Tuesday, December 31, 2013


digital pictures made by profession underwater photographer, including photos of killer whales breaching, endangered manatee stock photographs, dramatic shots of schools of silky sharks, shoals of fish from the Galapagos Islands, and more marine life photos and video clips
professional stock pictures of orca whales, schooling silky sharks, mola molas, schools of fish, Florida manatees, whale sharks and dolphins

Happy New Year! 2014 is here. A time to look forward, and think back. As we enter our third decade of exploration beneath the waves in order to bring you the finest in marine photography, we'd like to thank you for your past business... and give you an update as to what we've doing lately, and where we're headed next. 

After early trips in 2013 for sailfish in Mexico, coral reefs in Palau, and shipwrecks in Truk Lagoon, I revisited some of my old haunts to make pictures of marine megafauna.

In the Galapagos Islands I lucked out with the largest bony fish in the sea, the weird Mola Mola, or Ocean Sunfish. Of course my lens was also pointed at sea turtles, rivers of fish streaming past me, and schools of hammerhead sharks. Many trips over many years have helped us build what is certainly one of the world's strongest single photographer portfolios of marine images from this famous archipelago. To see a gallery with some of our new Galapagos pictures, please click here. To browse hundreds more from past expeditions, please click here.

Everybody needs a favorite animal (or two). Mine would have to be the killer whale ( and octopus). I have spent so many weeks with killer whales over the last 25 years that I believe I've developed the special skills (and patience) to create dramatic photography which jumps out from the crowd. On my most recent orca expedition I was rewarded with some amazing action, and subtle beauty, in the wee hours at dawn and dusk. Follow this link to click through new selects. And this link to explore the full library.

Another subject for which we're known as experts in the underwater field is Mexico. Even after more than 50 expeditions, it remains a very productive (and fun) place to encounter Senor Bigs. In June I spent two weeks 250 miles offshore Baja in the Socorro Islands. Sharks, tuna, and mantas were on the shot list, and I scored with all three. Especially noteworthy are pictures of dolphins interacting with a whale shark, huge yellowfin tuna rocketing through the current, and a pack of silky sharks annihilating a baitball. Being in the middle of some 150 to 200 excited sharks made for a very interesting few minutes before a little voice in my head told me to get out of the water. We've created a gallery showcasing new images here. And we're sure you'll like to see more Mexico images here, including sailfish, sea lions, and great white sharks.

We're now shooting (and licensing!) underwater HD video clips. To view a few from Socorro, left click the following:  video clip 1  video clip 2  video clip 3

I closed out the year with a short trip to Florida to photograph manatees. These "smiling potatoes with flippers" are super gentle and sometimes quite curious, even friendly, making for a brilliant, easy snorkeling encounter with megafauna. We've added the new pictures to our stock collection and invite you to take a look on our web site.

What does the new year holds for us? How about great hammerhead sharks in the Bahamas. More manatees in Florida. Tiger and lemon sharks. Spotted Dolphins. Unique southern hemisphere temperate species in the kelp forests and sponge gardens of Tasmania. Minke whales in Australia. Whale sharks in Mexico. Giant Bluefin Tuna. And no doubt additional adventures yet to bubble up to the surface.

2014 is going to be a great year. Please join us on our journey into Ocean, and in our commitment to protect the marine habitat. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Friday, December 20, 2013


Florida Manatee underwater photograph available for licensing
RQ0672-D. underwater photo of friendly Florida Manatee in Crystal River, Florida

The seas are filled with wonderful creatures. So are the world's freshwater systems. Few animals move back and forth between salty and sweet. Manatees, of the Sirenian tribe, do so with grace and style. I've made many photo trips to west central Florida's Crystal River area to photograph our country's only sirenian, Trichechus manatus latirostris, the endearing, and endangered, manatee. Technically these individuals are a subspecies of the West Indian manatee. They are gray, fat, and just about the coolest marine mammal the non-hardcore diver or snorkeler is likely to meet up-close and personal. In winter months, hundreds of these gentle creatures move from the coastal seagrass beds in the Gulf of Mexico, into Crystal River and its tributaries to rest and feed in the warmer springfed freshwater. On a cold morning, it's not uncommon to find ten or twenty huddled together in the shallow water, sleeping and socializing, staying warm and occasionally swimming right up to you to say hello.

