Behind The Lense

Photographers and Their Art



The contributors to Skin Diver's 2000 Photo Annual are without argument the world's best at what they do. They are the men and women who have brought underwater photography to its present high level-the most dramatic and artistic it has ever been-and they enjoy dive experiences and lifestyles envied by just about anyone who has ever ventured below the surface of the sea.

They are often asked what it takes to become a pro in underwater photography. The answers aren't simple. First and foremost, there has to be an all-consuming passion for being underwater and experiencing the wondrous life there; and, while being a professional underwater photographer in the water is definitely fun, it is certainly not easy. Underwater photography at this level is physically demanding and requires patience and the ability to withstand a host of discomforts: cold, heat, wind, waves, rain and floating around in a rocking boat for days on end, to name just a few.

It requires carrying and maintaining a great deal of heavy, sophisticated equipment, equipment that decidedly does not like the water environment in which it's used. It also takes a broad range of diving skills to "get the shot," regardless of the location and conditions. Then there's the knowledge of marine organisms and their habits. Finding interesting species, each with its own particular habitat and behavioral tendencies, and being able to approach closely enough for effective photos does not, for the most part, happen with ease.

And then, with all that, it ultimately takes the photographic skill to envision and capture the picture that presents itself, often a split second before it vanishes forever. Despite the barriers, the drive to do something is usually proportional to the payoff. And for diving's pro photographers, the rewards are marvelous. The beauty they witness, the adventures they experience-and, yes, there are also some good livings to be made-are typically deemed excellent and worth every moment it took to get there. And believe me, there's not a one of them who would trade the profession for anything. They are having the times of heir lives.

For any readers who have thought about taking pictures underwater, or if you already do, we hope the photos in this collection have given you a wealth of inspiration. For you, underwater photography can be as simple or complex as you wish to make it. Today's equipment is easy to use, and it can be as inexpensive and uncomplicated as point-and-shoot cameras, or involve the intricacies of using your topside SLR in a housing. If you have the dream to become a pro someday, go for it. There are great new photographers coming onto the scene every year, and their work appears in Skin Diver and other magazines on a regular basis.

Now, here's a look at the people behind the 2000 Photo Annual.

Steve Alexander was a research scientist for 10 years, during which time he worked for several institutions, including Scripps Institution of Ocean-ography in La Jolla, California. His specialty was the physiological ecology of Antarctic marine protozoa, for which he spent many seasons in Ant-arctica diving beneath the ice to perform ex-periments and collect data. Steve has published many photographs and articles, both in scientific literature and in popular magazines. His list of credits includes National Geographic, International Wildlife, Geo, Natural History, Cell Biology, Nature and many others. Currently, Steve and his wife Jennifer are sailing around the world on their small yacht, taking photographs and documenting the state of the world's oceans. His regular reports of this five-year adventure diving expedition can be seen in Skin Diver and on the Skin Diver website.

Gerald Allen was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1942. In 1972, he immigrated to Australia with his wife, Connie and son, Tony. He served as curator of fishes at the Western Australian Museum in Perth for 24 years and recently retired to take a position with Conservation International as their science team leader for marine surveys in Southeast Asia. Over the years, Allen has traveled extensively throughout the Indo-Pacific region, having logged over 6,000 hours of scuba diving in the process. He is the author of 27 books and more than 300 scientific articles.

After a successful career in the advertising industry, Michael Aw moved to Sydney, Australia and became a full-time nature photographer. His photographs and articles on environmental issues, natural history, travel and technical aspects of scuba have been featured in publications all over the world. His marine photographs have received awards from several international organizations including a Superb Close-Up Award from the 1995 Nikon International Photo Contest. His most recent work, Dreams from a Rainbow Sea-Maldives, a pictorial book, has been selected as an official gift by the Republic of Maldives. Last year he was awarded winner of Adaptation Musicale for "Memoir from a Rainbow Sea" video at Antibes, 1999.

Jonathan Bird is a professional underwater cinematographer and photographer. He has shot and produced over 20 films for broadcast and education, which have appeared all over the world. He has won many awards for his television work, including two Emmy Awards and the Cine Golden Eagle. His coffee table book, Beneath the North Atlantic, was published in 1997, and his articles and images have appeared in hundreds of magazines, calendars and books. Bird's most recent television film, Endangered Mermaids: The Manatee Paradox, will be released in late 2000. Bird shoots with an Aquatica housed Nikon 8008, Nikonos V and Ikelite Substrobes.

