Into the depths: A Brian Skerry Exclusive

A picture is worth a thousand words, and for National Geographic’s award-winning underwater photojournalist, Brian Skerry, it tells a tale of dedication, passion, and sacrifice.
By Pets Team
Published on Thursday, 14 January 2016

Why did you choose to do underwater photography?
I've always been very interested in the ocean. I began diving when I was 15 years old, and shortly after, I picked up photography. I found that the best way for me to explore the ocean was as a photojournalist, telling stories through my photos.

What’s the day-to-day of your job like?
I research a subject that I'm interested in, and then submit a proposal for the magazine's approval. Once I get the green light, I plan where I’m going, what I’m photographing, and who my assistant is. Days are very long in the field, and between trying to take photos, I have to deal with problems like bad weather and equipment breakdowns. At the end of each day, I download photos to my computer, and back them up on my hard drive. I repeat this until it’s time to go home. After a shoot ends, the cycle begins again for my next subject.

What's the most challenging shot you've had to capture?
I was trying to capture photographs of spawning Snappers in Belize. I had to use a strobe light because it was dark, but they swam very fast and their scales were very reflective, so it was like shooting into a mirror—easy to overexpose. Most people think I’d have more trouble with animals like sharks, but that's not true. If they’re swimming close to you, you can probably get good photos. The Snapper situation was different. I didn’t even know exactly where they were going to spawn, so I had to swim around and hope to find them.

Are these images edited?
Almost not at all! National Geographic is very strict. All photos have to be submitted in raw format (straight from the digital camera), and photographers on assignment are not allowed to delete a single photo shot in the field. Typically, I take between 50,000 to 60,000 photos per trip, and my editor will look through all of them. Only colour and contrast is corrected. It’s usually dark underwater, so I have to light everything that I shoot (with strobes), meaning that I have be within 2m of my subject.


For the full article, flip to our Special Feature on pg 62 of our Dec15-Jan16 issue!