Behind The Lens: Luke Inman

Madeline St Clair Baker

This week we caught up with award-winning film-maker, PADI course director and self-proclaimed dog walker, Luke Inman. From shooting sustainable swimwear to some incredible encounters with Humboldt squid, keep reading to find out how this photographer's story is intrinsically tied with the ocean...

Photo: Luke Inman

Photo: Luke Inman

Hey Luke! Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born and was raised in London but have been lucky enough to travel from a very early age. Water and the ocean have always fascinated me; spending time underwater and with the ocean is important for my soul. It nourishes me, as does telling stories through my photography and film. I currently have 4 rescue dogs and 3 rescue cats, I am addicted to cross fit, which is fortunate... as I also love draught beer.

You have quite a resume in wildlife film production! What (or who) inspired you to get into this field?

My parents and family also encouraged me, particularly my grandmother. Singling out one individual, it would have to be Sir David Attenborough.  

Right now, we live in a world where we are hit daily with information from social media, TV and film. We are saturated with information. Most of the content we have to digest through these channels is complete nonsense. Natural History and conservation filmmaking are so important to impart, encourage and foster the importance of humans coexisting on this planet with all living beings. I think having early access to Attenborough’s shows and anything produced by the BBC Natural History unit really set the tone.

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Whose work has influenced you the most?

In no particular order, I love the following film makers and photographers:

  • Ric Fraiser – his swimming pool landscape shots underwater are just haunting and true inspiration for composition.

  • Chris Newbert – his photography was the first I really noticed that inspired me to work professionally underwater.

  • Stanley Krubrick – one of the greatest filmmakers and story tellers of all time.

  • Luc Besson – not just the Big Blue (obvious choice), all his films have the perfect combination of fairy tale and storytelling. Visually they are always stunning! 

You are not only a film-maker and photographer, but also an experienced diver. Have you always been drawn to the ocean?

Always! Always! That is a bit of a short answer… That is why I said it twice!

Where’s your favourite dive spot?

Los Islotes! The Sea Lion Colony at Espiritu Santo…

What set up do you use when you shoot underwater?

I have shot professionally with everything: Nikon, Canon, ARRI, GoPro, RED, IMAX. Right now, I am working personally with Sony Mirrorless cameras like the A7 and A9 in their version formats and versions. I simply adore how compact and responsive they are. Everything is in Nauticam housings and all my dive gear is Fourth Element and Apeks.

Amongst your photographic works, which is your favourite and why?

I am my own worst critic, always. Most recently my book came runner up in Underwater Photographer of the year; I am proud of the images in my book about Sea lions.

My most recent professional works are my last shoot for Fourth Element; I love photographing the recycled ocean positive range. Swimwear and non-neoprene wetsuits are made from ghost fishing nets!  I love the results of the shoot and that active female divers working in the dive industry and conservation were used as models. They all look spectacular!

I love to collaborate. A recent short film I worked on with Ben Lowry and Marvi Lacar won best short film at National Geographic Wild to Inspire 2018. The short is called "The Embodiment of Hope".

Photo: Luke Inman

Photo: Luke Inman

You seem to have worked on some exciting ocean-related projects. Can you describe your most memorable encounter with a marine species?

I have many, but a couple stand out in particular. One was shooting on a Humpback Whale expedition with Amanda Cotton. We had spent the entire day out of the water encouraging our clients and students to be in the water as much as possible. We finally got to dive with a Mother and Calf. The experience was surreal. The mother kept pushing her calf towards us; we interpreted it as a demonstration of trust. It made us both cry and we both forgot to shoot the sequence. It was a moment that did not need to be captured on media, just embossed in memory as the moment took your breath away.

The second was Humboldt squid. Unfortunately, not so common in the Sea of Cortez anymore. I would regularly dive with these animals, both as a filmmaker and just for fun. At the height of the squid population bloom (around 2006-2010) the animals got huge, easily reaching a weight of 80kg/180 pounds. The animals are intelligent, fearless and would often try and pull divers down to deep.

We would dive tethered to the boat and always in chainmail shark suit. The tethers and suit were not required all the time, but I was certainly pleased to have them when needed… The strength of a Humboldt squid hitting you full on and trying to drag you to depth is an interesting experience, it was certainly close to terrifying the first time it happened!

You photograph a lot of megafauna. What challenges (if any) do you face when capturing these creatures on camera?

What is that saying… “Never work with Animals and Children”? Megafauna simply do not have to show up. So, I guess planning and finding the megafauna! I think sometimes the dive industry can forget that Natural History crews spend significant amounts of time and money to shoot sequences that look like the most spectacular 10 mins ever and in reality, there was many months of hurry up and wait.

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The world is a big place - are there any species or places on your bucket list that you are yet to photograph?

The Crocs at Banco Chincorro and the Humpbacks in Tonga!

What advice would you give to people who want to get into wildlife photography and film production?

Get lost in the story telling and the message, not the gear and equipment. I am often dismayed at how import “Gear”, camera specs and megapixels are at the forefront of aspiring filmmakers and photographers’ minds, but never the story, never the message!

The ocean has changed rapidly in the last couple of decades. Could you leave us with any words of wisdom about ocean conservation?

There are so many sound bites for this! The one I like is “Think globally, act locally”.

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Behind the Lens explores the lives of those who capture the underwater world on camera

If you’ve enjoyed this interview with Luke, follow him here @luke_inman_photography and check out his website