Norbert Wu reclined on the Antarctic Ocean floor beside anemones and bush sponges and shot his dive partner hovering just beneath the ceiling of summer sea ice. To photograph Antarctica's benthic community over a two-month period, the divers drilled an entry hole through ten feet of ice, then capped the opening with a Styrofoam cover to prevent it from freezing shut.
Wu used a 24mmlens and 100-speed film, and exposed the frame at f/16 for 1/125 second.
Christopher Ross wore a nonbubbling, military-issue rebreather so he wouldn't spook the hammerheads schooling off Cocos Island, Costa Rica. He dove 110 feet and positioned himself atop a rock pinnacle, where the local sharks gather to have their skins nibbled clean by wrassesa symbiotic arrangement that frees the sharks from irritating parasites and provides the fish with protein. "The hammerheads look ominous, with eyeballs on the sides of their heads," says the Atlanta-based photographer, who specializes in monochromatic underwater images. "But they're really not aggressive at all."
Ross used a 20mm lens and exposed 50-speed black-and-white film for 1/60 second at f/16.
Patricia Sener knew exactly what image she was looking for when she traveled to Bonaire last November to photograph the first annual Deep Blue 5k Swim. After taking a crash course in scuba diving the day before the race, Sener dove ten feet down to the Caribbean's sandy bottom, not far from the starting line. "The beginning of an open-water race is the most interesting to shoot because it's the only time the swimmers are in a pack," says New York-based Sener. "I was completely focused on getting the shot. And breathing. It was crazy and exciting and over in about seven seconds."
She used a 20mm lens set at f/5.6, 100-speed film, and a shutter speed of 1/250 second.
James Fee shot this unhappy blowfishit had puffed itself up in self-defensewhile diving a reef off northeast Peleliu Island, near Palau, in the western Pacific. "A Korean boatman named Mr. Kim, who's lived on the island for 18 years, took me out to search for blue starfish," says the 54-year-old L.A. photographer "I spotted this puffer just below the surface, in eight feet of water."
Fee used 400-speed film, with the film-speed setting on 1,600, a 15mm lens set at f/16, and an exposure time of 1/250 second.
Zena Holloway caught this otherworldly-looking freediver ascending, at a depth of about 65 feet, to the surface of the Red Sea near the Egyptian coast. "That's sunlight reflecting off his goggles," says the photographer, 30, who lives in West London and dives for business and pleasure.
She "saw the glint, spun around, and fired" with a 50mm lens, exposing 400-speed film at f/11 for 1/60 second.
Joseph Dovala, a 50-year-old Thousand Oaks, California-based photographer, shot this pelagic egg-yolk jellyfish while it drifted above a set of submerged pinnacles. "Where that was taken," he says, "you could throw a rock and hit the fifth green of the Carmel Country Club."
BACKSTORY: Because he was decompressing from a deeper dive, Dovala had time for only one shot, which he took just before the current swept the jelly away in a contorted mass. "The sea jelly is flowing so nicely, like I posed it," he says. "It was one of those serendipity things."
THE TOOLS: Nikon D2X, ISO 200, f/10, 1/125 second, 10.5mm fish-eye lens, Subal ND2 housing, two Sea & Sea YS-120 strobes
"Like ballerinas with razor blades." That's how Michael Muller describes great white sharks, like this 14-footer, which he dived with last fall off Guadalupe Island, 180 miles west of Baja California. It was the Los Angeles-based photographer's first time shooting in the waterand out of the cagewith sharks, and he was amazed by their sensitivity to the environment. "I could see them reacting to my shooting," says Muller. "They were picking up what was happening inside the camera, and they would twitch after I snapped a photo." This shark swam straight toward Muller, then veered off at the last second."Of the thousands of images I took, I remember this moment like it happened 30 seconds ago," he says. "The eye contactthere was a connection. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life."
THE TOOLS: Canon 1Ds Mark II, 35mm f/1.4 lens, ISO100, f/5, 1/160 second
While freediving off the southern coast of Baja, Mexico, last November, Brandon Cole spotted a group of striped marlin, and a few opportunistic sea lions, preying on a school of mackerel. "It looks static," says the Spokane, Washington-based marine photographer, "but the bait ball is revolving around itself and moving all over. At one point, I had no fewer than 30 marlin in my field of vision."The marlin feed off the bait by separating individual fish, then disorienting and injuring them with their bills."They came within inches of me, slashing around, gulping these fish right next to my head," says Cole. "It was definitely one of the top encounters I've had in 17 years of doing this."
THE TOOLS: Canon 1Ds Mark II, 16-35mmf/2.8 lens, ISO 800, f/11, 1/160 second
Tim Calver and filmmaker Pete Zuccarini (pictured) were taking a break from work on their upcoming documentary, Oceans: The Movie, near Tahiti when they spotted this sleeping humpback. "She would doze for about 15 minutes at 60 feet and then drift to the surface for a few slow, deep breaths before dropping back down," says the 36-year-old Miami-based lensman. "Her calf was on the surface, just out of the picture."
Calver used a digital Canon 1Ds with an ISO of 100 and a 16mm lens in a waterproof housing, exposing the frame for 1/125 second at f/5.6.
John "Chip" Scarlett swears that photographing tiger sharksat night, sans cage, and at close rangeisn't as dangerous as you might think. "It's less intimidating if you've got experience and someone to watch your back," says the 55-year-old, who splits his time between San Francisco and Austin.
Shooting in the Bahamas last spring, when the sharkslike this nine-foot adolescent femaleleft deep water for dolphin- and turtle-hunting season, Scarlett used a housed Nikon D2Xwith a 16mm lens, exposing the frame at f/11 for 1/125 second.