I first learned of underwater photographer Kyle McBurnie last summer when I pulled up Yahoo News and saw the above picture. I literally gasped.
The reason Yahoo News featured the photograph?
Kyle won National Geographic's Best Underwater Photos Contest.
So yeah...he's kind of a big deal.
I wasn't prepared for cover design yet, but I followed the link to his personal site, copied/pasted it, and filed everything away to revisit later. This past February, I went back to Kyle's site and saw even more stunning photographs, including the one he graciously allowed me to use for the Salted cover and related banners.
In these past few months I've learned not only do Kyle and I share a love for marine life, he carries a similar entrepreneurial spirit I find inspiring. So here today, ladies and gents, meet my incredibly gifted friend and photographer, Kyle McBurnie.
How did you first become interested in underwater photography/marine biology?
My father was, and still is an avid diver. From a young age, I remember being enthralled by the movies and photos he would show me of the underwater world - and that striking sense of wonder has held me in its grab ever since. Marine biology was the path I began to wander down, with photography as a natural side-kick. Now, as an owner of my own dive company SD Expeditions, I can only hope to make the same mark on others that my father did on me.
Describe a typical shoot day for an underwater photographer.
It's tough to describe typical, but as I've been venturing more into creative underwater photography I've been playing with some underwater modeling.
A lot of prep works goes into it, because the caliber of the photo all depends on how comfortable the model is underwater - from a thorough briefing to the right safety diver and equipment to a nice thick jacket to put on after exiting the water, it's a lot of work but loads of fun.
You were recently published in the May, 2014 issue of National Geographic Magazine. Tell us what it was like when you found out the news?
What an honor! National Geographic is a dream publication for many, myself included. I was ecstatic to put it lightly, although now my greatest focus is to make sure I'm not peaking early...
What’s the favorite photograph you’ve ever taken? Can you tell us about the experience/what led to capturing that moment?
The favorite photograph I've ever taken would probably have to be the photo of a harbor seal in a kelp forest (which has become my most popular photo). I will forever remember the circumstances which led to the capture, which involved a half-mile swim out to a group of harbor seals I had spotted from the boat.
It felt pretty wild, being that we were out at Cortes Bank - an underwater sea mount 100 miles off San Diego and far from any other land masses. After dropping down to the sea floor only forty feet below, I waited, and slowly but surely about eight harbor seals began to emerge out of the kelp forest. The next thirty minutes was spent enshrouded in a dense forest, in the company of these curious and inquisitive marine mammals, and I was lucky enough to grab a nice photo out of it all.
What’s been the favorite place you’ve visited to take photos underwater?
California! It's cold and murky (by tropical standards), but when the sunlight breaches through the golden fronds of a kelp forest I have yet to find anything more beautiful. With so much nutrients in the water we have a stunning diversity of animals making their way along our coast which means you never know what you may see underwater!
What is it like to swim alongside sharks without a cage?
Swimming with sharks without a cage is the best way to enjoy sharks!
All shark diving is amazing to illustrate to the public that sharks are not what the media portrays them to be, but enjoying them in a cage-free environment truly exemplifies this.
The greatest notion we leave all our shark divers with is just how shy and afraid the sharks we are swimming with truly are - I'm a safety diver underwater for our guests, but before that even happens our primary goal is to ensure that the guests understand that any loud noises, sudden movements, or aggressive behaviors towards the sharks can (and most often do), scare them away for good.
Have anything you’d like to plug? A certain expedition company perhaps?
Haha, I suppose I may as well. Just over a year ago, I started an expedition company called SD Expeditions.
We do a variety of things around the San Diego ocean's, from cage-less shark diving, to kayaking with whales to scuba instruction. If you're ever in San Diego and looking to get immersed - check us out!
Author. Actor. Rascal.