Dipping in the sea and floating in the silky smooth azure blue ocean never fails to start or end our day positively. While we bob about merrily, it is easy to forget or not know about the life that resides beneath the surface. Recently, however, more and more photos have been popping up online from local marine photographers who are introducing us to an exquisite underwater world.
Martin Stevens’ beautiful work showcases the incredible subaquatic life in the Falmouth and Helford River area, and people’s connections to it. His work has been used by various organisations and appeared in a range of publications, including BBC Wildlife, BBC Countryfile, Cornwall Wildlife Trust, MCS, Blue Marine Foundation and others. We were lucky enough to catch up with him and find out about what he does and how we can protect our waters.
You can purchase his gorgeous prints here and book an underwater photoshoot by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can you tell us how and why you first became interested in marine life?
I’ve loved natural history ever since I could walk and inevitably became a biologist. These days my work focuses mostly on marine wildlife. In my spare time, I’ve always enjoyed wildlife photography, but a few years ago I really discovered a deep passion for underwater photography in particular.
How long have you been practising photography?
I’ve been taking amateur wildlife photos above water for a long time but took up underwater photography more seriously about 3 years ago, and really focussed on it in the last two years especially.
Why in particular have you based yourself in Falmouth?
I live here and work nearby and so it’s a very happy and fortunate coincidence that it just happens to be one of the best places in the UK to see marine wildlife!
Can you tell us about the marine biology we can find in Falmouth? What are your favourite things to see underwater and why?
We’re absolutely spoilt because there exists a wide variety of habitats and a rich diversity of marine life. My personal favourite things to see include cuttlefish, which can be found snorkelling in the summer, and in early autumn resting on the sand. Lesser-spotted catsharks and nursehound sharks can often be seen, we are extremely lucky to have good numbers of these here, being such gentle and calm animals. I also really love jellyfish and always look forward to the arrival of the big compass jellyfish in the summer!
What should we keep an eye out for in local rockpools?
In the Falmouth rock pools, we have incredible diversity, including rare and colourful sea slugs, nursery sites for nursehound sharks, many crabs and fish, and strange beautiful creatures like stalked jellyfish,
What can we do to protect our waters?
Sadly, even around Falmouth, our waters are badly impacted by humans. There are many things we need to do and some are easier than others. If you eat seafood, be really careful to make sure it’s sustainable and caught in an environmentally-friendly way. When rock pooling be aware of where you tread, replace rocks as they were, and avoid stressing or harming the wildlife. Buy reef-safe suncreams that avoid some of the toxic chemicals often found in sunblock. Write to MPs and companies and raise awareness to try and halt the widespread releases of raw sewage and chemicals into rivers and seas, including many sites around Cornwall. And avoid plastic as much as possible; a great thing to take part in is a two-minute local beach clean organised by volunteers at The Beach Clean Project or The National Trust. Finally, we need urgent action to combat climate change, as this is already having a marked impact on marine life.
What do you personally love most about Falmouth and the Helford River area?
The variety of habitats are accessible right from the shore. I enjoy scuba diving but nothing beats the freedom to jump in the water with just a mask and snorkel. We have biodiverse rock pools, kelp forests, seagrass beds, and much more all close to the beaches.
Where are your favourite places to eat and drink locally?
One of the main things about living here is enjoying the outdoors, so many of the cafes and food vans along the beaches all the way from Castle to Maenporth are perfect. There are some waterside restaurants with really nice views of the bay too such as Hooked on the Rocks, or vegan ones like Sloth and Sparrow.
Do you have any local businesses or creatives that you recommend?
There are so many but I’d direct people to look for some of the many local artists in Falmouth and Cornwall generally, many of whom focus on marine scenes, nature, and wildlife and create beautiful paintings and prints. For example: Daisy Skelton (skeltondaisy), Zee Van G (underthezee), Claire Rose (clairerose_creative) and Lucy Young (lucyyoungart).
What of our properties is your favourite and why?
Ridifarne looks wonderful, not least as the Helford is one of my favourite places in Cornwall!