His first published photo was during this time. It was a cover on Diver Magazine (divermag.com) where David's images and articles still appear to this date. He acknowledges Neil McDaniel (then editor of Diver magazine) and his photography as one of his first influences. "Neil's work was very precise for the time. I learned much from studying his images and techniques."
In 1986 David left Vancouver for the island of Maui, Hawaii where he again worked in various dive charter businesses and earned a USCG Captain's license, all the while shooting and submitting his underwater images to magazines and businesses. David was approached by his first stock agency shortly after coming to Hawaii and now has galleries and agents in over 50 countries that reproduce his images thousands and thousands of times each year.
From Hawaii, David has been on assignments to, Indonesia, The Galapagos Islands, Saipan, Truk Lagoon, Fiji, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), Palau, Yap, Guam, Kwajalein Atoll, Pohnpei, the Philippines, Honduras, Bahamas, Australia, the Sea of Cortez, the Red Sea, the Socorro Islands and back to the cold waters of British Columbia.
National Geographic hired Mr. Fleetham to escort David Doubilet while on assignment in Hawaii. Mr. Fleetham recognizes Doubilet's work as another influence on his career. "Doubilet is constantly taking the art of underwater photography to another level. Over the years his images have encouraged me to take chances with photographic encounters that I may not have, had I not had my nose in National Geographic from the beginning." Mr. Fleetham's work has appeared in National Geographic who he has now done several assignments for.
David's photographs have been published around the globe, with over two hundred magazine covers to date. In 1991 his photograph of a sandbar shark appeared on the cover of LIFE. It is the only underwater photograph to ever be selected for the cover. His award winning work has been published by National Geographic, The Cousteau Society, and every North American diving publication. The Smithsonian Museum, The North Carolina Museum of Natural History, The London Zoo, Hong Kong Museum, The Waikiki, Vancouver, Monterey Bay, John G. Shedd Aquarium, Maui Ocean Center and the Aquarium of the Americas all display his work.
David received a Honorary Mention in the Professional Division of the United Nations Environment Programme 1994-1995 International Photographic Competition on the Environment. It was the only underwater image chosen in the entire competition. He again received the same mention in the 1999-2000 Competition. In 1997 three of his images were chosen in the British Gas Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition and he was flown to London to accept his award. In 2000 he took several awards, including a first place in the Kodak Oceanz contest in New Zealand. In 2010 The National Wildlife Federation ran their Photography Contest for the 40th year and received 50,000 entries. Mr. Fleetham's image of a manatee was selected as the grand prize winner.
On November 28th, 1998 Mr. Fleetham married Denise Maria Toledo on private land in Kahakaloa Valley, North Maui. They met through mutual friends in California. On July 18th 2001 Denise gave birth to their first son, Sean Magnus Fleetham. Their daughter Kiara Nian Fleetham joined their Ohana in July of 2010. The Fleetham's live on the side of Haleakala on Maui where they have an office attached to their home with a view of the ocean, where David is still hired to shoot many of his assignments.
Mr. Fleetham shoots primarily with "full chip" Canon EOS Digital SLR camera's in Ikelite housings. He uses various twin Ikelite strobe setups to light his images.
David is a founding member of The Ocean Artists Society, (http://www.oceanartistssociety.com) who's members include James Cameron, Wyland, David Doubilet and Al Giddings.
David photographs exclusively Canon EOS Digital SLR camera's, in Ikelite housings, with twin Ikelite Substrobes.