My endeavor into professional photography began in the late 1970’s with a Nikonos II and UW 28mm Nikkor lens that belonged to my dad, later graduating Nikonos IV with a UW 15 Nikkor lens and a Nikon FM manual SLR film body in a Tussy underwater housing for macro work by the mid 1980’s.
By this time, I discovered that I could possibly earn a living at writing and photography which caused my interest in the next great thing in photographic to grow. As a result, over time I had gone through a wide range of systems between Nikon and Canon as well as dabbling some in medium format systems like Mamiya. As part of this process (albeit a rather expensive one) I also ventured down the road with a number of underwater housing manufacturers like Oceanic, Aquatica and Nexus
Naturally, as advancements in technology often do, film gave way to the digital realm, forcing me to almost repeat the cycle between Nikon and Canon. There was even a time I got to play with one of Hasselblad’s gargantuan 50-megapixel 645 monsters, the D3D II DSLR. When it came to the shooting experience underwater, my exploration included a new round between Seacam, Subal and Nauticam.
My current system consists of Nikon’s incredible 45.7MP FX-Format D850 DSLR camera bodies with a range of optics from Nikon’s 60 and 105mm f/2.8 ED G series micro lenses macro subjects on up through a range of wide angle and telephoto glass to 200mm.
For underwater applications I use with Nauticam’s NA-D850 underwater housings specifically designed for Nikon’s D850 DSLR. My preference for Nauticam is of a practical nature in that they have broad number of ports and extension rings to accommodate a broad series of lens with focal ranges from super-wides like full-frame fisheyes, down to 105mm macro lenses. In addition to that, their offering of Water Contact Optics for extreme macro to wide angle broad enough to capture something as large as a whale makes it a hard brand to beat.
Augmenting this system is Nikon’s famous Nikonos R-UW 13mm prime fisheye lens heralded as one the sharpest underwater wide-angle prime lenses ever made that has been modified to work with my Nauticam housed Nikon D850.
While the choice in optics play a highly important role, lighting is critical. If you don’t have the light to illuminate your subject properly underwater you will end up likely with nothing at all.
To fill that gap, I am currently using Retra’s newly designed Prime model flash guns, which feature the world’s first fully circular flash tube available in underwater strobes. So far, I have found the lighting from them on subjects to by highly pleasing in terms of color temperature and smooth converge on subjects including those prone for showing hot spots like schools of fish with silvery reflective sides.
High-end digital camera system is just the first half of the equation. You also need to have the right hardware and software along with the skills to use for post processing all that imagery. For this purpose, my current photo editing system is 5k 27-inch iMac with the 3.6 GHz Intel i9 processor equipped with a Radeon Pro Vega 48 8GB graphics card and 128GB of 2667 MHz DDR4 memory.
Software includes the Adobe Creative Cloud suite with Photoshop, InDesign and Acrobat Pro for photo editing and graphic design purposes.
My interest in what lived in the underwater realm began at a very early age, with the most significant leap taking place when I began collecting my own tropical fish for my saltwater aquarium at the age of 11. By the mid 1970’s I received by open water scuba certification finishing with a PADI Divemaster rating in 1979, or so I thought. As my endeavors started going down multiple paths that included underwater photography, which quickly moved into photojournalism.
List of certifications
1976 – NASDS Open Water Scuba
1979 – PADI Advanced Open Water Scuba
1980 – PADI Divemaster
1998 – TDI Basic Nitrox
1999 – SSI’s Platinum Pro 5000
2000 – TDI Drager Semi-Closed Rebreather Diver
2001 – NACD Full Cave Diver
2003 – IANTD Inspiration CCR Diver
2006 – TDI KISS Air-Diluent CCR Diver
2006 – TDI KISS Mixed Gas Diver
2009 – SDI Open Water Scuba Instructor
2009 – TDI Nitrox Instructor
2011 – TDI KISS Rebreather Air-Diluent CCR Instructor
My move into the technical field of diving did not begin till 2000 after completing a NACD Cave Diving course taught by one of my early mentors Harry Averill.
While I had learned to dive semi-closed rebreathers on a Drager Dolphin the same year, my interest in diving fully closed got really perked in 2001 when I encountered large lemon shark aggregation off Jupiter, Florida. At the time, such a behavior by this species was completely unknown. To make matters worse in regard to documenting it, these particular lemon sharks were easily scared away, much like the schooling hammerheads in the Eastern Pacific by the sound of bubbles escaping from a regulator. To vastly improve my odds, I transition from the Drager semi-closed to fully closed Inspiration rebreather in 2003.
In the following years, I found that like a few underwater cinematographers that I know, diving closed was a valuable asset for photographing wildlife as it made you less obtrusive and more tolerable to marine life. Then there is the time factor. Not only did I find that I could work closer to my subjects without scaring them off, but I also had the added ability to stay where they were for a longer period of time. As my taste for diving rebreathers grew, I made a decision to look into the KISS Sport MCCR made by KISS Rebreathers in 2006. Compared to the Inspiration Rebreather I was first trained on, the Sport rather simplistic in nature which introduced me to the merits of a mechanical CCR system. By 2010 I had upgraded to the KISS Classic, as it not only had a highly robust built quality making it highly reliable in the field, but also a more enjoyable system to dive for its better work of breathing than its predecessor. Even to this day, my Classic still remains my sole closed-circuit system for CCR diving.