Stephen W. Director has been scuba diving for 25 years, and he rarely takes the plunge without his camera.

For Director, Northeastern’s provost and senior vice pres­i­dent for aca­d­emic affairs, under­water pho­tog­raphy is a pas­sionate hobby. Over the last two decades, he’s encoun­tered a rich variety of remark­able sea crea­tures on dives in heav­enly locales across the world, most recently in March on a trip to the Mal­dives, an island nation south­east of India in the Indian Ocean.

We lived on a boat for a week; we ate, slept, and dived,” said Director, who caught his first ever glimpses of a uni­corn fish and Napoleon wrasse in the Maldives.

Director’s fas­ci­na­tion with pho­tog­raphy began in child­hood. Soon after he started diving as an adult, he felt com­pelled to cap­ture the extra­or­di­nary sub­aquatic sights he encoun­tered. “I’d go under­water and see all these incred­ible things,” he said. “I wanted to share what I saw with my family and friends.”

  • Clark's anemonefish

  • Giant manta ray

  • Whitetip reef sharks

  • A shipwreck

  • Spotted unicornfish

  • Longfin spadefish

  • Maxima clam

  • Table coral

  • Oriental sweetips

  • Orangspine unicornfish

(More images from Director’s Mal­dives dive and other dives can be found on his web­site.)

Honing his under­water pho­tog­raphy skills has been a stim­u­lating and rewarding journey. Once he got com­fort­able with diving, the first camera he brought along was a disposable—with real film—and pro­tected by a water­proof case. The trouble with film cam­eras, he said, is that you have no idea if your sub­ject is in focus or if the lighting is right until after you sur­face and have the film processed and photos printed.

In the last eight years or so, advanced dig­ital cam­eras and com­puter editing soft­ware have dra­mat­i­cally changed the ball­game, according to Director. Now, using a dig­ital camera’s dis­play, divers can see how well a pic­ture came out while still underwater.

Most of Director’s diving has been in the Caribbean in places like the Grand Cay­mans, Belize, Bonaire, and Roatán—the largest of Hon­duras’ Bay Islands. He’s also dived off Aus­tralia and Hawaii and in the Red Sea. His dives typ­i­cally last about 50 min­utes and depths typ­i­cally range between 45 to 100 feet. He noted that the max­imum depth for recre­ational diving is 130 feet.

His strategy for cap­turing ocean life is simple: Just find some­thing inter­esting. He’s always searching for new fish of dif­ferent shapes and colors or unique land­scapes to cap­ture. He notes that the vivid colors seen in his pho­tographs are not vis­ible at depth where most colors appear as shades of black, blue, green, and brown unless you shine a light on the subject.

Director said he’s often asked if he feels he’s missing out on expe­ri­encing the ocean’s full sweeping beauty while peering through only a tiny lens. For him, it’s actu­ally the opposite.

I’ve thought about this a lot,” he explained. “My under­water pho­tog­raphy has actu­ally helped me focus. I think of it like vis­iting the Grand Canyon. It’s so vast that it’s hard to truly grasp the entire set­ting, so you try to focus on some­thing in par­tic­ular. This approach actu­ally helps me get more out of the dive because I’m focusing on and expe­ri­encing spe­cific sub­jects, rather than being over­whelmed by everything.”

So what’s the trick to pho­tographing fish? “The most impor­tant thing is get­ting the fish’s eye in focus,” he said. But that’s easier said than done, and the ques­tion leads him to dis­cuss another chal­lenge of under­water photography.

One of the big dif­fer­ences from land pho­tog­raphy is that not only is the sub­ject moving under­water, but you’re moving, too, and so is the water, the other fish, and every­thing else between you and your subject.”

Director said he rarely feels threat­ened by his under­water sub­jects. He’s come across a variety of sharks—though no Great Whites—and says his interest in them is seldom rec­i­p­ro­cated. How­ever, he described one instance in which a moray eel, whose bite can be severe, approached him head on and bumped his nose into his camera.

In the Mal­dives, Director encoun­tered sev­eral of the species on his under­water bucket list, including the whale shark and giant manta ray. But he said you never know what you are going to see. “It’s fun to be sur­prised on every dive.”