Photographers' Blog

Latitude Zero from underwater

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

By Jorge Silva

Once your eyes go below the ocean waterline, you know that there is an immense parallel universe brimming with images.

Ever since I began taking pictures I haven’t discovered anything that grabs me like diving does. Luckily, I don’t have to neglect photography while diving; they are perfectly complementary.


Photographing underwater is a challenge due to the inherent demands of diving, and the technical difficulties that underwater photography presents.

Diving requires calm and concentration, with control over every variable – floatability, depth, air, and time, while shooting underwater can break that calmness.  Going after an image can require me to swim a little more than expected, and consume more air than calculated. The human body requires more oxygen to move more muscles.

The Galapagos Islands are a dream come true for both divers and photographers, even more so when they are combined into one. Located on the geographical equator in the Pacific Ocean, this volcanic deep sea archipelago consists of 15 major islands and 107 islets, is home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Galapagos National Park and the Galapagos Marine Reserve. The latter is the second largest marine reserve in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

Riches above, wealth below

I’ve visited different parts of Ecuador’s Amazon jungle many times both as a photographer and as a tourist. I even covered a border war there and always found the jungle to be beautiful, in all situations. But nothing ever impressed me as much as a recent tour of the Yasuni National Park, home of the Waorani people and arguably one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth.

Apart from containing more species of trees than in all of North America, the Yasuni also contains some 20 percent of Ecuador’s oil reserves. For that reason it is also the focus of a novel initiative that the current government has launched to the world: In exchange for not drilling for crude in a 200,000-hectare area of Yasuni National Park, the government is asking wealthy nations, foundations and individuals to give it $3.6 billion. The proposal to the international community is to replace some of the income that Ecuador will not receive by keeping the petroleum underground, and prevent the contamination that comes from exploration,  production, and consumption.

They’ve given potential partners until 2024 to pay up, or watch the Yasuni’s oil being exploited. Last September, Chile became the first contributor with $100,000. There are other offers from France, Belgium, The Netherlands,  Spain, Italy and Norway.

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