Our manatee photos have been published all over the world, illustrating magazine articles, appearing in advertisements, gracing billboards and book covers, calendars and cards. To see more underwater pictures of Florida Manatees, please visit our web site. We will be happy to help with licensing requests. Select prints are also available for purchase.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Coho and Chinook Salmon jumping out of river to clear small waterfall, on way upriver to spawn, Washington, USA from Brandon Cole MARINE PHOTOGRAPHY on Vimeo.

A little while back Melissa and I spent a couple days watching coho and chinook salmon fighting their way upriver, on their mission to spawn (and die). The determination of these fish to surmount any obstacle, their dedication and persistence to see their life's journey to the bitter end against all the odds, is one of nature's most inspirational stories. Unfortunately the water clarity was very poor due to heavy rains, so this shoot only yielded topside pictures and video (see clip above). No underwater pictures this time.

We have, of course, photographed this icon of the Pacific Northwest many times over the years, and have been fortunate enough to create many underwater salmon photos, some of which you can see on our web site using the following link:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Thanks to everyone who attended the slideshow and book signing event last night at Aunties. Lots of fun!

We've just heard that our new book "Reef Life" has sold more than 5000 copies already. Thanks very much to all of you who have purchased one. This book was a massive endeavor and your support means a lot to us. If you do not have it yet, or want another for friends or family (Christmas is looming), please contact us (email: brandoncole@msn.com) and we'll be happy to send a signed copy to you for $30 ($5 less than list price). Of course it is also available on Amazon (super discount at $25, but unsigned) at the link below:


If you like "Reef Life", please leave a comment/write a review on Amazon. Then notify us, and we'll enter your name into a drawing where the winner (selected randomly by Melissa, so you know I'm not cheating) wins a free print (8x10, 8x12, or 11x14 size) of a photo from the book. Or another photo from our library of underwater photography- your choice!

Thanks again and please help us sell another 5000 copies!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Me piloting Charybdis into the storm

I recently returned from yet another orca whale trip. I think I've spent something like 50 weeks of my life in pursuit of killer whales, my favorite animal. Very near and dear to me, as I began my career 20 years ago with killer whales. Amazing creatures.

People often ask what it's like. I usually say something like "hours, sometimes days of boredom, punctuated by a few moments of magic..." That pretty much sums it up. Normally I do these trips by myself. Melissa has accompanied me a few times, but it's getting tougher these days because she is so busy with her art. Fun to remember that a week of whales in the San Juan Islands was our first date...

This time I was accompanied by a good friend, Frank WEST (http://frankwest.ch/), a superb photographer from Switzerland. We met in South Africa a few years ago, while chasing great white sharks. He told me that he's always wanted to spend time with orcas, so it was my pleasure to show him around.

Below is an excerpt from my trip log, a "day in the life" sort of accounting. It's not movie material, but it certainly gives you an idea what goes on behind the scenes. After the text, you'll find a link to new orca pictures from this trip.

Thanks so much to Frank for being such a great partner on this expedition. And thanks, as always, to the whales.


5am- Wake up early, again. 4 fitful hours of sleep is not enough for me anymore. Maybe when I was 25, but not anymore.

6am- On the water, surrounded by fog. Really thick. It’s been like this most mornings. Can’t see more than 20 yards or so, and with a maze of islands around us, no choice but to pull out the old crappy handheld GPS. We meander through a foggy sea for a while. Cold this morning.

7amish- Almost collide with an island. GPS doesn’t have this island on its map… Hum… I know about where we are. Philippe is kind enough not to ask me if we’re lost. We’re not, but I don’t know exactly where we are. As it’s low tide, and I’m worried about rocks, best to shut down and wait.

7:30am- Fog begins to tear apart, and we start motoring again. I get my bearings and plot the day’s course. Surprise! A group of transients off the end of Gooch Island, near the beacon. 5 whales, one big male, one tiny newborn, and three others. Pretty sure I’ve seen these guys before, but can’t recall the exact ID.

8am – 12 noon. No more fog, nice sunshine now. Transients slowly working south, obviously hunting. After a nice spyhop, still with golden morning light, we follow them into a bay. We see them investigate a number of kelp beds, circling rocks, looking for harbor seals probably. Yes, definitely harbor seals. Witness two different attacks, lots of splashing around, saw the seal frantically trying to escape. Not 100% sure, but I think the last attack were successful. Unfortunately I can’t make any photos which really show the attack.

