Celebrating Jacques Cousteau’s Birthday

One hundred and four years ago, to this date, Jacques-Yves Cousteau took his first breaths. But it would be his countless breaths underwater from his self-invented Aqua-Lung that would leave the most impact.

As a filmmaker, diver, explorer and conservationist, Cousteau brought the mysteries of the underwater world to the big screen and christened an entire generation (and generations to come) into the sanctuary of the oceans.

So here’s to Jacque-Yves 104-year birthday—let’s celebrate with a few quotes and pictures.


“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”

“People protect what they love.”

“If we were logical, the future would be bleak, indeed. But we are more than logical. We are human beings, and we have faith, and we have hope, and we can work.”

"When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself."

"The sea, the great unifier, is man's only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat."


Memorial Day: Palau’s Ghost Fleet

In addition to hot dogs and hamburgers, Memorial Day is a time to remember the brave men and women who have served in the United States Armed Service. 

Underwater photographers are fortunate to get a first hand look at the sweat and sacrifice of those who have served for their country in battle—scattered across the Pacific, WW2 relics make for compelling and haunting images.

Jake's Sea Plane is just one of a handful of Japanese aircraft left over from Operation Desecrate One.

There is perhaps no better example of the prowess of the United States marine than the Ghost Fleet of Palau—more than 30 Japanese ships and planes sunk during Operation Desecrate One. Along with the attack on Truk Lagoon (Japan’s Pearl Harbor), Operation Desecrate One marks the biggest attack of the US Navy during WW2. 

I had the chance to photograph the Ghost Fleet last summer on an assignment to Palau. It is a reminder not only of the American’s victory in the Pacific front, but also the harsh realities of war—that history is more than just about the winners. 

The Teshio Maru is the largest known wreck in Palau, whose large bow cuts through the gloomy waters of the inner lagoon. 

Japanese helmets and other supplies are all that's left on the accurately nicknamed "Helmet Wreck"

Coral-encrusted guns are littered about the wrecks--along with gas masks, saki bottles, and ammunition.

A diver explores a plane wreck in the shallows of Palau.

Massive guns still guard the wreck of the Iro Maru, which lies in 100-feet of water. 

 The Iro Maru is perhaps the most famous wreck of the Ghost Fleet, brimming with life such as these schooling silverside fish and a resident shoal of bar jacks. 

The Iro Maru is perhaps the most famous wreck of the Ghost Fleet, brimming with life such as these schooling silverside fish and a resident shoal of bar jacks. 

More images of Palau's Ghost Fleet can be seen in the gallery below. Happy Memorial Day!


Everybody Loves Turtles

This week marks one of the biggest holidays in the world. No, it’s not Memorial Day for you Yankees out there. Nor is it National Escargot Day for the French. It’s National Turtle Day!

I thought I’d give it a s-hell of a celebration by posting some of my favorite turtle encounters underwater captioned by the incomparable Crush from Finding Nemo. So there’s only one question left: “Do you have your exit buddy?”

                             "First you were like WHOA! Then we were like WHOA! and then you were like ..whoa.."

                                              "RIGHTEOUS! RIGHTEOUS!"

                                                        How old are you?

                              "Hundred and fifty, and still young, dude. Rock on."

                              "Oh, man. Hey, no hurling on the shell, dude, ok? Just waxed it."

                           "Oh, man. Hey, no hurling on the shell, dude, ok? Just waxed it."

                           "Grab shell, dude!"

                                                                               "Gimme some fin. Noggin. Dude!"

                                                                             "Gimme some fin. Noggin. Dude!"

                                        "Dude, Mister Turtle is my father. Name's Crush."

Happy International Turtle Day 2014. For more info on endangered turtle species like the Hawksbill and Green Turtles pictured above, visit the Endangered Species website


Photography Feature Writing Tips

What does a photojournalist do when he has a couple of months without a field assignment? Edit, pitch stories to editors, rinse and repeat.

So much effort goes into planning your trip, nailing some good shots and pitching your stories (images) to editors, that by the time you've gotten the "Yes" email from publication X, Y, or Z, the task of actually writing the article seems a little scary.

