Ocean Views 2012

When I see the quality of the images in this year's Ocean Views photo contest, two thoughts come to mind. The first is how impressed I am with the talent and vision of the contestants. As one who has spent most of my adult life underwater, I cannot help but be amazed — and perhaps a little intimidated — by the caliber and ability of the photographers at work today. It gives me hope and excites me to know our craft is evolving and that new technology and ideas keep emerging.

To those who believe everything that could be photographed underwater has been, I have only one thing to say: Keep an eye on this new crop of underwater photographers. Clearly there is much more for us all to learn. Even more important, this next generation is telling stories with its cameras at a time when storytelling is needed more than ever. These images add the critical visual dimension to the urgent questions confronting humankind today.

The second thought that comes to mind is the extreme level of commitment required to create photos like these. As a National Geographic photographer tasked with delivering images from some of the most inhospitable parts of the globe, I am keenly aware of the willingness to risk life and equipment — as well as personal relationships — required to bring back images like these. This type of work demands boundless energy, unflagging enthusiasm, a spirit of adventure, the ability to survive in difficult circumstances and the courage to confront danger. It is all consuming, making for lonely mates and neglected families. It is frenetic, exciting and sometimes hazardous, but every minute is worth it.

But there is much more to being on location than personal sacrifice; shooters must also think about the practicalities of photography. I've adopted a methodical workflow that allows me to make sure my equipment works correctly and get my images safely back to my editors in Washington, D.C. This workflow includes the use of several indispensible pieces of software (including Photo Mechanic and Lightroom) as well as a very strict naming convention, backup protocols with multiple redundancies and the application of metadata embedded in the images. Sticking to the workflow takes discipline; it's not easy while living on sea ice at -30 F°. The simpler the system, the better.

Preventative maintenance of gear in the field is extremely important to any photographer working in a remote destination far from repair or replacement equipment. Often the best pictures require we walk a fine line between creativity and personal risk, and once there you want to know for certain your camera, strobe and dive gear won't let you down.

The images on these pages remind me a good photograph is one that arrests the eye but also invites reflection. The best pictures are the ones that evoke emotion. As underwater storytellers we must remember a good image becomes an experience shared with thousands of people who might never get a chance to be immersed in the amazing places and situations we photographers and divers encounter. Each image becomes an ambassador for an ecosystem very much at risk. Through them, we all are gifted with a larger vision of the world.
Explore More
Ocean Views 2012 Winners
Ocean Views 2012 Bonus Gallery

© Alert Diver — Spring 2012