When John Foster, nutrition services manager for St. Andrews Estates North, in Boca Raton, Fla., moved from Vermont to Florida he discovered another benefit of scuba diving: underwater photography. No longer encumbered by mitts, Foster picked up a camera and started photographing the world underwater.
“I fell in love with scuba diving when I lived in Vermont of all places. In the winter we would cut holes in the ice. Then I moved to Florida and found out that there are really much warmer waters to dive in. That’s when I was able to pick up a camera because my hands didn’t have two really big mitts on them. I met Steve, the president of the South Florida Underwater Photography Society, and he got me going.
Underwater photography is really different than photography on land. I don’t really enjoy land photography. With underwater photography, you look for the things that normally wouldn’t catch your eye. You discover this macro world in a world—water—that people don’t usually exist in. You have to train your eye to see things that you would normally pass right by. That’s what Steve, my mentor, taught me. For the first 20 dives I saw stuff that I would have just swam by. He would stop and point and I would put my hands up and shrug because I couldn’t figure out what he was looking at.
My very first photography trip underwater we found a seahorse. I pulled my camera up to take a picture of it and my battery had run out. Steve was with me and he said, ‘You’re new at this. You’re not worthy yet.’ It’s a very rare thing to find a seahorse. I still haven’t seen another one and that was three years ago.
You need a high degree of patience, something that land photographers need in wildlife. One photographer from the society sat in front of a frogfish for nearly two hours waiting for it to yawn. It never did. That’s dedication. I haven’t taken enough pictures to get to that point. There are still a lot of other things I want to shoot before I get there.
I use a point and shoot. I can zoom in and get within three inches of my subject. I use a flash with a diffuser.
The first time I dove at this one place, the Blue Heron Bridge, I didn’t see anything there. It’s now my favorite place to photograph. If you know what to look for, there’s a whole new world down there. You can only dive at the bridge for two hours around high tide. You can see anything there. One day I saw a manatee. And we’ve seen a big bull shark. There are some sunken boats. That’s where you find all this neat stuff living.
My favorite photo is my least technically correct one. It was my first year in photography. My buddy and I were out and he was basically under the sand trying to get a picture of something when this ginormous sea turtle came swimming straight at me. My friend was clueless. When the sea turtle saw my bubbles, he veered off to the right of me and went right over my buddy. He had no idea. I snapped two photos. It must have been a 400-pound sea turtle. The flippers were three feet long. You can’t see his head in the photos because by the time I got my camera up and rebooted it, I didn’t catch it. It’s fun to see big creatures in the ocean—the ones that don’t want to eat you, that is.”