Brian Skerry Blog

Last Chance to See Your Photos Alongside Brian Skerry's at NMNH!

Brian Skerry is a world-renowned underwater photographer and journalist with decades of experience. He combines artistic vision and passion for the ocean with deep knowledge of photographic principles and specialized tools to create powerful and beautiful images. Some of his best photographs are now on display in the exhibit Portraits of Planet Ocean , open at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History through November 2015. But even people without decades of experience can capture a magical shot. That's why we've chosen to celebrate the work of amateur photographers by hanging their...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 As an assignment photographer, I sometimes feel as though I am living in a vacuum, spending months each year in the field focused on my work. When everything comes together and I climb back on the boat with an image I had envisioned (or one that is even better), I am naturally relieved and pleased. But in an exhibit, my photos take on a new life as visitors from many different backgrounds experience them for themselves. In my new exhibit, Portraits of Planet...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
Brian Skerry takes an up close photo of a tiger shark on the seafloor.

Patience is a Virtue

Brian Skerry photographing a large tiger shark in the Bahamas. Credit: Copyright © Mark Conlin As an underwater photographer, time in the field is the most valuable thing I can be given. With time, I can usually overcome challenges and the problems that occur . Time also allows me to learn firsthand about the place in which I am working, what happens at different times of day and how animals behave. But oftentimes the best images are made when something unexpected happens. I love the discoveries that come from taking my time in a place and allowing opportunities to present themselves...Read more
A white crabeater seal resting on an iceberg.

Life in the Field

To a photographer, all that matters is the image, the picture that results when the shutter is released. This is what people will see and what will remain of that moment in time, captured forever. But for wildlife photographers and especially underwater wildlife photographers, so much has to happen just to get to that moment when your finger is on the shutter release. Underwater photography is an equipment intensive business. It requires all the equipment used by land photographers, plus so much more. Cameras must be placed inside underwater housings and special strobes, strobe arms, cords,...Read more
A hermit crab looks out from its coral dwelling in the waters of Japan's Ogasawara Islands.

The Perfect Underwater Photo

There is of course, no such thing as the perfect photograph, as there is no perfect song, movie, or painting. Photography by its very nature is subjective and what appeals to one viewer may not interest another. There are photographic elements however, that have been proven to make images better, especially things like exposure and composition. Photos that are over- or under-exposed are generally not pleasing to the eye, and composition tends to be more interesting when artistic styles such as the rule of thirds are followed (placing a key subject off center within the frame at the place...Read more
Caribbean reef sharks swim over a coral reef in the Bahamas.

Swimming With Sharks

Lying in water only a foot deep, I watched the shark meander lazily through the mangrove, already exuding the confidence inherent of the supreme creature within its domain. It was hot here in Bimini, nearly 100-degrees and mosquitoes were thick and relentless, swarming on to any bare skin. Yet slipping my head just inches below the water’s surface I had entered another realm. I was absolutely transfixed watching these little sharks, perhaps 12 to 18 inches long; swimming beneath mangrove roots and over the muddy bottom with impressive deftness. It was a shark scene quite unlike any others I...Read more