Have Cam­era, Will Travel

Un­der­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­pher and ex­plorer Michel Labrecque has a pas­sion for ma­rine con­ser­va­tion after trav­el­ing around the world to dive

Sport Diver - - Dive Briefs - BY EMILY KRAK

APADI Mas­ter Scuba In­struc­tor, Te­crec Tech­ni­cal In­struc­tor and pro­fes­sional un­der­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­pher, Michel Labrecque has spent most of his time be­neath the waves, ex­plor­ing the un­der­wa­ter world and cap­tur­ing iconic im­ages. His im­ages have been fea­tured in renowned news out­lets around the world. Whether doc­u­ment­ing un­charted dive sites or ad­dress­ing ma­rine con­ser­va­tion is­sues, Labrecque’s pas­sion­ate ap­proach to vis­ual sto­ry­telling in­spires oth­ers to con­nect with our ocean and pre­serve it for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

Q:

What in­spired you to take up pho­to­jour­nal­ism, and what do you en­joy cap­tur­ing the most? A: When I started in un­der­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­phy, I was more in­ter­ested in cap­tur­ing im­ages to show to non­divers to get them in­ter­ested in scuba div­ing. I didn’t con­sider my­self an un­der­wa­ter pho­to­jour­nal­ist just yet. At the end of 2013, while on a ded­i­cated ex­pe­di­tion to Baja, an en­tan­gled whale was re­ported in the area and I hap­pened to be on the res­cue boat. I doc­u­mented the whole res­cue, and it re­ally trig­gered my pas­sion for pho­to­jour­nal­ism. Cap­tur­ing and doc­u­ment­ing any con­ser­va­tion is­sues, rare phe­nom­ena or re­mote places is what re­ally drives me.

Q:

You have gone div­ing in a va­ri­ety of un­der­wa­ter cli­mates and ex­plored some unique places in the world on as­sign­ment. Is there one that was the most ex­treme or in­ter­est­ing to you? A: The most ex­treme so far have been two re­cent ex­pe­di­tions in 2016 and 2017 to Clip­per­ton Atoll — con­sid­ered to be the most iso­lated atoll in the world. I was lead­ing the sci­en­tific ex­pe­di­tions in the hopes of prov­ing con­nec­tiv­ity and res­i­dency of mi­gra­tory sharks in the area, which we did! With the help of other stake­hold­ers, this led to the es­tab­lish­ment of a ma­rine pro­tected area. Clip­per­ton was out of reach of any pos­si­ble res­cue, with roughly 100 hours for the cross­ing. Ev­ery­thing about it was ex­treme when you con­sider that you are iso­lated, work­ing with sharks and at risk of de­com­pres­sion sick­ness or any other med­i­cal is­sues.

Q:

Fa­vorite dive des­ti­na­tion? A: I re­ally en­joy lo­cal div­ing in Que­bec, Canada. There are lots of beau­ti­ful, chal­leng­ing and re­mote places to pho­to­graph there. Some of my fa­vorite div­ing ex­pe­ri­ences in­clude wreck div­ing the Em­press of Ire­land (the K2 of wreck div­ing), div­ing with Green­land sharks and baby harp seals, ex­plor­ing vir­gin dive sites and doc­u­ment­ing con­ser­va­tion is­sues like threat­ened bel­uga whales.

Q:Are there any en­vi­ron­men­tal or con­ser­va­tion is­sues that you feel are par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant at the mo­ment? A: For the past year, I’ve had a strong fo­cus on plas­tic pol­lu­tion and ma­rine de­bris. I have seen the ug­li­ness of trash float­ing at the sur­face of the ocean in South­east Asia, but noth­ing tops the sight of ma­rine de­bris in Clip­per­ton Atoll.

Q:

Strangest piece of trash you’ve found un­der­wa­ter? A: I don’t know what could qual­ify as the strangest, but ob­jects — mostly col­lected dur­ing Dive Against De­bris trips — range from a safe (un­for­tu­nately empty) to the re­mains of an old ’50s pickup truck, cars, a re­frig­er­a­tor and ammo with other pieces that looked like an ex­plo­sive de­vice in the mak­ing. The most un­usual ma­rine de­bris, though, was found in Clip­per­ton. A pack of co­caine, brought to the is­land by ocean cur­rents. If you ask — I didn’t buy a new home after the ex­pe­di­tion!

Q:What ad­vice would you give to as­pir­ing un­der­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­phers? A: At the end of the day, I strongly be­lieve that if you work hard, you will suc­ceed. The most im­por­tant ad­vice I would give is to be com­mit­ted and fear­less in pur­su­ing your dreams.

Labrecque tried scuba div­ing in a pool in the 1970s, and has been hooked on the ad­ven­ture ever since.

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