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Ethan Daniels, Underwater Photographer

Ethan Daniels, Underwater Photographer
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As a child on Cape Cod, Ethan Daniels fell in love with water and the mysteries within it.  He learned to swim and sail there, and later (in order to become an intern at the New England Aquarium) he learned to dive in its murky depths.  “The study of life around the planet was the only subject that ever fascinated me enough to spend a good part of my life in school,” he recalls.  Daniels followed his passion to Guam where he studied at the University of Guam Marine Laboratory and later worked as a biologist and dive tour leader in the Republic of Palau.  Along the way, he began experimenting with underwater photography, first as a research tool, but then more and more as a documentary and artistic outlet.  He now travels the world shooting aquatic ecosystems for several publications.

Ethan Daniels

In 2004, Daniels returned to the United States and to his childhood waters off Cape Cod.  With his now trained eye, he saw these familiar ecosystems in a new light.  He began documenting all of the regions aquatic habitats, from kettle ponds to the depths off Chatham, and found in them a beauty that few stop to appreciate.  His book Under Cape Cod Waters (see slideshow below) is a thoughtful and intriguing portrait of the life that thrives in our chilly and often harsh waters.

We caught up with Daniels before a book signing at the Boston Public Library and asked him to share some of the secrets of underwater photography, a discipline many of us dream about, but few get the chance to try.


How do you light a shot underwater?  Daniels says that the waters of Cape Cod are the hardest he has ever worked in due to their murkiness.  Click the link below to hear some of his tips for bringing light into the dark depths of the ocean.

[haiku url=”″ title=”ED Lighting”]

Approaching Subjects

If you think keeping your children still long enough to take a photo of them is difficult, try capturing organisms that are genetically trained to believe that you might be trying to eat them!  Click the link below to hear how Daniels overcomes his subjects’ natural skittishness and gets close enough to take their portraits.

[haiku url=”″ title=”ED Approaching Subjects”]

Framing a Shot

What makes a good underwater photograph?  With unwilling subjects, difficult lighting, and (most importantly!) a limited air supply, how do you bring your elements together into a compelling scene?  Click the link below to hear what Daniels looks for in a good shot.

[haiku url=”″ title=”ED Framing Shots”]

Coming Home

Daniels could shoot in any of the bright, warm, and tropical bodies of water he likes.  Why come back to the cold waters of Cape Cod, an area often ignored by his peers?  Click the link below to hear why Daniels has invested so much time on this project.

[haiku url=”″ title=”ED Coming Home”]

[portfolio_slideshow id=503]

To purchase a copy of Daniels’ book, please follow this link.

Justin Shatwell


Justin Shatwell


Justin Shatwell is a longtime contributor to Yankee Magazine whose work explores the unique history, culture, and art that sets New England apart from the rest of the world. His article, The Memory Keeper (March/April 2011 issue), was named a finalist for profile of the year by the City and Regional Magazine Association.
Updated Friday, August 26th, 2011

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5 Responses to Ethan Daniels, Underwater Photographer

  1. Farrell Cosmas August 31, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

    What beautiful photographs and interesting interview! I can’t wait to buy the book. Thanks so much for letting us know about this remarkable photographer.

  2. Christine McArdle August 31, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

    Only 15 photos – I held my breath waiting for each of them to come up, just stunning. Great to hear him enthusing more about the color and light in New England than in places like Indonesia. Loved the article. Chris McArdle

  3. Anne Auerbach August 31, 2011 at 10:51 pm #

    Loved hearing about Ethan’s work at the Boston Pubic Library … the facts are so important and fascinating … and the photography is spectacular! Thanks you, Ethan … and UPP!

  4. Susan November 29, 2011 at 6:23 pm #

    Beautiful book. Both text and pictures are so professionally presented. A wonderful reference to the Cape and its many resources. A book for all living on and visiting Cape Cod!


  1. Ethan Daniels featured on Yankee and WCAI’s The Point - Union Park Press - August 29, 2011

    […] Union Park Press is thrilled to announce that Ethan Daniels, author of Under Cape Cod Waters, is profiled on Yankee this month. Delving into the specifics of underwater photography techniques ranging from finding light in murky Cape Cod waters to getting shots of skittish underwater creatures, the feature acts as a primer for anyone interested in the art of photography. The interview, which includes audio elements as well as a slideshow of Ethan’s stunning photography, can be viewed by visiting Yankee Magazine’s website. […]

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