The Underwater Videographer: Becky Kagan

December 10, 2011

Diving with Tiger Sharks, filming Humpback Whales, exploring crystal caves, discovering shipwrecks and shooting 3D of Wild Dolphins … oh, you know, just another day at the office. What makes this dream job even dreamier? The fact that Becky loves every single second of what she does. How often do we meet someone who is truly passionate and in-love with their career?

I have my husband, Gavin, to thank for this introduction. He and Becky met while working on Project Shiphunt (an adventure to discover a sunken ship). Thank you Gav, and thank you, Becky! Your story is beautiful and awe-inspiring … and it really makes me want to go swimmin’ with some new friends!

 

where are you from?
Born in Pittsburgh, grew up in Florida, currently live in Philadelphia

what do you do?
I’m an Underwater Videographer & Photographer specializing in extreme underwater environments including caves, deep wrecks, technical diving, and marine wildlife.

when did you know you wanted to pursue a career beneath the waves?
I was always drawn to the water; I fell in love with marine life and was always transfixed watching documentaries on the ocean as a kid. I first tried scuba when I was eleven, and from the very moment my eyes disappeared underwater into a whole new world I knew this would be my life, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

what are some of your most amazing underwater experiences?
Every time I go underwater it’s an amazing experience. I’ve been lucky with my dive career and traveling to some pretty spectacular places. Some of my most amazing experiences include diving cage less with Tiger sharks, filming Humpback whales, diving the crystal caves in the Bahamas, colorful walls in Fiji, being the first to dive virgin wrecks in Japan and Lake Huron, snorkeling with my family in Crystal River with the Manatees, and recently I had one of the most amazing experiences in the Bahamas shooting 3D of wild Dolphins. They were transfixed on the camera and I had a group of about 10 of them interact with me.

what are some of your scariest and uncomfortable experiences underwater?
I do more extreme diving so we put a lot of planning into our dives, and try to think of everything that can go wrong before we go. You don’t just dive into a 300ft deep cave using mixed gases on a rebreather with a camera unprepared. There are years of experience, classes, and training that go into doing these challenging dives. That being said when problems do arise you have to calmly deal with them underwater. Panic isn’t an option; you can’t just go to the surface. Diving with hundreds of pounds of life support equipment becomes second nature to you. I dive a lot and practice emergency drills so when a problem arises its muscle memory and I know how to handle it. Things happen underwater. We are in an alien environment where problems occur and we are not meant to be underwater.  I’ve been Bent before (decompression sickness) in what we call an “undeserved hit” It felt like someone stabbed me in my knee with a knife. I had to visit a hyperbaric chamber twice before the symptoms subsided. I thought my diving career might be over. I’ve been deep inside caves and had lights fail or not being able to see because of a silt out. I’ve surfaced from the peaceful underwater world into raging storms on the surface and had equipment failures If I don’t feel well, or am having problems before a dive, it always makes sense to postpone, cancel, or modify the dive.  It’s my life on the line.  When things start going wrong stress builds up so you have to know when to call it off.

what dream underwater observations do you have yet to experience?
That’s still a big list! I’d love to visit South Africa and shoot the Sardine Run where sharks, dolphins, whales, birds, sea lions, and the whole food chain feeds in a huge bait ball! It’s a lot of action. I’d also like to cave dive in Australia, Dive in the Galapagos with a school of hundreds of hammerhead sharks, dive the Britannic in Grease which is the sister ship to the Titanic, and maybe some other wrecks in the Red Sea. Like I said, it’s a big list!

what words of comfort do you have for those who are scared of what’s underwater?
Don’t look at it and fear it. Some of the most amazing treasures lie below the surface that few people ever get to see or experience. The unknown is exciting and there isn’t much left on our planet to be explored, but there is still a lot to explore underwater. There are still wrecks centuries old being found, new species of marine life being discovered, and never before seen caves with formations and geology that is mind blowing! Don’t be scared of the vast darkness, you fear what you don’t understand so the better we understand the ocean and make the unknown known, that fear will turn into respect and love.

was your family always supportive of your career choice?
I’m very lucky that my family has always embraced my decisions and no one ever held me back. I don’t know if my mom ever thought that my hobby of scuba diving would ever go as far as it did and turn into a career but I think the most important thing is encouraging others to follow their dreams and passions because you never know what it can turn into, and that’s what my family did. In addition to that, my husband and I both do the same thing and work together often, which is fantastic to share something you love with someone you love.

how did you spend summers as a kid?
From the time the pool opened to the time it closed I was in it! My family would also go on trips to Lake Erie, and Myrtle Beach. I was always in the water. After learning to dive when I was 11, I would take other scuba certification classes and dive the local springs and spend as much time as I could submerged.

you are in need of a vacation.  what will you do?  the sky is the limit.
Right now I am very lucky and get to travel a lot for work so coming home and sleeping in my own bed can feel like a vacation. If I plan a trip it might not necessarily be a dive trip. I’d like to go back to Japan, I love the culture, the food, and the environment there. I would also love to visit more of The National Parks. I recently returned from Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior and absolutely love it there. It would be great to go back for fun with my husband and do more diving or just hike the trails looking for moose and visiting the lighthouses.

jaws or titanic?
I love sharks, they are beautifully misunderstood animals and I feel lucky every time I get to see one in the water so I’m not a big fan of Jaws and the fear it evokes. Titanic is just epic. Next year will be 100 years since her sinking and how could you not be enamored by the story and all the lives it affected? I’d have to go with Titanic.

what do you like to do when you’re not working?
Catch up with family and friends. Watch TV and Photoshop all of the images from the last shoot.

what do you collect?
I like to collect foreign money from all of my travels. I used to collect notebooks and journals. I loved filling the blank pages with thoughts, ideas, dreams and lists but now I do all of that on my laptop =)

Learn more about Becky and what she does at Liquid Productions, LLC. Photos by Becky Kagan and Paul Spielvogel.