Wednesday, August 31 presents
Rick Sammon

Underwater Photography
June 27, 2001

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Orangina: How do you identify all the different types of fish and sea life? Have you ever seen anything really rare?

Rick Sammon: I head up a marine conservation organization and it's called CEDAM International, and for all these years of dives with marine scientists, and they help me identify all the fishes and corals and invertebrates. I've also read Paul Humann's books on fish identification. I've learned all this because I think any photographer is better at what he or she photographs if he or she understands what they're photographing. So you develop a passion for that. The rarest fish I've seen was a decoy scorpion fish in Hawaii. I have a picture of it. I think it's on my website.

Chia Witch: How did you first get involved with photography?

Rick Sammon: I used to be a professional musician. And I had a lot of down time, so I just started taking pictures and writing about what I was photographing, and I sent them around to magazines, and I got published. Actually the first picture I ever sent got published and the next and everything I sent got published. So I guess I had a knack for it.

Trieste: How much equipment is involved in doing this? Is it really expensive?

Rick Sammon: It can be expensive if you want to be a professional, because you have to have a lot of backup gear, because as careful as you are, some equipment could slip, and you don't want to go to the other side of the planet with your favorite lens, have that flawed, be there for 3 weeks and miss the shoot. There are ways to get started in underwater photography. Kodak has that Max Sport one-time use camera which is nice for snapshots. Sea & Sea has several affordable cameras for beginners, so I would recommend starting small and then if you like it, invest in a more sophisticated system.

Rob: Rick, what do you think is the most important skill to work on as a beginner in underwater photography?

Rick Sammon: When you're photographing fish, for example, you can't jump in the water and chase after fish like you would chase after a butterfly in your backyard. If you go down and settle down, the fish will eventually stop freaking out and come back to their normal habitat. So the skill is not chasing after all the fish. The skill is being patient and waiting for just the right shot, but also what I said before about understanding the subject is very important.

Tremley: Do you have a favorite make of camera?

Rick Sammon: I have several cameras for different purposes. For pictures of sharks and big schools of fish, I have a Nikonos 5 with a Sea & Sea 12mm lens and two Sea & Sea strobes. For close ups, I use a Canon Rebel G in a Sea & Sea housing with two strobes. The reason I always have two strobes on my camera is because I like to have shadowless or ratio lighting. So those are my cameras. But today in Key Largo we were on the boat taking pictures with that Kodak Max Sport because we were snorkeling. And my 10-year-old son loves that little camera.

RC May: What kind of film do you use?

Rick Sammon: Mostly I use slide film. Kodak Elite Chrome 100 extra color slide film and Ektachrome 100. Most of my books have been shot almost exclusively with Kodak slide film. However, with everyone having scanners these days, I recommend that especially beginners shoot print film. Like Kodak Max 400 or 800, because those films are more forgiving. Also, a big challenge in underwater photography is getting good color. Kodak has a service called Kodak Sea Processing which restores the color that is normally lost if you're shooting available light pictures underwater. So I would give that service a try.

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