About Deepscape Photography

About James Lee

Jim began his diving career in 1981 at the age of 16. Certified to dive before he was licensed to drive, Jim began exploring the local waters of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Shortly after high school, Jim enlisted in the Navy as a Seabee and was sent to a beautiful, yet harsh island of Adak in Alaska's Aleutian chain. It was here that his love of nature photography began. After completing a 2 1/2 year tour of duty on Adak, Jim was sent to California, Spain, Great Britain and finally to Guam. It was on Guam where Jim dove on his first shipwreck. This was the beginning of a love and driving ambition to explore these beautiful and sometimes dangerous artificial reefs. Since that time, Jim has explored over 70 shipwrecks all over the world from the warm waters of the Pacific to the cold, dark waters of the North Atlantic.

Jim is a licensed steam engineer and engine mechanic and works full time for Wellesley College power plant. Part time, Jim works as crew and licensed captain aboard Capt. R. J. Mark's dive charter boat Blind Squirrel based out of Point Judith, Rhode Island.

Jim lives in Wrentham, Massachusetts.

The World of Underwater Photography

The differences between underwater photography and any other form of photography are substantial. To deal with such a harsh and demanding environment, the camera equipment must be rugged, reliable and meticulously maintained. One sure way to make an underwater photographer almost suicidal is to have a camera flood converting thousands of dollars worth of expensive equipment into a paper weight. All because you didn't see that tiny piece of lint that got caught between the O ring and the case. It often takes me two hours just to clean and load one camera system. I've even been known to take out the O rings and put them in my mouth to suck out the salt crystals that could damage them.

One of the biggest advantage topside photographers have is that they can change film and carry multiple bodies and lenses. Underwater photographers don't have those luxuries. The best one can do is carry two complete camera systems. But this is not usually practical. When you consider that a diver can have up to 150 pounds of scuba equipment and may have to deal with difficult conditions like strong current, cold and limited visibility just to name a few.

While suspended particles in the atmosphere can cause dramatic sunsets for the topside photographer, underwater particles floating suspended can cause significant problems. Sometimes reducing visibility to just a few feet. To overcome this, an underwater photographer must get as close to the subjects as possible to shoot through as little water as possible. Usually using the widest angle lens one can afford.

To do this, I use a Nikonos 5 camera with either a Sea & Sea 15mm lens or a Sea & Sea 12mm full frame fisheye lens. For lighting, I use an Ikelite substrobe 200. For macro work, I use a Nikon 6006 with a 105mm macro lens housed in an Ikelite housing. For lighting I use the same Ikelite substrobe 200. When in warm, clear water, I'll load Fuji Provia 100 F film whether I'm shooting wide angle or macro. If I go below 130 feet of depth, the ambient light level generally forces me to push the film to 200. When I'm diving in colder, darker water, I'll use Provia 400 F and push it to 800 when I have to go deep.

In order to become a skilled underwater photographer, one must first become a skilled diver. Good buoyancy control is absolutely crucial to prevent destroying fragile coral. One careless fin kick can kill coral that's been growing for years. Or if inside a shipwreck, it can raise clouds of silt that can make finding the exit both difficult and dangerous.

Equipment choice and configuration are also critically important. Over the years, the cave divers of the Woodville Karst Plain Project in Florida have refined both equipment and technique to perfection and call it the "Do It Right System". I've found this system to be the safest and most efficient way to conduct a dive. For more information on the D.I.R. System, visit their website.