National Geographic : 2011 Jul
VISIONS | PHOTO JOURNAL World Beneath the Waves People do beautiful things in the water. They become braver and calmer, more fluid and playful. The freedom of buoyancy allows us to act as we truly are. I grew up near the ocean in Australia, but I didn't appreciate our ancestral ties to it until I'd spent years living abroad. When I returned, I noticed how people here are drawn to the beaches. The pull is shared---a human equalizer. When you see swimmers in the ocean together, you see them react intuitively to the tide's push and pull. I like the clarity of salt water. In the past dozen years my technique and equipment have stayed simple: a deep breath, a small camera, and transparency film, for its dense blacks and saturation. Despite new technologies, the magic of the darkroom still fascinates me. On hot days I hang out where the waves are forming. Just before they break, I dive to the bottom. A flash of sunlight penetrates the curl and the churn, illuminating the swimmers above. They look like actors dancing or flying on an underwater stage. I take one picture, surface, breathe, and repeat. Shooting 36 frames might take a day. We love the sea, yet we pollute it. As a mother, I agonize over what my children will inherit. But I'm also optimistic. If we can notice natural beauty, we might learn how to preserve it. ---Narelle Autio At a beach in Sydney, Australia, two girls frolic in a wave's effervescent wake. Narelle Autio Narelle Autio is a photographer based in Adelaide, Australia. Her images of the country's coastal life are exhibited internationally.