When Rohan Shrestha isn’t shooting A-list celebrities, he’s scuba diving in exotic parts of the world. He takes Shweta Mehta Sen through his recent photo series, shot in the waters of the Micronesian island Chuuk Lagoon, where Japanese World War II remnants still lie.
Despite being a district-level swimmer, photographer Rohan Shrestha needed much convincing to summon the courage to go diving on an all-boys trip to Mauritius in 2004. “The ocean scared me, but I’m glad my friends persisted and I finally relented. Funnily, they don’t dive any more, but I’ve gone on to complete around 200 dives ever since. I try to make time for it at least twice a year,” he recounts.
Shrestha’s trips over the years have included commercial spots like Maldives and parts of Indonesia, but along with his friends at Mumbai’s Orca Dive Club, he’s always on the lookout for exotic, less explored spots. Among them is Chuuk Lagoon, a Micronesian island that required four flights to get to, but the photographer counts his recent trip there as worth every minute spent in transit.
“What we saw down there was crazy – it’s like an underwater museum. Chuuk Lagoon has remnants of the Japanese navy, which were sunk by the Americans during World War II, after Pearl Harbor. There are massive carriers, Betty Bomber planes, tanks, motorbikes, bullets and, of course, skulls and bones of members of the Japanese navy.”
Photographing what he saw did pose a challenge for Shrestha, despite his ample experience underwater. “Wreck diving is very technical, because you’re going into all these crevices and looking within with torches. You also need excellent buoyancy — if you go first, you can’t fin, because that will lift up silt and dust and ruin the sight for those behind you,” he says.
This explains why Shrestha only started taking his camera along on his dives in 2012, after he had mastered both his passions individually. “When you are focussed on taking a picture underwater, your line of vision is solely focussed on what you see through your camera screen. You can’t take in the entirety of what’s around you. I didn’t want to lose that,” he explains. “You also have to be perfectly buoyant to be able to take good pictures, which means your breathing has to be so good underwater that your body doesn’t drift easily.”
SHRESTHA’S TOP FIVE
Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Andaman & Nicobar Islands, India
(close to Norway)