Chapter 1 / Sharing Stories

In the ocean with Geoff Coombs

Words: Talya Wong
Images by: Geoff Coombs and Andrew Ryzebol



The ocean is significant to us for many reasons, but perhaps most notably, it is the place and symbol that inspired our name ‘OCIN’. We have always regarded the ocean as a place that fosters connection. Its vastness signifies limitless-ness; a seemingly boundless place for us to connect with our inmost beings and our Earth. Experiencing the sense of limitlessness and freedom that can be found in the water is often a tale that is only described and rarely shown. Our friend Geoff Coombs proved otherwise, demonstrating through his portfolio of striking images that the water is not only cosmic, but beautiful.

Geoff Coombs is a freediver and the founder of Geoff Coombs Studio. Together, his passion for photography, motion film, people, and the Earth work together to help modern brands bring their product’s vision to life. Geoff’s work stimulates curiosity, gratitude, and reverence; adjectives that well describe how we feel towards the water, the ocean, and its vastness.

As a professional who had solely been working as a photographer for several years, Geoff later recognized his passion for motion films, an avenue which opened the opportunity for him to not only fulfill his interest in cinematography, but also to elevate the services that he could offer to his clients.  

“I founded my photography business back in 2015 and went full time in 2018. Geoff Coombs Studio was born out of a passion for creating photographs and motion films.”

Through the striking prints and motion films that Geoff has worked on in partnership with modern brands such as Apple, Tag Heuer, Baltic Watches, and Canada Goose, it’s clear that both intention and curiosity are anchored in each of his projects. With the mission to “create content that stimulates the imagination for the modern brand”, Geoff simply describes how he rests on the natural beauty of this world to captivate the imagination and creative thought of his audience.

“This mission statement came from my own desire to capture the extraordinary beauty found in the world. Photography is a powerful way to stimulate our imagination to wonder about the past, present, and the possibilities to come. This is where I desire to help commercial brands, allowing customers to imagine the possibilities of personal adventures through their products.”

Having spent his early years exploring the aquatic playground that was Ontario’s lakes, his zeal for water sports and activities budded into a lasting love for adventure and travel. It was through a trip later in life to the Bahamas when Geoff rediscovered his fascination for life underwater and the beauty that could be found beneath water’s surface. Geoff recalls his magnetic relationship with the water one that derived from his active childhood, ultimately accumulating into a lifelong passion that he was able to transform into a career.

“I’ve always been fascinated with water and the oceans. As a kid I was fortunate to spend summers at my grandparent’s cottage where I learned to waterski, swim, canoe, and snorkel/freedive. I loved watching movies surrounding the ocean. Six years ago, I went on a life changing trip to the Exuma islands in the Bahamas where I went spearfishing and freediving. I remember diving on a shallow reef and being fascinated with all the life and the vast expanse of the sea. That trip also inspired my passion for photography. After that, I knew I wanted to pursue it and since then I’ve been back to the Exumas multiple times a year. Covid threw a wrench in that this past year but hopefully I can go back soon.”

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While his work has taken him to warm, tropical climates, they have also taken him to cold places that are encrusted with ice and snow. As a fellow Canadian that is arguably more acclimatised to the cold weather than most, the process of taking photographs in frigid temperatures let alone freediving as an underwater subject is a feat in itself. One of Geoff’s most notable projects was an underwater campaign for Baltic Watches in Tobermory, Ontario. Being submerged beneath a cobbled sheet of ice is naturally a condition that would elicit shock and panic for most of us, but not for Geoff. Having never experienced a state of panic underwater, he explains that being calm, being safe, and being experienced are three ingredients that are critical to seamless, successful, and enjoyable dive.

“In freediving, relaxation and maintaining a calm state of mind is essential to prolong your breath hold and facilitate an enjoyable experience. When the water is freezing, it becomes much more challenging to stay relaxed, but I’ve never felt panic. When I’m in an extreme environment like freediving under ice, I reach a heightened state of mind. I become focused on the moment and it’s a great feeling to achieve that. We also take proper safety precautions and always dive within our limits. This, coupled with experience, gives confidence. And because we’ve thought through and prepared for worst case scenarios, there’s no room for panic.”

Geoff's routines both prior to and during dives are distinct from one another yet equally important. Being mindful, present, aware, and in body are important elements of his freediving preparation and experience. 

“Prior to any dive I try to relax as much as I can - thinking good thoughts, letting go of any tension in my muscles, and concentrating on my breath. During the dive I focus on what I’m experiencing in the moment - the light rays shining in the water, the sounds, and just enjoying the beautiful views, wherever I am.”

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“I want my images to give a sense of awe and wonder. To instill curiosity in the viewer and make them feel like they’re looking through a portal to another world.” 

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Despite the amount of travelling that his job can entail, he manages to stay inspired by drawing on the uniqueness of each setting. Imagination, creativity, and inspiration seldom run short with Geoff’s gift of effortlessly finding wonder in the new, the old, and changes in perspective.

“Exploring different locations around the world has been a privilege and has instilled gratitude. I’m always searching for new angles and visiting different places in the world makes that easy. At the same time, I love revisiting old places close to home that I’ve been to numerous times because I find they can always change and feel different depending on the time of year, the light, the people I’m with, and my own state of mind.”

Geoff’s devotion to photography and motion films is rooted in capturing and magnifying the Earthly beauty that already exists. With each published piece, he hopes to prompt a sense of astonishment and reflection – whether of our own world or someplace else.

“I want my images to give a sense of awe and wonder. To instill curiosity in the viewer and make them feel like they’re looking through a portal to another world.” 

The simplicity of capturing an image that “genuinely astounds people” remains the most fulfilling element of his work; the artistry behind photography is an ongoing pursuit that Geoff is always seeking to improve upon – "a never-ending process that evolves over time. I never want to settle, and I always strive to improve and think of new ways to capture an image.”

For Geoff, photography has provided him with perhaps the most important lesson of all: perspective.

“Photography has taught me many things, but the main lesson is that experiences are not everything. We see many people on social media travelling the world, taking incredible images, and seeing all sorts of exotic places. Which is awesome! But, in the past I used to chase those things and overvalue them - hunting for the next location, the next image, or the next trip. But to me, that is not what life is about. I now value relationships and genuine human connection above all else.”