This week we chat to…Romina Bayer, Founder of OceanSnaps and Underwater Photography Coach. Romina is passionate about using photography to inspire people to discover more about our oceans. She encourages everyone to not give up on your dreams and that everyone can make a difference.
Name: Romina Bayer
Job Title: Underwater Photography Coach and Founder of OceanSnaps
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
I clearly remember the moment when I decided I had to do something to help protect our oceans. I was living in Berlin after a year of travel through Central America, where I fell in love with the oceans and became a Divemaster. I was at an Ocean Film Festival watching a screening of “Racing Extinction” (what a brilliant documentary). In one scene, they show sharks being finned, then thrown back into the ocean unable to move and left to suffocate. I could not stop crying. This footage, as horrible as it was, moved me so much that I needed to do something. At the same time it really made me want to go out there and experience all of this beauty as long as it is still there. This is also when I realized the power of images.
That experience inspired me to move to Indonesia, where I have been living for the last couple of years managing a dive centre at Siladen Resort, a tiny little island inside the Bunaken Marine Park, and becoming a better underwater photographer, as well as teaching underwater photography. Now I have also founded my own business, OceanSnaps, where I help aspiring underwater photographers create stunning images underwater and become ocean ambassadors.
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
I believe in life-long learning and so I am constantly looking for opportunities to grow. As an entrepreneur you are faced with new challenges on a daily basis.
I am a scuba diving instructor and an underwater photography instructor. But my original career background is in International Relations and Media and Communications Management. I feel like all of those steps along the way have helped me get to where I am now. My experience in teaching divers has taught me how important good dive skills are for underwater photography, as well and how much fun it is to teach others! My experience in Marketing helped me a lot with getting my business off the ground. And all my dive experience have helped me become a better photographer and taught me to be more mindful and respectful of our oceans.
- How did you land your current job/position?
I created it as I founded my own company!
When I started out in underwater photography, I quickly realized how hard it is to learn and master the skills! And even though I wanted to learn, there was no real place to do so. On top of that, I also realized that not every underwater photographer cared about the impact they were having on the reef life, and I really wanted to change that.
That is why I decided to share my knowledge with others and inspire them to become responsible underwater photographers. We need to protect our oceans, and the first step is to respect them. It is not about taking “perfect pictures”, the health of the oceans should always come first!
Images are such a powerful tool to inspire others, evoke emotions, and make people care. That is why I want to encourage divers and all ocean lovers to share their passion for the oceans with anybody they meet!
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
The exchange with other like-minded ocean lovers, seeing my students grow and making a difference themselves. I also really love all the creative parts of my job, not only the process of creating underwater images and just being in the water, but also the creative parts of content creation and marketing.
- Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
I love seeing the shift in other people, the moment they suddenly have a big realization and you can notice that something has just changed for them.
When it comes to people who are not particularly “connected” to our oceans yet, it is seeing the moment that people start to care about our oceans. When your images inspire someone to discover and learn more about our oceans, this is so beautiful to witness!
When it comes to my underwater photography students, it is a bit different, because most people who start taking pictures underwater are already in love with the oceans and care about them. However, many think their pictures are not good enough and often they struggle with taking good pictures, just as I did for many years. Seeing that transformation in someone, from struggling with their camera, to them being able to create outstanding underwater images and actually being proud of their images is just the best reward for me!
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
It is never too early to start talking about your ideas.
- Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
Yes, email marketing skills! I didn’t even know that was a thing until last year!
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Don’t give up! Every one of us can make a difference, and you never know whose world you are going to change! Ask for help, together we are so much stronger.
- What is your favourite marine creature and why?
Hammerhead sharks! They are just so majestic.
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
The first time I got to see a hammerhead shark underwater! Before the dive, I was so excited about seeing hammerheads that I completely forgot to check my camera. Just as we descended on the dive site, I noticed that I had forgotten to take off my lens cap! As it’s not really a good idea to open your housing underwater…well there went my chance to photograph hammerheads! I was really bummed, but only for a moment because then I saw that iconic shape out in the blue and at that moment I just started to scream and cry, because I could not believe our luck of actually seeing a hammerhead alive.
I was not able to calm down throughout the whole dive. The hammerhead stayed close to us for 20 minutes or so, and I was crying throughout that whole time. I had never breathed that heavily on any dive in my entire life, and when I finally checked my air I noticed I was already on my safety reserve!
There was no other option, we had to end the dive and ascend to the surface. Our dive guide actually thought I was having a panic attack because even back on the boat I could not stop crying, but it was a pure joy attack!!!
In the end, I am really glad that I was not able to take any photos on that dive, because then my whole focus was just on enjoying the moment, and I will never forget that dive.
Thank you Romina, great to learn more about another facet of marine conservation and research. Check out Romina’s work here