What made me do it…
by Janice Nigro
Taking a look back at my first underwater photographs, I wonder what made me think I should keep on taking them. Now they make me laugh. It was a good thing that I only showed them to other people who had not seen very many underwater photographs either.
What I see in them though is the beginning of something that was just for me. Something I did that was my own. Something that I did, well, just because I wanted to do it.
I never really thought much about any kind of photography until I went underwater. I had always been around it growing up though. Photography had been one of my father’s hobbies. He liked all of it, even developing his own film and printing pictures. He wasn’t really an artist; he simply liked cameras (and accessories), and he liked taking photographs-of us mostly.
My first underwater set up was an impulsive purchase made a mere three hours before a flight to Fiji. I was at Samy’s in LA to buy a camera primarily to document the beautiful islands I was visiting. I casually expressed a desire to have a camera with an underwater housing. As I was on my way to Fiji for three weeks of diving, I thought, what a huge mistake not to get the housing now.
It was your basic small, but decent point and shoot, in the plastic Canon housing that came with it. I was logical in my thinking in the store, but with no experience I was afraid to take the camera underwater with me. It was not a fancy set up, so loss would not be great, but I wanted at least a few photographs of the islands, which are the most real green I have ever seen. Some teasing by the local dive guides pushed me to finally get started.
I still have that camera, and it’s in working order albeit some idiosyncrasies with such housings. It was prone to fogging, and while it could go deep, the problem was coming back to the surface. I never flooded it, but there were a couple of close calls.
I have stayed pretty low tech-I still only have a point and shoot, but it has manual capabilities. Eventually though I paid for a really good housing. A good housing makes a tremendous difference. Sand is the bane of plastic housings. Black sand is easy enough to see lodged in your O-ring while lighter colored sand is not. In a better housing, it doesn’t get in at all.
Most important is that I have strobes which makes any camera underwater great.
Aside from the obvious (travel and my love of water), diving has also always appealed to the scientist in me. Evolution seems to have a complete lack of rational purpose when one evaluates the diversity of creatures underwater. Like a bunch of experiments that didn’t quite work out as planned. As an underwater photographer, I am most intrigued by the colors, patterns, and textures that are unique to the underwater environment.
Photographs are always a surprise as colors of the spectrum are lost at deeper depths. Only the flash helps to reveal the natural colors of the creatures. An unexpected surprise often emerges from my photographs when I reach the surface.
I prefer more abstract photos-the “what is it?” kind-although any creature defies your imagination with the number of legs, whirling parts, color combinations, or embellishments evolution has given them.
So underwater photography and scuba diving are the perfect combination for me to experience science, travel, sport, and art all at the same time. I like something I read recently from the National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen-that he liked how above the water it could be the most mundane expansive looking blue. All you have to do is dip your head below, and the world is a different place.
It doesn’t matter that my photos are not all A’s-in fact none of them might be-I simply like diving and I like taking underwater photos. For me, there’s an adventure behind every photograph. For someone else, they are educational, and there is a message about our oceans.
When I look at them, though, mostly they just make me happy.
It’s a similar idea that runs throughout my most successful projects. I kept taking underwater photographs because it just felt right. Something I need to remind myself of, especially as I look back on my year and into the future as an independent small business owner.
©Janice Marie Nigro/janikiInk.com