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Inspiring Underwater Photographer & Freedive Coach – Cindy Yang

I met the wonderful Cindy when I first moved to the Gold Coast, Australia. Immediately, I was impressed by such a fiercely independent and passionate woman, who could seemingly do anything she put her mind to. Cindy is not only an incredible surfer, mentor and freediving coach, she is also an amazing underwater photographer who utilises her work to raise awareness for topics in ocean conservation. This buzzing water woman is always off on some adventure, seems to know everybody, and is one of the most amazing, kind and passionate humans I've met. She's a photographer that I certainly look up to, and I hope you can be equally as inspired by her work as I am!


Leopard Shark: Image by Cindy Yang


Hey Cindy! Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born and raised in Taiwan and my family immigrated to California when I was 12. I have always been drawn to nature and wildlife, but I didn’t have anyone outdoorsy in my life to show me things like camping, hiking, or snorkelling until I went to college. All of a sudden, a whole new world opened up to me, which led me to study wildlife conservation biology and ignited my passion for conservation. During that period of my life, I also discovered surfing and became completely obsessed with the ocean. Surfing and diving along the Northern California coastline inspired my lifestyle today as I document, teach, and showcase the wonders of our ocean with others. 



Like many who resonate deeply with nature, I have always felt a strong call to protect our diverse ecosystems. Photography and coaching aligns both my passion and purpose. I love sharing stories of our oceanic world through photography and helping others create a meaningful relationship with the ocean through coaching. In 2017, I started a social platform called The Ama Project to raise environmental awareness on the Gold Coast. Today, The Ama Project offers nature-centric education, experiences, and products to encourage our community to become ocean stewards and generate collective impact through individual actions. You can check out more here at: www.theamaproject.com

 

What inspired you to specialise in underwater photography?

Spearfishing has been a big part of my life and was what first inspired my underwater photography. I began my journey in sustainability in college, where I adopted and trialled various diets and lifestyle to lessen my personal impact. Spearfishing became a way for me to source food while exploring the ocean. However, I slowly found myself putting away the speargun and opting for a GoPro instead to capture all the incredible encounters I’ve had. Eventually, I committed to buying an underwater camera setup and the rest is history! 

 

Green Sea Turtle: Image by Cindy Yang


Can you share one of your most memorable experiences while photographing underwater?

Growing up in California, surfing and diving inside the Red Triangle, I had been taught to fear the Great White sharks. So when the moment came to dive with them in South Australia, I thought I would be overwhelmed with fear. I remember when the first great white materialised from the shadows, my heart felt like it was in my throat. But as it swam majestically past me, I was in complete awe. Making eye contact with such incredible and powerful animals in the water is so magical. I feel lucky and grateful to have had and continue to have such amazing experiences. 


Great white shark: Image by Cindy Yang


What challenges do you face as an underwater photographer, and how do you overcome them?

As an underwater photographer, I work very hard to be aware of the difference between documenting an experience and having an experience. For me, it is always more important to be truly immersed in the moment because that was the reason I fell in love with photography. I remind myself consistently that no picture is worth forgetting the reason why I am in the ocean.


Hammerhead Sharks: Image by Cindy Yang


How do you stay updated on the latest techniques and technologies in underwater photography?

Keeping up with the ever-evolving world of technology can be tough and time-consuming. I stay updated mostly by learning from fellow photographers or researching when upgrading a piece of gear or learning another software. 


Can you share any tips or advice for aspiring underwater photographers?

Life is short, so follow your passions wholeheartedly. Don't be afraid to dream big and take risks! At the same time, remember that being a good person is more important than getting the shot.


Spotted Eagle Ray: Image by Cindy Yang

 

What are your favourite locations or dive sites for underwater photography, and why?

Anywhere with crystal-clear water and minimal particles is a win for me. Beautiful water and great lighting can make even the most ordinary scene look extraordinary. In Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is definitely one of the top locations that has it all. 


Clownfish and anemone: Image by Cindy Yang

 

Have you ever encountered any unexpected or dangerous situations while photographing underwater?

Thankfully, I haven't had any close calls with marine life while photographing. However, I'm always cautious of boat traffic. If you're diving in an area with many boats or jet skis, it's a good idea to use a dive float so others can see you. 

 

How do you think underwater photography can contribute to marine conservation efforts?

Underwater photography is a powerful tool for marine conservation. By capturing the beauty and fragility of the underwater world, we can raise awareness about the threats our oceans face and inspire people to protect them. 


Green sea turtle at sunset: Image by Cindy Yang


Check out some more of Cindy's work here:

Instagram: @missyanger

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