I have been wanting an automatic dive watch for years. When my Aquadive Bathysphere 100 GMT arrived from Austria this week I felt like a grade-schooler that had just been told summer vacation was going to last an extra month. The watch ticks all the boxes I have been considering, namely: automatic swiss movement, ceramic bezel, scratch resistant sapphire, a classic diver look and of course waterproof to some insane depth. This guy drips of industrial design that harks back to iconic dive watches of yore like the Doxa. Designed in America, milled in Germany and movement from Switzerland… if that doesn’t sound like a match made in heaven, I don’t know what is.
Stoked to get a new tool in the tool chest this week! It is the first underwater housing I have owned that has a anti reflection optical glass dome – which should solve may of the flare problems when shooting underwater. Will be kicking the tires soon on a grant for the National Geographic Society grant with Dr Chris Horrell.
Thanks to the great crew at Reef Photo & Video who help set me up with the kit. First impressions from the unboxing below!
A few moons ago I found myself working on a fascinating project in Panama documenting Fritz Hanselmann and his team of underwater archaeologists excavating a 17th century shipwreck. We were looking for ships belonging to the legendary English pirate Captain Henry Morgan. Morgan was on his way to sack Panama City when a storm sank five of his ships at the mouth of the Chagres River – these were the ships we were searching for – but Panama had other plans for the team. Instead of finding Morgan’s ships, we discovered a merchant ship laden with swords, bolts of cloth and other goods.
I was on the project for nearly 30 days – and out of the 30 days – had exactly two where the water was clear enough to shoot. The shipwreck was located very close to the mouth of the Chagres river, and every time it rained, the visibility underwater went to just about zero. Photographically, the project was a great exercise in patience and persistence – gearing up day after day, to be greeted with water that I couldn’t see the end of my arm in.
The great team of researchers made the days fly by, and in the end the currents worked out in my favor for just enough time to capture what needed to be captured.
When I was living in India, I managed to spend some time in the Andaman Nicobar Islands where I captured the above image of a young man free diving in the ocean. I would have never guessed that this image would find its way onto the cover of Jake Stephens debut album “How The Water Feels” – but am super stoked that it did! I met Jake many moons ago at Virginia Tech where we spent every free second rock climbing. Jake went on to ride as a nationally ranked cyclist (inspiring one of the songs on his album The Ride to Key West) and work as a solar company executive. Over a year ago Jake made an abrupt break from the rat race to pursue this creative endeavor. The album drops on November 15th. Pick it up on iTunes HERE!
See The Light, a workshop I am teaching with Dewitt Jones on Molokai has begun, and Dewitt started the week off with a question: What is the most important life lesson you have learned from your photography? I can think of hundreds of life lessons I have learned from my photography, but one of the lessons that floats to the top of the edit is something I learned doing underwater photography thanks to a great mentor of mine, Ralph Clevenger. As I was just learning the technical side of making photographs underwater, Ralph told me one of his secrets to its artistic side. He said, and I am going to paraphrase here, ‘You have limited resources when you are underwater because eventually your air’s going to run out. So don’t spend your time wasting air and energy swimming around. Find a pretty spot and stay there. Look around. There is a sub-sea city full of wonder all around you. ’ I thought a lot about what Ralph said and later, during my travels, began to apply the same technique of finding a pretty spot and waiting. I never though of this in a metaphorical sense until many years later when Dewitt was talking with me about finding the place of maximum potential, and then, no pun intended, it clicked. In photography I knowingly or unknowingly, have always tried to put myself in the place of maximum potential for the shot. Then I would wait, watch and decisively act when the time was right. As Dewitt was speaking many years ago, I realized the same statute applies in my life. Ever since that day, in life and photography, I often find myself asking the question – what is the place of maximum potential, and can I be patient enough to wait for the right moment to act?
I would love to hear your thoughts on the most important life lessons photography has taught you…
The cover of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt, published in 2006, features an image by Aurora photographer Jonathan Kingston. The photograph is an underwater shot looking up at an elephant swimming in the Andaman Sea in India with his trainer on its back. Jonathan tells us that when people see the image they often think it is digitally manipulated, however the image was captured on film and other than some basic tonal correction and dust removal, is a straight shot.
Jonathan was inspired to take the shot by some documentary footage of the elephants by Jacques Cousteau. Thinking it would be a relatively easy feat to find elephants swimming, he was surprised by the difficulty he encountered arranging government permission to shoot the elephants. On his second attempt, he was able to get his shot. “Seeing the underwater view of an elephant swimming in the crystal blue waters of the Andaman sea was was one of the most amazing and beautiful things I have ever witnessed. When the elephant is swimming, its entire body slips below the surface of the water, save the top of its head and its trunk that is raised up like a snorkel. The frustration of two trips and nearly two years of planning were instantly forgotten in that moment.”
Jonathan Kingston Explores the World in Search of Images and Insights