"My earliest recollection of breathing underwater was when I was about 10. An older cousin had acquired a rusty tank and a two-hose regulator. I don't think he had had any lessons, but when I put the contraption on my back, and my mask on my face (the one with the built-in ping-pong ball snorkels!) and submerged in my parent's swimming pool I was hooked. I have no recollection of my parents being home at the time, and my cousin was only 6 years older than me. It's a minor miracle that I survived that first outing!
It would be seven more years until I took my SCUBA certification. That same summer I asked my Father for a loan to buy a Nikonos III and a Sekonic light meter. He denied me, as did the first two banks I went to. By the time I got to the third one, I had learned to lie and told them the money was for textbooks which I needed for my next year at University when I began studies in Marine Biology. I'd read that the 28mm was a really good upgrade, so I dropped the princely sum of $675 for camera, upgraded lens and a light-meter in a housing. In 1974, that was a lot of money. The first picture I took was in that same swimming pool where I'd been diving with my ping-pong ball mask!
Four years later, I had earned my NAUI Instructor credentials and shortly after, spent some time in The Bahamas and Grand Cayman, instructing and guiding.
Underwater photography was frustrating in those early years. So much wasted film as I learned that light was a living, breathing thing and that it often behaved in ways I would never have thought. I learned the value of artificial light and how critical the balance between "real" light and the light that I brought with me was. Nowadays, I have trouble imagining being limited to 24 exposures on a dive and having to wait for weeks to get my developed slides back. (Although I do miss Kodachrome 64!).
I have never "worked" as a photographer (assuming being paid is what defines "work"), but that never mattered. My work was in the graphic arts and publishing world, but it has always seemed that photography was the bridge between my "work" and my "play". For me, photography is about catching that one moment in time, when I see something that very few people will ever see. I get pleasure from grabbing that moment and sharing it with those so much less fortunate than myself.
Those poor terrestrial folks that will never see what we divers see... until we share our world with them."