Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Eric Cheng: The Aquatic Entrepreneur
Eric Cheng has distinguished himself as a top underwater photographer, leveraging that niche endeavor into a multimedia business
When I found out Eric Cheng was a classical musician, it all came together for me. If there’s a prototype underwater photographer (or really, any photographer in today’s world), then Cheng is it. He weaves constantly between the technical and creative worlds, letting each one influence his images—subtly, overtly, intuitively.
Cheng first came into my field of view via a shot of a baby loggerhead turtle. Two things stood out to me with this shot—he had exquisitely captured a moment, and there was a depth to the image, a story that I wanted to discover.
As someone who has spent his life searching the four corners of the globe for top underwater photography, it’s rare to find a photographer who approaches photography wanting more than just proper exposure and composition, wanting to breathe life into his images. And that’s firmly rooted in curiosity, creativity and that most exquisite of photographic talents, a passion for discovery. There are plenty of people who can take a wonderful photograph, but only a few transcend technique to push beyond the confines of a photograph. And underwater, it’s even more difficult to exercise this kind of creativity.
When you shoot underwater, you have limited time, subject matter that rarely sits still, let alone cooperates, and exposure that changes moment to moment. It’s a place where you have to constantly wrangle light, composition, subject and depth, and then find a way to be creative. I’ve seen many a famous professional wildlife or travel photographer try to shoot underwater with disastrous results. It’s perhaps the most difficult corner of our natural world in which to try to make great images, constantly challenging on equipment and skill. It’s a place where Cheng has both found a home and excelled.
Cheng mixes that laser-focused technical acumen with his wonderful inquisitiveness. And since photographers not only battle light and shadow and pixel and try to make them bend to their will, but also try to find a way to get to the pulse of a moment, the heartbeat, it’s imperative that they find new ways of seeing each and every time they release the shutter—especially underwater photographers, who by their very disposition need to show the underwater world in a manner that reflects nature, not the studio, or even an idealized interpretation of the world.
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