Featured Photographers

Featured Underwater Photographer – David Pearlman

One of the best ways to learn photography is to see other photographers’ work. We try to find some of the best underwater photographers in the world, and showcase their work, along with the gear they use, to help other aspiring photographers improve, learn new skills and get inspired.

This week we will feature the talented David Pearlman!

About David

Like so many of my colleagues, my passion for underwater photography and scuba diving began when I was a little boy.  I spent hours and hours looking at picture books filled with images of sharks and other magnificent underwater creatures that filled my imagination with hopes of swimming with them some day.  As I got older, watching The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau was an absolute must, and of course reading and seeing the movie JAWS and the documentary Blue Water White Death so captivated my imagination … that I got certified to dive in five-foot visibility and forty-degree water in Racine Quarry, Wisconsin at the age of fourteen.  A few years later, in 1983, my dream of diving in the ocean finally came true with my first saltwater dive in Aruba—and that was it … I was hooked!

When a great white shark breaches the surface of the ocean, it returns with an abundance of bubbles, as shown in this image taken on my 2013 trip Down Under. North Neptune Island, South Australia.

That led to my spontaneous decision to put off college for a year and move to Hawaii, where I took my first underwater photos.  Those images are not included in my portfolio today, but some of the images presented in this feature are scanned transparencies (slides) taken well before the digital era began.  Now, with digital cameras, photography has just gone off the charts, so we no longer need to worry about capturing perfect exposures each time as we were limited to the 36 shots in our rolls of film.  Although the competition has grown exponentially over the past two decades, the work that I am seeing from everyone, including my own, far surpasses those old days of film.  I have had the good fortune of being able to travel to so many wonderful dive destinations to create my images.  And while I truly love all life in the sea, my main passion has been and probably always will be for sharks.  I hope you enjoy my work.

David’s Gear

These days I am shooting the Canon 5D Mark lV with the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens,  Canon 16-35 f/2.8L lll and the Canon  100mm f/2.8L Macro USM Lenses.  I house this system with the Nauticam NA-5DlV.  I light with two Inon Z-330 strobes.  The older film images were taken with the Nikon RS system.

David’s Work

When Life Gives You Lemons: I’m not joking when I admit that I love lemon sharks. If I’m being honest, I have more images of lemon sharks than all other sharks combined. They’re like puppies. When there is food in the water, they gather around, with a snarky look in their eyes, and they are happy to swim right up to you and ask you for a handout. In the long run, I don’t know whether or not this behavior is good for these animals … I suspect not. I justify it with this reasoning… When people are able to swim in the ocean surrounded by these sharks, they will learn that, by following certain shark protocols, they are more likely to be bitten by their neighbor’s Yorkie than by a shark. Then people are less frightened of the sharks and less inclined to kill them. To me, the only good shark is a living shark and as you can see, I absolutely adore them. Jupiter, Florida.

Jack Blenny: I’ve noticed that most photographers prefer to shoot their macro images with fast shutter speeds and small apertures to get that rich, black background. And while I love that look, I’ll also try to capture the natural blue ocean in my backgrounds just to have a couple different looks for any given shot. Jack Blenny … You can almost hear him saying, “Rochester”. Blue Heron Bridge, Riviera Beach, Florida.

Miss Thang: Her eharmony profile said, “Blue eyes, long eyelashes, and a mobile home!” Probably should have also mentioned that she was very crabby! Like so many of my macro images, I found this little beauty at the Blue Heron Bridge in Riviera Beach, Florida.

I feels for Eels: The first fish of any consequence that I ever saw was on my first ocean dive in Aruba in 1983. It was a ginormous green moray eel and I had just seen the movie The Deep. Spoiler alert … the eel did it. Anyway, I have had an affinity for these animals ever since that dive. This is only a little spotted moray eel but she was clearly as glad to see me as I was to see her. Just look at that smile for the camera. Little ham. Lots of these guys and much, much more inhabit the Pedernalis Shipwreck in Aruba – particularly at night. Palm Beach, Aruba.

A Seahorse – Of Course: Do you know a single underwater photographer who doesn’t have a photograph of a seahorse? Come on – they are absolutely beautiful critters though not easy to photograph. They are very shy, turning their backs to the camera like the celebrities that they are, endlessly chased by paparazzi. When you do finally capture a moment with one, however, you’re almost guaranteed to be rewarded with an image for your wall. Blue Heron Bridge, Riviera Beach, Florida.

Three Amigos: Nothing ever prepares you for the first time you get to be underwater in the ocean with dolphins. Sea mammals are endlessly hilarious and so intelligent, and their high energy and ceaseless joy transfers directly to you when you swim among them. Dolphins are incredibly mischievous. One even gently took the bandana I was wearing off my head and played keep away with me. This image was taken back in the 1990’s with film. West End, Bahamas.

Patrick the Tiger Shark: I had only seen tiger sharks on rare occasions in Hawaii and Fiji, but was never able to get close enough to take a truly compelling photo of on … until I was introduced to Patrick. Of course, Patrick is the star of this image but the tiny little fish making a cameo appearance under his chin is my favorite side story of this portrait. Jupiter, Florida.

The Big Guy: As innocuous as a manatee, these gentle giants roam our oceans eating plankton and fish eggs. And they must find a ton of it, all the time, to reach their enormous size. Benign as they are, they sure take your breath away every time you are lucky enough to be in the water with one. This particular whale shark was just huge, as you can tell by the snorkelers who are providing scale. I wish digital cameras were around for this dive – but alas it was shot with Fiji Provia 100 ISO film. Exmouth, Western Australia.

Aussie Sea Lion: G’day Luv! Driven to the brink of extinction by man’s insanity, the Australian Sea Lion was finally protected in 1964 and they have made a remarkable recovery. Last year, however, it was discovered that their numbers are declining once again. They are very shy and clumsy on land and very playful and skilled swimmers in the water and a joy to be around. Hopkins Island, South Australia.

Hammer Time: The most elusive shark for me has always been the great hammerhead. The only time I have ever been close enough to one to get a toothy shot, I was carrying my lobster gear instead of my camera. But the rays of sunlight penetrating the water and framing this magnificent animal made it irresistible for me to take a shot I wouldn’t normally take. Jupiter, Florida.

Diving Antilla: I don’t have enough space in this little description to write my history with this particular shipwreck but it is a long one …. going all the back to the time I first dove Antilla in 1983. As far as I am concerned, it is the best shipwreck to dive in the Caribbean. It lies in about 70 feet of water just off the western coast of Aruba, my home away from home. Palm Beach, Aruba.

DJenny: Not a typo – that’s the name of this female tiger shark. I guess they called her Denny until they clearly saw she was a female and instantly changed her name accordingly. It’s not like she knew her name was Denny and would have gotten flustered if we all started calling her “Audrey” or “Meredith” – but DJenny it is. Regardless of how she got her name, she is my absolute favorite tiger shark in the world. She is very curious by nature and lights up a dive site with joy and energy when she is around. Jupiter, Florida.

Scarface: Because their diet consists mostly of animals with claws and teeth or barbed tails … who also have a fierce will to live, it’s very unusual to find a great white shark without any battle scars. Add to that their love bites during mating season and, of course, man’s cruelties and other more innocent human interactions, and you get a face scarred like this. North Neptune Island, South Australia.

Coming Atcha: For me, being in the water with a great white shark is nothing short of electric. The way they look, the way they move … they are the ultimate apex predator. I have been in love with these gorgeous creatures since I was three years old. North Neptune Island, South Australia.

Follow David




Jill B

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.