Ocean Views 2016: Change the World

Brian Skerry
Since the advent of photography, mankind has recorded nearly every important historical event through still frames. When we think of the U.S. Civil War, the Kennedy assassination or the moon landing, we visualize photographs. This is the way the human brain works — even when we think of motion pictures or video, we see individual still frames in our mind's eye.

Humans are visual creatures. Tens of thousands of years ago people painted pictures on cave walls to record the things they witnessed in their lives and the things that mattered to them. But photography captures a moment — a brief, fleeting scene that would otherwise vanish in an instant. And in the image that remains lies great power. Images have the power to educate, entertain, motivate and inspire. From a single still frame we can evoke emotion. With a solitary photograph we can change the world.

Since the beginning, photography has been used to honor the natural world. Photographers working in far-off, exotic locales or in their own backyards share images in a collective celebration of our planet. They show us things we have never seen before and inspire us to see familiar things in new ways. This year, 2016, marks the centennial of the National Park Service, caretakers and protectors of the U.S. national parks. Called "America's best idea," national parks were created in large part because a photographer named William Henry Jackson accompanied the Hayden Geological Survey to America's West in 1871 and returned with stunning images of places many people had believed were only myths. When Congress saw the images, they took action and created Yellowstone National Park in March 1872.

Although we live on a water planet, the majority of the population is not divers. Thus underwater photography plays a vital role in sharing what we as divers know: Earth's oceans are magnificent and must be protected. The images we produce bear witness to the fact that this stunning realm exists. Though few will ever experience it personally, what lies beneath the waves matters immensely to all who live on land.

As underwater photographers, we are explorers and ambassadors. We travel to places with a camera in hand and return with images that enlighten. Underwater photographers reveal a netherworld to celebrate sharks and shrimp, dolphins and damselfish and so much more. Underwater photographs speak for those that have no voice and for places that might seem to be mythical.

Photographers holding cameras have before them a limitless palette with which they create. They share through photography that which matters to them — the things about which they are passionate. And passion is contagious. Most of us begin making pictures for no other reason than our personal enjoyment, but inevitably the pictures reach others and effect change. Our friends, family and colleagues are educated, entertained, motivated and inspired. And with that, we change the world.
View the Contest Galleries
Ocean Views 2016 winners gallery

See more of the stunning images from the Ocean Views photo contest in these online bonus galleries:

Ocean Views 2016 bonus gallery 1

Ocean Views 2016 bonus gallery 2

Ocean Views 2016 bonus gallery 3

© Alert Diver — Q2 Spring 2016