Wetpixel’s associate editor, Abi Smigel Mullens, sat down with Marty Snyderman to ask him a few questions about his career in underwater photography. This week we are featuring the work of Marty in our Full Frame photo essay as well as talking about his latest project, Featured-Creatures. Please take a moment to learn about Marty’s career in underwater photography, in his own words.
Wetpixel: Marty, your new online magazine for kids (and anyone interested in the underwater world), Featured-Creatures, focuses on new creatures every month. How did you come up with the idea for the magazine?
Marty: It does focus on either new creatures, a new creature. A group of creatures, or behavior. So I wouldn’t want to say it’s just tied to a creature every time, being misleading. How did I come up with the idea for the magazine? So, a little bit of a long story. Originally my idea was to create a baseball card. A cyber baseball card about marine life. In all of my projects, I started with this little idea, and then it expands in 38 directions, and I can’t control it. The idea really, was this. I’ve always liked sharing marine life with kids. It’s such a great ice breaker. It’s easy. A lot of times, adults and kids, just because of age and life interest, it’s hard to find the ice breaker sometimes. And kids are shy, and adults don’t know the right things to say to be fun. I didn’t want somebody … You know when you’re a kid, somebody says, “Ah, you’ve grown so much and what’s your favorite subject?” It just put you to sleep. I thought, “Okay, this is, let the animals do the ice-breaking. “Cause I taught in the public schools, I worked with the Gate Program. Gifted And Talented Educational Program. And I would go to the San Diego schools. And I realized, you know, it’s like, here comes this old bald man in a class and blah, blah, blah.
And who wants to hear what he has to say? And you show pictures of sharks and manta rays and whales, and kids like it. You become a hero for a day. So I thought, “okay, let’s put this in some kind of format, that allows, not just me, but other adults to use this as an ice breaker.” I realized the animals will do this for us if we just let them. And, I like the entrepreneurial challenge. It’s an excuse to put the images in my library to use. I think for all underwater photographers that’s gotten harder. I mean the options are, you can be entrepreneurial and do this, but if you just sit around waiting on magazine to call. When I started they had 20 people to call. Now they got 25,000 people to call. So it was just a way to try to keep my … Stay involved and it’s an excuse for me to go out and photograph nudibranchs and sea stars and not everything is just a whale, shark and a manta ray. And I’ll try to make the rest of my answers shorter.
Okay. So as a kid you had these deafening moments of awkward silence when you were around certain adults, that there is just no common ground. And you couldn’t wait to get out of there. And, you didn’t know how. And I just thought … Okay so the ways, and kind of our best value at Featured-Creatures, when you give the magazine to a child as a subscription? You have the option of also getting the issues. So it’s give a gift, create a bond. So now the next time you see this child in your life, or talk to them on the phone, you have a way of talking about humpback whales, you did see that they looked at it, as opposed to do you like Ms. Shmuckledink your teacher, whatever.
Wetpixel: Capturing animal behaviour seems to be one of your specialties. Can you give us any tips to get the shot?
Marty: I hope it’s one of my specialties. It is what animals are what turns me on in this thing. I have never thought of myself as God’s gift to Kodak. Although, it may be outdated now. But I always just wanted to be kind of a little spokesperson for animals in places that can’t speak for themselves. The first thing is, I would tell you, apply what professionals suggest. And don’t rely just on what the God’s find for you. You need to read. You need to learn about animals. I think Ned DeLoach gave, I heard him talk one day. It just kind of summarized some of my thoughts. It’s just, be willing to watch animals. Just watch and learn. I think their collectively speaking. I’m not speaking down to groups of divers but, we go on trips and there’s a guy that points at an animal. People go and they take their shot and they swim off frantically to get the next subject. And I think sometimes we miss the whole. Miss the experience by just not watching wild life do what wild life does. I think it’s the best educator and it takes time.
