Life Support – Taken for granted

School of Horse-eyed jacks, Little Cayman, Caribbean Sea

School of Horse-eyed jacks, Little Cayman, Caribbean Sea #FI-9587

In my last post, I mentioned a little bit about the difficulties in keeping track of all the things you need to be aware of when photographing underwater.   There is a lot to keep track of, but it can also be quite easy to forget.  Personally, I can become so relaxed and comfortable underwater that the thoughts of being on life support become almost secondary.   As a photographer on land, I am used to sometimes having to just wait around for as long as my patience allows for something to happen.

As a photographer underwater, I need to remind myself that my time there has a very real limit.   The consequences are a bit more severe than just being late getting home or missing an appointment.   “Forgetting” you are on life support while underwater perhaps seems like something pretty inconceivable to some.   But then – many people do this every single day.  It is quite easy to do actually when a threat is not directly in your face.

World Oceans Day passed us last Friday.   Perhaps many that read a nature photography blog are already aware, but I would be willing to be much of the general public is not.   It is an officially recognized day by the United Nations in taking time to appreciate what the oceans of this planet provide for us, how little we still know about them, and the warning signs in front of us.

While I am glad there is an “official day” – most people probably don’t realize that nearly every breath they take has something provided by the ocean, no matter where you live on this planet, let alone an official day.   To have just a single day seems like not quite enough when it affects each and every one.   What if, like drawing from a tank of air, those breaths had a countdown?  I’ll bet a lot more would pay attention for one thing!

A tropical mirage?

Even when we were on this remote island in the Caribbean, it was impossible to ignore the problems that plague our oceans today.  An island with only 4% development still showed the impacts of our behaviors from thousands of miles away.  It was a reminder to me of how much, in the name of tourism, many places clean up and hide the unsightly consequences of our impacts.   A “tropical paradise” is simply a myth these days.   Garbage is taken to the curb.  Out of sight – out of mind.

Unfortunately, sometimes the sea is that curb.  I doubt there is a single island in the world that doesn’t have trash washing ashore from numerous places around the globe.  If you find a clean one, chances are that someone has already been there to clean it up.

Much has already been written about the amount of plastic floating around in the oceans.  I spent a little time photographing some of it, not nearly enough to assemble a folio of images from it.   As I thought about it, pictures only do so much, it really takes being there and walking a coral beach where there is almost as much plastic as there is dead coral.  It was not so evident in the resort areas of the island, as they were maintained.  However, in the search of the shorelines for my camera, we saw the raw reality.   I have read much about the plastic problem, but as a mid-westerner, I don’t get to experience it much.   It certainly brings it painfully home having to walk through piles of it on a secluded tropical beach.

I don’t know what the ultimate solution will be.  I don’t see plastic going away.  It is just so saddening to see so many creatures pay the price for our conveniences.  While thinking about all of this, I was reminded once again of this wonderful video of Sylvia Earle.   Hopefully anyone watching it will realize taking the oceans for granted will not end well for any life form on this planet.

Sylvia Earle TED


  1. Great post Mark. We need to not take so much for granted and protect our whole life support system. This is the only home we have…
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  2. great post Mark :)
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  3. Mark, I love your image of the jacks! I used to have a jack in an aquarium once and he used to jump out of the water to take the shrimp out of my hand. I wish I could photograph underwater but I am terrified of it. Something about being able to breathe whenever I want. But I very much admire you for being able to do it. Also loved the TED talk by Sylvia Earle, thanks for sharing!
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  4. I love your fish photo. You don’t often see underwater shots in B&W. This is just so striking though – the personality of the fish are really able to come through. The beach landscape is also excellent.
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    • Thank you Roberta. Underwater b&w is something I have been wanting to experiment with given the right image. It just seemed to fit this one. I actually made this one my wallpaper on my computer for a day or so. But then it began to freak me out a little with that one fish staring at me all the time. :-)

  5. love your post..nice photo :)

  6. This is a really gorgeous image, Mark, and a thoughtful post. You make a great analogy between your own life support system while underwater, and the sustenance of our ecosystems. I agree with PJ above in that this is our only home, and we need to recognize oceans as a fragile wilderness, just as much as any terrestrial environment…

    • Thanks Greg. I was just thinking about how in many ways they aren’t all too different from each other except in the immediacy of the personal impact.

  7. A very real problem that no one nation can solve…it’s going to take the efforts of our global community, but then there’s always hope.

    I your “treatment” of the “Jacks” photo. Great sense of depth.
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