The Cephalopod Citizen Science project is excited to introduce the first of our new series ‘@CephCitSci in Conversation With..’, where we discuss all things cephalopod! We will be speaking to individuals from different fields, from scientists to photographers, artists to podcasters, to explore just how vast the cephalopod community is.
To start off our series, we have interviewed underwater photographer Steven Kovacs, whose striking images are a regular feature on our Instagram page. His distinctive photographs from black-water dives are vibrant insights into the underwater world off the shores of Palm Beach, Florida.
Kovacs is a self-taught photographer whose photography illuminates the unusual forms and features of a diverse selection of species. You only need to look at a few examples of his work to appreciate how his photography blends the scientific with the artistic. We interviewed Kovacs recently, to discuss a little more about his work with cephalopods.
When did you start your underwater photography and what inspired you to do so?
“I started underwater photography around 2001. It's something I've always wanted to do for as long as I can remember. I was fascinated by life in the oceans from when I was 5 or 6 years old and, for whatever reason, I had a desire to photograph this as well.”
What do you find are the challenges of photographing cephalopods in the wild?
“The challenges depend on the particular species involved. The reef octopi tend to be more relaxed if you are patient and show that you are not a threat to them. The blackwater pelagic cephalopods tend to be more challenging since they are more likely to flee during an encounter, but even these animals show a wide variation in behaviour between individuals. Some are very curious and will actually approach and stay with you, not seeing you as a threat in the slightest, while others may flee in terror. Like humans, they all seem to have their own unique personalities.”
What is your favourite cephalopod to photograph?
“My favourite has to be the female blanket octopus. It is one of the most majestic animals I have ever had the privilege of encountering, especially when it opens and displays its "blanket". It is a truly remarkable species.”
Is there a cephalopod that you haven't yet photographed, but would like to?
“Yes! The two that immediately come to mind are the hairy octopus and the elusive seven-arm octopus.”
As a citizen science project, we rely on public documentations of cephalopod encounters. Do you have any advice for our citizen scientists who may have less experience photographing/videoing cephalopods in the wild?
“Be patient, observe the animal's reaction and let it get acclimatised to your presence. Once it realises you're not a threat, the experience and interaction you have can be amazing.”
We would like to thank Steven for his contribution today. To see a full archive of Steven Kovacs’ images, please visit his website: https://blueplanetarchive.photoshelter.com/gallery/Steven-Kovacs/G0000xkgYPKtSt5o or follow his Instagram page: @steven_kovacs_photography