An award-winning underwater photographer, Rafael captures the beauty of our aquatic playground
"Under the sea everything is unexplored and anything can happen. For me this is the most exciting thing about diving. We know so little about the ocean that every dive is usually surprising and from time to time the ocean can give you unbelievable and unexpected moments."
When and why did you start diving?
Since I was a child I have been lucky enough to be in contact with both underwater photography and scuba diving, accompanying my father (underwater photographer as well) to incredible places all over the world.
When I was 7 years old I started to dive and as soon as I received my Open Water certificate I have not stopped diving since. When I was 16 years old I took my first camera underwater and that changed my way of seeing the marine world.
What is your spirit fish and why?
I have experienced powerful moments with specific animal species that have been life changing. Of those, usually sharks or marine mammals have been more special for me, spiritually speaking.
If I had to choose, my biggest obsession are the orcas no matter where and when.
When they are around or when I see them, I just lose control, what I feel it is indescribable.
What do you enjoy most about diving?
Looking for amazing stories that are still unknown or that are so wonderful that you just want to capture them and share them.
What really inspires me is the search for those special moments, animals, or places where I believe that can show something crazy or beautiful. Experiencing those moments with my camera, surrounded by all the amazing sensations that you feel when you dive is truly awesome.
How do you approach non-divers to get them excited about learning to dive?
There are many ways. In my case, it is easy because through my images, I can show all my personal experiences in a way that people can believe and see with their own eyes.
Most memorable dive experience?
Luckily, I have a few unforgettable diving experiences. In a funny way, after a whole life diving and less time freediving, my craziest moments have been freediving.
The most memorable moment I have was freediving with 15 male humpback whales trying to mate with a female.
When I saw them coming, I decided to take a big breath and I went down to perhaps 20m. I was alone waiting there when I saw all the whales passing by very close. I have never felt so tiny compared to all of those huge animals, in the middle of the ocean, alone, at that depth, holding my breath, and listening the whales growling... it is difficult to describe.
Dream dive: where and with who (alive or not)?
I can think of many dream dive partners.
I admire a lot of people that work hard for the ocean conservation and perhaps my biggest role models are Aqualung Ocean Ambassadors.
Thinking of diving together with all these legends it would be dream, despite having been lucky enough to dive with some. Sharing an expedition with Paul Nicklen and Mitty or with Laurent Ballesta would be, for me, like visiting the Calypso of Cousteau.
My most special diving partners are my family and friends. It has been super special diving with my mother lately who was a great diver, but doesn’t dive much as of late. Friends from the school that have seen a lot of what I see. And people like Gador Muntaner, who I also admire a lot personally for her work.
Favorite piece of AquaLung equipment?
I am currently really in love with the new freediving suit, The Freeflex. Many wetsuits are not very comfortable to wear, as we all know, but the flexibility and warmth for its 2mm thickness really impresses me.
What steps are you taking to improve the health of our oceans? Any advice for others who want to help?
I try to do my best because this is my main aim and what powers and motivates the projects I do.
As a Photographer, my images and the stories I can tell might be one the most powerful tools I have. I try to be an ambassador of the ocean and I work really hard in showing the beauties and dangers of the sea.
Acting locally, we can do a lot to create awareness and reduce our impact, which is important. I try to reduce my plastic waste, recycle, I completely changed my diet 2 years ago, not eating meat and eating fish very occasionally when I know it has been fished in a sustainable way… I believe that the more we do the better.