How did you get started in underwater photography?
I grew up the daughter of a professional landscape photographer and always had an interest in photography, but nothing on land inspired me. As soon as I got underwater on my first dive, I knew where my inspiration was. To me, diving is synonymous with underwater photography. I never do one without the other.
What came first – diving or photography?
Diving by five days. Photography would have come sooner, but my instructor wouldn’t let me take a camera with me on my certification dives.
What’s in your underwater photography kitbag?
I am a sucker for gadgets, so I have a lot of supplementary tools in my bag. My main equipment is a Nikon D810 camera, in Sea&Sea housing. I use YS-D2 strobes and Nauticam Optical glass dome ports. My favourite lenses are the Nikon 8-15mm for wide angle, and the Nikon 105mm for macro, however I use several other lenses regularly.
Favourite location for diving and underwater photography?
My favourite location for underwater photography is wherever I am at the moment. Truly, this is a hard question, as every area in the world has something to offer that is exciting. I love Anilao, Philippines for macro. The Red Sea and Raja Ampat for wide-angle, Mexico for whale sharks, Fiji for Bull sharks, Truk Lagoon for wrecks and my home waters of California for Kelp. I don’t know how to pick just one.
Most challenging dive?
My most challenging dive was in Sri Lanka on the wreck of the SS Perseus. The wreck sits in 40 metres of water. The combination of rough water, poor visibility, depth and an inexperienced crew caused me a lot of anxiety. In addition, it was the first time I had dived to that depth and I could hardly concentrate on my photography as I was so busy watching my gauges.
Who are your diving inspirations?
I am inspired by Alex Mustard for his unique perspective and forward thinking toward photography. Adam Hanlon for his open-minded approach to everything dive related, Ajiex Dharma for his creativeness and Mike Bartick for his competitive drive. I have many friends in the diving and underwater photography community and each has inspired me in some way.
Which underwater locations or species are still on your photography wish list?
Guadalupe for white sharks, Tonga for humpback whales, Bahamas for Tiger and Hammerhead sharks, and any blackwater for larval critters. Why? The answer is always curiosity.
What advice do you wish you’d had as a novice underwater photographer?
I wish someone had told me sooner to put a piece of electrical tape over the switch on my lens that turns off the auto focus. I know it seems like a small thing, but many dives were ruined when I couldn’t focus my lens under water because I had accidentally knocked the switch to manual focus when putting the camera into the housing.
Hairiest moment when shooting underwater?
I seem to lose all sense of fear underwater, sometimes to my own detriment, so my hairiest moment under water wasn’t realised until after the fact. I was diving in Southern California and came upon a beautiful large pregnant torpedo ray. She hovered just inches from my face while I took photos and I even reached out and stroked the edge of her skirt with my bare finger. When she tired of me, she darted away over my head and as she did, her pregnant belly tapped my regulator and delivered an electric shock to my mouth. It was only then that I remembered that torpedo rays can deliver a powerful electric shock. Luckily for me it was only an electric kiss that left my lips a little numb for a while.
What is your most memorable dive and why?
My most memorable dive was several years ago when California was in the midst of an unprecedented warm water event. Most of the usual animals had disappeared and many unusual warm water animals were making their way north into California territory. I wanted to see something unique and spent one day searching for something – anything tiny. At the end of the last dive of the day, I discovered a bright orange nudibranch about the size of a grain of rice in some green algae. Since California has few nudibranchs, and I am familiar with most of them, I knew this one was special. To make a long story short, it was eventually discovered that the nudibranch was undescribed and since I was the lucky finder, it was named Placida brookae, after me!
As a passionate underwater photographer, I have an insatiable desire to share the beautiful life I am able to see happening in the sea. My photographs are a way for me to document the things I have seen in the most artistic way possible. The more I visit the ocean, the more I love this valuable resource and the more my desire to preserve it grows.