Interview with the Execs: Stephen Frink

Silky sharks at sundown, Cuba


Stephen Frink is among the many world’s most incessantly 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 photograph companies, primarily renting cameras and processing E-6 slide movie, however he quickly started to obtain assignments to {photograph} and write articles for the buyer dive publications of the day. He labored as a photojournalist for Pores and skin Diver journal for 17-years, protecting a lot of the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Florida Keys for the publication. Subsequently he labored because the Director of Pictures for Scuba Diving journal. For the previous 10 years Stephen has been the writer of Alert Diver Magazine, a lovely coffee-table collectible journal for the members of the Divers Alert Community.

Stephen teaches Masters degree programs of Stephen Frink Faculty of Underwater Digital Imaging every summer season in his residence 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 obtained my first underwater digicam, a Nikonos II with a 35mm lens, second hand from a surfer in Seal Seashore, CA. I used to be in graduate college at close by California State College in Lengthy Seashore and I took some photograph courses for enjoyable whereas engaged on my thesis for my Masters in experimental psychology. My out there mild photographs from seashore dives in Laguna Seashore didn’t quantity to a lot. Then I moved to Kona, Hawaii for some time and did extra crappy out there mild photographs from the shore, however no less than 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 lease underwater cameras and course of E-6 slide movie for the vacationers coming to dive Pennekamp Park. By then I used to be capturing a whole 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 large angle and no macro with that system. I did purchase a Subsea MK150 strobe and at last began to get some coloration in my underwater photographs.

I obtained my first photograph task from the outdated Sport Diver journal after they had been primarily based in Miami. Their photographer obtained blown out on a Florida Keys shoot and so they wanted protection from Marathon. Maybe they discovered me within the phone book, and known as to ask if I may shoot it for them. I’d by no means shot large 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 preferred the shoot and requested me if I wished to go to the Caymans for them the following 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 at the moment use?

I’ve been utilizing Seacam housings for a very long time, so whereas I’ve migrated via quite a lot of movie and digital programs through the years, I nonetheless use the identical Seacam ports and viewfinders from that outdated Nikon F100 movie system. The housings have advanced 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 exploit the Seacam Seaflash, each 150 and 160, as they render barely completely different mild traits. Additionally, Sea and Sea YS-250 when speedy recycle is required, and Ikelite DS161 for purity of coloration when working actually shut for macro topics. Every strobe has barely completely different coloration temperature, and when capturing via the blue filtration of the ocean it makes a distinction how shut you’re more likely to be to any given topic and in addition how diffuse you would like the sunshine to be. Now that coloration correction is really easy in digital publish manufacturing it’s not practically so crucial as once we shot slides, however I nonetheless favor the aesthetic of getting it proper in seize versus huge corrections in publish.

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 guage a housing made by their native producer, Seacam. They wished to know if there could be 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 stated I preferred the housing a lot, they might preserve the cash if I may 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 a couple of 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 pals and there’s a whole 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 Seashore, The Bahamas


3. You journey quite a bit! 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 inside 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 Purple 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 12 months 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 feel it’s type of a “love the one you’re with” vibe with our most iconic dive locations. Most of our mainstream dive areas will supply good issues to shoot, and the job of a photojournalist is to distill it right down to the ten or 12 photographs that inform the story. Regardless of the story could be. Again within the days when inventory images was a viable marketing strategy the dive journey additionally fed my inventory photograph company submissions, however I don’t make investments a lot power in that because the license charges declined so precipitously.


Stephen Frink images blacktip reef sharks in Rangiroa, French Polynesia


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

Extensive 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 at all times felt that if my daughter relied on me capturing a nudibranch to have paid for her faculty tuition, we’d each be in hassle.


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 photographs to indicate for it, however one of many few instances I obtained “persuaded” out of the water by a shark was definitely memorable. I used to be in my Key Largo studio and heard over the VHF radio that a whole 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 obtained 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 cover was a ship hook and all I had was a Nikonos with a 28mm lens, so neither one in all 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 might 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 feel the business is in nice form. The resorts and live-aboards and day boats are higher than ever. There are a whole lot of very critical professionals within the dive business and so they function ethically and to a excessive commonplace. My concern, and I feel this permeates the entire business, is that we don’t have a big youth infusion into the business. I feel that is partly as a result of instruction, gear and journey are all costly, however I additionally suppose it’s as a result of new divers aren’t at all times proven the easiest reefs to encourage them. Simply respiration underwater just isn’t 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 Sizzling Line, insurance coverage packages, analysis, and recompression chamber help I see a whole lot of actually essential assist for touring divers. For those who settle for that the very best diving possible entails getting on an airplane to go someplace, there are perils inherent. If we’re speaking about modifications over the previous 4 many years, I feel 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 could be dramatically completely different, and positively much less strong. That’s how I obtained concerned with DAN, by the best way. I obtained bent in Vanuatu again within the early Nineties and there was no hyperbaric chamber there. I had a really troublesome evacuation from there to Fiji, and at last to Hawaii the place I lastly obtained my chamber remedy. 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 they’d the packages in place to facilitate such an evacuation. I’ve been an enormous believer ever since.


