It was not long after being introduced to it by a friend that Eric Ernest, executive chef for hospitality at the University of Southern California, made underwater photography his passion away from the kitchen.
“I was introduced to scuba diving and doing underwater macro photography about seven years ago by a close friend who was very active in diving. It was amazing to be underwater to witness the beauty, mystery and power of the oceans.
I have dived in many parts of the planet, but my favorite area to dive is the Channel Islands off the southern California coast. The local islands are not only plush with unique pinnacles and underwater forests of kelp, but I also get a direct education and see the condition of local waters, fish stocks and pollution, all of which I am able to share with my team on an educational front.
The most rewarding aspect is the educational aspect of showing pictures to people. It’s disturbing how little most people know about our oceans, yet the oceans are a major source of food for this planet.
The most challenging aspect is the photography itself, as I am more of an abstract artist by trade and not a trained photographer. It can be challenging to get great shots with issues of aperture, lighting and definition. The most interesting creatures I’ve shot are whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, turtles and nudibranchs, a type of mollusk.
My most memorable excursion was diving with whale sharks in the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos are amazing in many ways; there are intercontinental currents converging on the volcanic islands, endemic species and tons of sharks. For a diver a big animal, especially thousands of them on every dive, is a rare treat. The biggest of these pelagic creatures is whale sharks, huge filter feeders that are slow-moving giants.”
“My mom. As a school nutrition director, I can appreciate everything she did for my brothers and me while we were growing up in a new country—I’m from Nicaragua and moved here when I started second grade—and she soon became a widow. We grew up eating the school meals, and I realized early on how helpful this was to our financial stability. I think of that often as I serve our students the most nutritious meals possible and as I try to help as many families receive the benefit that they are eligible for.”
—Cindy Culver, R.D., director of school nutrition, Marietta City Schools, in Georgia