Ernest H. Brooks II is a noted professional photographer, educator and ambassador for the industry who has won international acclaim for his underwater photography and audio/visual presentations. As a professional photographer he has contributed to numerous magazines and organizations including the Cousteau Society, Ocean Realm, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Nature Conservancy and the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, just to name a few. Ocean and underwater photography are among Brooks' main interests. In the pursuit of dramatic marine images, he has descended into the fascinating waters beneath the polar icecaps and in almost every ocean on earth. On a clear day, you can usually see him on his photographic research vessel, Just Love, scoping the waters off the Channel Islands searching for the ultimate shot.

Cathy Church has been photographing the beautiful underwater world since 1967. She received the NOGI award for the arts (a national U.S. award) in 1987, the DEMA "Reaching Out Award" in 2000 and was inducted into the Diving Hall of Fame in 2000. She is on the founding board of governors of the newly established International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame to be housed in the Cayman Islands and was inducted into the Woman's Diving Hall of Fame earlier this year. Church is well known for many styles of photography from documentary and editorial to gallery art. She shot the award-winning Cayman Islands underwater poster "Wonderland" and has done extensive work for such clients as Kodak, Nikon, Dolphin Cruise Lines, U.S. Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands. She was a photo editor for Skin Diver for 15 years and her work has appeared in dozens of books and magazines, including five of her own popular books (co-authored with Jim Church) on photo technique and an instructional video. Cathy and her husband, Herb Rafael, live in Grand Cayman where they teach underwater photography and operate Cathy Church's Underwater Photo Centre and Gallery.

Brandon Cole, a 29-year-old wildlife photographer and writer specializing in the marine environment, lives in landlocked Spokane, Washington. His imagery from around the world includes a cetacean file with over 20 species of whales and dolphins, extensive coverage of other marine mammals, fish and invertebrates from tropical coral reefs to cold-water kelp forests, scuba diving and many other marine subjects. With a degree in marine biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and experience in underwater scientific research (having worked with the National Park Service, the University of California and the Australian Institute of Marine Science), he now explores one of the planet's last frontiers, the world beneath the waves. Cole's photography has been published in numerous books, calendars, cards and posters, electronic products, advertising and other media.

Bill Curtsinger's underwater photo career began in the elite Navy photo unit, Combat Camera Group. Since leaving the Navy in 1970, he has been a freelance photographer and writer. He has photographed over 30 articles in National Geographic and has written several. In addition to his specialty of underwater, natural history and marine archeology photography, he has photographed people, culture and environments. His most recent book, Sea Soup, reveals the microscopic world of phytoplankton. His book on zooplankton will be published in the fall of 2000.

David Doubilet was born November 28, 1946, in New York City. He began snorkeling at the age of eight in the cold, green seas off the northern New Jersey coast. By the age of 13, he was taking black-and-white pictures above and below the sea with his first camera-a pre-war Leica. Doubilet's photography has won many prizes. Among them, the prestigious Sara Prize and International Award given by Mondo Sommerso magazine in Italy. He was the first American and the youngest person to win this award. In 1975, Doubilet was named Diver of the Year by the Boston Sea Rovers, one of the diving world's most respected organizations. He has also received several honorable mentions by the National Press Photographer's Association over the last decade. In 1993, he was honored in France with the first place trophy in the Professional Category of an international contest sponsored by C.M.A.S. (World Underwater Federation). Doubilet's most recent book Water Light Time was published in July 1999. He is presently a contract freelance photographer for the National Geographic Society where he has been steadily working for 27 years.

Jack and Sue Drafahl are professional undersea journalists, lecturers and multimedia producers. They have written over 500 articles for various publications and for 10 years, have produced audiovisual presentations for the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association's Reaching Out Awards. They were recipients of Beneath the Sea Divers of the Year in 1996, and Sue was recently inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame. In addition to their various monthly magazine articles, they are currently working on a book entitled Computer Applications for the Underwater Photographer, to be released in the spring of 2001.

