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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Underwater Odyssey

Constantly traveling and seeking the hidden seascapes that wait beneath the surface of the world’s oceans and seas, Eric Cheng has quietly become one of the top underwater photographers in the world

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Using Canon DSLRs, Canon and Sigma lenses and a variety of underwater housings, Eric Cheng’s seascapes are some of the most beautiful images of the natural world we’ve ever seen. The view from an underwater cave, Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands.

Outdoor photography and, more specifically, landscape photography, is an art form that transcends geographic boundaries. For millions, it’s a passion, a hobby or a profession, in many cases all three. We all enjoy the iconic landscapes and try to present these wonderful places in our own unique ways. The fact remains, it has become harder to find new and singular landscape locations, although with the right amount of time, determination and research, they can be found. There remains a vast, unexplored area of landscape photography that presents great opportunities for unique images. Underwater “landscapes,” or seascapes, is one of the most challenging forms of photography. Eric Cheng is an underwater photographer who has tackled the challenge, and his results are, well, iconic!

Cheng’s underwater photography career was started by a twist of fate. In 2001, Cheng was working 100-plus hours a week as a software engineer for a startup company. He burned out on the industry, so he took some time off to look for a new job and career. Cheng received his diver certification in college, so during the break he decided to book a trip to Palau in the South Pacific for a casual dive vacation. He had a Nikon Coolpix 990, which he matched up with a housing he found on the Internet. He convinced a buddy to get certified, and the two of them found the cheapest way to get to the islands and off they went. He was hooked on underwater photography.

Bait fish over a soft coral forest, Raja Ampat, Indonesia.
In January 2002, Cheng had the opportunity to manage an online site dedicated to underwater photography.

“Within nine months of shooting my first pictures underwater, there I was with the Wetpixel site, completely dedicated to underwater photography,” Cheng remarks. “I never expected that!”

Cheng’s career as an underwater photographer was launched, whether he was ready or not. With the support of occasional programming contract work and the growing advertising income from his work with the Wetpixel website, Cheng began traveling the world and shooting in some of the world’s most exotic dive locations.

Travel and shooting underwater became a major focus for Cheng. Over the past nine years, he has created images in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska, the West Coast and East Coast of the U.S., Australia, New Guinea, Japan, New Zealand, Micronesia and more. When asked about his favorite location to dive and shoot, he replies, “There are so many great underwater sites that it’s hard, really, to pick one. Perhaps my favorite place is more a general location. The South Pacific, with its immense biodiversity, is where I keep going back to time and again. I love the variety of life and the great, clear water conditions.”


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