Ernie Brooks' work has earned him the title of Beneath The Seas’ 2012 Legend of the Sea. Sport Diver talks with Brooks as he reminisces about a memorable shoot with a harbor seal, lends some photography advice and offers a preview of some future works in progress including his children's book, Imagine.
You’re retired. Why keep shooting?
"It’s a great way to relax. Plus, I take great joy in teaching others."
What’s your thought process when shooting?
"I attempt to show the beauty, quiet, peacefulness and pristine nature of the underwater realm. I look for things I haven’t seen before and try to make them work in my black-and-white world. I’m fascinated by patterns."
You’ve seen the world, from the Philippines to the Antarctic. What’s your favorite place to shoot?
"My backyard in Santa Barbara, the Channel Islands."
What was your most memorable encounter?
"At 6:15 a.m. off Anacapa Island many years ago, Spot, a harbor seal, stole my snorkel while I was freediving. After grabbing another from the boat, I returned to photograph this playful animal, which I assumed was male based on the aggressive behavior. Years later I returned to that same site and Spot appeared instantly. This time Spot embraced me and even nudged her pup toward me. It’s moments like these that make me thankful to be a photographer. We have very personal relationships with the animals."
What message do you hope your images convey?
"I hope that every person on the planet would realize how valuable every life form is — from sea cucumbers to whales. I truly believe that those who take the time to really look at the subjects in my photos and the vastness of our waters will realize how important it is to conserve and preserve."
What advice would you give to photographers?
"Get your work recognized. Keep your name known. Contribute to exhibits and film festivals throughout the world. Attend conferences such as Beneath the Sea. Let your work be judged by mentors. To those just starting out, I say specialize. Focus on one thing and do it well."
"Right now, I’m working on a children’s book called Imagine about finding shapes in the clouds. I’m also photographing waterfalls of the world, shooting upward. I’ve made a career of looking up, both underwater and above. Looking up is a positive thing to do."
Beneath the Sea - Meadowlands Exposition Center
On March 23-25, 2012, diving’s most passionate supporters from across the country will gather for the largest consumer scuba show, Beneath the Sea, at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey. Expect to enjoy seminars and workshops, a film festival, parties, exhibits and demonstrations by hundreds of manufacturers, dive clubs, dive shops, resorts and much more.
Presentations will include Wyland and Guy Harvey on sharks • Michael Aw on the Elysian Antarctica anniversary project • David Doubilet and Jen Hayes on seals • Emmy award winner Becky Kagan on cave diving • Dr. Sylvia Earle on the state of the oceans.
Check out beneaththesea.org for more information.