Then I think there’s diving things. I think if you ask most people that own a camera system, and you said, “Hey! Be neutrally buoyant.” And I’ll go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah I’m neutrally buoyant.” But what do you really do? And you watch people from a distance, who aren’t neutrally buoyant, or they bang into the reef a little bit. Or, they use a digital camera and after they take a picture, their so excited they push the camera away from their face to look at the picture, they push it inadvertently right at their subject, and it disrupts behavior. Those things are so fundamental and they’re apparently hard for us to learn collectively speaking. I think that one of the things that I try to do, if I see something that is gonna be interesting behavior, I mentally go, “Okay, neutral buoyant, right now” and then I go, “where do I” … I try to plot a little path. Where do I think I can get to? How close can I get to this animal without banging into the reef? And without disrupting their behavior? Then I think, “At that distance what do I think my camera settings will be?”
And I try to set all those things up, and then make my little move towards the animal. And then I shoot a little bit, if I can, I back away or at least back my face away from the back of the camera to look and see what I’ve done with my histogram really. Rather than push the camera out in front of me. And that’s something I’ve learned ‘cause I’ve busted up behaviors before. I thought, “well that was stupid” So you try to learn those things. So, if those are tips, I hope they help somebody.
Wetpixel: What was your best trip of 2016? Best trip photographically?
Marty: My best trip was every one in which I got wet and my camera didn’t. I don’t know how you compare these things. I really thought about this. My answer is, I don’t like to compare Hawaii versus the Kelp Forest on a great day, et cetera. I had lots of good moments. So my trips photographically, I don’t think of it as a destination, as I do, little moments. One of my favorite little moments last year was photographing a pair of mating, poison oscillate octopus. And just some Lembeh, Alor and Indonesia. And I don’t know why that little moment sticks out? I mean it’s obviously great behavior … If you like wildlife behavior, it’s just one of those great moments. But it’s probably not the only mating sequence, or behavioral sequence. It’s just the first one that jumped into my head. I wrote myself little notes, said, “There’s too many moments to claim as one, but not enough to not want more.”
Wetpixel: What have you got planned for 2017? How do you plan your trips? Do you tend to go to new (to you) sites, or re-visit ones that you have been to before?
Marty: And how do I plan my trips? This year’s a little different for me, ‘cause I had a surgery. Originally scheduled for May. And it got pushed back. It got pushed to May right before DEMA And then I went, “Oh my god! I don’t know what I’m doing the first part of the year!” I thought my surgery was gonna be in February. So I went to DEMA. I had these two really remarkable days. I lined up all this stuff to do for the first few months of the year. And then the third morning at DEMA I got a phone call and said, “We can get you in for surgery December 6th. Do you want it?” And I said, “How long do I have to figure this out?” And they go, “Ah, a few minutes.” So I said yes. So my year was just kind of all up in … Wasn’t sure about it. I did have some trips. I’m getting ready to go to the Philippines. To Atlantis Resorts in Puerto Galera and Dumaguete. I’ve organized a trip with a whole bunch of friends who are, who’ve made some name for themselves in photography or videography.
So Howard and Michele Hall are going, Douglas Seifert and Emily Irving, Jen and Joel Penner, Matthew Meier, Cathryn Castle and her husband, David Fleetham, and Tim Rock. Somehow, I’ve gotten myself in a situation where I managed to organize all this and right now it seems organized, who knows. I’m going to Indonesia. I’m going to Lembeh in June, and I’m going to Indonesia again in December. I hope to do a bunch of local diving this summer. My schedule is still a little open.
That’s what I want to say. Do I tend to go to new sights, or revisit, yes. I like to do both.
I love going back, because the more familiar I am with an area, I get tuned in. Maybe I can find that animal, or that animal. I know where that cleaning station is, and to me that’s all opportunity. The hardest thing for me, is to go to some place I’ve never been before, fall off a boat and try to think I’m gonna be productive. So, I love going back to places I’ve been. Whether a specific sight or most areas. I like everything about traveling to places except airplanes and airport days. I think they’re tolerable. I tell people all the time, “You gonna bitch about travel, tell Columbus.” We’re not gonna get scurvy, we’re gonna get inconvenienced.
