Alicia Ward

Alicia Ward — higher often called “Alicia Underwater” because of her wildly widespread Instagram account — is on a mission: Showcase the wonderful aquatic wildlife of Hawaii in probably the most respectful method, not disturbing the setting and, in reality, making it a nicer place for all. Ward isn’t only a nature photographer or a journey photographer, she’s an adventurer and a conservationist, and she or he and her husband, Jim, have made a concerted effort to go away their backdrops higher than once they arrived by cleansing up after themselves and people who got here earlier than them.

Not solely does Ward take photographs of nature, she additionally creates a fantasy behind her photographs, snapping pics of buddies and purchasers who wish to remodel themselves to turn out to be part of the aquatic backdrop as mermaids and mermen. Her firm, See By way of Sea, incorporates a “Mermaid Expertise” — creating a number of the most vivid, imaginative photographs on the Web.

This week, we spoke to Alicia about taking nature images to a brand new degree, utilizing her abilities to create photographs of what may very well be, and exhibiting off the fantastic thing about Hawaii whereas, via all of it, ensuring the land she loves a lot will stay preserved all through generations.

Alicia Ward

What’s your motivation on your photographs?

I believe as a child, I at all times felt drawn to the ocean and to the wildlife inside it. So I believed as a younger youngster, that I simply needed to be a marine biologist. However my mother was a hobbyist photographer, and so proper across the age of 15, I found free diving, and I had really utilized for a job as a deckhand on a ship. My first day, I met the photographer on board, and she or he was telling me how she labored seven days every week and she or he was in search of somebody to rent, and I stated, “Effectively, I’ve at all times needed to do images, and I’ve by no means carried out underwater images, however I’d like that can assist you.” So she handed me her total digicam rig, and she or he advised me after we pulled as much as a snorkel spot, she stated, “In the event you can free dive down 25 ft and take an image of the varsity of fish beneath us, I’ll rent you. I’ll speak to the proprietor of the corporate, and as a substitute of being a deckhand, you could be a photographer.”

In order that’s how I actually obtained thrown into it, as a result of I began to work the very subsequent day.


Yeah, nevertheless it was an important area for me to develop and be taught and develop my very own eye, as a result of I had been thrown into it. I simply needed to begin.

Alicia Ward

So that you already beloved the animals you had been seeing. However the ocean is a wild place… are there any that make you nervous?

I’m not afraid of any animal particularly. I’d say that I’m somewhat extra cautious of animals like eels. Considered one of my buddies was bitten by an eel. It was in all probability about 5 years in the past, however what’d occurred was she caught an octopus, and eels will eat octopus, so she’s swimming above the reef with this octopus in her hand, and an eel got here out and grabbed onto her arm, and her physique went into poisonous shock due to the micro organism within the eel’s mouth. She needed to be airlifted to the hospital. That was a fairly scary expertise, however apart from that, so far as sharks and whatnot go, I don’t worry them.

I believe that I’ve a wholesome respect for them, however I’m not afraid of them.

Alicia Ward

Obtained you. What would you say are the friendliest of the animals that you simply encounter?

I believe it’s tough to anthropomorphize animals, as a result of what could also be curiosity may very well be misunderstood as friendliness. I’d say the simplest to view are in all probability dolphins, as a result of they’re curious animals. They’ll come up they usually’ll examine their environment, and who you might be, and what you’re doing, after which they’ll go about their method.

Alicia Ward

A few of my favourite photos that you’ve got are those with mermaids. I’ve a factor for mermaids, myself. What impressed this collection?

My finest pal and I had been looking the Web earlier than it was what it’s at this time, and there have been a pair photos right here and there of some gals on the market on the planet “mermaiding,” primarily. They had been very gifted and doing a variety of cool issues with their work, however my pal and I observed that the 2 of them that we had pulled up had been each blonde-haired and had blue tails. My pal – she has jet black hair and porcelain pores and skin – and so she and I had been chatting in the future about how it might be so enjoyable to do one thing that was somewhat nearer to the mythological aspect of it, the place the sirens had been darkish and harmful creatures, and way more moody — versus a light-weight, little mermaid situation. So we obtained the concept to make a tail for my pal in order that I may her in it. There was a variety of trial and error concerned, however we lastly ended up making a tail that match her, we put it within the water and took some photographs.

These photographs went fairly viral again then. A minimum of earlier than “viral” was a factor.

It was actually cool. I noticed they had been a distinct segment for this, and an curiosity in it, and an appreciation for this sort of mythological artwork. I although it was kinda neat to mix a couple of completely different abilities and humanities into one and actually provide you with one thing distinctive. Again then, there wasn’t a variety of images like this on the market. That’s how that started off.

Alicia Ward

These girls are going underwater and posing. That’s wonderful, as a result of they appear so glamorous, you understand? And I’m sitting right here considering of how I’m underwater, and it’s not stunning.

It doesn’t really feel stunning…they will’t see something ’trigger it’s blurry underwater, they usually’ve obtained salt water operating up their sinuses, they usually’re making an attempt to pose and get arms and hair and ft and tail and all the pieces excellent, so it’s really fairly a troublesome course of, however the final result is one thing that we have a look at it on the finish, and we’re like, “Okay, that was sorta good. That was definitely worth the torture.”

Alicia Ward

And the way lengthy does it take to get a shot?

Effectively, normally do classes for about an hour, and I’ve labored for a number of the finest underwater fashions on the planet, and I’ve labored with some “model new to underwater something” folks as properly. I’ll give it an hour and I at all times inform everyone, “If there’s only one photograph that we like from this complete factor, then it was a hit.” Typically there’ll be a couple of. A variety of occasions we get fortunate and other people take course properly, or the entire components come collectively, and we’ll get a pair that we actually like.

Alicia Ward

Apart from the tremendous cool mermaid photos, I see photos right here the place you might be … And I suppose that is your husband with you ’trigger I examine See By way of Sea, and you might be, I suppose, extracting particles from the ocean? Are you able to inform me somewhat bit extra about that?

Positive. You hear in nationwide parks and simply type of round the place folks say, “It’s best to depart a spot higher than whenever you discovered it.” That’s how we really feel concerning the ocean too, and figuring out that we now have such a serious battle proper now with man-made air pollution within the ocean proper now. We do all the pieces we are able to to attempt to assist that combat towards it. The items that we pull out might be as small as a water bottle, or as giant as a 600-pound internet, and each of them, whether or not it’s small or huge, have a huge effect on our surroundings. Anytime we encounter particles within the ocean, we decide it up, we take away it. If it’s recyclable, we’ll take it to the native heart right here. If it’s not recyclable, like if it’s a internet, there’s a internet processing and recycling facility right here that is part of our authorities system.

We’ll work with them, and we’ll convey it over, after which they maintain it from there. We simply wanna depart the ocean somewhat bit higher than after we discovered it.

Alicia Ward

How typically do you guys exit and do issues like this?

We get out on the water a minimum of three to 4 occasions every week, if no more. On each journey, if there’s something that we see, we’ll pull over, we’ll cease, we’ll decide it up. Some days, relying on the present, the winds, the swell, some days we’ll see nothing in any respect, and it’s superior. There are different days the place we’re stoping each 5 minutes to choose up one thing new, and it’s the strangest of issues, too.

We decide up a variety of hamper baskets, like laundry baskets, and a variety of them normally have Japanese writing on them, so we all know that they’ve traveled fairly a distance. The opposite day, we picked up the bumper from a automobile, which was new. We discover TV’s, nets, bottles, medicine, all types of oddities on the market.

Alicia Ward

I’ve additionally examine you and your husband’s tales, individually, they usually’re each fairly the story of how you bought to Hawaii and began See By way of Sea, and the way you acquired the eagerness for the water. How did you guys meet?

Okay. So let’s see. About eight years in the past, my household, my mother, my dad, and my sister had been transferring from Hawaii to South Carolina, they usually needed me to return with them, however I had simply stop my job as a barista and a waitress to pursue underwater images full time. I knew that I couldn’t actually observe that keenness in South Carolina, so I used to be wanting into the concept of perhaps transferring to the Caribbean in order that I may very well be nonetheless near my household, but in addition nonetheless pursuing this path that I had simply determined for myself.

There was that I subscribe to referred to as Islands Journal which options completely different islands around the globe. In one of many points I used to be studying in the future, there was an article a few man who was a photographer and a marine biologist in Grand Cayman, and studying via the article, I used to be like, “That is just about precisely what I wish to do, and within the space that I’m contemplating doing it, so perhaps I’ll simply attain out to this man and see if he thought that transferring midway around the globe was an affordable concept to pursue my dream.” I regarded for a web site for him on-line, however after all he didn’t have one, so I ended up discovering him on Fb. I despatched him a pal request, and I used to be simply typing up this letter of, “You don’t know me, however right here’s why I added you,” as a result of I don’t normally add those who I don’t know, when he accepted my pal request. The best method that I can relate it’s to think about whenever you’re calling somebody and also you count on to get their voicemail, so you will have all the pieces that you simply’re going to say all deliberate out, after which they decide up the cellphone, and also you simply neglect all the pieces that you simply’re going to say. I used to be actually embarrassed, and I didn’t say something to him. We didn’t communicate to one another for six months or one thing like that.

At some point, I had knocked my two entrance tooth out browsing, and I posted an image of it on Fb, and I used to be like, “In the event you see me not smiling currently, it’s as a result of I’ve no tooth. I promise I’m getting it fastened.” It was really proper after that that Jim reached out to me, and he was like, “I don’t actually know why we’re buddies, you toothless individual, however I actually am glad that this connection was made nevertheless it was made, as a result of I’ve at all times needed to return as much as Hawaii, and I admire your dolphin photographs. I’m simply saying that you simply’ve obtained somebody who helps your work.” I wrote him again, and I advised him how I had discovered him, and why I had added him and whatnot. We obtained to speaking, and a month later, he had a ticket booked from Grand Cayman to Hawaii to return meet me, and it simply fell into place after that.

Alicia Ward

Wow, that’s superior. So now, you guys are capable of work collectively. That’s actually nice. I’ve been scouring your web site, as properly, and I ran into the Mermaid Expertise, which isn’t only a photograph shoot, or doesn’t must be only a photograph shoot. Are you able to inform me extra about that, ’trigger that really seems to be actually cool.

Thanks. Yeah, so we convey purchasers out right here from all walks of life. Like I stated, a few of them run companies the place they do youngsters’s events. A few of them have simply at all times needed to be a mermaid, and a few of them are skilled fashions, and so folks will come out right here and work with us on these mermaid experiences. Primarily what we’ll do is we are going to meet them and go over the security of free diving after which all through the course of the week, we’ll take them to 3 completely different places for 3 separate photograph shoots, and we additionally incorporate video work into it as properly. Then whereas we’re at these completely different locations, we’ll additionally permit them to snorkel round and expertise a few of our favourite native websites.

They will do any variety of issues: We generally take them to lava tubes to do contemporary water shoots, or we’ll take them to a shallow reef the place we are able to get fish and see coral. Or every now and then, we’ll exit to deeper water, and perhaps we’ll get fortunate and spinning dolphins can be close by, or manta rays, or one thing of the type, ’trigger Kona has such an abundance of wildlife. It’s actually enjoyable. We’ve had the chance to satisfy a variety of fairly spectacular folks from everywhere in the world via these occasions. We’ve lately branched out to Tahiti as properly.

Alicia Ward

That’s very cool. And I noticed you may get a customized made tail. Do you make them?


Okay. I gotta know. So I do know…I bear in mind you stated together with your pal, the primary pal that you simply shot, you stated you had made her tail. How do you simply understand how to do that?

