Bruce Kerwin

Bruce Kerwin’s fascination with the intricacies of biology brings a bright perspective to life below the Salish Sea. His passion for exploring the depths of the Queen Charlottes to the southern waters of Hood Canal have earned him several awards, most recently, Grand Prize in the Salish Sea in Focus photography contest by the Sea Doc Society, Best Underwater Photograph and Best of Show in the Gallery North photo contest of Northwest Water Views, and has been a featured photographer in the Pacific Northwest Dive Magazine twice.

Artist’s Statement: The two-dimensional medium is only reminiscent of the visceral experience. My mind holds a multi-dimensional image overlaid with sound, the pull of the current, the depth of the water, the darkness, the light, and the cold creeping into my core. I want to pass along the excitement of seeing something in a new way, discovering creatures I haven’t seen before, secretly observing the complex interplay between animals mating, birthing, fighting, and dying. It’s a cold, beautiful, fleeting world captured in a photograph.

I’m a scientist by training with a Ph.D. in Biochemistry. The spiraled arm of the octopus with its increasing pattern of suckers along the length is truly one of my favorites, exemplifying everything I love about the undersea world.

Growing up with “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” inspired my fascination and fondness for the ocean and everything about it. Ever since living in Mendocino and skin diving in coves around the area, I cannot be whole without the ocean nearby. It is that joy, that celebration of the amazing beauty below the surface that I hope to bring to you in the images I capture. Be it the diversity of animals, the incongruity of plants, the rainbow of colors creating a cacophony of visual pandemonium, or simply the contrast with the terrestrial world I’ve tried to capture a small sample of these creatures in their natural surroundings. It is my intention for you to walk away inspired with a sense of wonder, thinking about what lies below the steely surface of the Salish Sea.

Spiraling Octopus I’m drawn to the free-flowing form of invertebrates beneath the Salish Sea. At the end of a dive in August I readied a shot of a hooded nudibranch perched on red kelp. A light flashed in my eyes and I reluctantly turned to see my friend madly pointing at a giant pacific octopus hunting in the rocks just 5 feet away. With graceful movements it swiftly probed in holes, coiling and uncoiling its arms, searching for its next meal. Unusual, but not uncommon at that time of the day.

Moon Surface, Moon Jelly The Hood Canal in the spring is filled with the diatoms from algae blooms and plankton crowding together to feel the warm rays of the sun. Mixed within the crowded layer below the surface are the jellies, hundreds of them will fill your vision with colored lights running down their sides, red sausages hanging from their middles, clear ones that appear to have no substance and in every size and shape imaginable from miniature bells, to balls to half domes propelling themselves through the water in search of nourishment.

Dreaming of Color, Opalescent Nudibranch A group of us ascended below the surface, over the boulders originally placed in 1934, and down to the barge. Covered in white and orange anemones with giant barnacles creating homes for the scaly head and grunt sculpins, nudibranch crawl over hydroids in search of food. Opalescent Nudibranch there are rare and I find one on the side.

Racing Stripes, Swimming Anemone. The brown, silty, sandy bottom spreads before us as the Vermillion and Puget Sound and Quill back and Copper Rock Fish observe us with a mild curiosity wondering what these creatures are that invaded their home. At 100 feet are the Sea Whips, long white stalks of polyps forming a colony about a meter tall forming a forest that wanders off to deeper, darker depths. On a small ledge near the silt floor were the orange and white striped tentacles like a picture from Dr. Seuss calling to me for one last photograph before I surfaced.

Orange Aureoles, Vermillion Star It was my first time diving off Lu Jac’s Quest in the Hood Canal, and was also to be my last. I dove from the boat in the San Juan Islands last summer and the captain brought it down here to begin running trips from Pleasant Harbor