One of my passions is scuba diving and underwater photography. I had an experience in Palau, Micronesia a few years ago that illustrates how much the experience of creating a photograph can overpower all other fears. Palau is a wonderful destination for scuba diving. In Palau I went to dive in the open ocean with my brand new underwater camera. This was my first dive in saltwater and I was joined by 11 more experienced divers. Our destination was an area where we could see some stingrays on a bright sunny morning, about a 45-minute ride. We put on our skins, got our tanks and gear in order, and one at a time each diver fell backwards off the end of the boat into a 75-degree sea. Every diver was in the water. As I turned my head to get my camera and strobe rig from a skipper aboard the boat, the other divers disappeared below the surface. I was alone. I had no way to know where they descended because there was a strong current. Before I knew it I had drifted a good distance away from the boat.

At that point I began to have an internal discussion with myself about what was happening and what I could do. It didn’t occur to me to call out to the boat and ask for help, as they were unaware of my plight. At this point, despite my fears, I made a conscious choice that I would enjoy this journey. I didn’t want to let fear take control of me. As those of you who scuba dive know panic, fear and diving is a dangerous combination. There were other diving boats in the area so I reasoned that the risk I was taking was okay. And the risk was rewarded. As was drifting in a free fall with the current I began to notice some overwhelmingly beautiful and amazing light patterns in the water. They were fascinating! I was experiencing my own private lighting show underwater. Heck, I had plenty of air and I was using very little of it in my own little world. I began taking pictures to capture these dancing light streaks from the sun bending in every direction.

I was busy being engaged in the moment. Of course one could make an argument that a shark might appear or a boat might run me over. I could get melodramatic and imagine floating out to sea into oblivion. I didn’t entertain any of these thoughts because I was totally engaged in the visual gift before me; I had my camera that was all I needed at that moment. I love photography, it is my passion, and it has taken me on many a journey, this one totally enwrapped me in its beauty to feel fear or worry about my surroundings, foolhardy perhaps, I was too busy and engaged with the images to think otherwise. It is a joy to be so fully engaged with one’s art that all else ceases to exist, if only for a minute or a day. Eventually I was picked up by another diving boat and brought back to my original charter. I was calm and excited to tell my story and share my experience.

One might equate my diving experience to other photography shoots I do that require some risk. It’s just like flying in a helicopter on a mission to get a great shot of Manhattan leaving my potential fear of heights behind. Or just being in an operating room photographing a brain operation, being so engaged with what is beyond my lens and fully engaged in capturing and telling a story with my pictures. When it comes to photography, I collaborate with my clients and luckily, I am cool under pressure. It is very satisfying to get past my fears to solve whatever problem presents itself allowing the creation of great imagery.

Tropical reef fish in Pilau