Fortunately, I find myself in that very position with 6 feature stories being published/having a deadline in the month of October. So I thought I'd use this opportunity in the next few weeks to share my top five tips on crafting photography features.

1. Good Lede: The Lede, a journalism term for the start of a story, must capture the reader's attention right off the bat. Short and direct, the lede engages the reader by teasing what the rest of the story entails.

2. Write to the Magazine: Every magazine or publication has a different voice. Some are more adventurous, others informative. If you're writing for a more teqnique driven publication (like DivePhotoGuide or WetPixel) make sure to tailor your story to that voice.

3. Show, Don't Tell: Perhaps the most common mantra of journalism, and yet the most violated. Use your description to draw the reader in. Replace common underwater cliches ("The water was turquoise perfection) with more creative descriptions.

4. Devil's in the Details: You can separate your writing from the rest by including nuggets of color, details and facts.

5. Finish Strong: In conclusion...NOPE get rid of that. If you're writing an essay, you want a conclusion. But this is journalism, you want something witty, meaningful or sharp to end the story. Pull a George Costanza and leave your audience wanting more after your last punch

In the following weeks, I will go into more detail regarding these tips, breaking down one or two per week. Until then, you can check out some of my recently published print work, or my features on DivePhotoGuide.

Happy shooting and writing!

Rhode Island Day 1: Makos and Humpbacks

For many, Shark Week involves curling up on the couch with some popcorn and watching amazing (albeit sensationalized) underwater images of sharks. We wanted to pay tribute to the real beauty of these amazing animals—that’s why we teamed up with Ikelite to bring you DPG’s “Shark Celebration Week.”

But to really get in the spirit, we took it to the next level; leaving DPG headquarters in NYC for one of our favorite shark photography destinations. Best of all, it’s only two hours away…by train.

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After a swift train ride, we arrived in Rhode Island, where we met up with our friend Joe Romeiro with Pelagic Expeditions. One 4 AM wake-up call later, we boarded the boat down at the dock and were on our way...

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The morning kicked off with a bang—several bus-sized humpbacks partaking in a feeding frenzy!

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As much as I love whales, I have to admit I was relieved when Joe yelped “Shark!” We had found the attention of a Mako shark. Not a bad way to spend Shark Celebration Week.

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Well that’s it for now. Heading back out tomorrow hoping to get in the water and photograph some blue sharks! Until then…

Kona Day 7 and 8: Spotted Dolphins, Hammerheads, and Beaked Whales Oh My!

After 25 straight dives on the Kona Aggressor for 6 days, I was ready for some time off--so day 7 of my Kona adventures was spent catching up on some reading from the beautiful view of my (free upgraded) hotel room!

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Day 8 was back to business as I woke up at dawn to join Rob White of Blue Water Hunters for a day out at sea. What were we looking for, you ask? To be honest even I didn't know--a little of this a little of that, basically anything cool.

The morning started out with a bang, with spotted dolphins riding the boat's wake--I jumped in with the boat still in gear, but had no real luck at a shot. We checked out the local FADs: No those aren't the hip things to do on the island, but rather fish attraction devices. 

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My free diving guide for the day even dipped down to about 40 feet to drop off some sardines for any sharks willing to come say "hi"; but of course, none did!

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The next few hours were filled hoping in and out of the boat with camera and snorkel kit chasing after hammerheads and various other sightings (without much luck). I was beginning to doubt if I'd get up close and personal with anything that day when Rob shouted "beaked whale!"

I had no real idea at the time what exactly a beaked whale is, but there was a little bit more pressure when the boat captain added "If you get a shot of it in the water, it will be the fifth in the world." No pressure of course….so I hoped in and found this coming straight at me!

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Back on the boat the captains suspicions were confirmed: It was none other than a Cuvier's Beaked Whale. A 20-foot long cetacean that lives oh at a few miles below the surface and we were super fortunate to catch it during a breath. 

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Moral of the story--hop in the water no matter what and you might just end up with one of five images of a species in the world!

 

Kona Day 4 and 5

Days four and five of my Kona adventures brought more awesome underwater goodness, as well no wi-fi signal (hence my absence for 48 hours).

