Becky Kagan Schott is not your average underwater photographer and cinematographer. From exploring virgin shipwrecks in 100 meters of water in the Great Lakes, to rappelling into caves, filming under ice in the Arctic, and even diving cage-less with Great White sharks, her work takes her to some pretty extreme environments. She’s got a lot to show for it too, with five Emmy Awards and her work seen on major networks including National Geographic, Discovery, and Travel Channel (not too mention various other magazines, books, advertisements and gallery exhibits that have published her images!). Her experience of working in remote and challenging locations around the world has earned her a reputation of producing quality images in some of the most demanding underwater environments.

 

Becky is extremely passionate about sharing the underwater world with others: Through her imagery, in teaching people to dive, and by telling stimulating stories that can make an impact or inspire change. She’s been diving since she was 12 years old and began teaching scuba in 2000. Becky is currently an active technical diving instructor and TDI Megaladon Rebreather Instructor. She has participated in dozens of exploration projects that have earned her a place as a Fellow in the Explorers Club, and in 2013, she was inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame. She is also the co-owner of Liquid Productions, which specialises in bringing back video from demanding underwater environments.

 

Becky on an underwater shoot: “I love the challenge of trying to capture new and unique shots and sharing those images with others” © Trisha Stovel

 

What made you want to become an underwater photographer/ camerawoman?

I wanted to become an underwater image maker because I was inspired by so many underwater documentaries and images that got me into scuba diving (which became such a huge part of my life!). I love the challenges of trying to capture new and unique shots and sharing those images with others.

 

Your first underwater shot?

I started taking photos underwater when I was just 13 years old with an underwater disposable camera. My first shots were in Pompano Beach Florida on a shallow 10m reef of the fish and turtles. I was so in love with marine life and I couldn’t wait to show my family what it looked like underwater.

 

The story behind your most memorable underwater shot?

I have a lot of memorable images that mean a lot to me, but one that stands out is a friend that was free diving and she is face to face with a small pod of wild dolphins. The moment happened so quickly but in the image it just looks like they are frozen in time looking into each others eyes. I was also free diving and the dolphins were moving very fast through the water so the shot wasn’t planned. I think it’s one of my more memorable shots because it shows that wild animals can choose to interact with humans if they want to and those moments are so incredibly special.

 

“It shows that wild animals can choose to interact with humans if they want to and those moments are so incredibly special” © Becky Kagan Schott


Your work takes you to some challenging environments. What got you into diving and taking photos/ footage in caves, under ice, in shipwrecks and among sharks? 

I began diving because of my love for marine life, but starting at the age of 12, I couldn’t afford to be diving off of boats every weekend. I lived in Florida and there are a lot of freshwater springs to explore. I started out in the open water and then I wanted to venture a little further, so I did my cavern and cave certification. I was taking photos every weekend and perfecting my lighting techniques. I really enjoyed the challenges of shooting in caves. From an artist point of view, it’s special because you have so much ability to be creative with lighting. I wanted to see deeper caves so when I was 19 years old I got certified in trimix and discovered real shipwreck diving. After another few years passed and I wanted to be able to stay longer on deeper dives while shooting, so I learned how to dive with a rebreather. I never thought I’d specialise in shooting extreme environments, it just sort of found me. I’m attracted to shooting exploration and new discoveries and places no one has seen or shot before.

 

Becky in the Taravana Cavern, New Zealand: “I’m attracted to shooting exploration, new discoveries and places no one has seen or shot before” © Trisha Stovel

 

Do you have any safety tips for those wanting to dive in challenging environments? 

Yes I do! Make sure you have a lot of experience in the environment you’re in before taking a camera with you. Cameras can distract a diver and cause mistakes to happen. Make sure your diving skills are second nature before trying to take photos or video. You’ll end up getting much better shots if you’re comfortable first.

 

Where is your favourite dive destination?

My favourite place in the world to dive is North America’s Great Lakes. The shipwrecks are preserved in the cold fresh water, and diving them is like visiting a time capsule. Most of the shipwrecks are over 100 years old so it’s really special to see them so intact. Not only are they stunning to photograph, but they all have a unique history and story to go along with them.

 

{Becky has dived four out of five of the lakes and continues to be inspired by the history, the stories of heroism and tragedy, and challenges of diving the area.}

 

“The shipwrecks are preserved in the cold fresh water, and diving them is like visiting a time capsule” © Becky Kagan Schott

 

The site you’d most like to dive, but never have?

I’d like to dive in Antarctica! I’d really like to dive with Leopard Seals, penguins and whales in this area. It’s such a remote part of the world with giant icebergs and so much topside scenery to take in as well.

 

The weirdest thing you’ve seen underwater?

Over the past 22 years of diving, I’ve seen my share of weird things underwater, but one of the strangest things is being bitten by a massive marine mammal! Let me start off by saying it doesn’t hurt!  I’ve been diving with Stellar Sea Lions in British Columbia Canada, and a few months ago while filming, they were extra rambunctious and really curious about the camera and the funny looking animal holding it (me). I would be focusing on a shot and all the sudden dragged backwards because they got a hold of my leg. One even wrapped it’s entire body around my leg and started nibbling on my ankle! I couldn’t stop laughing but it was weird.

 

“One even wrapped it’s entire body around my leg and started nibbling on my ankle!” Becky Kagan Schott

 

What camera equipment are you currently using?

I have a lot of different cameras, I’m a bit of a gear nerd! I’m currently shooting a RED EPIC DRAGON in a Gates Underwater Housing for video up to 6k resolution and for still photography I use a Nikon D800 in an Aquatica housing and Light & Motion lights! I have a lot more than that but this is my main equipment for shooting stills or documentaries.

 

What is the highlight of your career?

One of the highlights would be winning several Emmy Awards for my work on a Cave Diving special called “Cave Diving Beyond the Limits” that aired on CBS. It’s special because I like to promote cave diving in a positive way and it’s only showed in the news when there is a death or accident. This special focused on exploration, the people that do it, training, rescue and a fatality that shouldn’t have happened. It went on to win four Awards. I did that out of passion and not only captured beautiful imagery but also told stimulating stories that can hopefully make an impact or inspire change.

 

… And the low point?

There are always high points and low points. This type of work comes with them but I try and focus on the good things. I took a decompression sickness hit back in 2009 and it scared me. I wondered if I’d be able to continue the work I’ve been doing. I had no idea what I would do if I couldn’t be an underwater photographer. Luckily, everything was okay after a few months and I haven’t had any issues since. It taught me to be extra conservative, especially in remote locations.

 

Any advice that you’d like to give to aspiring underwater photographers?

Do it because you’re passionate about it first. Be persistent and patient. Nothing happens overnight and it will probably take years to gain dive experience and photography experience, and then to merge them together. Just make sure you’re shooting for fun and enjoying the process. Oh, and don’t forget to take the camera away from your eye every so often and really look at what’s around you. The underwater world is so inspiring.

 

Is there any particular shot that you still want to get?

There are plenty of shots on my personal wish list! I’d really like to get some big wide shots around ice bergs in Antarctica, dive in the mines in Finland, and come face to face with an orca whale. That’s just the beginning of what I want!

Becky and David Schott – with Emmys! © Becky Kagan Schott

 

Websites

www.LiquidProductions.com

www.MegDiver.com

Explorers: Documentaries S3 E4 – The Crystal Labyrinth © Red Bull

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