Up, close and personal: Capturing the jellyfish on cam, stings and all

Up, close and personal: Capturing the jellyfish on cam, stings and all

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Up, close and personal: Capturing the jellyfish on cam, stings and all

It looks like a bloody organ wrenched from a human body. In fact, this is a lion’s mane jellyfish. Shot last summer in Russia’s White Sea by diver and photographer Alexander Semenov, it is one of a host of underwater creatures few would want to meet. But Semenov is different. “I think I’m [a] lucky guy,” he says, reflecting on his opportunity to both see these remarkable creatures for himself, and reveal their splendour to others.

The son of two biologists, Semenov is head of a team of scientific divers at the White Sea Biological Station. He sees himself akin to “a 19th-century naturalist” in his approach to investigating and probing the planet’s myriad lifeforms.

The results are stunning images that showcase the seas’ incredible biodiversity, but, as Semenov explains, it took many months to develop the techniques to capture such shots.

And even with nine years of such photography under his belt, there are other challenges he says, from the technical difficulties of getting the picture to coping with strong currents, waves and sub-zero temperatures. Based in the polar circle, Semenov is so remote that interviews have to be conducted by email.

And the jellyfish aren’t always keen to cooperate. As Semenov reveals, their tentacles often end up wound around his breathing apparatus. Burns, he says, are common.

“Also there was one interesting story, when [a] giant octopus attacked me,” he adds, recounting an experience in the Sea of Japan.

He hopes his images will inspire a new generation of scientists. Indeed this year, Semenov and his team have launched a three-year project, the Aquatillis expedition, diving in seas around the world, exploring the creatures that live there and bringing them to the public through new footage shot with modern equipment. Cousteau might be gone, but it seems a new Underwater Odyssey is afoot.

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