“The sea, once it casts it’s spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
Jaques Yves Cousteau
Hey Marcel! Thanks for doing this with us, a quick introduction – how old are you, where are you from and where do you live now?
Hi thanks a lot for featuring me, I was born 1973 in Monte Carlo and I live in Cologne Germany now.
How did you get into underwater photography? It is a fairly rare pursuit to be involved in, did something in particular inspire you, or someone? Do you have a history of diving?
I have been into snorkelling and free diving since my childhood, the underwater world has always been a big fascination for me and it still hasn’t lost anything of that. I bought my first underwater camera in 2014 after some tough years, I gave myself a very special birthday present. It was a dream come true - a 3 week vacation to the Maldives. Before I travelled to the other side of the planet, I wanted to check how good the little underwater camera was and so gave it a try in a local quarry lake. It was a mind-blowing experience! I had spent every summer at this particular lake, but had never dived into it. I just could not believe how beautiful it was under it’s surface, and from that day on I try to spend every free moment I can under the surface.
Where did the name – Metalimnion – come from?
I have already had a few alter egos/artist names, most of them have been German and that can sometimes a real problem if you work internationally, so when I decided to make the fish and underwater photo account on Instagram, I initially wanted to call it ‘Sprungschicht’ and just at the moment when I set up the account, I changed my mind and used the Latin word for it, so it could be better understood worldwide. Here comes the meaning of it - for all your anglers out there, that’s probably something you should know and understand, because it can help you to find the fish. The ‘metalimnion’, also called thermocline, is the transitional water layer in stratified standing water. The metalimnion forms the transition between the upper water layer, the epilimnion and the lower, the hypolimnion.
Ahh, of course! That makes perfect sense. Great name. I’m guessing this isn’t a full time job for you, how do you make your living and find time to shoot so much – you have lots of work!? How often do you get out?
No, it’s not my job. I have been a visual and photo artist since 1997 but I spend a lot of time working in clubs and on events, I’m part of the ‘Basswerk’ crew which is a German drum and bass label. In 2006 I founded the multidisciplinary artist collective ‘Lichtfaktor’. The collective is focused on light painting, interactive installations and artistic media performances, Lichtfaktor does productions and events for global players, world wide and at its peak time, I had 9 employees to do all the magic and a lot of jobs, and not so much spare time. Before my Maldives trip, I hadn’t had the time to do any vacations for more than 10 years.
Fascinating, a completely different way of life and experience compared to diving I’m sure! It is really interesting to see that you choose to free dive to shoot, and not use tanks? Is that for a reason?
That’s a very good question! I have got a PADI Scuba certification, but all my pictures are shot with one breath only. I prefer it that way, I’m much more silent, I don’t need a buddy and I can be way more flexible if it comes to climbing between braches. Also one of the main reasons is that in Germany scuba diving is only allowed in special lakes. In these lakes you find a lot of divers, but that’s not so good for the nature, but on the other hand it does protect the nature. I prefer to free dive in every lake I can, sometimes I get asked by anglers to leave, because the lake is their private property, but then at the same time they always ask me what I have seen and because we have the same passion, they have never called the police, up to now.
Ha! Some carp anglers I know dive to explore the lakes they fish more thoroughly, and even to prepare spots and find carp, so I can imagine why they would be keen to talk to you! What is the physical experience like free diving?
I already explained why I prefer to free dive, in a more technical way. But there are more reasons why I love it. It’s like a meditation, I have to relax and also be focused at the same time, you have to know your physical and mental body. It’s not as technical as scuba diving and I’m totally connected to myself and the environment, sounds a bit esoteric but that’s how I experience it. That’s one of the main reasons I’m actually doing it, because it relaxes me, it connects me to nature and that’s the way I recharge my batteries. But there is also a huge disadvantage, the limitation in time, I have only got this one short moment to take my pictures and because I don’t have a buddy there is also a risk in case shit happens.
How long can you do on one breath?
I’m not a professional free diver, I can hold my breath up to 2 mins, depending on the water temperature and my physical and mental conditions. And if I have to go really deep down or there are some stronger currents, it’s only a minute.
How do the fish behave when you are down there with them? You manage to get incredibly close to them in some of the shots, especially the carp?
That’s very different with each species, the pike for example thinks he is invisible, and as long you let him feel that way, it’s fine for him. The perch are like a group of punks, always looking to see what’s going on, they are fearless. The eel is special and very rare where I live, he prefers very cold water, in his cave he feels secure but in open water it only needs one wrong movement, and he is gone.
