Saturday, November 13, 2004
Brett Seymour is the
underwater photographer and production coordinator for the NPS Submerged
Resources Center (SRC) based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His primary
role within SRC is to document underwater field projects and work with
media partners to communicate NPS stewardship of underwater sites to the
Throughout our daily updates, Matt
Russell and Dave Conlin have done an excellent job of explaining the
science of UT, pH, ECorr, FEM, mung and all the other
“scien-terrific” daily events. My primary role is to put images with the
science. In the past 10 years with the SRC, this responsibility has
never been more challenging, or more rewarding, than working on USS
I have had to opportunity to dive on
Arizona more than any other site in my career. Sometimes I tend the
ROV into hatches and portholes, sometimes I’m a body to hold probes, but
I rarely get wet without a camera. No matter what the purpose of the
dive, I find myself continually focused on one goal. How can I share
this aspect of USS Arizona with the public through images?
Sometimes it’s documenting two divers, three probes and a drill with
four feet of visibility. Other times it’s capturing an onlooking public
from Arizona below. In either case it’s always been an honor, and
it’s always been a challenge.
A view of the Arizona Memorial from
the ship. Note the oil streaking the water. Photo by Brett Seymour, NPS.
This challenge has been with us all week
with our mosaic efforts. One of our project objectives was to
investigate if an accurate photo mosaic could be generated on Arizona.
We were all too familiar with the mosaic obstacles on the site from
working with National Geographic in 2000 to create a video-generated
mosaic. Although this mosaic had visual appeal and ran in the June 2001
National Geographic, it lacked the resolution and control
necessary to be an effective tool for management. Arizona’s
massive blast damage, high vertical relief and shallow depths have
constantly kept our methodology fluid. We are still crunching the images
(1,135 shot to date) and working toward producing a detailed, high
resolution image suitable for GIS and interpretive needs.
Not all images are part of our project
objectives. Imaging Arizona has taught me sometimes, however
rare, astonishing visuals are reveled -- the trick is you have to be
prepared to capture them.
Looking up into the Memorial's viewing
well. Photo by Brett Seymour, NPS.
I have had to opportunity to work with
several talented and well-known underwater photographers associated with
our projects over the years. All have been extremely generous with their
time and expertise. One common similarity among them is that they
specialize in “making photographs.” Most spend hours underwater with
more camera equipment than the SRC’s yearly budget attempting to create
a photograph. During a project on Arizona several years ago a
magazine photographer worked with one assistant, seven Navy divers, four
NPS divers, two surface-supplied lights and eight underwater cameras to
create a single image. This is not the photographic world I work in.
Over the years, I have come to believe that one of the quickest way to
irritate an underwater archeologist is to stick a camera in his or her
face or frantically flail underwater and with gestures that mean “do
that a couple more times so I can shoot it again. And again.” If I can
get the last 500psi of a dive or even, dare I say, an entire dive
dedicated to photographic setups, the project is a complete success in
my eyes. Working in this environment, out numbered by five
archeologists, has forced me to be as unobtrusive as possible. Therefore
the concept of “making a photograph” is somewhat foreign to me. Although
the primary function of my work is documentary in nature, every so often
a scene unfolds before my lens that I strive to capture and share with
the public. The perfect blend of visibility, lighting, lens and quite
While working on the mosaic last week
under not-so-perfect lighting conditions I noticed heavy rain on the
surface above me. I stuck my head out of the water I witnessed one of
the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. The glistening white
Memorial and the water pounding the waters of Pearl Harbor created a
stirring visual image. I abandoned the mosaic and began firing my camera
attempting to capture the moment. I believe I was successful, and
although the image already appeared in a daily update, I thought it
warranted a second look and a bit of a back-story. No entourage of
assistance, hours of preparation, or annoyed archeologist could have
made this image more beautiful.
Photo by Brett Seymour, NPS.