Late underwater photographer Wes Skiles honored for his extraordinary achievements in exploring and documenting the Blue Holes of the Bahamas in 2010. Photo by Luis Lamar.
Evening of Exploration
Last night three exceptional individuals were honored by the National Geographic Society at its first ever “Evening of Exploration” gala event. Among them was a personal example of mine, late underwater photographer Wes Skiles who was named as “Explorer of the Year”. The theme of the celebration was “Oceans,” and the event was attended by an all-star cast of explorers, including newly appointed National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence filmmaker James Cameron and marine ecologist Enric Sala.
Photographer Wes Skiles began to learn his craft in the most demanding environment on Earth: underwater caves. As a teenager he explored Florida’s underwater labyrinths to capture images of this never-before-photographed realm. He developed and refined the technique he became most known for: using multiple slaved strobes to dramatically illuminate and photograph this environment. Later, as explorations led Skiles to remote locations around the world, he strived to employ the latest technology, enhancing his ability to explore the environment and return with stunning images. He participated in caving and cave-diving expeditions in Mexico, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Australia, Antarctica and the Bahamas. As an expedition cameraman, Skiles specialized in capturing images of people and wildlife on the edge of extreme frontiers. His visual imagery provided the viewer with an intimate understanding and unique perspective of his subjects. Skiles worked as a freelance photographer and produced, directed and filmed over 100 television films, many of which have won international awards and acclaim. In July 2010, at the age of 52, Skiles died following the conclusion of a scientific research expedition off the east coast of Florida. The honoring of Skiles as an underwater photographer will hopefully invigorate a new generation of conservation photographers to explore the boundaries of our oceans and rivers. And in doing so, inspire others to care about our blue planet.