Passion can make you do crazy things.
My passion for Dolphins pushed me to spend six full weeks, 8 hours a day, in the ocean trying to earn the trust of a mother Bottlenose Dolphin and her calf. That passion rewarded me with this image.
People most often assume that it takes patience to create intimate and stunning wildlife imagery, and it does. But then I tell them there is not a single patient cell in my adventure-vessel, my body if you will. For me, it all comes down to one defining characteristic, a core element that drives every logical decision out of my mind's eye, and forces me to abandon “safe” life decisions. The one element that stands out most in my chemical chart and overrides every other cocktail mix is passion. It makes you do crazy things. Passion makes you travel the world, chase an uncertain career path with total certainty, plunge headfirst into an ocean full of Sharks, and it can even make you fall in love. And passion can also give you the patience to spend over 300 hours in the water creating a relationship with a mother dolphin and her calf.
The Dolphin in the foreground is affectionately known as “Dreamer,” while his mother is watching cautiously in the background. These two charismatic creatures call the unparalleled turquoise waters of Turks and Caicos home. They are just some of the unofficial mascots of this small yet stunning island wedged deep in the Caribbean Ocean. Gaining access to them wasn't difficult. Just create a large enough wake off the back of the boat inviting Dolphins to surf, and like magic they appear (a method otherwise known as “spray and pray”). Spending time with them, however, and earning their trust to where they reveal the macro intricacies of their lives, takes endurance and passion. To capture this image, which was built on trust, I was forced to challenge my commitment to underwater photography. Waterlogged doesn’t even begin to describe how soggy I felt after so many hours in the water. But a passionate drive to connect with and capture the image of these incredible beings made the wrinkled fingers and the soggy body meaningless.
Bottlenose Dolphins live highly social and complex lives and are capable of traveling up to 50 miles per day, so keeping up with them is quite the undertaking. Here Dreamer is learning how to harness his echolocation, which is essential to a Dolphin’s development. He locks in on what could be a potential meal of razorfish, but his efforts are in vain because it is just a sand dollar lodged in the sand. But even with Mom and me watching him intently, it's less about the execution and more about the process. Because being a wild Dolphin means exactly that-- being wild. Wild, free to roam, hunt, play and interact with any and all species you dare. No matter the circumstance, though, in front of a Dolphin, I am the lucky one. Years ago, Turks and Caicos considered developing a captured Dolphin aquarium, a Dolphin-arium. That would have meant plucking Dreamer and Mom out of the wild, and dropping them in a glass cage, forced to live a life of performing tricks so that people could experience them with thoughtless convenience, for instant gratification. But the people of Turks and Caicos decided against the Dolphin zoo. They decided that Dolphins deserved to be as they are intended to be, wild and free.
Because of that, rather than documenting Dreamer and Mom in a habituated and manufactured scenario, I was fortunate enough to photograph them in their true state. The people of Turks and Caicos decided that the Dolphins around the island were more valuable as a rich and wild experience rather than a forced interaction. And that allowed my passion for seeing wild Dolphins to translate into an image rarely seen: Bottlenose Dolphins, mom and calf, wild and free.