I’m not gonna get shot in the back with a poison arrow today, I’m just going to sit in an uncomfortable chair as long as I need to. Oh, I know what I was going to say here, was that it’s really not about destinations. One of the things I really like to do is go on trips that have a targeted species. Go on a spotted dolphin trip, or basking shark trip or great whites or hammerheads or whatever. I think that’s really fun. It gets me … You have to be willing to accept the fact that in those targeted species trips, you can fail. You could spend a whole bunch of time on a boat, or in the water, staring at water. But, it’s so rewarding to get that intimate encounter with animals over an extended period of time. So, that’s what I really enjoy doing. That might have got off the subject a little bit, what’s next?
Wetpixel: Where is you favourite dive site (if you had to choose one)? Why?
Marty: Today, it would be San Diego.
That’s because, that’s where I am. Today. Tomorrow, you tell me. Seriously, I like to dive and explore. I hate … Hate is such a strong word, I’m not trying to be critical of you. I just don’t like comparing. I don’t like comparing places. It makes me nuts in diver conversations at parties and stuff when people say, “Oh Komodo is better than Fiji.” What possibly are the criteria that do this?
When I was in Fiji it rained all week. Yes, you’ve been there one time in your life and it rained that week, and therefor this becomes universally true? You should run for President. One place that I think … I wrote myself a note here, it said, Any place in the coral triangle I find really interesting. But Hawaii is a large destination that I have just fallen in love with. For years, I think Hawaii had a reputation as a poor man’s vacation. So like, I can’t go to Fiji, I can’t afford to go to Malaysia, but I’ll go to Hawaii this year. I’ll make that sacrifice. There is some phenomenal stuff to do. I’ve done black water dives, open ocean dives, and the reef dives are good and they’re interesting, I think. So if I could move some place, I’d move to Hawaii. I’ve thought about it a lot. It keeps me up at night.
Wetpixel: How long have been taking photographs? Underwater? When did you start pursuing underwater photography as a career?
Marty: I’ve been taking photographs since about 1975? I started pursuing underwater photography as a career about 1975. It was what I wanted to do. The interesting thing to me is, if you had asked me as a kid, about my interest in … What’s a photographer? I just liked pictures, I love sports, I love seeing all those pictures. I thought I was supposed to be in them, not take them. I didn’t have that artistic or creative thing or that gene wasn’t turned on yet. The whole thing is, I got ocean interested before, and wildlife interested before I got photography interested. Photography was my excuse to not have to do homework, and spend time with wildlife. I guess I didn’t think I was … I mean, science and looking at animals in a jar of formaldehyde didn’t seem interesting to me. Wondering the planet, being Tarzan did.
Wetpixel: You have amassed a beautiful collection of images through the years. How do you go about organizing the content? Did you go out specifically to shoot images for Featured-Creatures, or did you look at what images you had and weave them in?
Yes and yes. Very good question. I organize, I use Lightroom. I am anal about key-wording. I don’t know how else you find your … How you access images. I don’t know if you know this or not, but Eric Cheng and Barry Guimbellot and I have a key-wording program now. You can go to keywordworkflow.com and it has 14,000 commonly encountered species. If you start to type them in, the taxonomic names, and it’ll put them in the right family, and file them and so forth. So, you can access pictures that way. One of the reasons I did that is, I write an awful lot. I’ve written for Dive Training Magazine. I write an article every issue and I have for about 20 years called What’s That? So it’s just about some animal. It could be about whale sharks, but it could be about animals that live on sea urchins. Or live in association with sea urchins. Or something like that. So I’ve gotta be able to access that in my library without thinking of it and I try to access it by keywords. That’s what I do. What was the rest of this? Do I shoot specifically for Featured Creatures? Yeah, sometimes. But, I’ve got a … My image library got close to 200,000 images in it. They’re not all perfectly exposed and perfect pictures, but it’s amazing how pictures live in your head, you kind of rarely forget them. So I do think about pieces I can do for Featured Creatures.
And, Oh I can go shoot that, and more it is, when I’m making a dive, and I see something that might not be the most exciting thing in the world, I’ll shoot it ‘cause I think there’s a way to weave that in or there might be in a future issue or something.
