On September 8th 2020, we ran the first ever blackwater photo shoot in the UAE.

Blackwater photography involves taking photos of the creatures that rise from the deep each night as part of their feeding cycle in shallower waters. We need to set up some specialized lighting equipment and then drift dive in deep water spots while searching for interesting subjects in the dark ocean.

Our small test team included well known UAE based underwater photographers Jesper Kjoller, Christophe Chellapermal and Michael Rall, who joined the Freestyle Divers owners Darryl and Marine Owen for a night of adventure.

We had previously decided on a dive site which was as deep as we could reasonably reach before hitting international waters. We then set to work to create the lighting system we would use as a focal column during our drift dive.

Once we had attached our powerful video lights to the mobile downline, it was time to set off in the twilight just before sunset. By the time we had reached our selected dive site using GPS coordinates, we were in full darkness and ready to dive!

The team lowered our lighting system into the water, got themselves set up to dive, checked their cameras and rolled into the water. The first 20 meters were already boiling with jellyfish and other creatures, their neon lights strobing down their bodies as they swam.

We had a few other interesting encounters, we’ll let the photo gallery speak for itself!

After two dives in the black of night, we hauled up our lights and returned to port, full of ideas about how we could turn this into an ongoing scientific project to measure and document the nightly feeding migrations to the surface of our UAE coastline. Watch this space for more information and let us know if you would like to be part of the team!


Over an extended period we aim to photographically document the nightly feeding migration from deep to shallow waters, with a scientific focus on how this changes according to depth, water temperature and points in the lunar cycle. We are also looking to understand which species migrate and get some beautiful photos to share with our community!

Project Leader

Marine Owen is leading all our photography projects, she is a keen macro photographer and has spent many hours capturing shots of our local underwater ecosystem.

Project Roles

There are several roles for this project, each is important to its success. These are listed below together with the training prerequisites and the opportunity to sign on to the Blackwater team. If you have not yet reached the training level required for a role, contact us and we will build a plan to get you there.

Diving Role

Blackwater Photographer

This is the primary role in the team, the objective is to capture high quality macro images of creatures migrating to the surface to feed. Often the subjects are tiny juvenile creatures that require precision photography and lighting to capture. The other roles in the team are in support of the photographers, to ensure we find as many creatures as possible with minimum loss of in-water time and maximum safety.
Prerequisites: you will need to be an accomplished macro-photographer with your own equipment and experience operating at night. Deep (40m) and Night Diver qualifications are required as well as 150+ dives. Contact us for advice on the best lens and lighting configuration.

CONTACT US Diving Role

Blackwater Safety Diver & Spotter

Hanging in the open sea in total blackness is already an advanced skillset. Doing so while also trying to spot interesting creatures and manage a camera system is very advanced. Freestyle Divers prides itself on two things – fun and safety. With this in mind, we prefer to have a spotter and safety diver to help each photographer manage depth, safety and finding creatures to photo.
Prerequisites: You will need a minimum of Deep Diver (40m) and Night diver (or equivalent qualifications) as well as 100+ logged dives.

CONTACT US Diving Role

Blackwater Team Videographer

Macro video in deep open water is very difficult, so this role is primarily designed to document the work of the photographers in action. If you do have the skills to video free floating creatures in macro, you are very, very welcome to join us. If wide angle night time videos are more your thing then this project will provide a suitable challenge!
Prerequisites: you will need a minimum of a Deep (40m) and Night Diver qualification as well as advanced buoyancy skills while using a camera. You will need to have 150+ logged dives, including camera work at night.


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