Filippo Borghi literally goes to great depths to get the perfect shot.
In 1999, the Siena, Italy-based photographer and conservationist decided to combine his passion for the sea and a love of photography by taking the plunge with simple underwater film camera, the Nikonos V.* He instantly knew he wanted to continue his new pursuit.
Since those early days testing the waters, Borghi has traveled the world in search of great dives and stunning images. With curiosity and wonder as his guide, he’s succeeded, taking underwater photography as a genre and art form to new levels and winning numerous awards (Third Place, Animals in their Environment, SIPA 2017; Underwater Photographer of the Year, 2018 among many other awards). He also founded “Sensazioni Blu,” an Italian dive club in 2007, and is an experienced dive instructor.
In the beginning, Borghi said he “tried to shoot everything my diving, from big fish to tiny sea slugs,” but with just 36 film shots available, had to carefully choose the most interesting subjects.
“This period with film really helped me to develop a sense of underwater photography basics,” he says.
The photographer’s top favorite dive locations currently are Baja California and Irian Jaya (West Papua, Indonesia). Baja is amazing for big marine animals, from sea lions and grey whales to marlin, sharks and more. He describes West Papua as “one of the last pristine coral reefs in the world, full of fish and a kaleidoscope of color – a paradise to discover and protect.”
Borghi says he is currently working on two personal projects. One involves finding and shooting the most interesting and uncommon behaviors of certain Mediterranean fish, a project that takes plenty of time, money and perseverance.
He’s also taken a recent interest in “blackwater diving,” which involves diving in the open ocean, at night over very deep “bottomless” water. Lights are used to attrack pelagic and larval creatures that drift by in the currents.
Just months ago, Borghi experienced his first blackwater dives in Anilao, Philippines.
“It was an incredible photo experience,” he says.
Take the Plunge: Filippo Borghi’s advice for beginners:
- Develop your own style by trying to understand what personally gives you the greatest satisfaction in terms of environment and subject matter.
- Never feel upset or stressed just because you’re not finding what you expected, or the animal was not cooperative. After all, it’s a unique privilege to have these experiences, in direct contact with the underwater world.
- Learn from other photographers you admire – through inspiration, not copying!
*Early Nikonos cameras were improvements of the Calypso, designed by famed diver and filmmaker Jacques-Yves Coustea along with Belgian engineer Jean de Wouters).