Wetpixel: Can you offer any advice for photographers wanting to capture behaviour shots?
Marty: Yeah, get your ass off the couch. Time in the water. Do everything Ned and Anna DeLoach tell you to do. Suggest that you do. I say study the work of other people. I think when I get a magazine of any kind, that’s wildlife oriented, I kind of flip through it. And when a picture grabs my attention I typically look to see who shot it. After you’ve done that for a while, you realize you can kind of see a certain style in certain people and I study them. I’ve learned to follow the work of people like David Fleetham and Douglas Seifert and Doug Perrine and Ned and Anna DeLoach, and Howard Hall, and Michele Hall, Tony Wu and Steve Frink and Roger Stein and Brandon Cole, Brian Skerry and Paul Nicklen, Burt Jones and Berkeley White. You kind of go after those shots. It’s not just a grab bag. So, I think that one thing is if I was giving advice to people, I’d say, Look, be willing to spend not just dives, but committed time to go get that behavioral shot. You’re gonna fail more than you succeed. But when you succeed it’s so rewarding and it’s so fun. For me, I guess I’ve kind of figured out for the most part how to focus a camera and get an exposure. It’s not interesting to me, but there’s a real challenge to capturing wildlife behavior.
If you’re gonna get the behavioral shots that you really want, you gotta be willing to commit that time. I don’t know how else to do it. Time in the water and smart time.
Wetpixel: What is your most heart pounding (underwater) event so far? Your most difficult shoot technically?
Marty: I would say, I’ve had my moments. I had filmed gray whales in extremely limited visibility when the bottom was not ten feet deep. In the mouth of lagoons down in Baja years and years ago. You can politely say that was a little hair-raising or God, that scared the hell out of me.
And it did. I was shooting a film with Howard Hall and we’d had an incident the year before. We came back to finish this film. We rolled out of a Zodiac together, kind of on opposite sides and both of us had our move cameras and I kind of though I better adjust my fin here, and I better adjust my mask, I better make sure my camera is all ready before I started swimming towards the whales. I looked over on the other side. I was looking at Howard. He’s adjusting his fins, adjusting his mask, and neither one of us had the guts to start swimming. My legs just said no. My head … So, was I intimidated? Yeah, I’m not scared to say it. Yeah I was intimidated. The first time Howard and I, again, years ago, in the 1970’s. Filmed blue sharks feeding on a bazillion squid. These squid, we were using movie lights and they’re just squid magnets. We were working around squid boats but we were too far away. We later learned that our lights were over powered by the squid lights, by the boat lights and we couldn’t work. We just got lost in a ball of squid. I had my hand on Howard and I couldn’t even see him.
I saw sharks, or pieces of sharks swim in between us. That might have been when my hair fell out. We shot another film, way back in those days called Indiscriminate Kill. It was all about open ocean gill nets, the driftnets. We’re filming at night. It’s done in an effort to create laws that ban these nets. So, we were not invited to swim on anyone’s nets, we were just swimming around in the ocean in the middle of the night, in the middle of the ocean filming this. In your head, and maybe in your head now, you think of nets like a volleyball net. They go straight up and down. Big nets in the ocean, billow, and fold and get on top of you. I mean, you’re at the bottom of the net, you look up and there’s net that’s completely above you and can engulf you. They’re like spiderwebs. You touch a net and you can get just entangled so easily. You just gotta freeze and try to figure out how to get out of it, or somebody get you out of it. That was a little weird. That was more a little weird. Yes, I was scared one more time in my life. I’m not scared to say I was scared. I was scared. But, the laws got changed. And I thought that was pretty cool.