Amazing to watch these whales go to work. The orca pod worked together effectively, surrounding the prey, even creating waves trying to swamp seals and knock them off the rocks. One orca makes stealthy approaches into the shallows, almost sliding up into a tidepool where petrified seals are cowering. Whales celebrated a bit after the kill, playing at the surface, tail slapping, etc. Very young calf leaps out of water with mouth open. All 5 play under the boat, rolling upside down and blowing bubbles. We don’t have underwater cameras ready, so all we can do is watch, enjoy the moments.

Afternoon. After leaving the transients in search of resident whales, hours pass with nothing. Zig zag all over the place, covering about 60 miles without any sightings. Where are the other whales we saw yesterday?

Dinnertime, but of course we’re still on boat, and looking for whales, not eating dinner. That might happen later, depending on how tired we are when we return. Finally at about 6:30 we see some fins far away, way south of the south end of San Juan Island. Water is fairly calm, so we decide to stick with them til sunset. About 15 whales here, spread out. J and K pod members. I’ve known some of these whales for 20 years… No breaching or spyhopping tonight, just fin shots as the sun sinks and the water glows orange. Wonderful to be out here alone with the whales, listening to them breathe.

8pm. We have a long way to go, about 35 miles to reach the dock. Time to say goodnight to the whales, top off the gas tanks. Put on the warm jackets. It’s going to be cold tonight. Speeding back north, I wonder if we’ll find the whales tomorrow…

9:30pm Things were going fine up until half hour ago, until the last few miles, when we had to slow down and navigate by gps and use the spotlight to find our path through the darkness, avoiding the sandbar, rocks, and floating debris. Pull into the dock and tromp up the ramp. Not looking forward to filling up gas tanks. Just want to sleep.

10:30pm. Back in hotel room. Too tired to eat. But have to download pictures and take care of some computer work. Need to send a picture to a client. And charge batteries and get some things ready for tomorrow.

1am. Lights out. But only for 4 hours. Start the whole thing over again soon…




Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Here's a video clip of me in action while on a Socorro trip a few months back, and unfortunately, trying to answer a few weighty questions about my career. Good thing I'm usually underwater, where speaking eloquently is not a prerequisite. I bungled this one. I'll blame it on sunstroke, or the fact that the videographer snuck up on me and cornered me, without giving me a cheat sheet.


To see many of my still pictures from this photo shoot, follow this link:



A nice gallery of our great white shark photos was recently published on-line. If you'd like to take a look please visit the following link:


To see many more pictures of white pointers from Guadalupe, South Africa, and South Australia, head on over to our web site:


Monday, August 19, 2013


Back in April, Melissa and I dived into the Graveyard of the Pacific- Truk Lagoon, the wreck diving capital of the world. It was something complete different for us, history meets biology, artifacts and artificial reefs all jumbled together into an emotional experience overflowing with unique photographic opportunities. We explored dozens of Japanese shipwrecks sent to the bottom during Operation Hailstone in February 1944, a result of intense bombing by American planes in a surprise airstrike which dealt the Japanese naval fleet a fatal blow. Swimming through lightless inner passageways of 500' long warships we were truly immersed in the darkness of World War II. We discovered caches of unexploded bombs and torpedoes, cargo holds with demolished Zero planes, tanks frozen in time, and even the remains of soldiers who perished at sea. The above is a wide angle fisheye picture from inside the bridge of the Nippo Maru, a scene featuring Mr. Potato Head which brought a little levity to the otherwise heavy solemnity of the place.

And here's a link to a slideshow with more images:


These pictures will soon be posted to our web site at www.brandoncole.com

Saturday, August 3, 2013


Many people ask if our marine photographs are available as prints for display in one's home or office. Yes they are, and we'd be happy to help you find the perfect photo of a shark or whale or dolphin or tropical fish or octopus or seal or whatever finned or flippered creature you like best-  including this curious green sea turtle shot at an interesting angle in Palau, photo RH71629. Please contact us directly at brandoncole@msn.com, or visit our new print gallery at Fineartamerica here:  http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/brandon-cole.html  We've just now started to upload photographs to this site, and we'd be glad to upload pictures specifically for you. Simply let us know what you want and we'll take it from there!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


People often ask me about sharks… What’s it like to swim with sharks? Am I afraid of them? Why risk it? I try my best to answer, but always fail to adequately convey the magic of the encounter, the feelings, the thoughts going through my head. They are most impressive creatures, masters of their realm, a perfect blend of capability and beauty. 400 million years of fine-tuning under the hood.

