Friday, October 12, 2012


Steve Rosenberg

Underwater Photographer, Author and Journalist

     I got started in underwater photography in the early Seventies, when the fully manual Nikonos camera was state of the art. I started out by packaging images and articles for a myriad of dive related publications in the US and abroad. My first book assignment of a Dive Guide covering Northern California for Gulf Publishing (Later Aqua Quest Publications) was contingent on being able to deliver a finished manuscript, together with images, literally in a six-week time frame. Fortunately, I had worked diligently on all aspects of my photography, putting together an extensive library of marine-life, diver and topside photos, and I had kept detailed notes on dive sites. I accepted the assignment for the first, of what was to be many fun and rewarding book assignments.

     At that time, all underwater photographers used film. When we travelled to exotic locations, we took packages of film that we had kept stored next to the frozen food in our freezers. Unless we were lucky enough to be on a live-aboard dive boat that offered E-6 processing for developing, we wouldn't see any of our images until after we returned home. We didn't have the luxury of digital review, unlimited shots and Photoshop. When we found an interesting and cooperative subject, we bracketed exposures by taking 5 or 6 shots of that same subject using a series of consecutive F-Stops. That left us with a pretty good chance of getting 6 or 7 reasonably well exposed images out of the entire roll. Bottom line, if we got 6 slides out of every roll (and therefore from each dive) that were properly exposed and in focus, that was not only acceptable but time to pop the bubbly! Of course, we also had to address backscatter. Our only option was to learn how to position our strobes to minimize or avoid lighting all those little suspended particles in the first place.

    Perhaps it was this background that has fostered my motivation to get the best possible image in the camera. I prefer to use manual controls for exposure. I usually start each dive and then each series of images by taking a few test shots to dial in my exposure. Even when I was teaching underwater photography in the early Eighties, I stressed the old rule, "get down, get close and shoot up." This was good advice then and it is still good advice, especially for macro, close-ups and portraits. Simply put, get down to approach and observe your subject on the same level. Get close to fill the frame, reduce the amount of water between the lens and the subject, and minimize problems with negative space, such as clutter and distracting objects. Shoot up to use water to simplify your background and add drama/impact to the image. 

     One thing I have observed about many photographers is that once they find their subject, they seem to be in a rush to get the picture taken and move on. There is certainly nothing wrong with concentrating on first getting a technically good image of a subject. My advice would be that this is only the first step. When I find a subject that catches my attention, I challenge myself to do something different. I think the interesting and fun part of underwater photography is to try to present your subject in an unusual way and push the aesthetic possibilities.  Take the time to look at the subject from a different perspective and maybe try adding character or personality traits. Play with lighting to give your shot a different look or dimension. 

    Another thing I try to do to give me an edge is to find out as much as I can about possible subjects before diving a site. This allows me to select the best lens for the dive and gives me some foresight on how to set up my strobes. Tips on behavior also gives me the opportunity to anticipate what a subject might do in certain situations. 

 A number of years ago (about thirty-five actually), I was free diving in Ke'e Lagoon on the northeast shore of the Island of Kauai. I spotted a really unusual looking fish. It seemed to be sitting upright on the sandy bottom in a depression in a coral head, balancing on its pectoral fins. I was intrigued because I had never seen anything like it. I made a mental note of my observations and I remember describing it to the staff at the local dive shop as being reddish brown in color, about four inches long, having a solid dorsal fin that sloped downward toward its tail and the appearance of a leaf rocking side to side. All I got for my efforts was a quizzical look and a shrug of the shoulders. How cool would it have been if I could have pulled out my I-Phone and Googled an identifier website and punched in fish, location, color, general body shape and a description. I would have almost instantly known that I had not been hallucinating, but that I had just seen a Taenianotus triacanthus or leaf scorpionfish. 

 Today this is becoming a reality. A few years ago, John Fifer, a friend and dive buddy, shared his visions for a new website called It was apparent to me that the project would be a great identification resource for snorkelers, divers and anyone who had an inquisitive nature and a love for the ocean. We collaborated on that project. I agreed to populate the initial database with thousands of my images from a wide variety of destinations around the world. It was also obvious that the site would also be a great outlet for marine photographers of all experience levels, who wanted to have their images published. 

 I currently use a Nikon D7100 in a Subal camera housing, with twin Sea and Sea Strobes. My favorite lenses, include the Nikon 60 mm macro, the old style Nikkor 105 mm macro, the Nikkor 10mm and 16mm, and the Tokina 10 -17 wide-angle zoom lens. 

 General Bio: Steve has been a professional underwater photographer and photojournalist since 1980. He has produced over twenty print travel guides for dive destinations, including The Hawaiian Islands, Cozumel, The Turks & Caicos, The Galapagos Islands, The Cayman Islands, The Bay Islands of Honduras, and Northern California, and has written hundreds of articles for various U.S. publications on dive destinations, underwater photography and marine biology. He has also produced numerous coffee table books on various destinations. Thousands of his images have appeared in books, magazines and posters, as well as on stamps, advertising and art work worldwide. He has also won more than 250 awards for his photography in international competitions, including a First Place Award in the prestigious Hans Hass Competition in Austria. He received the Scuba Schools International Platinum Pro Certification for 5000 dives in 1996 and has been diving since the late 1960's. He is an active member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA). Steve continues to write travel blogs online and articles for a number of dive publications. He continues to travel the globe to obtain unique images, to teach the art of photography and lead dive trips. 

 In 2013, Steve Joined forces with Greg Bassett, a videographer/IT professional to create Rosenberg EBooks, a company specializing in the production of eBook dive guides promoting destinations, live-aboard yachts and dive resorts. To date this company has produced a series of Dive and Travel eBooks, including Dive and Travel Cozumel, Dive and Travel Grand Cayman, Dive and Travel the By Islands of Honduras, the award winning Dive and Travel Galapagos, and A Naturalists Guide to the Galapagos. An interesting feature of the guides is the capability to embed video clips. The latest eBooks, recently released at the DEMA Trade show in the United States, are Dive and travel the Turks and Caicos and the revised edition of Dive and Travel Galapagos. Several new projects are scheduled for 2023 including the Central Philippines, an expanded version of the Cayman Islands and other popular destinations.

  Steve has Been working with several publications including Travel World International, Alert Diver, Scuba News, and X-Ray Magazine, His series of dive and travel guides are available from Amazon, iTunes and Google Pay. These interactive eBooks includes detailed information on many of the most popular dive sites and dozens of land tours, marine life, above-water activities, travel, accommodations, shopping, sight-seeing, history and much more. All of the dive guides include stunning photography and embedded video content. The books can also be used as dive logs and have useful social media components, as well as a digital table of contents and term search features. For links to download the book from iTunes, Google Play and Amazon go to Suggested Retail Price for each eBook is US$14.99. There are usually one or more of the guides available as free downloads through a link on the website.