My most difficult, technical shoot. I would say a number of films where I have been on location with real small cruise, for long periods of time. One of the things that came to mind, was I produced a film about sharks. Co-produced with Rocky Strong a film about sharks for the PBS series Nature in the 1990’s. Basically, Rocky and I were a two man crew that hired some local people to help us with physical labor. But, having film cameras as you know, but movie cameras in those days, in the ocean, and at little boat all day, and charging with third world electricity or whatever. You’re so beat up, and your gear is so beat up and it’s always funny. You’re responsible for everything. You’re the guy that’s supposed to capture animal behavior. You’re the guys that supposed to make sure the boat is there, you’re supposed to load the boat. There’s just so many jobs you’re supposed to do. Keeping all that gear working is just …. It’s electronics, stuff breaks. The ocean’s always gonna win. You just try to put it off or fix it. And I find that challenging. Being in similar things in films in New Guinea for three or four weeks at a time. You ain’t gonna get any spare parts. Things break and you can’t fix them, you’re wasting a lot of money and messing with your reputation pretty bad.
Wetpixel: What do you like to do when you aren’t at work?
Marty: A zillion things. I’m definitely a sports fan, but I’d rather be out doing something, than watching. I’d rather work out, I’d rather do yoga, I’d rather go for a hike. I’m a birder. Which, I never thought I’d be. I think its hilarious. I’d pictured birders as little guys in berets and stripe shirt and checkered pants and stuff. But it’s just an excuse to go out and see wildlife. It’s amazing how many interesting birds there are in San Diego where I live. I think there’s 500 something species. 501 or 3 species that’ve been seen in the San Diego area. Out of about 750 that are seen in the United States. It’s fun. I don’t know if I said yoga or not. I can’t remember.
I like to learn new stuff. I like to learn about words. I like to listen to music. You want to take me to a baseball game? I’d like to go.
Wetpixel: Can you name your favourite underwater photographer? Photographer period?
Marty: So here it is. I admire a lot of them. Howard Hall and David Fleetham were the two that came to mind. But really, in most cases it’s more because of our friendship then their skill as photographers. They’re better people than they are photographers. The world knows they’re photographers and film makers extraordinaire, but that’s why they’re my favorite underwater photographers.
Photographer period. You know, you name one, you’re gonna leave out somebody. A couple of people, Ned DeLoach is one. Just ‘cause he’s so dedicated and so good at capturing these little moments of animal behavior. Which, of course is my thing. Then somebody who doesn’t like to do animal behavior at all is, Chris Crumley. He does this mermaid stuff. Guys like Chris … I think of myself as a documentarian rather than an artist. I don’t trust my ability as an artist. I’m always amazed that a guy like Chris can walk past a rusty gate and see a photograph. I see a need for WD-40.
It’s just, people can do that. So, when, you don’t have … I mean I admire them in a way that I admire Michael Jordan, or Hank Aaron. They just do things I can’t do. They go wow, that’s pretty cool. So, I admire them for those reasons.
Wetpixel: If you had to name someone that has inspired you photographically, who would that be?
Marty: Jack McKinney, Kathy Church. Ron Taylor. Ron Taylor way back when. Jack McKinney way back when. Sara Shoemaker just has this little style of shooting where she’ll shoot patterns. She’ll shoot these little waves, water breaking on the beach. Just the little bubbles of water. And again, it’s like walking past the rusty gate. So, I would say she’s influenced me a lot more than she knows because it’s opened my eyes. I try to see some of those things and I’m not trying to steal her thunder, but it has made me see the world in a different way. Clark Little has made me see the world in a different way.
Wetpixel: Canon or Nikon? Or both?
Marty: Both, over the years. I’m a Canon shooter today, but it’s really … Maybe I shouldn’t even say that. I could lose a sponsor somewhere. It’s really a function to me. I could just battle all the time. Weight and size are so important when I travel. And then I think about trip duration and back ups. And honestly, I don’t want to jinx myself, I have really had a good record with not breaking and flooding gear. But I’m only human and gear’s only gear. What I want to be able to do … I don’t know how I’d get along with myself if I’ve got a trip to Indonesia for a month, and I flooded my own camera on the first dive of the first day. I don’t know what I’m gonna do.
