Imagine if you could import a proper photography studio setup underwater and shoot well-lit, fully vibrant, and emotive portraits of all the animals that call the ocean home? Well, that is exactly what Brooks Institute alum Richard Salas did. A professional studio shooter for more than 35 years, Salas, who first earned his diving stripes at the late, great Santa Barbara Diver’s Den back in 1970s, has been hammering away at a three-part book project of epic proportions. By the time he is done, the 57-years-young Santa Barbaran will have produced a trio of high-grade 12-inch by 24-inch coffee-table books showcasing the fish, seals, dolphins, sharks, and assorted critters that call the Pacific Ocean home. While discussing the goals of his project, Salas explained that he “just wants to introduce these animals to people who otherwise might not get to see them. … I want to show people that, at least on the quantum level, we are all made of the same stuff.”
Salas’s first book, Sea of Light, came out in 2010 and starred the underwater residents of the Channel Islands. His newest book, which was released this past summer, is titled Blue Visions and features the fruits of several dive trips to various subterranean and far-flung spots from Mexico to the Equator. (His third book will detail the aquatic locals found in the waters from Washington to Alaska). With his trusty Nikon and large double wrap-around strobes in tow, Salas self-financed his up-close portraits of moray eels, great white sharks, whale sharks, sea horses, giant manta rays, octopi, and many, many others. In what he describes as a “blue-collar dive book,” these animals come to life, often seeming to smile or grimace or look shyly toward the camera. “I just go out and dive and find what I find,” said Salas. “When you are underwater, you are literally in the flow of life — it’s overwhelming. I truly believe these animals allow me to be there with them. … I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.”
Salas will sign copies of Blue Visions on Tuesday, December 4, 7 p.m., at Chaucer’s Books (3321 State St.). Call (805) 682-4067 or visit askphotography.com.