'The perch are like a group of punks, always looking to see what’s going on, they are fearless'
My favourite fish is probably the carp, they do need a long breath because they are a bit shy initially. Mostly they are in bigger groups and search the ground for food but they can be very friendly and you mostly get a small window of time from them, so both sides can check each other out. From the moment they notice you to the moment they come close, it’s better to not move at all and mostly they notice you way before you notice them. So one trick that works quite well for me is just to rest at the bottom of the lake, not to deep so you couldn’t shoot with the sunlight, and just wait and hope they come by and check you out.
What sorts of behaviour have you experienced?
So many, that I have to write a book one time! But there is really no fish in freshwater like the carp, and that’s for many reasons. For example if they feel disturbed, they will let you know and tell you to go home, no fish in Germany behave like that, I respect it.
How do you find the thermocline affects where you find the fish, depending on the time of year?
You can see and feel it, I will send you a picture - it looks almost like fog in the water. Some fish will stay above the metalimnion and others under it. For more informations about the metalimnion and how it can effect your luck in catching a fish, check this interesting link, it’s in German but you can use the google webpage translation to read it:
Here are some English web pages:
What are your favourite fish to shoot, and why?
It would definitely be the carp! I have had so many magic moments with carp, that my girlfriend must feel jealous. There is really a deep connection and it’s very difficult to describe it, most fish have no real personal traits, but the carp has definitely got it, some times more, sometimes less and sometimes I’m overwhelmed by it, it’s like meeting an old soul... I’m getting esoteric again, sorry for that!
'it’s very difficult to describe it, most fish have no real personal traits, but the carp has definitely got it, some times more, sometimes less and sometimes I’m overwhelmed by it, it’s like meeting an old soul...'
Your shots have a beautifully ‘magic’, mysterious feel to them, and a poetry, do you look for certain conditions, certain situations, or do you let the environment lead you?
Thanks, you noticed. For me it’s always like a journey into another world. It is deeply mystical for me, it should be mystical for everyone! If I tell you that there is a world inside this world that is unseen and hidden under the surface.. Everything in this world is different to ours, they live in a different element and you can exist there only for a couple of seconds, it should make you wonder. I still see it all through my childs eyes and it will never become normal to me and it is this feeling and fascination I want to transport and share through my pictures. When people ask me at the shore if I saw something and if there are fish in the lake, I show them what I have just shot, they mostly cannot believe it, because they can’t see it. But it’s there, it's right under them. It was the same for me some years ago, it's like entering another planet and each lake is different with different citizens and landscapes.
What kit do you shoot on?
I started with a Olympus TG4, I still think that’s a great piece of gear. 3 years ago I got a Panasonic LX10 in a Nauticam Housing. Last year I got a backscatter mini-flash because there is not always sunshine in Germany and this year I spent some money on a FantaSea wide-angle lens, because for me it’s often too difficult to shoot macro with one breath only.
Do you do much editing, or do you prefer a natural feel?
To get the feeling that I want to transport with my images, I have to do some colour editing in Lightroom.
Any advice for anyone looking to give it a go themselves?
You don’t need a big and costly camera to make nice pictures. But that’s something we all know, and still people buy all the fancy new gear... It needs passion, like always if you want to do something well. And because we are talking about observing animals in their own environments, you have to be respectful and move slowly to not scare them. In freshwater I prefer to shoot with natural light, cause there is allot of backscatter. I try to not make fish porn, if that makes sense? I like to show the fish inside its natural environment, for me that’s always an important part of the picture.
Favourite place to dive?
The next water around the corner! As long it has a good view and nice landscape, that’s what is important. Sure, I like to swim in exotic, warm blue water, but I live in Germany and the water here is green and the rest is what you make out of it.
How can people connect with you, and find you work?
This year I got myself a webpage, so please check that out:
And I also have an Instagram account too:
Some of your shots would make beautiful framed pieces - if people want to buy prints, where can they find them and go about that?
I’m looking for a partner to make limited art editions, but for now if you are interested in buying a picture, please contact me and I will make you a fair offer for a high quality printout!
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk about your work with us, it is inspiring and fascinating and we look forward to seeing more
Love and Respect,
Connect with Marcel here;
'It only takes one deep breath to enter another world that is right under the surface. A world full of beauty and magic and it is up to us to protect it'