Interview with the Execs: Stephen Frink

Silky sharks at sundown, Cuba


Stephen Frink is among the many world’s most steadily printed underwater photographers, with a profession spanning 4 many years. He arrived in Key Largo in 1978 to open a small studio devoted to underwater picture companies, primarily renting cameras and processing E-6 slide movie, however he quickly started to obtain assignments to {photograph} and write articles for the patron dive publications of the day. He labored as a photojournalist for Pores and skin Diver journal for 17-years, masking a lot of the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Florida Keys for the publication. Subsequently he labored because the Director of Images for Scuba Diving journal. For the previous 10 years Stephen has been the writer of Alert Diver Magazine, a fantastic coffee-table collectible journal for the members of the Divers Alert Community.

Stephen teaches Masters degree programs of Stephen Frink College of Underwater Digital Imaging every summer season in his dwelling waters off Key Largo, Florida and presents dive excursions emphasizing underwater images via his journey firm, WaterHouse Tours. For a few years Stephen served because the North American distributor for Seacam housings and strobes, and stays concerned as a model ambassador. Nonetheless a prolific picture maker to this present day, his portfolio is full of iconic and groundbreaking underwater images from everywhere in the planet, so we’re delighted to share with you a few of his favourite photographs and study extra about his illustrious profession within the dive business.


Stephen’s daughter, Alexa Frink, makes use of a GoPro to {photograph} crocodiles in Jardines de la Reina, Cuba


1. How and when did you begin taking images underwater?

This appears to be a two-part query … when did I begin and when did they start to be significant. I acquired my first underwater digicam, a Nikonos II with a 35mm lens, second hand from a surfer in Seal Seaside, CA. I used to be in graduate college at close by California State College in Lengthy Seaside and I took some picture lessons for enjoyable whereas engaged on my thesis for my Masters in experimental psychology. My accessible gentle images from seashore dives in Laguna Seaside didn’t quantity to a lot. Then I moved to Kona, Hawaii for some time and did extra crappy accessible gentle images from the shore, however at the least the viz was higher. I didn’t actually shoot something of significance till I moved to Key Largo, Florida Keys in 1978. I nonetheless had that Nikonos II however by then I had opened a small studio to hire underwater cameras and course of E-6 slide movie for the vacationers coming to dive Pennekamp Park. By then I used to be capturing quite a lot of topside medium format slides so the primary professional sequence housed system I ever purchased was a Sea and Sea housing for a Bronica C, a 2 ¼ x 2 ¼ digicam for 12 frames per dive. It solely had a flat port, so I used to be restricted to fish images, no huge angle and no macro with that system. I did purchase a Subsea MK150 strobe and eventually began to get some coloration in my underwater images.

I acquired my first picture project from the previous Sport Diver journal after they had been primarily based in Miami. Their photographer acquired blown out on a Florida Keys shoot and so they wanted protection from Marathon. Maybe they discovered me within the telephone book, and known as to ask if I might shoot it for them. I’d by no means shot huge angle and I’d by no means shot divers underwater, however I noticed from the dive magazines of the day that’s what was being printed. So, I borrowed a Seacor 21mm lens for my Nikonos and took a mannequin with me to {photograph} the Center Keys. They favored the shoot and requested me if I wished to go to the Caymans for them the subsequent month. That was over 40 years in the past, and I’ve been on the highway as a dive photojournalist ever since.


Manatee sunburst, Three Sisters Spring, Crystal River, Florida


2. What tools do you presently use?

I’ve been utilizing Seacam housings for a very long time, so whereas I’ve migrated via various movie and digital techniques over time, I nonetheless use the identical Seacam ports and viewfinders from that previous Nikon F100 movie system. The housings have developed although. From a Nikon to Canon migration and from movie to digital SLR cameras. Now I’ve moved on to my first mirrorless system, the Canon R5. For strobes I take advantage of the Seacam Seaflash, each 150 and 160, as they render barely totally different gentle traits. Additionally, Sea and Sea YS-250 when fast recycle is required, and Ikelite DS161 for purity of coloration when working actually shut for macro topics. Every strobe has barely totally different coloration temperature, and when capturing via the blue filtration of the ocean it makes a distinction how shut you might be more likely to be to any given topic and likewise how diffuse you would favor the sunshine to be. Now that coloration correction is really easy in digital put up manufacturing it isn’t almost so important as once we shot slides, however I nonetheless favor the aesthetic of getting it proper in seize versus large corrections in put up.

As a facet notice, again within the period of the Nikon N90 movie housings I used to be contacted by the Austrian Commerce Fee to judge a housing made by their native producer, Seacam. They wished to know if there is perhaps a marketplace for Seacam in the USA and wished my opinion. Harald Hordosch of Seacam despatched me a Minicam housing for the N90 and I shot it and wrote the report. They had been going to pay me $1000 for my work, and I wrote again and mentioned I favored the housing a lot, they might preserve the cash if I might preserve the housing. That was the start of an extended friendship and shut working relationship with Harald and his daughter Esther Bohmer of Seacam. For just a few many years I used to be the North American distributor for Seacam, however gave that up when my key staffer on the Seacam facet, Liz Johnson, retired. All of us stay pricey mates and there’s quite a lot of Seacam-Silver in my digicam room. I nonetheless use my Canon 5DMK4 cameras and housings, along with the R5.


Tiger shark cruising alongside the reef, Tiger Seaside, The Bahamas


3. You journey lots! What’s your favorite dive vacation spot and why?

On a pleasant day in Key Largo, you might be amazed at what swims by. Conservation works throughout the no-take zones of the Florida Keys Nationwide Marine Sanctuary, and the fish populations are wholesome and approachable. Clearly, there are locations with higher visibility and more healthy corals. For that I notably just like the unique Evergreens just like the Crimson Sea, Indonesia, and Tubbataha within the Philippines. I have a tendency to decide on a vacation spot for a keystone species or bucket of photo-opportunties. Earlier this yr I used to be in Moorea for humpbacks and mantas, and can go to the Silver Financial institution of the Dominican Republic for extra humpbacks in March. In October I’ll go to South Australia for nice whites. I believe it’s type of a “love the one you’re with” vibe with our most iconic dive locations. Most of our mainstream dive places will provide good issues to shoot, and the job of a photojournalist is to distill it all the way down to the ten or 12 photographs that inform the story. Regardless of the story is perhaps. Again within the days when inventory images was a viable marketing strategy the dive journey additionally fed my inventory picture company submissions, however I don’t make investments a lot vitality in that for the reason that license charges declined so precipitously.


Stephen Frink images blacktip reef sharks in Rangiroa, French Polynesia


4. Broad-angle or Macro? What sort of diving and images excites you probably the most?

Broad angle and fish, please. And if fish portraits, extra of the broader environmental sort … fish plus background. I’m not an enormous macro shooter, though I do admire those that shoot it nicely. I all the time felt that if my daughter trusted me capturing a nudibranch to have paid for her faculty tuition, we’d each be in bother.


Maddie Cholnoky diving Molasses Reef in Key Largo throughout a Stephen Frink Digital Grasp Class, 2022


5. What was your most memorable marine life encounter or dive ever?

I don’t have any images to point out for it, however one of many few occasions I acquired “persuaded” out of the water by a shark was actually memorable. I used to be in my Key Largo studio and heard over the VHF radio that quite a lot of birds had been working offshore within the Gulf Stream. The chatter was that there needed to be one thing there. Turned out it was a whale carcass that drew the birds within the air, and within the sea beneath there have been a dozen tiger sharks working it. I acquired a ship journey on the market and a buddy of mine, Paul Caputo, agreed to go alongside as my security diver. Regrettably, all he had for defense was a ship hook and all I had was a Nikonos with a 28mm lens, so neither considered one of us was very ready to fend off a motivated tiger shark. However, nonetheless, we jumped in and entered a cloud of detritus, flesh and blood raining down from the carcass. One of many tigers broke off from the feed and stopped proper in entrance of me, holding nonetheless within the water. He arched his again and dropped his pecs. No assault, however a transparent message. His ocean, his meals, his day. Paul and I swam again to the boat, the shark again to his meal. No hurt. No foul. No footage.


Denis Grosmaire makes use of a selfie-stick to {photograph} mantas whereas Kelsey Williamson captures the scene from a special perspective


6. You may have been taking underwater photographs for greater than 4 many years. How has the business modified for higher or worse throughout that point and the place do you see issues heading sooner or later?

I believe the business is in fantastic form. The resorts and live-aboards and day boats are higher than ever. There are quite a lot of very critical professionals within the dive business and so they function ethically and to a excessive normal. My concern, and I believe this permeates the entire business, is that we don’t have a big youth infusion into the business. I believe that is partly as a result of instruction, gear and journey are all costly, however I additionally assume it’s as a result of new divers aren’t all the time proven the easiest reefs to encourage them. Simply respiration underwater shouldn’t be sufficient to set the hook for a life-long ardour. They should see one thing particular, and know in the event that they return within the water once more “particular” awaits them.

I’m very concerned now with Divers Alert Community because the writer of Alert Diver, and as such I’m uncovered to their dedication to a tradition of dive security. Between their 24/7 Emergency Scorching Line, insurance coverage applications, analysis, and recompression chamber help I see quite a lot of actually essential help for touring divers. Should you settle for that one of the best diving probably includes getting on an airplane to go someplace, there are perils inherent. If we’re speaking about adjustments over the previous 4 many years, I believe one of many greatest might be DAN. They began in 1980 and with out dive accident insurance coverage the dive journey portion of our business can be dramatically totally different, and positively much less strong. That’s how I acquired concerned with DAN, by the best way. I acquired bent in Vanuatu again within the early Nineteen Nineties and there was no hyperbaric chamber there. I had a really tough evacuation from there to Fiji, and eventually to Hawaii the place I lastly acquired my chamber therapy. DAN managed to rearrange all of it, even to get Qantas to drop an oxygen bib to me from the overhead on a business 747. I believed that was fairly cool. Not cool that I wanted it, however cool that that they had the applications in place to facilitate such an evacuation. I’ve been an enormous believer ever since.


Whale shark floor feeding at night time, Maldives


7. Because the writer of Alert Diver Journal, I am certain our readers can be to know what sort of photographs and tales you search for when trying to find content material? What makes a great story price publishing?

Alert Diver is each a life-style and security tradition journal. In a world of digital content material, we’ve got made the aware choice to offer each digital and coffee-table print variations of the journal. We’re dedicated to delivering one of the best in underwater images and publishing it to the very highest normal. To that finish, we anticipate photographic submissions to be of the best caliber. In fact, there are parts of the journal that by definition will ship extraordinary images. Our Shooter portfolio is from one of many high underwater photographers on the earth, and we have fun their careers. Our dive vacation spot protection is first pushed by the images as nicely. We really feel we owe that to our readers; to encourage, educate, and entertain. There are different options of the journal which can be typically more durable to supply stellar images. Water Planet tells an environmental story, and the contributor could also be extra of a scientist than a photographer. The articles throughout the Analysis Training Drugs part of the journal are robust too, as a result of they inform the story of a dive hazard or an accident, and getting images on the time is probably not high of thoughts for our authors. For a lot of of those I take a shoot record with me from our editorial workers as I journey and attempt to stage viable illustrations whereas on the highway. My dive buddies have been bent, run over with propellers, dragged unconscious again to the boat, suffered catastrophic regulator failures, and infrequently run out of air solely to have their lives saved by buddy-breathing again to the floor … all simulated after all. Nonetheless, typically I’ll get “fortunate” with a illness that’s onerous as an example, just like the rash that comes from pores and skin bends or the hit of a Portuguese man-o-war. When that occurs, I’ll shoot it, for ultimately we’ll want the picture.


Silky sharks at nightfall in Cuba


8. You additionally run programs instructing underwater images to others. What made you resolve to do this and what can individuals anticipate after they be part of you on an expedition?


I’ve been instructing picture seminars for a really very long time. I believe the primary one was in 1980. I sometimes do them annually and so they have developed into actually subtle occasions, if I do say so myself. I’m joined by actually proficient workers. Mike White, a long-time good friend and former NOAA supervisor for the Key Largo Nationwide Marine Sanctuary, is readily available to help within the classroom and within the water. Eddie Tapp, a member of the Photoshop Corridor of Fame and former Canon Explorer of Gentle, teaches the digital workflow and Lightroom/Photoshop class modules. I deal with the picture critiques and communicate to the intricacies of attaining ever-improving underwater images. We typically have a two-tank dive within the morning, a while to course of photographs, after which a classroom session within the afternoon. Usually, they’re in Key Largo, which is nice as a result of it’s such a target-rich surroundings. However typically we take this system offshore to Bonaire or Little Cayman. This June we’ll be in Fiji at Voli Voli Resort. Really, this would be the first yr since 1980 I haven’t taught a category in Key Largo, however we’ll be again in 2024. Summer time in Key Largo is often fairly particular. My dive journey firm is at Along with the once-a-year picture seminars I escort two or three unique dive excursions every year. We constitution a live-aboard someplace nice, and go have some enjoyable. The hook is underwater images, and we decide locations and platforms which can be conducive to the easiest in picture seize.


Stephen Frink on location in Moorea with a humpback whale calf


9. You may have written a couple of e book about underwater images and it have to be satisfying to see your photographs in print and in bookshops. How do you put together for these kinds of assignments?

I haven’t truly achieved a coffee-table e book in fairly a very long time, my final one was Wonders of the Reef, printed by Harry N. Abrams in 1996. It took a very long time to do, and honestly, I’m too busy with Alert Diver and dive journey to tackle such a challenge once more proper now. Nonetheless, I do have another good e book left in me. Simply as we attempt to use the easiest paper and obtain the best constancy in photographic copy in Alert Diver, I’ve a want to seek out the fitting writer for a traditional ink-on-paper challenge. Small amount/immense high quality. I’ll get round to it at some point. I do know what I’d wish to say in phrases and images. It simply must percolate to the highest of the heap when it comes to time commitments.


Stephen Frink images black grouper, Cuba


10. You may have spent loads of time underwater with sharks throughout your profession. What’s your favourite species and most memorable shark encounter?

Clearly probably the most charismatic shark on the planet is the good white. It’s additionally the one most tough to {photograph}, solely as a result of proximity is so random. First it’s a must to be the place they’re, after which they should come shut earlier than you also have a probability at getting the shot. Through the years there have been three scorching spots for nice whites … Guadalupe, South Africa, and South Australia. Guadalupe has not too long ago and indefinitely closed to shark watching excursions, and South Africa hasn’t had the populations of white sharks like they used to for fairly a while now. Which leaves the Neptune Islands of South Australia because the final nice, nice white shark encounters vacation spot.

As for “most memorable encounter” I really feel like I’ve informed the story typically, however right here it’s once more because you requested. I used to be in South Africa with my spouse, daughter and a small workforce of shark shooters. We had achieved safari the primary week, and for the second week just a few of us went on the boat every day to attempt to {photograph} nice whites off Gansbaii whereas the wives (because it turned out) and my daughter, Alexa, did excursions of the wine nation. At night time we’d get collectively and inform one another tales of the day, however I wished them to see what occurred once we had been out at sea, so I chartered a second boat, simply to moor subsequent to us so they might see the motion. On this present day I requested my shark wrangler, the legendary Andre Hartman, to face above me whereas I laid down on the swim platform. The concept was to get an over/underneath of the shark coming for the bait. So, I used to be viewing the scene via a 16mm fisheye on a Nikon F100, utilizing the swivel-45 viewfinder. Andre straddled me from above and deployed the baited line straight in entrance of me. After we acquired a participant, he began coxing it close to. I stored shouting out “nearer, nearer”, and he did simply that, yanking the bait out of the best way simply because the shark approached my dome. However it didn’t finish there. The shark’s velocity carried his nostril in opposition to my dome, the momentum smashing the housing into my face. Between the splash and commotion nobody was fairly sure what had occurred to me. There was a cacophony of concern, was I all proper? Above all of it got here the voice of my then 9-year-old daughter from the opposite boat… “Daddy, did you get the shot?” I acquired the shot, and all the time thought if I had been to hunt an affirmation for my profession, these 6 phrases had been what I used to be going for.


Andre Hartman, shark wrangler, South Africa


Nice white shark shut up, Neptune Islands, South Australia


11. What’s the favourite picture you’ve gotten ever captured and the story behind it?

I don’t know whether it is my favourite, however it’s the one I get accused of utilizing too typically. Most not too long ago I’m utilizing it as a wrap for a brand new line of lively put on I’m introducing via our new and soon-to-launch It’s only a picture of a queen angelfish I shot in Key Largo with a Canon 100-mm macro lens. There’s something about the best way the fish turns into the lens and the bokeh that makes that one single picture resonate with me greater than the opposite thousand queen angels I’ve shot in my life. Both that or the shot of my daughter swimming subsequent to an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin within the open ocean when she was simply 3 ½ years previous. As a resonant life expertise, Alexa and the dolphin for certain. She has grown as much as be a veterinarian, and I believe the experiences she had with terrestrial and aquatic creatures helped forge her ardour.


Alexa Frink, age 3 1/2, swims with Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, The Bahamas


Queen angel fish portrait, Key Largo, Florida


12. What different photographers encourage you and why?

That’s a entice I received’t fall into as a result of there are such a lot of good photographers on the market. Now we have printed 50 problems with Alert Diver within the coffee-table format for the reason that redesign in 4 th quarter 2009. That’s 50 photographers I might record, for if I wasn’t impressed by their images they might not have been invited to share their portfolios and insights on our pages. Plus, Instagram is awash in good underwater images, every day. Actually wonderful photographs are displaying up on-line and within the varied contests like those DPG hosts. So, whereas inspiration is extra broadly sourced I do have quite a lot of respect for particular photographers who’ve immersed themselves absolutely into the UW picture tradition and way of life, and handle to flourish in that difficult area of interest. For me I all the time thought it was necessary to be nimble. The Mile Markers (to borrow a Florida Keys navigational referent) in my profession had been darkroom work, digicam leases, editorial images for dive magazines, inventory images, retail picture gear (principally Seacam), dive journey, picture instruction, and now publishing. If I did any a kind of issues to the exclusion of others, I wouldn’t have made it this lengthy.

Once I consider who’ve each the longevity and an overarching ardour for all issues underwater picture, I consider these two most spontaneously. David Doubilet in all probability makes it to any picture fanatic’s brief record. He’s achieved it a very long time, he does it terribly nicely, and he continues to shock me. His is a special profession trajectory, for Nationwide Geographic has been his springboard. He and spouse Jennifer Hayes additionally lead dive expeditions and have very lively talking schedules, additionally throughout the Nationwide Geographic ecosphere.

Alex Mustard is a extra up to date inspiration, though if you happen to ask him he’d in all probability let you know he’s been doing it a very long time too. Alex has that very same ardour for each the artwork and science of images, however he has extra of a business affect as nicely. I don’t imply that in a adverse or avaricious method, however the issues he likes to do … lead dive journey and educate seminars, write articles about dive journey and picture strategies, publish books … are issues he can monetize to have a profession. If underwater images is to be the anchor for a life’s work, you continue to must receives a commission to do it. Each of those guys have managed to discover a method to do this but keep true to their muse. I discover that admirable. Though, drilling all the way down to the core of it, they’d probably shoot even when they didn’t receives a commission.


Marko Dimitrijevic swimming with humpback whales, Silver Financial institution, Dominican Republic


13. What are your future plans and tasks?

Extra Alert Diver, extra dive journey, and considered one of as of late I’ll transfer that picture e book off the again burner.


Stephen Frink on location at Quad Graphics, overseeing a press run for Alert Diver Journal


For extra of Stephens epic portfolio, try his web site,, or if you want to affix him and discover ways to take higher underwater photographs examine the choices at