“Nothing that the ingenuity of man has permitted him to do is more unnatural than working as a diver in deep water,” said Commander Edward Ellsberg of the US Navy.
Perhaps, and yet swimming amongst the fish is such an exotic, adventurous activity that it captures the hearts and imaginations of many—including photographer, and trained biologist Paul Erickson.
“What I love most is the sheer enjoyment of experiencing the a world so far removed from ours,” says the former educator at Boston’s New England Aquarium, who for 26 years worked there a film producer, diver, animal rescuer, and exhibit writer. He also served as an on-camera correspondent for Good Morning America and WBZ-TV News, Boston.
Throughout the years, Erickson has explored many underwater destinations around the world, including the Red Sea, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, and Loch Ness. Among the several books for children that he has co-authored is “Dive to the Coral Reefs,” which was featured as a PBS “Reading Rainbow” television program.
Today, he focuses on photography, art, public speaking, and exhibit writing for museums, zoos, and aquariums, including exhibits for a new aquarium planned for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Below, is his special take on the beautiful, mysterious world below the surface of our seas.
Under the Sea
By Paul Erickson
Reconnecting people and nature
Paul Erickson Studios
As a kid exploring nature, I would often find myself caught in a still, peaceful, trance-like state, gazing at salamanders or jack-in-the-pulpit plants in my mom’s backyard rock garden. Initially, I thought there was something wrong with me.
I later came to realize that the “trance” was healthy and that the garden was teaching me to meditate. When I discovered underwater gardens of otherworldly beauty, such as those I found on remote coral reefs, I knew that nature—especially aquatic nature—was going to be a big part of my life.
There was just no turning back.
Once I took up scuba diving, the slow, measured flow of my exhaled bubbles—taking on the sound of glass chimes in deep water—served as a relaxing, rhythmic mantra. Though it’s important to be relaxed underwater, you also have to be very, very alert. Underwater, you have to remain aware of your camera settings, air supply, nitrogen uptake, your buddy, and other important safety factors.
Often, people tell me that they could never scuba dive because they think that they would suffer from claustrophobia. Especially in crystal-clear water, I think that most divers experience the joyous, incomparable freedom of weightless flight through a liquid atmosphere. It’s the opposite of feeling confined.
Although I do video production, I’m primarily interested in the still image because it captures a moment in time. I tend to think, recall, and look toward future adventures in terms of moments. And I just plain love the geometry and color of a well-composed picture.
I’m 59 years old and my generation is really the first to have access to safe, reliable, high-tech diving equipment, including dive computers and advanced underwater cameras.
As a result, divers around the world are discovering new, formerly alien creatures, and there is always the feeling that surprises are always looming—even the freshwater jellyfish and hydra gardens I found in a pond not far from my home.
To find some little alien beast below the waves and reveal an image of it on a screen to an excited and delighted audience is great fun, especially when people are learning something new about nature.
Do you have an awesome underwater photo to share with Erickson?
Send him an email.
For more information about Erickson’s work, visit www.paulericksonstudios.com.