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I did a first for the week—and skipped a dive. Why you ask? Well, we pulled into a small inlet for an afternoon dive to the sight of dozens of spinner dolphins making laps around the bay. So, I ditched the tank, donned my snorkel kit and with camera in hand swap out into the middle of the bay.

I felt a bit the fool for the first 20 minutes, alone in the water without dolphins and the liveaboard barely in sight. But I wasn’t alone forever—soon enough the pods of dolphins began to make laps around me, as I gave chase hopelessly trying to snap away.

I took to many pics to count, but hopefully this will give you an idea of what this amaaaazing experience was like:

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Photographers (underwater ones especially) have a habit of building up their expectations for a shoot. Well the manta night dive lived up to my best expectations, and then some. 

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Every night dozens (no exaggeration) of mantas gather in the shallow water only a stones throw from the airport. They are attracted by the scads of infinitesimal krill and invertebrates drawn to the divers’ lights.

And what a show it is! I sucked every breath out of my tank as these underwater “big birds” with 20-foot-wingspans summersaulted right in front of my lens.

  Open wiiiiiide!

Open wiiiiiide!

Without any air left in my tank after 70 minutes underwater (really, completely empty), I made a lethargic ascent to the dive boat’s ladders. But I wasn’t alone…

Two frisky bottlenose dolphins decided to see what all the fuss was a bout, zig-zagging their way in between the enormous mantas still drawn to the liveaboard’s divelights. You know you might be a spoiled diver when you are literally thinking, “Why won’t those darn mantas get out of the way so I can get a good shot of a dolphin?”

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What a couple of days! When I get internet again I'll make sure to tell you what else I saw.

Kona Day 3

What a whirlwind of a day! 

The surge finally settled down in the morning just in time to hope onto a great critter dive--making the task of focusing on tiny pipefish, long nose hawkfish and frogfish possible!

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From the morning macro, we began a northward journey to Ampitheater, where I got my first chance to swim in (and also photograph) a lava tube! Basically, it's a long, narrow passageway through the heart of the reef created by 2000-degree molten rock flowing thousands of years ago.

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Not before long, the sun set below the horizon and it was time for the moment I'd been waiting for--Manta madness. Every night, mantas gather underneath boat lights to feed on the infinitesimal krill that are attracted. It's quite a feeling to have a manta with a 20-foot wing span swoop so close overhead that it knocks your mask right off your face.

Many more manta pics to come, but here's one to tease…

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Well, that's all for day three in Kona--but stay tuned to see what tomorrow brings--hopefully some dolphins and whales and even more mantas!

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Kona Day 2

Another day in the books in the waters of the Big Island. The seas settled down today as we continued to work our way through some of the best critters in Kona.

Too many critter highlights to count, but here's a sneak peak at a few:

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Hopefully when we wake up tomorrow the seas will be calm because I'm sure getting sick of this swell! Besides, it's time for mantas, dolphins and lava tubes!

Big Island Wish List

You have to love the modern world some days. Yes we may be destroying our oceans and embroiled in political debates--but you can also get a direct flight from Chicago to Honolulu! How amazing is that??

So after the 9-hour direct flight and a quick jump over to Kona, I landed in the Big Island last evening to the sight of this beautiful sunset. Quick night's sleep and I'm about to board the Kona Aggressor--my home for the next week!

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And while I wait to board, I've put together my wish list for the next 10 days:

- Whales (above and below water)

- Mantas and lots of em

- Schooling Dolphins

- The other dolphin (AKA Mahi Mahi)

- Deep Water Invertebrates

- Sharks, sharks and more sharks

How many of those will I get to photograph?? Well we will just have to wait and see! 

- Aloha from The Big Island

Underwater Photography with an iPhone

It was an underwater "camera" like I had never tested before.

Dropping down onto a 100-foot-deep wall off of Grand Cayman I felt silly worrying about flooding the i-Pix housing for the iPhone. After all, replacing the phone would cost way less than, say, my DSLR. But needless to say, many of us (this photographer included) have become reliant on our smartphones from making calls, to texting, playing games, replying to emails and even taking photos and video. 

With this in mind, DPG is putting the iPhone camera and i-Pix housding abilities to the test in the tropical waters in Grand Cayman. There will be a full review coming shortly in a few weeks, but until then here are a few teaser images: