Photographer Spotlight: Michelle Manson

In an ongoing series, we’ll chat with prominent and up-and-coming underwater photographers. Today we visit with Michelle Manson.

In an ongoing series, we’ll chat with prominent and up-and-coming underwater photographers. Today we visit with Michelle Manson.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Arizona, but after getting hooked on scuba diving, I made the jump to California to be closer to the ocean. I had always wanted to scuba dive and in 1995, I got a big tax refund and went to Cabo to get my open-water certification. So, I became a PADI instructor in 1998 and worked in the dive industry for more than 12 years, teaching in Tempe, Arizona and Catalina Island, California before landing in Monterey. I currently live in Santa Cruz, California, which is a hop-skip to Monterey for my dawn patrols.  

How long have you been an underwater photographer?

I’ve been shooting underwater photography since 1998. That’s when I bought a Nikonos V film camera and a gigantic Ikelite strobe that would break my foot if I dropped it, with its eight D-cell batteries. I shot film for a long time, until I couldn’t get my film developed in remote locations. In 2008, decided I’d check out all the fuss about DSLRs, and all I can say is — wow. I love the immediate feedback of the DSLR and definitely don’t miss the old framers when trying to shoot a macro shot. Goodbye light tray.

What got you interested in underwater photography?

I’ve always been drawn to photography and it seemed a natural progression for me to photograph an environment that I’m completely in love with. I love showing non-divers how beautiful our oceans are if they take a peek under the surface.

What’s your favorite style of underwater photography?

I’m a fan of all types of photo styles. Macro is sometimes the best option but if there’s the slightest chance I can shoot wide-angle, the dome comes out of the bag. My favorite shooting style right now is close-up wide-angle with my trusty new mini-dome. Now I can get nudibranch close-up shots and still get my wide-angle fix.

Any favorite subjects?

I can’t seem to pass up a kelp stalk and always have my nose peeking into each as I swim by to see if I can find a surprise trying to hide from me.

Any favorite destinations?

Anywhere in California and the Northwest coast. My favorite places are the Channel Islands — especially San Miguel and Santa Barbara Islands — and Monterey.

What’s your underwater setup?

Currently, I’m shooting with a Nikon D7100 and a Nauticam housing. For wide-angle, I use a Tokina 10-17mm F3.5, and for macro I use a Nikon Nikorr 60mm F2.8. I also use Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes and a Sola for macro.

Do you have any tips you can share with new underwater photographers?

Years ago, my instructor used to say, “Get close to your subject, and if you think you are close enough, get closer.” I’ve never forgotten it. The current voice in my head says, “What exactly do you like about this subject and what is the best way to showcase why it drew my attention?”

By guest author Michelle Manson

You can find more of Michelle Manson’s work on her Facebook page.