When it comes to iconic nature photography, National Geographic is immediately in discussion having pioneered many advances in nature photography and more importantly to our audience — underwater photography. Recently National Geographic shared a slideshow dubbed “Milestones in Underwater Photography” that featured the very first color underwater photograph shot in 1926 of a Hogfish (above) in Florida.
This historic shot of a Hogfish, Lachnolaimus maximus, was photographed off the Florida Keys in the Gulf of Mexico by Dr. William Longley and National Geographic staff photographer Charles Martin. In the days before SCUBA, you can imagine the difficulty of not only lugging around a bulky camera encased in a waterproof housing but using pounds of highly explosive magnesium flash powder for underwater illumination.
Although magnesium will continue to burn underwater (and even burn more intensely), the team would float a raft above where they were shooting. When they snapped the shutter of the camera to take a photograph, a battery on the raft would trigger the bright magnesium powder explosion, illuminating the sea up to 15 ft. below the surface.
Standalone, both Luis Marden and Jacques Cousteau were both influential in their own right but when the duo teamed up Marden’s pure underwater photography magic and artistry took off. He was well known for his photos of fish, coral reefs, and archaeological finds.
Couteau, the inventor of SCUBA and a pioneering underwater explorer took Marden on a voyage from Toulon, France, to the Suez Canal aboard Cousteau’s ship, Calypso. The pair worked together to move photography and underwater exploration to an entirely new level. By the end of the journey, Marden had snapped over 1,200 photos — the largest collection of underwater color photographs ever taken.
In the 1960s photographer Bates Littlehales teamed up with marine biologist Walter Starck to design OceanEye, a Plexiglas bubble-encased housing to allow photographers to use Nikon cameras underwater. With the help of OceanEye, standard cameras could be used underwater spawning an incredible new generation of underwater photography to flourish.
These are just a few of the monumental and historic milestones Nat Geo highlights. To see the entire list, head on over to National Geographic.