David Fleetham has been diving and photographing underwater since 1976 and has been in Hawaii for over 15 years. For 10 years preceding that he pursued photography in the cold but rich waters of British Columbia, Canada and worked in various dive businesses in the Pacific Northwest. David's photographs have been published around the globe, with over 50 magazine covers to date. In 1991 his photograph of a Sandbar Shark appeared on the cover of LIFE. His work is currently displayed at the Smithsonian Museum, the North Carolina Museum of Natural History, the London Zoo, the Hong Kong Museum, the Aquarium of the Americas and others. David photographs exclusively with 35mm Canon SLR cameras, in Ikelite and Aquatica housings, with twin Ikelite Substrobes.

Christoph Gerigk was born in Oldenburg, Northern Germany, in 1965. He started diving in 1980 and worked as an instructor and guide in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. In school, he studied biology and visual communication/ photo and film design. He began underwater photography in 1984. From 1995 to 1998 he ran a photography studio in Nurnberg for Germany's dive magazine, Unterwasser. At the same time he continued his freelance underwater photography. Since 1998 he has been living in Southern France. For several years Gerigk has concentrated on photojournalism with environmental and archeological themes and works as a still photographer for underwater documentaries and film productions.

Ethan Gordon has been involved in scuba diving for over 16 years and for the past eleven years has taught hundreds of people how to scuba dive, receiving many awards for his skill as a teacher. Gordon's work as a photojournalist has appeared in numerous magazines, including Sport Diver, Aqua, Scuba Times, PADI's Undersea Journal, Saltwater Sportsman, On the Water, New Hampshire Wildlife Journal, Massachusetts Wildlife, Skin Diver and more. On the Water has recently published a poster series featuring Ethan's work. Ethan uses the Nikon N-90s system in a Sea & Sea housing with Ikelite substrobes. His favorite lenses include the Nikkor 60mm macro, 35-80 zoom, and the 20mm for wide-angle.

Howard and Michele Hall, a husband and wife team of natural history film producers, specialize in marine wildlife. Howard has received six cinematography Emmys for films produced for television. Michele has received one Emmy award. Howard made his directorial debut in the IMAX format with Into the Deep, a 3-D film, which opened the Sony IMAX Theater on broadway in NYC. He was also Director of Underwater Cinematography for The Living Sea, an IMAX production nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Documentary. Howard and Michele's photographs have been featured in publications around the world.

Al Hornsby has been diving since 1962, when he discovered the undersea world of Micronesia at the age of 12. Leaving a career as a photographer for music concerts, auto racing and fashion, Hornsby entered the dive industry full time as a dive instructor in 1976. He moved on to become one of the principals at PADI, where he worked for 20 years. In 1998, he joined Skin Diver, the culmination of a childhood dream, where he serves as group publisher and editor. Hornsby now specializes in underwater and wildlife photography, frequently visiting many of the world's most remote and beautiful places. Hornsby uses a housed Nikon N90, a Nikonos RS and a Nikonos V, with Sea & Sea and Nikonos dual strobes for his underwater work.

Photojournalist Chris Jaffe has been encountering wildlife since his childhood in Kenya. At 16 years old, his photographs were first nationally published, and his work has continued to be featured in many publications worldwide including American Photo, Ocean Realm and The New York Times. In addition, his photographs have been purchased for books, commercial work and private collections. Jaffe conducts diving expeditions and underwater photography seminars worldwide through his company, Chris Jaffe Photography, in Tucson, Arizona. For close-ups, Jaffe uses Nikon N90s cameras with 60mm and 105mm macro lenses inside Subal underwater housings. Ikelite 50 strobes provide the primary light source. Much of his wide-angle work is done using the Subal-housed N90s cameras with 16mm fisheye, 20mm and 24mm lenses and Nikonos V cameras with 15mm and 20mm lenses.

Burt Jones and Maurine Shimlock, an Austin, Texas,-based photojournalist team, have spent thousands of hours underwater studying the fascinating creatures that inhabit the marine world. Their first large format photography book, Secret Sea, was honored with the Printing Industry of America's Benjamin Franklin Award for the best book printed worldwide in 1996. Their work has taken them around the world on assignments as diverse as photographing sea snakes in northern Borneo to documenting the exploration of the world's longest underwater cave in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Although they have had no formal photographic training, their work has won international recognition, and they are regular contributors to a variety of publications.

