Turtle Photography Lesson with Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks travels the globe taking photos for a living. Spending his life out in the elements, he was driven early on to view things through a conservationist’s lens. His shots of the natural world inspire both wanderlust and a reverence for the sublime beauty of our planet. After a successful career of capturing pro surfers in action, Ben now uses his images to raise awareness about sustainability and living in sync with the environment.
As a Pacsafe ambassador, we’re proud to support Ben as he treks from adventure to adventure using his talents for good. We caught up with Ben recently to find out how he got started in the game, who inspires him to improve and to see if he could offer a few well-seasoned traveler tips for those who want to tread a similar path.
How did you get started with photography and what inspired you to follow the path you are on now?
I picked up my first camera in 1999 — it was a Canon Rebel (film) which I borrowed from my little sister! I’ve always wanted to get in the water to shoot waves and action sports. Then, I started shooting college sports which was my first paying gig until I reach the professional level. I even traveled around the world with pro surfers. In 2009, I was invited to photograph sea turtles, which ignited my passion for underwater nature by using images as the voice for awareness.
What or who has been your greatest influence in photography?
In general, my influence can be brought upon in all walks of life, but I look up to people like Brian Skerry, Jimmy Chin, and my dad. Brian has been on the forefront of creating compelling images in and around the water in so many new ways. Jimmy pushes the possibilities of capturing great shots in extreme conditions. My dad has always kept me in tune to work hard for the things you want and I attribute my desire to succeed as a photographer to him.
What inspired you to become involved with Sea Turtle/Marine conservation?
I started noticing the emotional response from my images and realized I could use them to raise awareness about marine conservation. I still sell them as stand alone artworks, but working with conservation organizations to strategically leverage my work for a good cause has been a fulfilling experience.
We love your images of a sea turtle crawling towards the ocean under the sun. When you take a photo like that, what type of an impact does it have on you as a person?
I’m a morning person and I love capturing images when the sun is on the horizon. Being a 6ft tall guy and having a tiny turtle the size of my two fingers is always humbling to witness. Every time I photograph a hatchling, all I can think of is the struggle and uphill battle he or she will have to survive. It can be emotional at times knowing they probably won’t make it.
You get to travel a lot as part of your job. What amazed you the most during your adventures?
Culture. We are all so different but so much is the same on the inside. Traveling to new places motivates me to pick up my camera to capture those lasting memories.
Where’s your favorite place to travel and why?
Usually, I answer that question, with: The next place I haven’t been to. You only go to a new place once. Exploring it for the first time only happens once! But if I had to pick one specific place I would have to say Indonesia.
What are the typical bags and gear you carry on your travels?
Lately, I have been carrying everything in Pacsafe Venturesafe X40 Plus Anti-Theft 40L Multi-Purpose Backpack with a PCI L insert. It fits three to four camera bodies, up to eight lenses, Mavic drone, two speed lights, 15-inch laptop, a tripod on the outside of the pack, and more. Having an aluminum frame helps to keep it rigid with almost 55lbs in it at times. I also use the Pacsafe Toursafe EXP21 Anti-Theft Wheeled Carry-On roller for all my underwater housings, chargers, batteries, fins, mask, hiking gear, and others. I usually check in the Pacsafe Toursafe EXP34 Anti-Theft Wheeled Carry-On for most of my trips to store clothes, light stands, softboxes, shoes and other travel gear.
You have to travel with a lot of expensive gear. Could you share some tips on how to keep your belongings safe on-the-go?
Being street smart when you’re out and about is key. As a traveler, I’m constantly being distracted by a new place or photographing a location, so the last thing I want to worry about is getting my gear stolen. When it comes to Pacsafe’s anti-theft tech, I’m always using the bag straps to anchor my gear to poles or chairs, especially when sleeping on airport floors during layovers or flight delays. I use all the RFID passport holders and wallets to reduce the chance of credit card theft. I also carry a lot of stuff with me and I never let anyone else carry them. I put cash in my shoes, under the insert in my bags, and also in my Pacsafe belt. I could go on and on about the tricks I have!
Finally to conservation, are there any simple lifestyle changes we can make to lessen our impact on the planet?
There are! Single use plastics (especially Styrofoam and plastic bags) are environment’s biggest enemy. Consume less of these items, buy in bulk and recycle and/or dispose of materials in the proper way are some of the simple actions all of us can take.
Do you have any parting advice would for budding marine conservationists out there?
You are important to the future of our world oceans and waterways! Never give up in voicing your mission and always remember to be the change you want to see in the world.
To read more about Ben and his work, head to http://benjhicks.com.