It’s very flattering to have a fellow photographer, especially one as talented as Kathleen, ask you to be a guest blogger to talk about your own photography. So, let me start off with a big thank you to Kathleen for the invite.
I met Kathleen thru a mutual friend, Prayeri Harrison, one of the owners/founders of Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Arizona. I went to the Park frequently to keep my photography skills up to speed, try different ways of shooting things, spend time with their magnificent animals and just get away from the stress of the daily grind. During one of my days at the Park, Prayeri told me about a new photography workshop they were going to try and asked if I would be interested. Of course, I would love to try it was my reply. I attended the very first Out of Africa Photography Workshop in 2012 which is where I met Kathleen for the first time and our passion for wildlife and wildlife photography made us instant friends. Since then, I’ve both attended and assisted Kathleen in her workshops. However, there is one significant difference between what each of us does with our cameras. I shoot in a very different world of the wildlife side, the underwater world…
The one thing that really got me into photography were sharks. I’ve been fascinated by them since I was a kid. It took quite a few years, okay a lot of years to be honest, till I would get to see my first shark in the ocean. At some point, you must chase those childhood dreams and go for it. I got certified to scuba dive and started planning my first trip to see and dive with sharks. During the planning of that trip I knew I wanted to come home with more than just memories. I wanted to have pictures to continually be able to look back at the experience in case I never had the opportunity to do it again. I got an underwater housing for my Canon 20D and set off to the Bahamas. That first trip was amazing and I was truly hooked (pun intended).
That childhood passion exploded. I wanted to see and swim with more sharks. I wanted to see all the diverse kinds of sharks. Unfortunately, there was a down side. As I began my journey, I started learning about the plight sharks and other ocean creatures are facing. Sharks are facing extinction! They are facing extinction at the hand of man. This was terrifying to me.
Why was this going on and what can I do about it? The why was easy to understand when you look at how mainstream media portrays sharks. Vicious killers, man-eaters. Any unfortunate encounter is met with media hysteria that demon sharks are out to get us and they should be hunted down. The other not so obvious cause is this little Chinese dish called shark fin soup. Sharks are being fished out of the oceans at unsustainable numbers for a bowl of soup for which the fins don’t contribute any nutritional value. And by unsustainable I’m talking an estimated 100 million sharks a year. I couldn’t just sit by and let that happen. From that point forward I set forth the goal to photograph sharks in a positive light. Show them and people together. Time to put the majesty back to one of the kings of the oceans. There was now purpose with the passion.
Shooting underwater requires skills and gear we normally don’t consider when we walk outside with our cameras in hand. Not only do you have to be competent in knowing how to use your camera but you must be a good diver. You’re in a fluid environment where everything, including yourself is moving. You must think about what you are trying to shoot and how you are going to get yourself in a position to shoot it, while managing your air supply and your camera housing. The next challenge is lighting. I shoot in a world of blue and green light. In order to get the lost colors, everything has to be artificially lit with strobes or the use of filters if strobes aren’t an option.
Steve’s Awards & Published Work
- Spot Photograph – Picture Magazine (Australia) Late 2017
- Blue Shark Diving Story & Photographs – Scuba Diving Magazine – March 2016
- Promotional Photographs – Out of Africa Wildlife Park
- Full Spread Photograph – Sport Diver Magazine July 2014
- Story and Photographs – Dive Photo Guide (website)
- 1st Place Underwater Photography – 2014 AZ State Fair
- 1st Place Underwater Photography (B&W) – 2014 AZ State Fair
- Great Hammerhead Story & Photographs – Scuba Diving Magazine September 2013
- Cover Photograph – Plongée Magazine (France) November 2013
- March Photograph – Shark Angels Celebrating Sharks 2013 Calendar
- People’s Choice Award – 2013 Ocean Conservancy Photo Contest
About Steve Hinczynski
Steve’s photography journey began behind a video camera, recording skydivers. He picked up a still camera just for fun in 2005. The still camera became his focus when he started scuba diving with sharks in 2008. Since that first shark dive, Steve has swum with and captured beautiful images (with an occasional video) of the world’s most “notorious” sharks in efforts to dispel the evil reputations portrayed by mainstream media. When not chasing sharks, Steve likes to point his lens at the big cats, especially tigers.
Steve currently lives in Florida and works a day job as a Software Engineer, and part time as a Divemaster for one of the local scuba diving shops, all while biding his time till the next shark trip comes up.
I have tremendous admiration for Steve’s passion, the difficulty of underwater photography (aside from the obvious dangers), his talent and the stunning quality of his images. He is truly a shining light for our underwater wildlife.