While on my recent trip to Mexico’s Socorro Islands, I photographed a number of different shark species, including whitetip reef sharks, Galapagos sharks, silvertip sharks, whale sharks, scalloped hammerheads, and silky sharks. One of the highlights of the shoot was finding a baitball out in open water, a swirling tornado of baitfish. Small hapless fish which happened to be under attack by at least one hundred silky sharks. One of those Blue Planet moments I’m lucky to stumble across a few times in my career.

Here's a video clip from my few moments in the water, before the silkies became a bit too frisky and forced me to call it day. Still images will be posted to my web site ( www.brandoncole.com ) soon.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Finally, I'm home from back to back photo expeditions. The first trip was to the Galapagos Islands off Ecuador, one of my favorite places on earth. The second was to the "Mexican Galapagos", the SocorroIslands off Baja Mexico. In addition to meeting lots of interesting, fun people from around the world- Russia, Europe, Brazil, Mexico, USA etc.- I met up with my finned and flippered friends beneath the waves- sea lions and sharks, turtles and tuna, and oddballs such as the mola mola and redlip batfish. The tropical Eastern Pacific has some of the finest diving on the planet, and I'm already thinking about future trips to this region, probably back to the Galapagos and maybe to Malpelo off Columbia. Let us know if your sights are set on the same!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


I just arrived Cabo San Lucas, launching point for my next shoot- two weeks of diving with sharks, mantas, dolphins, mobs of pelagic fish, and more out in the Islas Revillagigedos, aka the Socorro Islands, aka the "Mexican Galapagos". More than 200 miles S-SW of the tip of Mexico's Baja peninsula, this archipelagos is one of the top big animal diving destinations in the world, and one of the three must dive locales in the Eastern Tropical Pacific’s “Shark Triangle,” along with the Galapagos (Ecuador) and Cocos Island (Costa Rica).

I’m on my own this time, unfortunately, as Melissa is busy with a number of big art projects. Here’s a photo of the Manta Queen herself, from our last trip here, a most memorable get together with our diving friends from across the globe. 

To see more photographs from Socorro and also Baja’s Sea of Cortez, click here to jump to our web site: http://www.brandoncole.com/IFPro/scripts/imageFolio.pl?img=0&search=qt+-D&cat=all&x=0&y=0&bool=and

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Greetings from the Graveyard of the Pacific. We're now in Chuuk, also known as Truk, wreck diving capital of the world. Our mission is to explore dozens of Japanese shipwrecks sent to the bottom of Truk Lagoon during Operation Hailstone in 1944. Intense bombing by American planes dealt the Japanese fleet a fatal blow, and we're immersing ourselves in history, swimming through the dark inner passageways of 500' long warships, discovering caches of unexploded bombs and torpedoes, cargo holds with demolished Zero planes, tanks frozen in time, and even the remains of soldiers who perished at sea. Here's a picture of Melissa soaring overtop a Japanese battle tank at rest on the deck of the Nippo Maru at 125' feet down.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Melissa and I are currently in Palau, Micronesia. Palau is one of the world's top scuba destinations, famous for its beauty above and below the waves. We've been flying over the picturesque islands in a small plane, flying over the coral reefs carried along by brisk currents, submerging in a lake filled with millions of stingless jellyfish, exploring sunken World War II history, enjoying close encounters with sharks and mantas and sea turtles, and in between it all, spending time with great friends we've gathered together from around the world. Fun stuff. We're looking forward to another dive reunion as soon as we can.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


REEF LIFE now available! Thanks for your patience. Our new book is now available at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble and will soon be in a variety of brick and mortar stores across the nation, and later, overseas.

Below is the text from an interview with Scuba Diving Magazine. At the end is a link to a small photo gallery of sample images from Reef Life. Enjoy!

Q and A with Scuba Diving Magazine RE our new "Reef Life" book

Q: You have been the primary photographer of several other books in the past. How was this project different from others?

