BD would like to introduce Austin Derry and spotlight his amazing underwater photography.
Q:Please tell us a little about yourself and where you live?
A:My name is Austin Derry, I’m 26 years old and I currently reside in Laguna Beach, CA.
Q:What mediums do you work in and what is your favorite?
A:My typical mediums are photography and video. My specialty and favorite subject would without-a-doubt be photographing free-swimming gamefish in their natural setting. All my photos are shot while free diving on a single breath.
Q:What are your other hobbies, and are they related to your artwork?
A:Besides underwater photography, I love fishing, music, surfing, and am an avid free-dive spearfisherman. Spending as much time as possible hunting the underwater world either with gun or camera is my true passion.
Q:How did you get started and what was the evolution of your style?
A:Born in Hawaii, I spent much of my early years fishing, snorkeling and catching fish around the reef by any means. I took up spearfishing around the age of 12 and with the help of a handful of mentors, I learned the intricacies of silently stalking fish in different environments. These skills of stalking and properly approaching fish would later play a huge part in my ability to get up close and personal with many of the most sought-after gamefish. While most underwater photographers prefer to shoot on SCUBA, the skittish nature of most gamefish requires I maintain a greater level of stealth to properly approach.
Starting off in the days before social media and the gopro, I would take my point and shoot camera and camcorder into the water as simply a way of showing friends and family the incredible and surreal encounters found while free diving and spearfishing. The quality wasn’t that good, but I saw how it could inspire people to think twice about what is really going on under the surface. Before finally making the switch to a professional level DSLR and switching the focus to still photography, I mainly focused on producing short spearfishing movies. While I still love shooting and editing spearfishing movies, my passion has turned to still photography as the right single frame can sometimes say so much more about the subject than video. There is also much more of a global appeal. That might sound weird to some, but the right image can portray a very powerful message, which sometimes gets lost when watching a video clip.
Q:What goals do you have for your artwork, what does the future hold?
A:My goal for my photography is simple. To portray gamefish and the underwater world in a way which invokes a greater sense of appreciation and hopefully inspires them to do their part to ensure the future of the resource. If I can show someone a photo of yellowtail or calico bass cruising inches away from my lens in its natural setting in a way that portrays them as more than a mindless fish, maybe the next time that person is out in a wide-open bite and has enough fish for themselves, friends and family; they might think twice about keeping every single fish that bites the line and perhaps realize that without some form of self-moderation, the resource will be lost forever for future generations. If I can show people there is more to these fish than just the fight and food value, maybe I can inspire them to only take what is needed and set an example for the future of our sport.
Q:Is there a message or theme behind your artwork?
A:If there were one underlying message I would like to portray with my photography, it would be to inspire people to care more deeply about the resource we all care so much about. As someone who loves bringing home fresh fish for dinner to share with family and friends, it is incredibly important to me that the resource is respected in the right way, ensuring future generations have access to this incredible way of life many of us are lucky enough to have been brought up with or discovered.
The MLPA process in Southern California opened up my eyes to the fact whether you target tuna, seabass, spearfish, grab lobster, or a die hard catch-and-release calico angler, we are all hunters and must work together to make sure the resource is preserved or those people who want to see no fishing of any kind will have their way. Together we conquer, divided we fall. I hope that my photography can act as a sort of bridge between all types of consumptives and non-consumptives and perhaps open the doors for more productive conversations.
Q:What or who inspires you?
A:Inspiration comes in many forms for me. Without a doubt guys like Terry Maas have played a huge part in my focus as an underwater photographer. To see such successful and accomplished underwater hunters turn their attention towards documenting the behaviors of fish rather that just take, is definitely inspirational to say the least. On the other hand, I tend to find beauty in many aspects of nature others might overlook. With such a dynamic, and ever changing subject as the ocean and its inhabitants, there is always a new species to photo, a new reef to explore, a new way to capture the light permeating through the water, a new way to show others this absolutely incredible resource at out fingertips.
Q:What has been the hardest project, or what is the hardest aspect of you art?
A:I would have to say that the hardest aspect of my photography is getting just that much closer to a particular subject than needed to put a spear through one or bite the hook. It is easy to hook a yellowtail on a dropper loop, or place a shaft through one from 25 feet out with a bluewater cannon, but to get close enough for a good photo, well that has proven to be a whole new game for me. Most people probably don’t realize just how many photos I have to go take to get a truly good image.
With so many ever changing factors underwater, and only precious seconds available while shooting on a single breath, it sometimes feels nearly impossible to get the fish to line up just right with the proper aesthetics. On an average day of shooting, I will shoot between 500 – 2000 photos. Of those photos, maybe a handful might be usable for instagram/social media. Of those photos, which work for social media, maybe 5-10% would be actually worthy of printing out. Of those worthy of printing out, only a very select handful have all the factors lined up to be what some would call truly good photos.
I have hit that shutter countless times and continue to be challenged, as you will never be totally satisfied with the end result. Finding the fish is just the beginning, getting them to approach at the right angle, with the right lighting, at the right distance, with the right background and having the rest of the non-subject fish line up just right is the challenge that keeps me craving for more.
Q:What brings you the most satisfaction or sense of accomplishment?
A:What brings me the most satisfaction is knowing that last few clicks of the shutter produced something worthwhile. Sometimes, getting the right shot of a free swimming fish can be just as, or even more rewarding than a picture of me standing with one I’ve taken for food, especially when I am able to keep coming back to the same individual fish time after time for years on end.
For example, this past couple years on a few secret reefs I have had the opportunity to work with different groups of fish including a couple nice yellowtail and monster calico bass. I have spent many hours in the water slowly learning their individual behavior and habits, building trust with some of these fish to the point where now I know how each particular fish will react in different scenarios and how to approach them in the right way. Some of the fish on these reefs I recognize on a consistent basis have no problem letting me approach inches away, meanwhile other particular individuals remain on the peripherals at all times, never letting me get too close.
A few years ago, if you had told me I would have been able to interact in such way with fish, I would have thought you were crazy. And it is kind of crazy. While I wouldn’t compare a gamefish to more intelligent animals such as birds or mammals, it has been quite the experience working with some of these fish and realizing that they do in-fact have a lot more intelligence and more distinct personalities than I ever realized when I was just hunting them for food. Certainly more than most people give them credit for. Does this make me a fish-hugging hippy? Absolutely not, I always have been and always will be a hunter, but has photographing them opened my eyes to a whole new side of these creatures? Without a doubt.
Q:Please tell us more of your accomplishments or features and how we can learn more.
A:My photography has been featured in such publications as Sport Fishing Magazine, Hawaii Skin Diver, International Freediving and Spearfishing News, and Spearing Magazine amongst others.
If you would like to see more of my work, please visit www.austinderry.com for print orders and licensing information.
Instagram users can follow me at @legenderryaustin
or check out my Facebook Page: Austin Derry Photography
Our thanks to Austin for sharing his story and amazing talents.