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MAKKAH: The vibrant rainbow hues of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coral reefs and surrounding habitats draw divers and photographers alike.
And for Ali Bakhtaour, a 49-year-old Saudi lab technician, a passion for photography and scuba diving led him to discover striking images under the Red Sea.
Photography was already a hobby for Bakhtaour when he started scuba diving in 2007.
Bakhtaour, a resident of Haql on the kingdom’s northwest coast, told Arab News he had developed a special relationship with the sea over the years, going to the water every day as a child. with friends or family.
As a scuba diver he was able to uncover the secrets of the Red Sea and sail for days to find new places and admire the beauty of the coral reefs.
This love prompted him to take up underwater photography. “I love taking pictures of the Red Sea environments because they are some of the most beautiful marine environments in the world. I am talking about its biodiversity and its coral reefs, and its importance for being far from open oceans, ”said Bakhtaour.
“We would meet other divers, go out to sea and head underwater for long photoshoots, which require precision, flexibility and tranquility,” he said.
“We photograph with professional cameras valued at over $ 10,000, and we photograph every detail in the Red Sea, praising Almighty God for the beautiful colors, their homogeneity, the diversity of species and their means of sustenance, whether large or small. It is also a form of meditation.
Some of Bakhtaour’s dives were as deep as 120 feet, but underwater shots are not possible beyond 60 feet depth due to lighting requirements and the demands of photographing marine wildlife, a task delicate which requires patience and care.
And underwater photography is not without its dangers, as Bakhtaour discovered while diving into a strong current during a shoot.
“I was following this turtle and I was very focused on the set and I quickly found myself so far off and farther from the boat than I expected,” he said. “I forgot not to cross a certain area and I was well at the bottom of the sea, barely seeing the lights of my colleagues, so I rushed to the beach trying to follow my friends. It was an exhilarating and frightening experience. “
Bakhtaour experienced a different kind of euphoria when he participated in an underwater photo expedition in the Red Sea with a Polish team for seven consecutive days.
He says there have been challenges, but beauty everywhere, in his underwater adventures. For example, for years he was fascinated by a British ship, with full military equipment, deep in the Ras Mohammed nature reserve. It is one of the most important natural reserves, characterized by its virgin state and the diversity of its maritime environment, its flora and fauna.
Bakhtaour dreams of making a documentary on the marine life of the Red Sea to serve as an academic reference and help develop understanding of its many wonders.