The Ideal Composition
In the case of your imagery, were most of the images made in your mind before entering the water?»No, it was not the case. A few maybe, but not the majority. An image that comes to my mind is the three sea lions perfectly positioned, shot against bright sunlit background from 60-ft. deep that became my signature. I squinted and saw that they were in the ideal composition and made only one picture. Each time I would go in the water with sea lions afterward I would try to make a similar photograph and it never happened.
Your book, Silver Seas, contains incredible images. Tell us how it came to be?»I never even thought about doing a book. I had always promised to myself that at 65 I would retire and do something else. A good part of my life was spent as an administrator and this was not my favorite type of work. I loved the students and the teaching though. So, when I was preparing to retire, my Vice-President and former students convinced me. They found a publishing company and told me that I simply needed to pick the negatives and they would do the rest of the work. The name Silver Seas, a natural, came up from Media 27, those involved in the publishing. Also, the proceeds, when they come, will go to organizations like Ocean Future and when they are exhibited, it should also benefit the kids.
There are many images in the book, which one is your favorite?»It has to be “Spot” the harbour seal because there is a story behind the image, an interesting story. It is 6:30 one morning in August, 12 students are aboard Just Love. We are anchored off Anacapa in the Channel Islands near a sea lion and harbor seal rookery. I am alone, snorkeling, looking through the kelp. Here comes this harbor seal. I think it is a boy since it is fat. It comes up, grabs one of my fins, spits it out and leaves. I swim back to my boat with one fin as the students are getting up. They ask, “Mr. Brooks, how come you only have one fin?” My answer, “Don’t talk to me, get me my Hasselblad.” The students add, “Isn’t it early to go snorkeling?” I said, “That’s enough, can I borrow your fins?” Someone hands me those very long blade fins – I hate them. I get my snorkel, look down, it’s 7:15 and I say to myself, “I am diving down to 15 feet, he’s going to be 1/125th at about f/8, ISO 800, and I’ll nail him!” I dive, snap one image, and come back up. The seal leaves and, as I swim back to the boat, the guy tries to grab my snorkel with its mouth – a terrible character. We photographed Spot many times over the years but I never got the same image again. Also, one year, we get there and Spot had a little one… this is when I realized that the seal was female. She comes forward and pushes her pup towards me… this brought tears in my eyes as I realized the bond that existed between us. Spot is my favorite picture because of the story.