My deal is, I take backups. And if I’m gonna take full frame camera equipment I cannot make my weights and get backups in certain places. Nobody likes to pay the extra money. I don’t mind it, but some places you cannot do it. Just by absolutely their airline regulations. So when people ask me about luggage, I’ll tell them, I can get my stuff … I don’t know how it’s gonna go these days with new carry-on restrictions. But I can take two carry-ons and then two bags that weigh 49.75lbs each when everything’s dry. And I carry four strobes, three camera bodies, two camera housings and one pair of underwear. And that’s it. Yes, I figured out a way to take … I could buy something that weighed a little less, I would add another piece of gear, I would not add another pair of underwear.
It’s simply because, I’ve never had, knock on wood, this massive, massive failure with equipment. But, it’s out there if I do these things long enough. That’s gonna happen some day. You try not to let it.
Wetpixel: How much post processing do you do? How much is acceptable?
Marty: Too much. Too much in terms of time. Sometimes I enjoy it, a lot of times I get tired of sitting in front of my computer. When you say how much is acceptable, I think whatever it takes to make an image grab an audience without being dishonest. That line is hard to walk. I think without moving subjects, the fundamental things you don’t put a nudibranch on top of a humpback whale. That’s pretty extreme and pretty easy to see. But as far as … I mean I’m not clever enough for one thing, I don’t know how to do it, but I’m not going to exaggerate the size of a shark and minimize the size of a diver. That’s just not what I do. I’m a documentarian not an artist in that way. But I can’t tell you that I think that’s wrong for other people. I think people … I don’t want to put bounds on the way people can express their thoughts or relate to others. I do know that when I judge a photo contest, that’s supposed to be an underwater contest, I’m kinda real heavily against those kinds of images. But to say, can someone use that for Madison Avenue or to get the attention of kids. Could you do that in Featured Creatures and go, wow! Make a shark be as big as a school bus, sure why not. You just have to be honest about what you’re doing.
Wetpixel: What is the greatest threat to the oceans’ health?
Marty: Saturday nights. I think a lot of babies get made on Saturday nights. I say it’s population. I think human population is certainly part of it. Countries and people that are over populated that are too poor to be able to care. And you combine that with other countries where technology overwhelms fisheries, pollutes, so you can look at it that way, from the human perspective and you can look at it as climate change, ocean acidification, governments, and agencies that cave to money. Rather than the long term future of your children. It’s interesting when … I mean I’m single, and I don’t have, never had children. I feel a responsibility to wildlife. I’m not as connected, I mean I’m certainly connected to the human race, but anything that threatens natural balance is completely out of control. There’s a zillion factors, and that’s the problem.
It would be cool if there was just one. If there was one greatest threat, we could deal with it, but there’s a bunch. I’ll also say, look, I’m a photographer and a writer. I’m a lay person. Heroes in this whole fight are scientists. Photographers can help be the public relations for causes. I think we are. But a person like Sylvia Earle is much, much better quipped to answer this question. I hope that’s not a disappointing answer. It’s what I really believe. Anything I say is taking words of Sylvia Earle’s which there are not too many in the world, spinning around in my head. But they’re not my own. I’m just the vehicle that spits them out there.
Wetpixel: Is there an environmental cause that you are especially passionate about?
Marty: Oh, just saving the world. I’m on the board of trustees at the REEF. It’s Reef Environmental Education Foundation. So, I’m close to that because I think that one of the things that might surprise people, I have often felt frustrated and shut out of the fight. I don’t know how to … I’ve often wondered if I have served my causes better by being a photographer and a writer. Or I should have gone to Washington and been a lobbyist. I just don’t want to be one. I’m not sure those people that are doing the hard work, they don’t get the credit that … It’s funny to me that photographers get this public recognition and notoriety. I think it’s hilarious. What I had said a zillion times, is somebody in Japan makes my camera, somebody in Austria makes my housing, somebody in Indianapolis makes my strobe, a dive guy points at a subject, I take a picture, put it in a magazine and get all the credit.