Emory Kristof has been a National Geographic photographer ever since working for the magazine as an intern in 1963. Born in 1942, Kristof graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park with a B.S. in Journalism in 1964. Throughout his career Kristof has been a pioneer in the use of robot cameras and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). Some of his accomplishments include doing the preliminary design of the electronic camera system for the Argo vehicle that found the Titanic (December 1985, NGM) and leading the photo surveys of the C.S.S. Alabama off the cost of France in 1992 and the 16th Century wreck San Diego in the Philippines in 1993. In 1995, Kristof organized and led the project to recover the Bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1995, resulting in the first deep water images done with High Definition TV. He has won many awards for photography and writing, including the 1988 NOGI Award for Arts from the Underwater Society of America, the ASMP Innovation in Photography Award with Robert Ballard for the photography of the Titanic in 1986 and the Explorers Club Lowell Thomas Award for Underwater Exploration in 1986.

Michael lawrence has led a twisting, turning path of wildly divergent careers. He was a musician for more than 25 years, playing jazz guitar, doing studio work, orchestral work, stage shows, arranging and conducting and doing "anything else I could to turn jazz pennies into real dollars." In 1980, he learned to dive. "I knew as soon as I stuck my face in the water, that it would change my life," he said. He started writing for Skin Diver in 1990 and has authored and photographed more than 150 articles for us.

Casey Mahaney and Astrid Witte Mahaney both started in the dive industry as instructors and underwater dive guides in Kona, Hawaii. Casey took up underwater photography in 1989; Astrid focused on developing her writing and underwater photography skills. Casey and Astrid teamed up in 1991. They have co-authored seven books and dozens of articles in the field of marine life identification and dive travel. Presently, they are working on two new books and continue to escort live-aboard dive tours to the South Pacific.

Jim Mastro has worked as a seal trainer, a fisheries biologist studying the tuna-porpoise problem and a field biologist, studying seal physiology and behavior. Mastro first went to Antartica in 1982 and ended up spending nearly six years at the bottom of the earth, first as a biology laboratory manager, and later, as the diving coordinator for the U.S. Antarctic Program. During that time, he made 250 dives under the ice. His photography and writing career began in 1978, and since then, he has published numerous articles, essays and photos. He is also the lead author of the Antarctica Scientific Diving Manual. Mastro uses a Nikonos V camera with a 15mm Nikonos lens and two SB-105 strobes connected with a dual sync cord.

Carlos Minguell was born in Barcelona, Spain, in 1964 and made his first scuba dive at the age of 12. One year later he started taking black-and-white photographs, but did not begin his underwater photography career until 1989. Currently, he collaborates with several Spanish magazines and photo agencies. His pictures have been published in more than 40 magazines around the world, and he has won more than 200 prizes in underwater photo competitions, including first place in the CMAS World Championship (1996 and 1998) and the Spanish Championship (1995, 1996, 1998 and 1999), two gold medals in the CMAS 50 Judges 1998, two gold medals and Best of Show in the New Zealand Kodak Oceans 1999, and two silver medals in the Austrian Supercircuit 1999.

Amos Nachoum has led National Geographic expedition teams with Dr. Eugenie Clark, Dr. Sylvia Earle and astronaut Buzz Aldrin. He has also co-produced documentaries with Stan Waterman. Nachoum's photos and essays have appeared in more than 500 publications worldwide. In addition, his work has been included in the books The Living Ocean, Oceans and The World of Nature. He has been profiled in television appearances on National Geographic Explorer (September 1997), The Today Show and Good Morning America as well as in People, Esquire and Money magazines. In 1988, he won Nikon's underwater photography contest and in 1993, the Communication Art Award. He also co-founded Israel's Marine National Park on the Red Sea. He is currently an instructor on the Nikonos team of professional photographers and also conducts his own SLR and advanced underwater photo seminars.

Chris Newbert was featured in LIFE magazine's anniversary edition, entitled "150 Years of Photography, Pictures That Made a Difference," along with some of the world's greatest photographers, including Louis Daguerre and Ansel Adams. Newbert was the only underwater photographer featured. Newbert has won over 30 awards in international underwater photographic competitions. His photos have appeared in over 300 books and magazines worldwide. His book, Within a Rainbowed Sea, is in its tenth printing and was selected by the White House as an official Presidential Gift of State.