What did that do to your psyche?»Well, I was probably mortified at the thought. It really scared me because I didn’t know how I would react. So leading up to that first recovery was by far the hardest thing. I mean my heart was racing and I was wondering why I was doing this. Then when I saw that body lying there covered in silt I was still calm. I went, “Okay, there’s the body,” you know, and nothing happened and I was okay. Of course, I sat bolt upright in bed three or four times a nights after that, impacted by that fact that I’d seen such a grizzly thing. It was my first dealing with death. No one had died in my life and there it was in this sport I loved. But, you know, two, three, four, five, 15, 25 or 30 recoveries later, it was something that I had really adapted to. I felt it was an important part of cave diving’s responsibility to the public and to the communities and these counties that owned these springs that we carry off a responsible duty and demonstrate that we can do it safely. That Scuba Times article also had some outstanding images. What got you into photography?»I was always into it actually, from a very young age. I had land cameras as a kid then when I was 14, I bought a Nikonos. I saved up lawn mowing money for it. But I always had a fascination for photography. I was a photographer on the yearbook staff in high school and did all of my own processing and developing so I had a real love for that early on. When did you make the leap to moving pictures?»Well, movies actually came first. My brother and I made surf movies before I got into diving. We were big into surfing and I was his editor. So we would go out and film and bring home 8mm and super 8 movies and put them together. So through that I got into claymation and stop-action photography and did a of animated things in film. So I had that passion for it and my brother had a friend in Hollywood who was into filmmaking and I learned a lot from him. And then, all of our camera gear was stolen. It wasn’t conceivable that we could replace it. Our parents had helped us buy it all and they weren’t going to buy new stuff for us. So, I sort of got out of the motion picture stuff and dove into still photography. But as some point you jumped back into film.» Yeah, I was giving a presentation at a dive show and a guy from Sony saw one of my multi-projector shows. His name was Ira Freidman and he said, “You know, you should be doing your style of story telling in motion. And we’d like to sponsor you for a year with Sony equipment.” I said, “Okay” and he gave me two complete set ups of their 8mm equipment. And that was the beginning of the Sony 8mm format that eventually evolved into the DV format.
And what sort of housing did you use?»Well, Sony had a housing which was sort of a yellow round thing. But that same weekend I met Val Renetkins who would turn out to be a lifetime friend and partner. Val had a little thing called a Capsule 8 he’d built for the same camera. Just like Ira Freidman, Val offered me a housing. He said, “This is what you need. It has better optics, it’s a smaller package and has a wider angle lens and so on.” So, just like that, I had a complete system. Val Renetkins founded Amphibico, right?»Yes. He started with National Geographic and then developed Aqua Vision, which became Aquatica. Then he started Amphibico. Are you using his High Definition housings now?»I am. My philosophy has evolved and I’m now conscious and aware that what we do and see is unique and sometimes priceless. Knowing this, it’s important to capture our experience in the highest quality format available. High Definition is redefining how we look at the world. It’s an amazing technology that makes you feel like you’re actually there. So what was the first underwater footage that you sold?»About two months after I got the video equipment I bought a film camera from one of Howard Hall’s old buddies, Larry Cochran. Howard, Larry, Bill Lovin and even Cousteau had been using this design of tube camera. I started shooting film with that and I did the piece that National Geographic bought. So that was my first sale. Then the next two sales were to CBS and CNN with the Wakulla Springs Project. So you started at the top and stayed there.»Well, I kind of always said I came in through the exit door from inside of an underwater cave. That was an environment that nobody was filming then so at that time I was the only show in town and it was easy to bamboozle people.