Ever since I was a child, I have been obsessed with the ocean and its inhabitants. I grew up wearing out the pages of my beloved copy of The Golden Book of Sharks and Whales, spending inordinate amounts of time at the Vancouver Aquarium, and watching every National Geographic show I could get my hands on.
Some people are born for the water, with a natural affinity, an instinctive ease and comfort. I am not one of those people. I cried and cried and cried the first time my parents made me do a swimming lesson. It took me three tries to pass Yellow, the first level of swimming lessons, because I could not open my eyes underwater.
When I did my open water certification, it was not because I really enjoyed being in the water. Rather, my desire to explore beneath the waves finally outweighed my reluctance to breathe underwater. I did it in Houston, in Mammoth Lake, a place that would have been much more aptly named Pea Soup lake. The visibility was most accurately measured in inches, and was however many inches were between my mask and my fins with my legs fully extended, and not an inch more.
Mask removal and replacement brought heavy amounts of anxiety, and when it came time for me to prove myself, I snorted in water and fought to keep myself marginally calm while coughing into my regulator. My buoyancy was poor at best, and the "fun dives" consisted of a continual cycle of floating up towards the surface, dumping my BCD in panic, and then sinking like a rock.
But I made it, and after I got my Open Water certification, I forced myself to practice, practice, practice, eventually working my way up to some level of proficiency, and then earning my divemaster. It was only during divemaster training, with the many pool sessions, that I finally really found my happy place under the water. And it was sooooo worth it.
After getting control of my buoyancy and my nerves, I decided to get an underwater camera. I had recently bought a shiny new Olympus OM-D E-M1, which I loved, and after reading on the Underwater Photography Guide that it was a top choice for underwater photography, I paid the cost of a small car to get a beautiful Nauticam housing and a couple of Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes.
My start as an underwater photographer was a cause for concern. My first time trying out my setup underwater, I flooded one of my strobes, creating a mucky brown mess of seawater and battery acid that I noticed coming out of the back panel after I got back to the hotel. On the next trip, I made the brilliant decision to do a giant stride off a tall boat deck, with about a 5' drop to the water, holding my housing.
I hit the water with a massive splash, and I can't imagine how much force was put on the housing. It was enough to crack it open and let some water in, so I spent the whole dive swimming around with the leak alarm beeping. No, I'm not so hapless as to keep diving with an actively leaking housing; I gave it a visual inspection every couple of minutes to confirm there was no liquid water pooling in the housing, and no stream of bubbles from anywhere. But let's just say I needed to learn a few things about caring for my precious baby.
Now, 5 years later, I still have my same beloved OM-D E-M1 setup, and I am addicted to taking underwater photos. I have gone through two dome ports, one acrylic and one glass (thanks, Galapagos), but now I take really, really good care of my baby, and I have not had one catastrophic flood (knock on wood).
My favourite thing about underwater photography is showing people how beautiful the underwater world really is. Everyone thinks the underwater world is really, really blue (which is not completely wrong), but there are so many amazing colours to show, if you just take a good source of artificial light with you. And there are so many beautiful scenes, from healthy reefs bursting with colours and covered in colourful fish, down to weird little shrimp perfectly adapted and camouflaged for spending their entire lives on specific black-and-white crinoids.
So thank you for reading through my rambling. I hope you enjoy my take of just a few of the countless wonders of the underwater world!