Eric Cheng

Wildlife Photographer

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"I explore intersections between opposing ideas."


"Every sense is alive, tingling with almost-overwhelming stimulation when I am submerged in the ocean."


About the photographer


Strange, colorful forms that might as well have been conjured up by an unknown deity with a sense of humor float by in their own worlds, while even stranger creatures blanket the reef ecosystem at every level of scale. I am an underwater photographer because there is no other environment on the planet that allows for close, deep immersion in such wonderful visual forms and rich, complex ecology. My philosophy as a photographer is something that has taken years to settle. I strive to explore intersections between opposing ideas. The most interesting intersection, for me, is the overlap between the technical and creative. In preparation, I am meticulous about technical education and exploration, but during moments of action in the field, technical focus disappears, and I rely upon gut instinct. 

Another balance is the one between planned and extemporaneous photography. Trips are often well-researched and planned to target the documentation of specific species or behavior, but it is also important to be flexible and to allow oneself to shift focus to the things that are happening right before one’s eyes. – Tumakohua pass in Fakarava has long been one of my favorite places to dive. It is one of the best places in the world to experience the natural behavior of large groups of gray reef sharks. I first visited Fakarava in 2004, and was struck by the sheer numbers of sharks and the closeness in which they allowed observation without the use of bait. I was just starting my career as an underwater photographer then, but sharks were already mostly gone from common dive sites as a result of rampant overfishing; it was obvious that Fakarava was special, and not many people were going there to see it. During our return with Blancpain a decade later, I was pleased to see that the area is still unspoiled. 

Sharks still flourish there in large numbers, and the huge marbled grouper spawning aggregation added to our underwater delight.

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