It all started way back in 2004. My wife and I were living in Rapid City, South Dakota- a long way from the sea. Out of the blue, Aimee received a call from Curacao (an island we had never heard of ), asking if she wanted a job working with their dolphins. This was her prior work experience and passion. We had recently purchased a home; life was good. But, after that one little call, all would change. I can still remember the look on her face after hanging up the phone, and me asking "Who was that?" She said, "I was just offered a job in Curacao working with dolphins again," After very little thought, I said: "You gotta go!" So, like the Beverly Hillbillies, we loaded up the storage units, sold the house and cars, packed what we could, grabbed our dalmatian puppy, Inca, and off we went to an island in the Caribbean.
Before I left, I researched and ordered my first IKELITE/Nikon D-100 underwater housing and 2-DS-125 sub-strobes. It was a thing of beauty, even though I had no idea how to use it.
Upon our arrival, it was love at first sight... except for the insane humidity and heat. I think we were both in the water within hours of landing, including Inca.
Aimee started working at the Dolphin Academy, located at the Curacao Sea Aquarium, almost immediately. I, on the other hand, didn't have a job and proceeded to learn how to use my new IKELITE underwater system day and night. Thankfully, there was a man-Gordy Cox-who was an old- time IKELITE user/diver/photographer, who befriended me immediately and helped me find the necessary settings for my new housing. He was a big help. Even though, to this day, he claims he didn't do much. So, while Aimee worked everyday with dolphins, I dove continuously and was completely addicted! After about a year, the Dolphin Academy discovered I could take photos and hired me as their Photoshop Manager. Life just seemed to be getting better! And now, I was in the water taking photos of dolphins which was a major bonus for me.
When I wasn't diving, I was building single-track mountain bike trails all over the island. When we arrived, there was only one hiking trail from the Sea Aquarium to Zanzibar, which got boring fast. The trails turned out to be a big hit with the locals, although no one other than my friend, Stijn, ever wanted to help work on them.
I spent countless hours in the bush/jungle/desert each day with my faithful dog, Inca. She was the best dog a man could have, and I named the first one mile section of trail after her. The trails became such a big hit that in 2006 they were used for the UCI MTB World Cup. Our friend and World Champion Bart Brentjens, was that years winner with Julien Absalon coming in second.
In 2010, I left the Dolphin Academy and started working for Substation Curacao, which was also located at the Sea Aquarium. The owner and builder of the Sea Aquarium Dutch Scarier, had purchased a 2.5 million dollar custom-made submersible from a company in Canada called Nuytco. This five-person submersible was capable of going to depths of 1000 feet and came equipped with a robotic arm, vacuum system and collecting basket, which immediately turned this submersible into a scientists dream machine. This is how I first met Carole Baldwin and other top marine biologists from the world- famous Smithsonian Institution. My primary job at Substation, was to dive with the submersible to 50-100 feet each day and take photos of whoever was in the sub headed down to the abyss. Upon their return, I would have their underwater photos ready on a flash drive, for them to take home. It was a major hit! The Smithsonian made several trips to Curacao each year, in search of new species. They would rent the submersible, and I was the lucky person who photographed their incredible finds, which you can see on this website. The Smithsonian group and Substation Curacao discovered everything from new fish species to all kinds of beautiful invertebrates. You never knew what was going to be found. In order to explore new areas, Dutch (the owner and operator), purchased a used research vessel from South America and brought it to Curacao. He spent several years turning it into a world class vessel... and could now carry his submersible anywhere. Our first trip was to Klien Curacao; Bonaire the following year and then off to Dominica. Our last trip was to Saint Eustatius-all in the Caribbean.
The rest is history. Over the next 14 years I went from my first Nikon D-100, to the D-200, 300, 300s, 90s, 500, 600, 800 and 810 which I still have. Each time I switched cameras, I had to get a new IKELITE housing. From the start, IKELITE was 100% there for me. The customer service was and still is, off the charts! I always needed something and my buddy, Mike Rabideau, was always there to help. I owe him so much for all those years of assistance. At some point in our relationship, I started taking promotional photos and testing IKELITE equipment. And, in turn, I became one of their many ambassadors, which was an honor from the beginning and still is. Lets face it, when you have great equipment, it's much easier to capture amazing photos. Using the two IKELITE sub-strobes, is one of the key ingredients. The light produced by these strobes is unequalled, whether you are using it on TTL, or on manual, they will not let you down. When I arrived on the island, I think I only had 32 dives under my belt, originally certified in San Carlos, Mexico. I left with over 6000 and hundreds of thousands of underwater, and topside, images I still haven't viewed.
Many of my photos can can be found on GETTY images, under WILDHORIZONS, if you are looking for something specific, let me know, and we will start digging.