Matthew Smith was born in Britain, but he immigrated to Australia after realizing he had a deep and unrelenting love for the spoils of the Pacific coastline and ocean. There, he began photographing the ocean from a unique perspective: Half above the water, and half under. Because of the nature of his shots, Smith is able to capture the ocean and aquatic life in a unusual and and sometimes terrifying ways. Take, for example, his shot of the American crocodile, which he snapped after hours of patience and a healthy dose of bravery. “I think it’s the suspense of the unknown of what lies beneath, the transitional part of moving from one element to the next that feels so magical, and the thought of what alien creatures I might encounter,” Smith said. “That is what draws me to taking half-over-half underwater images.” Smith’s work is currently on display at the Australian Museum in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. You can check out his compelling photographs, along with the artist’s words, below.American Crocodile, Jardines de la Reina, Cuba. I wanted to make an image that had both strong eye contact and visible teeth to bring out the character and personality of this animal.
Bushrangers Bay, NSW Australia. Despite their potentially dangerous sting, the bluebottle cnidaria is an amazingly beautiful creature. I wanted to demonstrate this with careful lighting and composition.
Bass Point, NSW, Australia. A beautiful crimson red Waratah anemone, the rose of the seabed, in a rock-pool at Bass Point, NSW
American Crocodile, Jardines de la Reina, Cuba. So for this shot I’m deep in a Cuban saltwater mangrove snorkelling in about two feet of murky water and looking at this through the viewfinder, the business end of a wild two and a half meter American saltwater crocodile (not an alligator). Now my photography has led me into a few interesting situations in the past, but this takes the cake.
Jardines de la Reina, Cuba. Shooting these silky sharks off the coast of Cuba was actually an incredibly difficult task. Not because they were hard to find, on the contrary, there were often too many and they move really fast in these open and rough seas!
Bushrangers Bay, NSW, Australia. Lighting was the most critical component of this image, I needed to retain the desired darkness of water yet pick out the detail of the animal.
A Longfin Eel, Botanical Gardens, Sydney. A longfin eel living under the shadow of the iconic Sydney skyline in the Botanical Gardens.
Waratah Anemones, Port Kembla, NSW Australia. This image is shot right out the front of where I used to work. During my lunch-break walk I had found this tiny rock-pool containing these wonderful bright red Waratah anemones, I had to make a picture of them.
Bluebottle cnidarian, Bushrangers Bay, NSW, Australia. Despite their potentially dangerous sting, the bluebottle cnidaria is an amazingly beautiful creature. I wanted to demonstrate this with careful lighting and composition.
Sargassum Seaweed, Bushranger Bay, NSW, Australia. I love bold shapes and primary colours in my images, hence the bluebottles and crimson red Waratah anemones in some of my other images. I think my portfolio lacked a little yellow and this golden-coloured flora of the ocean just about filled the gap nicely.
Bushrangers Bay, NSW, Australia. Being an ocean photographer has led me into some strange and curious habits. Wading around in low tide rock pools in the middle of the night is one of them. However, the rewards can be endless from a photographers point of view, such as finding this Hypselodoris bennetti in inches of water.
Jardines de la Reina, Cuba. An intimate moment between two silky sharks at Jardines de la Reina