BWW Interview: Underwater Photographers David Doubilet and Jennifer Hayes Talk CORAL KINGDOMS AND EMPIRES OF ICE
The Houston Symphony and NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC LIVE present CORAL KINGDOMS AND EMPIRES OF ICE, the second event of four in a speaker series that features photojournalists like underwater photographers David Doubilet and Jennifer Hayes -- the presenters for CORAL KINGDOMS AND EMPIRES OF ICE -- scientists, filmmakers. Like life, the series takes all kinds. Below, we talk to Doubilet and Hayes about their plans for the CORAL KINGDOMS AND EMPIRES OF ICE audience.
What do you have planned for your Coral Kingdoms and Empires of Ice presentation? How will you combine lecture and visuals to make your presentation compelling to an audience?
Jennifer Hayes: We are excited to visit Houston and share the story of a year on National Geographic that takes the audience on a journey with us from the wild waters of Papua Papua New Guinea to the pole. David and I use a combination of storytelling, video and imagery captured on assignment that tell the story behind the Nat Geo story.
I am a sucker for baby seals, Jennifer, so your seal encounter story instantly captured my attention. What stories will you share as part of your lecture? (If you want to keep some mystery, can you give us a sneak peak?)
Jennifer Hayes: We love to share this presentation with an audience because we talk about 2 Nat Geo assignments that were the most challenging in one case and beloved to the point of life changing in another in another case. We start with a dream assignment in New Guinea that turned into a nightmare with monsoon, missed deadlines and malaria. We take you behind the scenes and share our frustration, failures and success. We close on a story where encounters we had changed our lives and ignited a commitment to return each year. We swam with beluga whales, ancient sturgeons, wolfish and descended beneath the ice with harp seal mother and pups. There are so many stories to share in a limited time that is hard to choose. We are there to tell the animal's story - to be their voice and invite the audience into their world.
Trekking in the wilderness is a challenge for platonic professional partners. Is it more challenging for you, as part of a husband and wife team? Or the opposite? ... Or in-between?
Jennifer Hayes: Ha! Super question. We are generally working together 24/7 by choice, at home in the office, on plane, underwater, onstage. We met underwater working with a pregnant lemon shark giving birth (pupping) in the Bahamas but it was not love at first sight (or bite). We are lucky that each of us was already working underwater, had chosen that way of life and did not lead or introduce the other to it. We are friends, partners, companions first that happen to be married. We see things very differently, David through an artistic lens and me through a more biological (science) lens. We challenge each other on stories, we argue above and below water but we love each other madly and wince when one or the other gets on a plane solo. If the plane goes down, we both want to be on it.
Underwater photography is mystifying and amazing to me. What is the process? What techniques do you use to get the perfect image?
Jennifer Hayes: We work with Nikon cameras in underwater housings made by SeaCam. We always want to have a aid range of lenses with us underwater to be ready to shoot a shrimp or a shark or a ship wreck. We need to be ready to shoot the smallest to largest when it appears in front of us so we carry 4-5 cameras into the water. We look for macro shots, wide angle vistas, portraits, action shots of behavior and nearly always try to make a half and half image on each story that relates the surface to the hidden world below.
I'm equally in awe of nature photography. Nature, like life, doesn't always cooperate with our plans. David: How are you able to capture, as your National Geographic biography says, "stingrays, sponges, and sleeping sharks" with such visual acuity?
David Doubilet: Nature is always on the move, usually moving away from you showing you its backside. Patience and persistence is priceless, especially underwater. If you wait and settle in sometimes you are lucky to become part of the background and the subject behaves naturally in front of your camera. Sometimes it about hustle and move it move it move it to get the shot like in the case during spawning or mating events when creatures are so hormone driven they just don't care if you are there, they are on a mission and if you want the picture of that mating sequence you better keep up. We look forward to Houston and letting these amazing creatures tell their own story.
David Doubilet is a legend in his field for his groundbreaking work, is one of the most prolific living photographers for National Geographic magazine (where he has published nearly 70 stories since 1971), and is considered a pioneering conservation photographer, for example, developing a revolutionary split-lens camera system which allows photographers to take pictures above and below the surface of water simultaneously. His photographic awards include numerous Picture of the Year, BBC Wildlife, Communication Arts and World Press awards.
Jennifer Hayes is an aquatic biologist and photojournalist and the editor and author of numerous articles on marine environments, with images appearing in countless books, advertising campaigns and publications such as National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, People and Sport Diver, among others. She is the co-author and photographer for "Face to Face with Sharks" by National Geographic Books.
CORAL KINGDOMS AND EMPIRES OF ICE. 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana Street. For more information, please call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $15.