Where angelfish fear to tread
Daniels says he has always been interested in biology. “It’s such a mystery to me how this all works. No matter how much we know, it’s just a tiny fraction of what there is to know . . . and I like that.” He says photography helps him learn—and also provides a way to make a living. “Almost every time I’m in the water, I see, if not a new species, then a new behavior.”
As a teenager, Daniels moved to Rochester, New York, where he attended high school. He studied biology at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, and during summer breaks he interned with the dive team at New England Aquarium. After graduation, he traveled overseas for about 10 years, working in Palau, and earning a graduate degree in the behavioral ecology of reef fish at the University of Guam. In 2004, Daniels moved to California, where he spends about half his time each year.
During the remaining six or seven months he travels, shooting photographs for several publications and stock photography agencies. In addition to Indonesia, Daniels regularly visits the Philippines, Palau, Yap, and the Solomon Islands.
He also travels to the Dominican Republic every year to photograph humpback whales—the same whales one might see in the waters off Cape Cod at a different time of year. “It’s pretty awesome being in the water with whales—as you might imagine,” Daniels says. “It’s one of my favorite things to do.”
In the United States, it is illegal for people to be in the water with certain whale species, such as humpbacks and minke, and so photographers travel to other countries in hopes of photographing them. In his experience, Daniels says, whales are safe to be around. Some are curious, some are indifferent, and some have wanted nothing to do with him. What about killer whales? Daniels says one day he would “possibly” love to be in the water with orca, but the animals “are very scary and smart.”
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