I didn’t. It was wonderful. My poor pal…that very first tail, I couldn’t determine the best way to do it in any respect, so I ended up stitching her right into a bunch of neoprene, and sticking her with a pin so many occasions. Poor factor. I’m positive she nonetheless has little pin prick scars from it. What’s loopy is that the web is such an exquisite factor. Happening YouTube, after which simply going via a variety of trial and error, myself, has actually led me to this new method of doing it.

What I do at this time is make silicone mermaid tails, and there are a couple of different tail makers on the market as properly, and all of us have our distinctive model and design, and so it’s fairly cool. It’s like anyone shopping for your jewellery or your artwork, or whatnot. So yeah. Simply there have been a variety of errors to start with, and since silicone will not be an inexpensive materials, there have been a variety of very costly errors to start with, however now I’ve obtained it nailed down. Shoppers, in the event that they wanna come out and have their very own customized silicone mermaid tail prepared for them, they simply must let me know a month upfront and I can have it right here ready for his or her arrival.

Alicia Ward

Superior. And so the proceeds from that go on your efforts for See By way of Sea?

Proper. So that they go into all of the work that we do to take away trash and particles and to actually make efforts in the direction of defending our native setting.

Alicia Ward

What has been your favourite photograph to date?

Oh, that’s robust. Huh. My favourite that I’ve taken…let’s see…I’d say that’s actually troublesome. Okay, so there’s one which stands out in my head, and it’s not one which different folks actually discover or admire a lot. It was only a actually cool expertise for me, so I’ll inform you about this one:

I used to be within the water with a pod of spinner dolphins, and the pod was on my left simply passing in entrance of me, transferring to the appropriate, and I used to be free diving, however I used to be getting out about 15 ft. You don’t wish to dive on the dolphins. You dive first, look ahead to them to strategy and move, after which resurface. You’re on a protracted breath maintain so as to not disturb them. Anyway, because the pod was passing in entrance of me, there was one little juvenile dolphin, and thru the lens, I can see him doing … They do that predictable wiggle earlier than they soar, and so he did this little wiggle, and I stated, “Oh he’s gonna soar,” and so I aimed my digicam in the direction of the floor of the water, which is about 15 ft above me, and the water was so calm that day, it was actually glassy. This little dolphin jumped up out of the water and thru what we name “Snell’s Window,” which is simply an underwater images time period. It simply means whenever you’re wanting via the floor of the water to topside. Anyway, via Snell’s Window, you may see this little dolphin completely. He’s simply tack sharp via the floor of the water, regardless that he’s above water and I’m underwater. It’s simply … You see his little water path the place he goes to leap out, and it was simply such a novel second for me, as a result of it was not a photograph that I’d seen earlier than. I simply thought it was cool that we had a world reversal for a second there.

Alicia Ward

Are there any plans for extra above water images or are you married to the ocean?

We do above water images now and again. I believe I choose underwater as a result of I just like the problem of it. We simply accomplished a maternity shoot final week, and we’ll do lengthy exposures and a few enjoyable stuff. We do preserve them within the combine, I similar to to deal with underwater images and advertise a bit extra.

Alicia Ward

What are your rapid objectives on your images? Or is it that some day, you simply wish to go full on into your See By way of See efforts? Or will images at all times be a factor?

Images will at all times be a factor. I believe it’s an fascinating steadiness that Jim and I attempt to preserve, however the good factor about it’s that we love each the issues that we do. We love images, and we love getting on the ocean, and it’s fairly simple to mix the 2 of them. They only go hand in hand for us at this time, and so any time we’re out on the ocean, we’ll at all times be taking photographs. The ocean is precisely the place we wanna be taking photos anyway, so I’d say our final purpose is to have See By way of Sea develop a bit extra method of teaching folks and taking them out to expertise this area that we love, and likewise having the ability to the wildlife that we see, taking part in analysis that’s ongoing with our native wildlife, after which additionally getting a couple of photos of our purchasers having fun with themselves as properly. These reminiscences, they final endlessly, so it’s fairly cool having each hand in hand.

Alicia Ward

Alicia Ward

Alicia Ward

Alicia Ward

Some photographs that includes Alicia, by her associate Jim Ward:

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