I first started photography in 1996, as a senior in high school. My Shakespeare teacher was also the photography teacher and had a darkroom attached to his classroom. I kissed up until I got the key; then I could stay there after class and after school as late as I wanted. Working in a room without windows melts time and allows a lot self discovery. All the while mixing hazardous chemicals to cook film and prints and turn them into art.
In 1998, I dreamed of an affordable digital darkroom. The digital cameras were $10,000 plus and the point and shoots were just coming out with better quality. In 2001, I purchased a Sony DSC P1 with 3.1 mega pixels and the option for a water tight housing, good to 100ft from Sony. That's when I started underwater photography. As a diver, I wanted to record what I saw and document fish so I could look them up in a book and identify them.
I worked the little camera underwater as hard as I could, but the problem is lighting. Reds and oranges are filtered out by 20 ft of water. After that, all you get is blues and greens unless you bring your own light. What you bring has to be more powerful than the ambient sunlight. That is why commercial underwater photographers have a huge camera set up with 2 or more strobes to fill the scene with light.
On shallow dives, I use the camera to hunt unique and rarely seen species of fish. It's not about the camera; its the hunt to see something new. Scuba divers after a few hundred dives lose the thrill of just breathing underwater and need to specialize into an underwater activity to maintain interest. Deeper wrecks, cave diving, documenting those adventures on film and identifying the fish (like bird watching) is what does it for me.
Both hobbies have the skill of awareness at the center. Most art is creating something from nothing. Photography starts with what is already there, and then documents it from a new point of view, a set depth of field, or freeze an emotional moment. Our brains can observe 1/15th of a second of motion. The camera freezes 1/4000 of a second. This brings a new level of awareness and contemplation of a something that happened for a split second. Scuba diving increases awareness of our surroundings as we fly through a three dimensional underwater world.
These, along with my family and my executive and life coaching practice, are my passions.
Matthew Hoelscher is president of Miami Executive Coaching.