Whale shark floor feeding at evening, 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 looking for content material? What makes 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 supply each digital and coffee-table print variations of the journal. We’re dedicated to delivering the very best in underwater images and publishing it to the very highest commonplace. To that finish, we anticipate photographic submissions to be of the very 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 prime underwater photographers on the planet, and we rejoice 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 are 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 inside the Analysis Schooling Medication part of the journal are powerful too, as a result of they inform the story of a dive hazard or an accident, and getting photographs on the time will not be prime of thoughts for our authors. For a lot of of those I take a shoot checklist with me from our editorial employees 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 sometimes run out of air solely to have their lives saved by buddy-breathing again to the floor … all simulated in fact. Nonetheless, typically I’ll get “fortunate” with a illness that’s arduous 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 in the end we’ll want the photograph.


Silky sharks at nightfall in Cuba


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


I’ve been instructing photograph seminars for a really very long time. I feel the primary one was in 1980. I sometimes do them annually and so they have advanced into actually subtle occasions, if I do say so myself. I’m joined by actually gifted employees. Mike White, a long-time good friend and former NOAA supervisor for the Key Largo Nationwide Marine Sanctuary, is 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 Mild, teaches the digital workflow and Lightroom/Photoshop class modules. I deal with the picture critiques and converse 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 atmosphere. However typically we take this system offshore to Bonaire or Little Cayman. This June we’ll be in Fiji at Voli Voli Resort. Truly, this would be the first 12 months 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 photograph seminars I escort two or three unique dive excursions annually. We constitution a live-aboard someplace nice, and go have some enjoyable. The hook is underwater images, and we choose locations and platforms which are conducive to the easiest in picture seize.


Stephen Frink on location in Moorea with a humpback whale calf


9. You might have written multiple guide about underwater images and it should be satisfying to see your photographs in print and in bookshops. How do you put together for these kind of assignments?

I haven’t really finished a coffee-table guide 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 undertaking once more proper now. Nonetheless, I do have yet another good guide left in me. Simply as we attempt to use the easiest paper and obtain the very best constancy in photographic replica in Alert Diver, I’ve a need to seek out the correct writer for a traditional ink-on-paper undertaking. Small amount/immense high quality. I’ll get round to it sooner or later. I do know what I’d wish to say in phrases and photographs. It simply must percolate to the highest of the heap when it comes to time commitments.


Stephen Frink images black grouper, Cuba


10. You might 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 troublesome to {photograph}, solely as a result of proximity is so random. First you must be the place they’re, after which they should come shut earlier than you actually have a likelihood 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 usually, 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 finished safari the primary week, and for the second week a couple of 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 evening 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 thought was to get an over/beneath 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 instantly in entrance of me. After we obtained 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. But it surely 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 obtained the shot, and at all times 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 have got 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 usually. Most not too long ago I’m utilizing it as a wrap for a brand new line of energetic put on I’m introducing via our new and soon-to-launch It’s only a photograph 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 outdated. As a resonant life expertise, Alexa and the dolphin for certain. She has grown as much as be a veterinarian, and I feel 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 gained’t fall into as a result of there are such a lot of good photographers on the market. We’ve got printed 50 problems with Alert Diver within the coffee-table format because the redesign in 4 th quarter 2009. That’s 50 photographers I may checklist, 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 photographs, every day. Actually superb photographs are displaying up on-line and within the numerous 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 photograph tradition and way of life, and handle to flourish in that difficult area of interest. For me I at all times thought it was essential 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 photograph gear (principally Seacam), dive journey, photograph 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 photograph, I consider these two most spontaneously. David Doubilet in all probability makes it to any photograph fanatic’s quick checklist. He’s finished 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 energetic talking schedules, additionally inside the Nationwide Geographic ecosphere.

Alex Mustard is a extra up to date inspiration, though should you 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 unfavorable or avaricious method, however the issues he likes to do … lead dive journey and educate seminars, write articles about dive journey and photograph methods, 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 right down to the core of it, they’d possible 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 one in all nowadays I’ll transfer that photograph guide 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 need to affix him and discover ways to take higher underwater photographs examine the choices at