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ABOUT Maxwel

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A nature and wildlife cinematographer & photographer with a passion for showcasing the world's stunning natural diversity. Maxwel grew up on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia before travelling around the world evolving his skills as a photographer. Maxwel is a certified commercial diver, rebreather diver, underwater and above water RED camera operator, tech diver, cave diver, experienced drone pilot, and acclaimed photographer. He's also a brand ambassador with Divesoft, and Huish Outdoors, a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and a proud Canadian!

Q&A with Maxwel Hohn

Photo: Tynan Callesen

What’s it like being a professional underwater cinematographer?

It's exciting, challenging, and incredibly rewarding. Shooting with RED cinema cameras underwater requires a whole other level of specialized skills, equipment and training that I've had to acquire over the years. The challenge of shooting a specific species, behaviour or ecosystem offers new challenges on every job, that's the exciting part - you never know what will happen. My background as a commercial diver has prepared me for whatever a production can throw at me! Ultimately though, seeing your work broadcast as part of a larger project is an incredible feeling and something I'll never get tired of. I'm always looking for a new project to dive into. 

What's it like getting so much attention for your Tadpole film?

Humbling! I was completely blown away by the positive responses from people. Almost immediately after it was released my email and phone were buzzing like crazy from news outlets, publicists and more importantly - people expressing how much they enjoyed the film. It even ended up on the front page of The Province newspaper her win BC! The film has won nearly a dozen awards, including a Jack Wild Award, and “Best Canadian Film”, “Best Underwater Cinematography” and “Best Nature Documentary”.

How long have you been diving?

I started freediving in 1996 and got certified as a scuba diver in 2004. At 18, in 2005, I was certified as a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor - most of my life has been spent in the water. 

What made you want to become a diver?

I was very fortunate to have parents who supported my decision to travel at a young age. When I was 17 I left home to backpack in Honduras. I ended up travelling to the Bay Islands where I took my open water course. My instructor was a Kiwi named Orlando who seemed to have life all figured out! Living on a tropical island, teaching scuba diving... what could be better? He not only inspired me to become a diver but also to become an instructor. The next 8 years I spent travelling and working all over the world as a scuba instructor.


What role did commercial diving play?

I hit a point in my recreational diving career where I wanted to learn new skills and commercial diving was the answer. It enabled me to make a good living from my passion for diving.

Are you still a commercial diver?

Yes I am, I no longer work in the commercial diving industry or instruct others, instead I use my commercial diving certification as an underwater cinematographer. A lot of nature and wildlife productions require specific certifications, I’m currently the only diver in Canada that is commercially certified, rebreather certified, full cave certified, and own and operate my own fleet of underwater RED cinema cameras.


When did you get bitten by the photo bug?

In the early stages of my career as a recreational dive instructor I started shooting with a compact camera. Before Facebook was around I used to email friends and family photos from my diving and travel adventures. That evolved into sharing my work and growing my social media presence, slowly my hobby progressed into a career and I'm now currently filming for Netflix, Disney, Nat Geo, BBC, Apple TV, and IMAX!


What is it about diving that you love so much?

Diving allows you to explore our world in a 360 degree environment. On land we are limited to where we can walk or climb, but underwater we have the ability to fly.

What are the challenges of product shoots?

Bubbles, backscatter, and marine life! Manufactures want to see their products used in beautiful clear water immersed with marine life. There are so many challenges when it comes to this, but I love it! It’s crucial to have a diving model who is comfortable in the water with good buoyancy control and doesn’t mind being blinded occasionally with big strobes or high powered lights.

Who is your go-to dive buddy?

Scuba diving is a sport that's full of amazing experiences and special encounters, and it's great to share those moments with friends. I have many dive buddies - some that like to join me in the cold waters of Canada, some prefer the more technical challenges of exploring caves in Mexico. You can never have too many dive buddies! The one dive buddy who has stolen my heart, and I hope to travel through-out the world with, is my partner Cailin Lindsay.

What is your favourite dive site?

During the summer I really enjoy fresh water diving in the lakes and river canyons of Vancouver Island. I’m drawn to these locations for the unique photography they present with tadpoles, lily pads, and schools of salmon. During the winter months diving along the colourful walls of Discovery Passage, or the kelp forests north of Port Hardy - both are word class sites and great to photograph..

Where would you like to dive but haven’t?

Antarctica is on the top of my list. One day I’d love to get in the water to film penguins and leopard seals. I've filmed and dive in the Arctic, so it would be intersting to work in Antartica also and experience the differences. I'd also really like to dive in Chile!


Craziest thing you’ve seen underwater?

I was working underwater when a pod of orcas swim by! A large bull came very close and I’ll never forget the eye contact he made with me. It was a mix of emotions, but ultimately the orcas were not very interested in me, it was one of the most memorable marine encounters I've ever had. 


Favourite dive snack?

I often spend a lot of time in cold water, so hearty, warm meals like a good soup are is my meal of choice. At the end of the day, a nice beer with the rest of the crew always goes down well!

Favourite diving movie?

It was a little cheesy, but I really enjoyed 'Into The Blue'. I really loved the treasure hunting aspect and it inspired me to purchase my own underwater metal detector and go hunt for treasure of my own!


Proudest diving moment or achievement?

The proudest moment of my dive career was the point when I was able to turn my passion of underwater cinematography into an actual career. It was largely thanks to my good friend Russell Clark, we created Tadpoles: The Big Little Migration together and it's been non-stop since then! 

What dive gear do you use?

  • Divesoft CCR Liberty Light rebreather

  • BARE Sentry Tech Drysuit

  • Hollis Neotek Semi Dry

  • Hollis LX200 Regulators

  • Hollis Elite II Harness and Wing

  • Hollis M1 Mask

  • Hollis F1 Fin

  • Suunto EON Steel Computer

  • Suunto D5 Computer 

What camera gear do you use?

  • RED 8K V-Raptor VV x 2

  • RED 6K Komodo x 2

  • Nauticam universal camera housing (RED, Arri, Sony cinema)

  • Nauticam RED V-Raptor / Komodo housing

  • Canon lenses for RED 

  • Canon R5 and Nauticam housing

  • CN20 50-1000mm zoom lens

  • Iowa probe lens and peri-probe

  • A selection of custom housings, battery packs, and camera systems

  • And lots more you can look at here!


Proud to be a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society

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