The Magician, Coronado Islands, Baja California, Mexico, 2022 Showcase Runner-up, Mammals © Celia Kujala
Explorer, photonaturalist, and artist Celia Kujala has collected many awards for her work over the past few years. Her latest two come from the 2022 NANPA Showcase competition, in which she had two images place in the Top 24. Both are featured here.
Through my photography my goal is to share both the beauty of the ocean and the conservation stories that need to be told. During the fall of 2020, I spent many hours scuba diving in the Coronado Islands observing California sea lion pup development. My image “The Magician” is special to me because it shows a beautiful moment in a sea lion pup’s life. I knew I wanted to capture an image with sunbeams and in this moment, everything came together. On the other hand, “The Dangerous Toy” is special to me because it highlights the problem of plastic pollution plaguing our oceans and will hopefully motivate change. Even on an uninhabited, remote island, I watched sea lion pups play with plastic on several occasions. On this day, in the span of two dives at the Coronado Islands, I was able to collect six pieces of garbage that they were playing with including the one pictured. It is extremely sad to see what our waste is doing to them and even though it is hard to make changes, we must do better.
How I got the shots
For my image “The Magician” both lighting conditions and sea lion behavior had to align. Lighting conditions are only right for a short window of time on sunny days at the sea lion colony. There was a beautiful spot I would always check for pups. On this day, I was extremely lucky to have a curious and playful pup appear not long after I arrived. She swirled around in the water appearing to dance in front of me. I was able to capture this image as she stuck her flipper in the air right over the sunburst.
My Image “The Dangerous Toy” was taken on a day after some rough weather had brought an unusually large amount of debris into the shallows of the sea lion colony. It wasn’t completely unusual to have sea lions play with pieces of plastic on a normal day but usually it was nothing of this scale. On this day, I counted six pieces of plastic. My goal was always to collect the plastic pieces when it was safe to do so, but until that was possible I hoped to capture compelling images that would inspire action.
What I used
These images were taken with a Nikon D500 camera, Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens, Nauticam NA-D500 housing and dual Sea & Sea YS-D3 strobes.
Camera settings for The Magician: f/11, 1/250, ISO 250
Camera settings for The Dangerous Toy: f/11, 1/250, ISO 400
Both images were taken underwater while scuba diving.
Learn more about Celia and her images in this video. View our 2022 digital publication, Expressions, for more videos from Top 24 prize winners.
I found photography in 2016 as the perfect way to share with others the stories I needed to tell. I am currently working on a project called Seal Peace about all the species of pinnipeds in the world. Through my photography I hope to engender an appreciation for each individual species as well as their diverse environments and the challenges those environments are facing. I strive to learn everything I can about my subjects in order to most accurately and intimately tell their stories. Since 2016, my photography has taken me to five continents and I hope to meet and share the stories of all the species of pinnipeds in the world.
The Galapagos Islands was one of the first places I visited after I bought my DSLR camera in 2016. I knew there would be opportunities to take photos underwater so despite not knowing anything about underwater photography, I bought an Olympus Tough TG-4 camera. I did not even know how to snorkel at the beginning of the trip so my first images of sea lions underwater were taken with a pair of goggles while holding my breath! That trip inspired me to learn to scuba dive. Always keep learning but even with limitations you can capture great images. Think creatively!
NANPA and me
This is my first year as a NANPA member and I feel extremely honored to have two of my images recognized in my first submission to Showcase. I am very excited to be part of this group of extremely talented photographers and look forward to learning a lot and growing as a photographer.
My images can be seen at: