Rapanui x OPY: Merche Llobera

The Ocean Photographer of the Year (OPY) is a celebration of our beautiful blue planet, as well as a platform to highlight the many plights it is facing. We’ve collaborated with OPY to connect two distinct artforms, photography and illustration, all while raising money for the ocean. Our in-house illustrators have picked a selection of some of this year’s world-class photography to graphically interpret. Their mission: to turn each photograph into a wearable piece of art, without losing the essence of the original image.

Gliding Devil Rays

Merche LLobera is the second photographer featured in the collaboration. Her image of gliding Devil Rays was a finalist in the Fine Art category. 

We spoke to both the photographer and the design team to find out about the story behind the image and the process of turning it into an illustration for a t-shirt.

If you missed the first photo in the series, you can read about that here.

Meet the photographer & chosen charity

Merche LLobera is a Spanish photographer who has dedicated her career to capturing the beauty and essence of wildlife and the underwater world. Her photography captures the emotion and the visual spectacle of moments in the wild.

Credit: Merche Llobera

Finalist, Ocean Photographer of the Year 2023, Fine Art category

Costa Rica

8°39'52.7"N

83°49'30.4"W

We spoke to Merche about the moments leading up to taking this shot.

“I was in Costa Rica. Every day, I ventured out to the sea to capture whatever nature had in store for me. Each day brought something different, and that day we stumbled upon a baitball of lanternfish with Chilean devil rays hunting. I jumped into the water and was amazed by their dance, flying smoothly through the fish with their mouths opened. They were coming and going, so it was a matter of patience, and waiting for the right moment. The conditions were perfect, with excellent visibility and the sunbeams reflecting in the water.”

The sunbeams shining through the school of fish gives an ethereal quality to the image. We asked Merche what she likes about the photo.

“I love it when all the elements align. As nature photographers, we can never predict what will happen, how the animals will behave, or plan the image too much.”

“In this photo, I am fascinated by the almost-perfect formation of the school of fish, the two synchronised mobulas, and the sunbeams radiating from the centre of the image, making it symmetrical and filling it with magic.”

We asked what keeps her coming back to the ocean.

“I have loved the ocean for as long as I can remember. When I was a child I could stay in the water for hours going down and up hundreds of times. The ocean is my happy place so it’s not only for taking photos.

I love the ocean and the animals more than I can explain with words. Just being there watching those mobulas dancing, catching my breath to try to dive with amazing dolphins or having fun scuba diving with playful sea lions makes me feel like the luckiest person in the world. And of course, If I can photograph them and freeze those moments in time forever it’s even better. Because with those photos you can make people travel to places where they haven’t been, you can make them feel emotions, and you can create awareness. I could never get tired of this.” 

Sea Shepherd

As part of our collaboration with Ocean Photographer of the Year, a portion of the proceeds goes to a charity chosen by each photographer. Merche has chosen Sea Shepherd. We asked her why this charity is important to her.

“The first organisation that comes to my mind when I think about protecting the ocean is Sea Shepherd. I think they do amazing work, fight so many different campaigns, and inspire people to change the world.”  

From photo to illustration

We spoke with the design team who turned Merche’s photo into an illustration made to be worn. 

“This photograph captures a truly stunningly beautiful spectacle of Devil Rays gliding through a school of fish. We wanted to capture the ethereal atmosphere, which is hauntingly beautiful. The sunbeams were the hardest to get right, and took a few goes. Like all the illustrations in this series we included the coordinates of the location where the photo was taken, and the QR code of the photographer’s instagram. It’s nice to create something people can interact with and trace the source of the image, both geographically and be able to find out who the incredibly talented person that took it is.”

Get the t-shirt for men and women

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