Behind The Photo

Surf Fishing In a Golden State

"Surf Fishing In a Golden State" Credit: Michael Carl People flock to the California Coast in the summer—some to cool down in hot weather, some in search of good waves, some to fish in the surf and some to photograph any of the 1,200 miles of inspiring coastline. In spring 2015, I happened to be doing the latter. The hour before sunset typically creates the most dramatic light along the Pacific Coast and draws photographers like myself to the shore in a mass migration. Another migration was also taking place just off shore. It was late spring and large numbers of striped bass were swimming...Read more

Chasing a Basking Shark

"Ocean sunfish" by Mark Harris Credit: Mark Harris It was a hot and sunny day, with barely a whiff of breeze. I boarded a boat in Oban, on the coast of Scotland, and headed west past the Isle of Mull and into the North Atlantic. It was July 2014, and I was in search of some imagery for a book I was writing on freediving photography. I was seeking basking sharks. These are commonly seen off the British coast during the summer and are a great subject for the freediving or snorkeling photographer because they spend much of their time near the surface, filtering small plants and animals out of...Read more
A school of akule (Hawaiian for bigeye scad) explode into a camera's frame.

Following the Akule

Credit: Wayne Levin While swimming off of the big island of Hawaii in Kealakekua Bay, I saw what first appeared to me as a coral head. As I approached I saw movement within the shape. To my surprise it was an enormous school of fish, tightly packed, and numbering in the tens of thousands. I dove down and took a few photos before continuing my swim. It turns out this giant group was made up of akule— Hawaiian for bigeye scad . Over the next year I would occasionally see a school of akule; I would take a few pictures, then be on my way looking for other subjects. But my fascination grew as I...Read more
A wave curls near the shore.

Shooting the Waves: Tips from a Surf Photographer

Waves play an important role in the way coastal ecosystems function, and also provide tourism dollars because of their draw for surfers. Credit: Flickr user bluewavechris A great surf photograph appears loose and improvised, like the waves and surfers it depicts. The reality is less spontaneous. The photos that you see in surf magazines rarely happen by accident, and could never be captured without preparation and planning that can start months before—all to capture a moment that lasts a fraction of a second. Hauling your bulky camera and housing through the surf is rarely easy, and staying...Read more

December in Malibu

"December in Malibu" by Andrew Richards Credit: Andrew Richards Shooting seascapes often involves hiking on very delicate rock formations near tidepools and reefs full of plant and marine life. The photographer has to be very careful when walking on these rocks, not only for his or her safety, but also to avoid disrupting the natural environment. When I first began shooting seascapes, I'd often get so focused on getting the composition and lighting just right, sometimes I would start rushing and become careless. I'd scramble across the rock formations to compose shots without always giving...Read more

Break On Through

"Break On Through" was taken by Wendy Wolf at California's Pfeiffer Beach. This photo was a winning selection in the Portraits of Planet Ocean Flickr contest. Credit: Wendy Wolf I took this shot at Pfeiffer Beach, my favorite beach in my home state of California. If you aren't familiar with it, it is a very secluded beach in Big Sur where we have some of the most spectacular scenery to be found. Up until somewhat recently, Pfeiffer Beach remained a fairly well kept "secret" of area locals. If you blink an eye, you will miss the entrance to the windy road that takes you from the hairpin curves...Read more
Brian Skerry sits on a 20 foot high underwater tripod to photograph the Aquarius Habitat off Florida.

Portraits of Planet Ocean – Behind The Photographs

Brian Skerry sits on a 20 foot high underwater tripod to photograph the Aquarius Habitat off Florida. Credit: Copyright © Mark Conlin Editor's Note: These images and more can be seen at Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., as a part of the larger exhibit " Portraits of Planet Ocean: The Photography of Brian Skerry " opening on September 17, 2013. Two additional ocean exhibits are also opening: "Fragile Beauty: The Art & Science of Sea Butterflies," which shares the story of how ocean acidification is affecting sea butterflies , and the "Living on an Ocean...Read more

Behind the Photo: The Primal Ocean

Red Pigfish and Blue Mao-Mao school at the edge of a cavern in New Zealand's Poor Knights Islands. Read photographer Brian Skerry's story behind this photo . Credit: Brian Skerry, National Geographic A few years ago, I was in New Zealand photographing a story about the value of marine reserves (a type of marine protected area ). My last location was a place called the Poor Knights Islands , a spectacular group of small, rocky islands off the North Island of New Zealand, which had been fully protected as a no-take zone in the 1980’s. One afternoon I was invited to have tea with an old-time...Read more