Taking Risks


One of my passions is scuba diving and underwater photography. I had an experience in Palau, Micronesia a few years ago that illustrates how much the experience of creating a photograph can overpower all other fears.   Palau is a wonderful destination for scuba diving. In Palau I went to dive in the open ocean with my brand new underwater camera. This was my first dive in saltwater and I was joined by 11 more experienced divers. Our destination was an area where we could see some stingrays on a bright sunny morning, about a 45-minute ride. We put on our skins, got our tanks and gear in order, and one at a time each diver fell backwards off the end of the boat into a 75-degree sea.  Every diver was in the water. As I turned my head to get my camera and strobe rig from a skipper aboard the boat, the other divers disappeared below the surface. I was alone. I had no way to know where they descended because there was a strong current.  Before I knew it I had drifted a good distance away from the boat.

At that point I began to have an internal discussion with myself about what was happening and what I could do.  It didn’t occur to me to call out to the boat and ask for help, as they were unaware of my plight.  At this point, despite my fears, I made a conscious choice that I would enjoy this journey. I didn’t want to let fear take control of me. As those of you who scuba dive know panic, fear and diving is a dangerous combination. There were other diving boats in the area so I reasoned that the risk I was taking was okay.  And the risk was rewarded. As was drifting in a free fall with the current I began to notice some overwhelmingly beautiful and amazing light patterns in the water. They were fascinating! I was experiencing my own private lighting show underwater. Heck, I had plenty of air and I was using very little of it in my own little world.  I began taking pictures to capture these dancing light streaks from the sun bending in every direction.

I was busy being engaged in the moment. Of course one could make an argument that a shark might appear or a boat might run me over. I could get melodramatic and imagine floating out to sea into oblivion. I didn’t entertain any of these thoughts because I was totally engaged in the visual gift before me; I had my camera that was all I needed at that moment. I love photography, it is my passion, and it has taken me on many a journey, this one totally enwrapped me in its beauty to feel fear or worry about my surroundings, foolhardy perhaps, I was too busy and engaged with the images to think otherwise. It is a joy to be so fully engaged with one’s art that all else ceases to exist, if only for a minute or a day. Eventually I was picked up by another diving boat and brought back to my original charter. I was calm and excited to tell my story and share my experience.

One might equate my diving experience to other photography shoots I do that require some risk. It’s just like flying in a helicopter on a mission to get a great shot of Manhattan leaving my potential fear of heights behind. Or just being in an operating room photographing a brain operation, being so engaged with what is beyond my lens and fully engaged in capturing and telling a story with my pictures. When it comes to photography, I collaborate with my clients and luckily, I am cool under pressure. It is very satisfying to get past my fears to solve whatever problem presents itself allowing the creation of great imagery.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Bill Cote

    Thanks Robert, it was fun to read about your experience. I have seen your work and understand the dedication and creativity you exhibit. I have been watching movies about people stranded in open water and so was glad to find your story had a happy ending. All the best.

  • Mom

    How wonderful. I caught this by chance. I just came across your e-mail with a link for a blog. I read that blog and then I pressed
    “blog” icon above and I was quite surprised because I had only seen this as a first draft.

    This is a very interesting anecdote. And a great piece of information/ interest for potential clients. It’s a lovely little story that contains
    valuable and useful information.

    The photographs are vivid and amazing. Congratulations in your new dimension as a blogger.

  • Lindsey Storm

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Robert. Being cool under pressure, and even more literally in this case thanks to the ocean depths, is something not everyone is capable of and yet you were rewarded by the magnificent light patterns in the water for being so. Kudos. Your passion for photography shines through in your work. I look forward to reading future, enlightening posts.

  • Jason Miraples

    Congratulations! I enjoy looking your portfolio. Keep it up and keep the passion burning!

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