Imagine a job where you get to travel the world, explore deserted islands and make regular trips beneath the surface of the ocean, each day bringing new adventures and experiences. Well, that’s the day-to-day life of David Ochoa, a world-based travel cinematographer.
As a free-spirited kid, David spent a fair share of his time outdoors and had many underwater encounters with creatures of the sea, including whales, much to the disbelief of others. “You know, fishermen’s stories”, says David. Those very tales (pun intended) were his motivation to get his first underwater camera, way before the arrival of GoPros. “I wanted to share the experiences I was having with the people around me. [It was] as simple as that.”
It wasn’t long before his adventures became a passion and lifestyle, and capturing the beauty of animals and environments by telling relatable stories became his goal. “Just showing what was happening was not enough anymore. I wanted people to feel what I was feeling…”, he says. “I know it’s a big task and that’s why I look forward to spending all my life chasing something that, in its essence, will always be out of reach.”
We asked David what motivates him, and his response is nothing short of inspiring: “Doing what I love the most with nice people around me. That’s my motivation. I don’t want to be rich and I really don’t care much about materialistic things… well, maybe except my cameras. I love travelling and to explore remote places, preferably underwater. That’s really what makes me feel alive. The other passion is to share those experiences by documenting them in my own way. I believe if your job allows you to travel and be creative, you’ll never get bored.”
From waking up before sunrise for a day of underwater filming to embarking on freediving adventures and guiding spearfishing trips, for David, no two days are the same. His most memorable adventure to date comes from a trip to Cape Verde, where he had a near death experience while exploring deserted islands. “We met a group of local fishermen and agreed to go with them to Ilheu Raso… we sailed for one full day on a tiny wooden boat with a sail made out of rice bags”, he told us.
They were 30 miles from the shore with no communication signal and the closest thing they had to a harbour was a 6-metre high wall full of sea urchins and cutting edges, giant waves constantly crashing in.
“On the 5th night, at 2am, the swell got really big and it broke the three anchor lines that were holding the boat to the bottom. There wasn’t any light and the waves were huge. If you were close to the edge when the big sets came you could easily die”, recalls David “… there’s something special about staying in a remote place and surviving with what nature provides.”
On his expeditions, David does his best to travel as lightly as possible, packing only the essentials: his free-diving gear and photography kit, made up of his underwater housing, a small Sony A7SII and a selection of lenses, all of which fit perfectly into his 1535 Peli case. “I carry my camera to some harsh places”, he says, “and, to be honest, at the beginning I was a bit scared to push my 1535 case too much. When I first arrived in Madagascar, I had to put all my gear inside a kayak…”, he says.
With the waves coming in strong, David knew there was a chance his kayak would flip with everything inside. “… that actually happened but all my gear was 100% safe. It’s great to know that I can bring my cameras and lenses on the boat and walk around with them knowing that my gear is safe.”
David’s “cheesy, cliché” advice to aspiring travel photographers is to do what you love and just put the time and work in. “I understand that I might have to sacrifice some things in order to pursue what I love the most and it all comes down to that. Just how bad do you really want to do what you love? This applies not only to this line of work but to everything in life I guess.”
His next adventure takes him to New Zealand, where he’ll no doubt be filming some beautiful locations and capturing underwater encounters with sharks and orcas, while also filming a short story on why spearfishing is the most selective and sustainable way of harvesting your own food.