Jahawi Bertolli, who grew up in the Kenyan Coastal region is an accomplished water photographer.
He started filming underwater when he was 23. Before that, he had been working in the music industry as a DJ, music producer, and writing music for films.
“My first underwater camera rig was a Panasonic Lumix GH3 with a nautical housing,” he says.
He has made underwater photography a career but says it is more of a passion job, one that will not earn “you loads of money but it’s a rich and fulfilling life.”
He is now a National Geographic Explorer and Photo Camp Instructor, iLCP Associate Fellow, award-winning filmmaker, photographer, and TV presenter, specialising in wildlife and the underwater world.
To him, photography is a passion but it is also an incredibly powerful tool he uses to move people and make positive change. The main themes of his work are environmental, marine, and shark conservation.
“If you cannot see what is happening then you will not care, but if you can see what is happening then you can be moved to change for the better. I only got into photography later in life upon seeing the changes in the natural world that I grew up in, mainly on the Kenyan coast, and realising no one was telling the stories of the decline in the ocean off of Kenya,” he says.
His film and photography work has taken him to many countries including Tanzania, Rwanda, Botswana, and South Africa.
“Outside of Africa I have travelled to Indonesia, Thailand, Burma (Myanmar), Ecuador, the USA, and the Galápagos Islands,” he says.
When not filming, he works with the Lamu Marine Conservation Trust, which is in the process of creating a new marine protected area at the remote Kinyika island in the Lamu Archipelago.
A must-have gear for aspiring water photographers?
“You need a solid and reliable camera and underwater housing for your camera which also gives you access to all your settings underwater. I use underwater housings from a company called Nauticam. Having your own dive gear is also very important as you want to be comfortable and know your gear completely when you are underwater so you can focus on the creative aspects of photography when you are down there. The first piece of gear would be a good-quality dive mask and fins,” he says.
He says what makes underwater photography exciting is that one is always experiencing and learning new things underwater.
“If I had to choose one memorable moment, it would be diving in Sodwana Bay in South Africa, out of a cage, and having a big white shark come check us out. Seeing this apex predator, over four metres long, swimming towards us and looking at us, so calmly, was just an incredible and exhilarating experience,” he says.