Q+A with Naturalist Photographer Danny Sepkowski

Danny Sepkowski provides exciting images of Hawaii’s ocean and waves. With a rich multi-disciplinary history, his goal is now to express the beauty of nature through the lens and connect with people through the shared planet. We catch up with him to talk through his processes and inspirations.

A: Could you tell us a little bit about back story – how did you get into taking photographs and what do you think appealed to you growing up about the medium?
When I was a kid I remember seeing a film camera that my parents had laying around the house and it caught my eye. I did not know how to use it but I would pretend that I did! In high school I purchased a disposable waterproof camera and decided to take it out and shoot some waves. After I developed the photos I was surprised to see the angles I captured with the simple setup. It was not until after college that I decided to purchase a DSLR. I apprenticed under Keoni Kitagawa and shot weddings with him for a couple of years. Remember that disposable camera I purchased in high school? Well that turned into an obsession. An investment in a professional waterhousing setup changed my life forever. I always enjoyed that special “moment” with everything in life and that is what drove me to be a photographer.

A: Your images are on basis very naturalistic, perhaps seeking to display the awe and beauty of the world around us. Why have you chosen this as your subject?
: God’s creation is precious to me. It is a blessing to be able to capture moments in places that people can only dream about. I believe people can take life for granted in today’s society. I choose the naturalistic approach to photography because I want people to feel as if they were there at that very moment. Not everyone can swim with sharks or take a beating by a solid 20 ft wave while holding a Canon 1DX in one hand. God has chosen me to do this and I am honored to show people what this beautiful world has to offer!

A: Do you think that artists have a responsibility towards what they present? In other words, do your works have any political or ecological agenda towards sustainability and looking to the future of the planet?
Of course we are responsible! My expertise is underwater photography and I cannot stress the fact that we need to take care of mother nature! If we pollute the land and the ocean I will not be able to pursue my dream. More importantly, species and humans will suffer the consequences. Whenever I go shoot in the water I clean up any garbage that is in sight. The ocean is not ours so we need to keep it clean. Would you like it if someone were to leave trash all over your house? Did not think so.

A: Could you talk a little bit about the processes behind your work – do you go out seeking to find a particular wave or sunset, or is this something that is more spontaneous?
The process is not easy for this type of photography. Mother nature does what she wants. I look at the surf forecast as well as the weather forecast days before I decide to shoot. I also look at the extended forecast constantly to see if there are any big swells on the way. There are multiple factors that need to line up to get the perfect shot. You need good weather, wind direction, swell direction, lighting, and clear water for underwater shots. Believe it or not Hawaii does not have the best clarity at times and that is due to pollution and dirty runoff water. The stars need to align to get that perfect shot. There are times where I do not get a great shot for weeks and some times even months. The process can also be spontaneous as well especially when you get a phone call from a friend who says the waves are firing. Sunsets can also be a spur of the moment ordeal. Always have your camera on you! This is why I love this type of photography. I search for the best light and clarity in any situation. When you get a great shot it is the best feeling in the world.

A: What kind of relationship do you have with nature? How do you think artists should mediate with their subject, do you think it is one of passion inherently?
DS: I have a humbling relationship with nature. I have had concussions, a perforated ear drum, and even got attacked by an eight foot Moray Eel. I have come to realization that respect and passion is what keeps me going in the water. The ocean is like beauty and the beast to me. She will show you beauty but will also show her power with no mercy. When I take pictures of Dolphins or any type of species in the water I let them come to me. You have to let nature take its course to get the best shot. I am in love with capturing moments in the ocean at it is not slowing down anytime soon.

A: What are your future plans for your artwork?
DI am currently traveling as much as I can. This past year I have been to Tahiti twice, New York City twice, London, and planning a trip to Iceland as we speak. National Geographic has published my work eight times in the past nine months so hopefully a job with them will be a part of my future plan. My main goal is to not stop and show the world to live your passion to the fullest! Thank you to my sponsors Surfers, Vipersurfing Fins, and 662 Rideshop Hawaii. My work can be seen at www.hawaiiwaveimages.com.

1. Abstract Reality. Photo Credit: Danny Sepkowski.
2. Home. Photo Credit: Danny Sepkowski.