Alex photographing a Tiger Shark close-up
Alex taking a photo of Bull Sharks
I’m an avid amateur underwater photographer, speaker, ocean and shark advocate, and Venturpreneur. When I was a child, I dreamed of being a marine biologist but early on realized it might not be a good career path. A neighbor was a Ph.D. marine biologist at Marineland in Palos Verdes, CA. The park is no longer there but my neighbor’s advice made a lasting impression on me. He told me he had seen too many friends with Ph.D.s in the field who ended up driving trucks for a living instead of working in the field they loved. He gently discouraged me from pursuing work in this field.
I still loved the sea and started taking scuba lessons at the age of fourteen. Ironically when the trailers for the movie "Jaws" first began appearing in theaters I started my lessons. I received my certification before its release. Perhaps this was the start of my fascination with sharks. I could not have gotten my certification without the help of my long-time friend and co-worker Tim Ives. We both worked at a local pet shop where we took care of the marine aquariums. Tim was a several years older, and was like a big brother to me. He drove me to every class and dive while making sure I was safe. Thanks Tim.
When I went on my first all shark dive, I bought a compact camera to document the trip. These photos were good tourist quality, but they did not compare to the beauty of the photos seen below. After seeing the work of this photographer, I decided that someday, when I could afford it, I would acquire a high quality camera and accessories.
But the best equipment is nothing without training. I went to Phuket, Thailand and took a PADI underwater photography specialty class. There, dive guide Oui Penkul, from Sharkey Scuba, trained me in the basics and I acquired my certification. With this under my (dive) belt, I was ready to upgrade my equipment.
I invested in a basic underwater housing for my DSLR, a lower end Canon T3i (EOS D600), which also takes great land photos. The rig included a Sea & Sea housing for the Canon camera, two Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes, and a Light & Motion Sola 600 focus light. Most of the photos on this site were taken with this camera rig using either a Canon 60 mm macro lens or a Tokina 10-17 mm fisheye lens for wide-angle photos. Until recently, this is the only rig I have used for taking underwater photos.
I took my first photos in Puerto Galera, Philippines because I wanted to find a pygmy seahorse (see Macro Gallery). Someone had shown me a picture of the pygmy and I did not believe they existed that small (from the size of a grain of rice to a size of a pea). I heard they could be found in the Philippines. So I hired a dive guide in Puerto Galera at Asia Divers, Allison (Alli) Manis.
Alli knew this shot was important to me. It was my last opportunity after training to get my nitrox certification because the pygmy seahorse is found in 100 + feet of water. In her commitment to helping me meet my goal, she even took me out in the middle of a typhoon. This sounds very dramatic but, rest assured, it was done very safely. On my first attempt, I tried with air vs. nitrox prior to getting nitrox training several days before. But the pygmy would not cooperate and I could not stay deep long enough to get a good photo because I did not want to take flash after flash picture and blow their little eyes out like some divers might unknowingly do hoping one photo will come out. On the last attempt, I used nitrox which allowed me to stay down a little longer and get a better photo when it finally turned to a position where it would make a decent shot (see Macro Gallery).
At the end of the trip, we reviewed my photos. Alli encouraged me to enter the Asia Divers' 25th Anniversary photo contest. In it, several independent judges select winners from several categories. Contestants could only submit three photos. To my surprise, I won First Prize and Third Prize in the Overall Best Photo Category. I was hooked. Thanks Alli for the encouragement.
When I went on a Great White Shark dive, "Out of the Cage", I had the great privilege to dive with some of the world's best and most renowned underwater professional photographers. I was humbled by their skill and their camera rigs made me drool. Most importantly, I learned even more by observing these experienced professionals at work. They were filming a 3D documentary at the time.
By then, my family and friends were making many requests to see my photos. I was not a Facebook user then and I quickly tired of having to Drop Box the photos to them after my trips. That, combined with my Great White Shark experience, inspired me to start this website. As I thought more about the website, I also hoped fellow divers would share their photos and tips here. The website could be a way to share our mutual passion with other scuba divers around the world.
Welcome to DiveWet.com. Please join us here at DiveWet with your contributions to the blog and photos/tips.
Let’s share our diving passion!