The world looked a lovely shade of blue, disturbed only by the scattering yellow-white sunlight. Sumer Verma had dived into foreign waters, and yet, this environment was so familiar.
He had been diving since 1997 and each experience was equally familiar, yet unique. This particular dive, in 2014, was one-of-a-kind though.
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Although Sumer had always felt a profound quiet and peace when he reached underwater, this dive, in Ecuador, had a thrill. The waters had sharks! And no, they were not deep in the ocean, far away from him. He could see them, not one, not two, but hundreds of them!
“I have dived thousands of times but this particular experience would go on to become one of my most cherished,” India’s first underwater photographer and cinematographer tells The Better India.
“I was just a city guy experiencing the islands, and it wasn’t just the dive that opened my eyes to the beauty of this planet. This experience started as soon as I reached the islands. During the dive too, I was mesmerised by the beautiful coral reefs and the fish. I felt weightless while my body floated. It was almost like being in space!” he exclaims.
Irreversibly hooked to scuba diving, Sumer, like anyone else, started sharing his experiences with his friends and family. However, he did not have the equipment to capture videos or photos underwater at the time.
As his loved ones started demanding photos of this wonderful realm that he was experiencing every year, Sumer bought a basic camera that could help him capture videos. And that combined two of his hobbies—wildlife photography/ cinematography and scuba diving!
But as glamorous as the career sounds, it did not have many prospects.
“Only in recent times has this job started becoming profitable. And this is the only job I’ve had, after struggling at it for twenty years. Firstly, the equipment costs lakhs, which is a huge setback. And more importantly, since I am yet to get a commission or regular buyers, I have to pay for the travel and dives too,” the 44-year-old shares.
A hotel here, a wildlife enthusiast there, helped, by buying his pictures. But that did not stop Sumer from capturing amazing photos in the oceans. It’s a beautiful planet affected irreversibly by human activities, he observed.
And Sumer wanted to capture the beauty to show exactly what we are killing—with our plastic, chemicals, and acids, dumped in the oceans every day.
Sharing his thoughts about this, the photographer says, “The more images I share, the more people become aware of the magnificent world. I know that one image cannot change everyone who sees it, but there is hope. I can bring awareness to those not as privileged as me to see marine wildlife. We can’t keep shaking people up but we can touch their hearts and move them with beautiful pictures. That is my aim.”
Relentless work for the past 20 years has today resulted in a platform where Sumer can be called one of India’s first underwater photographer/cinematographer.
Apart from this, he works as a managing partner at Lacadives India, India’s first dive centre. Sumer has also founded Luminousdeep, an organisation that provides high-quality underwater images and videos, on-demand. He hopes to keep showing his followers the wonders of the underwater world and translate the amazement into awareness to conserve it.
One of Sumer’s most iconic photos is of Rajan, the last swimming elephant in Andaman.
Rajan was brought to the islands in the 1970s to transport wood, but later went on to star in a number of films, including the 2006 drama, The Fall. The beloved and celebrated swimming elephant breathed his last in 2016 but Sumer was fortunate enough to capture him in his frame before that.
Sharing his experience, he says, “It was surreal. We swam together for half an hour and it was one of my most magical dives. He was so gentle and happy in the water. May his soul rest in peace.”
Check out more images from Sumer’s dives here:
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)
To know more, write to Sumer on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images Courtesy: Sumer Verma