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Dive Photo Guide


Snapshot – Allison Vitsky Sallmon
By Joseph Tepper, August 26, 2014 @ 06:00 AM (EST)

Q&A By Joseph Tepper

Underwater photography is more than just images: It’s about the people behind the lenses. That’s why we created “Snapshot”—a short feature that gives readers a peak at what exactly is going through the minds of our favorite photographers.

In the case of Allison Vitsky Sallmon, it seems like her mind is always hell-bent on underwater photography. Even on the plane ride to a destination, Allison passes the time with a few strong drinks (who doesn’t), while using the in-flight magazine to see where she can go next with her airline miles.

DPG readers meet Allison, Allison meet DPG readers.

Cameras: Canon 5DMkIII (wide angle) and Canon 7D (macro)

Housing: Sea and Sea

Strobes: Sea and Sea YS250’s (wide angle) and YS-D1’s (macro)

Latest Underwater Photo Obsession: Closed circuit diving. In 2012, I went bubble-free with a Titan rebreather. While it hasn’t made me a better shooter—in fact, the cost delayed a camera upgrade—it gives me more bottom time on many dives and sometimes provides an advantage with skittish subjects. Sometimes, this is enough to make a big difference.

Bane of My Photographic Existence: Dog hair. We have two rescued vizslas, and while they have very short hair, it is omnipresent. I can’t tell you the number of times I have pulled off my dome port cover on the other side of the Earth… and discovered a vizsla hair sitting on the inside of the port. So far, we have only had a single dog hair-related flood, but it was a while ago so I fully anticipate another mishap in the near future. It’s part of their cunning canine plan: if they kill all the cameras, we won’t travel!

Current Favorite Shot: Blue whale descent, offshore Mexico. Blue whales are endangered and notoriously shy, and even the luckiest photographers often have to be satisfied with images of whale butt. Images aside, this stands out as the most incredible thing I have ever experienced in the water or otherwise: sharing eye contact with the largest creature to have ever lived on this planet. 

Last Destination: North Island, New Zealand. We are already planning our return

Long Flight Entertainment: A couple of strong drinks. Then I check out the in-flight magazine to determine where my air miles can take me if I obsessively call the frequent flyer desk every day for weeks on end.

Editing Software: Lightroom. Sometimes Photoshop, but I don’t have the time or patience to really learn that program. If I screw something up, I am more likely to go back and shoot it again than I am to try to fix it on my computer.

Guilty Underwater Photo Pleasure: Shooting round images. They’re completely impractical since they’re not a natural format for print media. But they’re so cool. I can’t help myself!

Your Inspiration: My husband has been my biggest inspiration, no doubt. He has been shooting for over 30 years, and he is one of the most talented underwater imagers I know. His incredible gift for lighting subjects beautifully in the cruddiest conditions never fails to amaze me. Since we’re married, he is trapped while I ask him incessant questions about angles and exposure settings. Huzzah! 

Wide Angle or Macro: I refuse to choose. I love macro, and it is a great way to learn about controlling your negative space, but my default is wide angle. Shooting wide angle can be particularly challenging in California, but that makes it all the sweeter when the visibility is unexpectedly fabulous—or when the visibility is terrible, but I get a few nice shots anyhow.

Dream Destination: Duh. Southern California, baby. There’s no place like home.

You can check out more of Allison’s work on her website: www.avitsky.com.


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