It’s a punch in the butt. I’m not saying what we do is easy, but. What the hell is the question? It’s about those things. So the deal is, causes I’m passionate about, the point is, REEF or any of those things is ‘cause it allows me to use whatever experience I can share. Look, the truth other big environmental organizations … Maybe I’m just a guy that goes and picks up plastic off the beach. We need people to do that, and I’m certainly willing to go do that at times. I think through REEF, because of who we are, I can contribute more of what I have to offer. So, everybody become a member of REEF. It’s free. Go look at Reef.org.
Wetpixel: Do you think that photographers can be a force for good or change? Do you think that pro photographers are seeking to engage more with marine issues? The documentation of the shark fin trade for example seems to have raised public awareness, is this a sign of things to come?
Marty: Do I think photographers can be, certainly. There’s a track record of photographers helping causes. Do I think we could do better? Of course. I think everybody could better at everything. Yeah, I think there’s no question that any photographer with any camera, with an image or a story can absolutely change public opinion and public policy. We’ve certainly seen it in grass roots efforts with sharks. Shark fishing, shark finning, plastic bags, with development around any number of … In local areas around lagoons, or estuaries, or our shorelines. So, yeah. No question about it, photography is valuable in that way. Absolutely. Do I think pro photographers are seeking to engage more? I mean, many have for years. So I hate to say more today than in the past because, I think a lot of the people I admired years ago, were trying to use their megaphone as loud as they could. I go way back and look at people like Hardy Jones. He was a NOGI recipient this year. I shot films for Hardy way back when. He’s continued on. He’s had a remarkable impact on the labs of dolphins in a lot of areas. The Dolphin Kills in Japan, Hardy, and Howard Hall were the first people to go film that. They did it surreptitiously.
People that maybe don’t get all the recognition and are in the magazine photographic world like, Chuck Davis. Chuck’s had a lot of influence in some public policy. Bob Talbot has had influence in that way. Bob was, I don’t want to say he’s not a big name now, he’s a big name to me. He was a bigger name ‘cause he was more closely involved in the sport diving businesses or industry, I think, some years ago. But yeah, he’s had a tremendous influence.
Is this a sign of things to come? Yeah, I hope so. I think the question we all fear is, that technology and human population have such momentum. Is there time for us to reverse course. I don’t know when D Day is. Nobody does, but all I know is that for me, and I think I speak for others. Burt Jones, Maureen Shimlock, who knows. I realized we may lose this battle. My legacy of my generation may be one of failure. But I’d rather be part of the fight, than not. Even though, I know my side might lose the war. That’s just me. Gotta do what … You’ve got to be true to yourself and get in the game.
Wetpixel: What is the best advice to offer an aspiring underwater photographer?
Marty: The best advice to offer an aspiring photographer? God, work at your craft. Have fun at what you do. Don’t measure your success by whether you win a photo contest or get published. Learn the fundamentals. Over the years, I think a lot of people would agree that we’ve seen an awful lot of our fellow photographers try to buy their way to success. They knew everything about how they could compare this camera to that camera but they really couldn’t explain to you how cameras work. Really didn’t understand the basics as fundamental as aperture, shutter speed and ISO. They really haven’t learned those fundamental building blocks. Same kind of thing with digital. You need to learn those building blocks in this era. I would also say to people, look, if I’ve done whatever it is I’ve done, I’ve survived. I’ve paid bills. I’ve bought a car and a house. If I can do it, you can do it. It’s not easy, it’s doable. You have to be entrepreneurial or born rich. I’ve always held that against my parents. Know what it is that you aspire to do. Are you trying to make a contribution, are you trying to live a life that’s worthy, or you trying to get recognition? Set goals, and go for them. Lord knows, I don’t know anybody … You can look back, and you’ve read this from a zillion people in your life but.
When I look back at the people in my life that have succeeded, whatever that means in underwater photography, they got knocked on their asses a bunch of times. They got up. Failure is part of success. I wish it wasn’t. I was trying to make it reminded I’d be the exception to that rule. But if I’ve had any success, Lord knows, failures have come along with it. And the disappointments … I’m told I have pretty high standards for myself. I mean to, but I think their doable things. Sometimes you don’t do it. If, anybody else … People can do it. You just gotta get out there and go do it.