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Monday, September 01, 2014


  • Sardine run in Cebu, Philippines. "Apart from being pulled down by this mass without even realizing it, we couldn't tell the seabed from the sky...and all the reference points were lost."
  • The sardine run in the Philippines is one of several such aggregations of millions or even billions of fish around the world -- southern Africa's is the best-known -- that draw divers from around the world for post-spawning feeding frenzies.
  • "In some of the shots you can see the sardines surrounding a diver in shallow waters. That happened precisely when jacks and tuna were attacking the sardines," Kulagina says.
  • "The shoal rushed toward and through us trying to escape from the predators and find refuge in shallow waters despite the fact that 'bubbling' divers looked just as dreadful to them as the jacks in the blue."
  • "The first time I took my camera underwater was back in the fall of 2009," she says, "and I have been diving and photographing underwater since then." (pictured: stingray)
  • "I was born and raised in Almaty, a former capital of Kazakhstan, which is a landlocked country with some high mountain lakes and the Caspian Sea far out in the west," Kulagina says. (pictured: sea turtle)
  • Kulagina says being raised in the southeastern part of a vast country with only some Caspian coastline on its western border made it "really hard to find interesting places to dive." (pictured: orange skunk clownfish)
  • On her first "dive" in Hawaii: "I did one of those intro dives when they put you in the water and, using a long hose, connect you to a tank with air, which is placed on a raft drifting on the surface." (pictured: whale shark)
  • After the introductory dive in Hawaii, she says she "was so impressed with what I saw underwater that I decided to do a 'real' scuba dive one day. (pictured: sea anemone)
  • After getting certified in Thailand, "a friend once let me use her underwater compact point-and-shoot camera, and I loved it so much that I decided to invest into some serious gear." (pictured: sea nettles)
  • She says that while her two years of underwater photography make it "definitely a new pursuit,... it feels like I've always been photographing underwater."
  • "I haven't been to a lot of places," Kulagina says, "but of those that I visited, I really enjoy the Red Sea for its wrecks and landscapes..." (pictured: frogfish)
  • "...the Caribbean for its diversity and great visibility..." (pictured: "USS Kittiwake," scuttled in Grand Cayman)
  • "...and, of course, the Philippines for everything their waters have to offer." (pictured: mantis shrimp)
  • Perhaps her only frightening shoot was among reef sharks. "It felt like a rush of adrenalin with my heart pounding in my chest and my hands getting a light tremor. But all that was gone the moment I pulled the shutter release on the camera."

Photo Gallery: Kazakh Captures Exotic Life Under The Sea

Published 17 July 2012

Kazakh photographer Nadya Kulagina gained international attention with her underwater scenes of a massive and dizzying sardine run off the island of Cebu, in the Philippines. We dove deeper for lots more of Kulagina's photos of sea life around the world. (Text by Andy Heil)