic look if you want to reach a wide audience and raise awareness of certain issues.”

A picture taken by Francesco Pacienza, 58, from Cosenza, Italy. (@francescopacienza/Newsflash)

He says it is not the subject of the photo that is important but the idea behind it: “Based on this idea, I choose a location that allows me to have more choice with different subjects, but I don’t focus on a single one, I adapt to what the sea offers me to bring about my photographic idea.

Since being bitten by the underwater photography bug, Francesco has amassed an amazing library of images from many waters around the globe.

“I love the Mediterranean because every time I dive, I discover something new.

A picture of a sea horse taken by Francesco Pacienza, 58, from Cosenza, Italy. (@francescopacienza/Newsflash)

“And I would love to return to South Africa, such as the reef Aliwal Shoal, as its good for getting close to sharks.

“I like tropical seas like the Maldives for the possibility of seeing manta rays or whale sharks. The Red Sea also is a destination that is very close for me, only a three-hour flight, with the option of taking photographs of colourful coral reefs but also wrecks such as the SS Thistlegorm, Million Hope, and SS Durnaven.

“I also dive in the Philippines – Apo Island is a true underwater paradise. Thailand, Greece, Brazil, Maldives, Bali, and Egypt all have their own beauty that makes them unique places.

A picture taken by Francesco Pacienza, 58, from Cosenza, Italy. (@francescopacienza/Newsflash)

“But my next visits will be to Baja California, Madagascar, and Indonesia.”

Francesco is coy about the technique behind these up-close and personal images: “Normally I don’t use any special filters, even though I have invented some.

“I created a filter, superNOVA, which is used in macro photography, to generate a brushstroke effect around the subject, using the same colours as the subject and what surrounds it.

A picture taken by Francesco Pacienza, 58, from Cosenza, Italy. (@francescopacienza/Newsflash)

“But some effects I use are the same as other photographers around the world.”

He says part of the magic is in a specialised lighting system that he created himself.

With this he can achieve a ‘particular background’ while the subject remains ‘in its natural environment’.

A photo taken by Francesco Pacienza, 58, from Cosenza, Italy. (@francescopacienza/Newsflash)

But his fascination for the sea creatures he photographs shines through: “Among the most interesting marine subjects I have photographed are sharks, seahorses and nudibranchs.”

Nudibranchs are a type of marine mollusc that shed their shells after a larval stage.

He added: “Sharks impress me because of their curiosity, their muscle strength that can be seen in every movement, but also their shyness. I never forget that the sea is their habitat and humans are just guests.

A photo taken by Francesco Pacienza, 58, from Cosenza, Italy. (@francescopacienza/Newsflash)

“I like seahorses for their elegance, but also for their strength and fragility caused by increasing pollution, putting them at risk of extinction.

“Nudibranchs are characterised by incredible shapes and colours. They are so small, apparently fragile, but very resistant with incredible biological characteristics.”

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