Tanya Burnett's work has been seen by just about anyone who has ever picked up a dive magazine. Her stunning images of various far flung underwater Elysia will surely cause many of you to run from your workplace, pick up a camera and get on a plane to join her on the next adventure. Educator, photographer and all around underwater photo guru Tanya Burnett tells us about her descent into the world of underwater imaging.
Interview with Tanya Burnett
by Hergen Spalink
Can you tell us a bit about your background, and how you got started taking underwater photos?
It's sort of the old story where you father hands you a camera one day and you just can't stop taking photographs. Soon enough, I was taking photography courses in black & white, color, lighting, film development and anything else photo-related I could think of. Finally, in the summer of 1988, I got a hold of a Nikonos III and then the V. I was so excited to shoot underwater, I enrolled at the Barry University Dive Management Program that was directed by Tom Ingram. At the time he taught an underwater photography course and from then on, if I was in the water, I had a camera.
What gear have you used in the past?
I started with the Nikonos III & V but decided I wanted more control and invested in an Aquatica housing for the Nikon F4. I postponed the jump to digital for one generation of DSLRs, but the writing was on the wall. I moved into a Sea & Sea housing for my first digital camera, a Nikon D70, then a Nexus housing for the Nikon D2x followed by another Sea & Sea housing for the Nikon D300. With each successive housing I got pickier and my expectations got higher and higher. It was my friends at Reef Photo & Video that introduced me to the one I found to be the most functional and just about fool proof: the Nauticam Housing for the D7000. I followed this up with Nauticam housings for the D7100 and now the D7200. I don’t believe in making underwater photography harder than it needs to be. High quality crop-sensor cameras make it easy for me to deliver on-location underwater assignment work and the Nauticam housings allow me to get my camera in the water faster and more reliably than any other housing I have owned.
What system are you using now? What do you like about it?
For the past four years I have been strictly a Nauticam shooter. None of the systems I've used in the past have ever had the ease and functionality nor quality of control that the Nauticam housing provides. The controls are smooth, in the right place and intuitive once you're familiar with your cameras functions, buttons and dials. Assembly and disassembly of the ports and extensions are easy to handle and I never worried they are going to spin off unexpectedly. The transition to new camera models and housings is seamless with Nauticam and if you fear leaks, then fear no more as Nauticam features integrated vacuum systems.
Tell us a bit about the kinds of diving you do, favorite locations, etc.?
I am a pretty well rounded underwater photographer. I've been diving for 30 years, having opened my own dive shop at the age of 20 and have been leading international dive expeditions for 18 years. There is salt water in my blood. I've had the opportunity to dive a wide variety of destinations, conditions and depths. I come from a background of teaching everything from open water to technical diving courses and working as a freelance photographer, frequently on assignment for various marine related publications. If I had to be specific about my favorite locations I'd have to say Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Philippines, French Polynesia, and the Bahamas. My home base in Palm Beach Co. provides access to amazing marine life encounters throughout the year like Goliath Grouper and Lemon Shark aggregations. Even just a muck shore dive at Blue Heron Bridge delivers awesome opportunities to take photos. Leading dive & photo trips to exotic locals still gives me the best opportunities to photograph a large variety of marine life at the best times of the year.
How do you share images ?
I share images via Instagram, Facebook and share a web page with my husband, who is also a photographer.
I am frequent contributor to Sport Diver and Scuba Diving magazines, here's an interview with me. I've also print a limited selection of images that fall into the category of Fine Art
Dive with Tanya
We have a few awesome trips lined up for this year and next that have a couple of spots still open:
CUBA from June 8-17, 2017 aboard the Jardines Aggressor I
BALI to KOMODO to ALOR, Sept 4-17, 2017 aboard the Pindito
AMBON to RAJA AMPAT from March 26-April6, 2018 aboard the Pindito
After that, more to come of course! Our trips can be for photographer or non-photographers, we know this is vacation time. If you would like assistance with your camera rig, techniques for a certain type of image, need a model for a shot you'd like to create or even some Lightroom & Photoshop tips, we are available to help!
Calypso Sea Jewelry
Among the many ocean related projects I get involved with, one that I enjoy and share is creating jewelry. I have always had a fascination with pearls and how they develop naturally. My first trip to Tahiti sold me on the Tahitian pearl. It's like no other. So, knowing the going rate for these pearls I decided to start a jewelry business to help fund my new addiction. Lo and behold, there are tons of other pearl addicts out there and being able to share my creative side is a true pleasure. I like making people smile and having a platform that I can donate a portion of the sales to ocean conservation.