Professor of Oceanography
My love affair with the oceans began when I was about seven years old. My family had a house on the beautiful beach of Boca Ciega, about 30 kilometers east of Havana, Cuba. My oldest brother bought me my first set of mask; fins and snorkel all made by Cressi, and taught me to free dive. We liked lobstering and spear fishing. In 1958, I watched Jacques Cousteau’s film Silent World and I was spellbound by the magical world of underwater exploration and diving. I could not do any diving in Cuba, because the government did not allow ordinary citizens to even possess scuba gear. So I took on Spelunking. My interest in photography arose from my desire to document and show the longer, deeper and unexplored caves that my spelunking activities were taking me into. So I began borrowing my brother’s Russian made Kiev 35mm SLR camera and an old wooden tripod. Coleman gas mantle lanterns and light painting with a small flash unit were often the only source of long-exposure illumination. As I finished my Geology degree, photography became part of my job.
I was introduced to diving and underwater exploration in 1975 by a group of French marine geologists and oceanographers that visited Cuba while I was working as a geologist for the Institute of Geology and Paleontology of the Science Academy of Cuba. It was really very interesting and exciting to travel all around Cuba on a ship exploring the submerged insular shelf or “Cuban Platform.”
In 1980 came to the US during Mariel boatlift, worked hard, and studied even harder to receive my Master’s and Ph.D. degrees on Marine Geology and Geophysics from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (RSMAS). In 1995, I received the Walton F. G. Smith Award, given annually for the outstanding Ph.D. dissertation.
In 1984, I got my first Nikon an EM, the best I could afford as a graduate student. In the 90’s I upgraded to a Nikon N80. Then came my first DSLRs, a D70S, D80 and D 7000 the camera I am now using with an Ikelite housing and two DS125s. So I have only been seriously doing underwater photography for five years. Fortunately, on September 2009, while on a field trip with my students in Key Largo, I met Amaury Cruz, who very politely explained to me that a Sealife DC1000 was not the best choice for serious UW photography. His advice was to get my best DSLR in a housing with one or two powerful strobes. He also introduced me to SFUPS. Being a member and having being mentored by him and Suzan Meldonian have helped me to improve my UW photo skills. In 2011 I attended the Second UW Photography Guide Workshop in Anilao where I polished and improved my skills with Mike Bartick and Scott Geitler, both took their time and taught me many important techniques. But I must admit that even thought I just won a First Place in a significant contest I still have much to learn.
I work at Miami-Dade College, where I hold the rank of Professor with the Department of Natural Sciences at the Wolfson Campus. I teach Oceanography and Geology, which gives me an opportunity to describe and showcase the beauty of the Natural World as well as to warn the students about the threats it faces. Nature and Underwater photography have both provided me with a tool to document the changes taking place in the natural world. My major photographic interests are Nature Photography mostly Wildlife and National Parks Landscapes as well as Underwater Photography from Macro to Wide Angle. However, lately I have found myself dedicating more and more time to capturing the wonders and beauty of the underwater world, in particular the ecology of coral reefs. Actually I am living my childhood dream, as it’s fullest.