A: I like to think of this book as a hybrid, a blending of genres-  critter ID handbook, small format coffee table book, and dive guide all wrapped into one. At its core it’s a useful source for identification of a wide variety of tropical marine critters, from whales to snails, but with more creative and attractive photo treatment than one normally sees in guidebooks. I include large format beauty shots usually reserved only for large coffee table tomes, plus there’s a wealth of solid scientific information including regional surveys of endemism, in depth sections on behavior and natural history, and windows into habitats adjoining the coral reef such as mangroves and the open ocean. Lots of bonus material to help flesh out one’s understanding of, and I hope appreciation for, reef ecology and the tropical marine ecosystem. This is much more than your typical “fish ID book”. I’m grateful Firefly supported my vision in breaking the mold to create something new.

Q: The book contains over 1,000 color photographs. Of this expansive collection, which photos mean the most to you personally?

A: There’s a story behind most of these pictures, most definitely. As marine photography has been my full-time job for twenty years, I have a very real connection to the thousands of pictures created in my travels. That connection is most often to the photo’s subject- the animal or the moment in time- rather than the image’s composition, artistry, or techniques used to make it. I’ve always been more interested in the critters than the craft. Since I’ve enjoyed so many amazing encounters with fascinating creatures large and small, most of the pictures in this book do indeed strike a personal chord. A pelagic feeding frenzy with rarely photographed bryde’s whales and dozens of marlin attacking sardine baitballs surely ranks as the luckiest encounter I’ve ever had at sea… Slogging through a wasteland of what was once verdant mangrove forest, denuded to make way for a beach resort, left me near tears, as did climbing onto a sharkfinning boat in Thailand… On a brighter note, the “over under” split view reef shot which opens Chapter One is a favorite of mine. I believe it nicely illustrates a connection between land and sea, and captures the adventurous spirit which drives many of us in our quest to explore beneath the waves. Additionally, the mermaid pictured is my wife Melissa, my best friend and long-time dive buddy.

Q: How important was it for you to have a conservation chapter in this book?

A: Both the Publisher and I felt it very important to include a conservation section. To only show pretty pictures, to only talk about the beauty on the reef, is only telling part of the story. Though the marine ecosystem is remarkably resistant, man has for too long taken the sea’s bounty for granted.  The health of our planet’s oceans needs to be addressed now. There is so much at stake. In this book I felt obligated to take a broader, more responsible view, and discuss many of the challenges facing marine ecosystems worldwide. Those of us working beneath the waves must speak for Ocean’s inhabitants who cannot.

Q: Do you have a favorite marine animal that you like to photograph?

A: Tough question, but I’d have to say it’s a tie between cephalopods (octopus and their kin, especially the mimic and giant Pacific octopus species) and whales (humpbacks and orcas).

Q: What are your biggest challenges with underwater photography?

A: The challenges start with the obvious, such as keeping my cameras from taking a bath, and maintaining finicky electronics through a gauntlet of rigorous travel and hostile environmental conditions. Then they continue with the need to dive safely when so much of one’s brain is focused on f-stops and strobe output, and of course create interesting, beautiful, emotive pictures along the way. And finally the challenges move into the realm of succeeding in the business of photography, that is effectively marketing the resulting pictures in order to pay the bills and keep moving forward, growing one’s photo collection and traveling to the edges of Earth. I’m pretty sure that med school and a career as a brain surgeon would have been easier, less stressful, and certainly better for the bank account. But not as rewarding in what really matters to me.

Q: What's next for Brandon Cole? What is your next project?

A: There are still many places to explore and animals to photograph, so my bags will remain packed. I will be underwater in Micronesia during the official release of Reef Life: A Guide to Tropical Marine Life, and returning to the Galapagos, Socorro, and the Bahamas shortly thereafter. I’m considering a companion guide focusing on temperate waters, as well as a book showcasing my encounters with charismatic megafauna. And in the midst of all of this, I’m delving into video to add a new dimension to my library.





Monday, March 4, 2013


While on a recent photo expedition in Mexico targeting sailfish, we came across a group of hungry whale sharks. This photo shows my good friend Paul, one gulp away from a horrible death. To be honest, he was perfectly safe. Whale Sharks (Rhincodon typus)-- which can grow to over 50 feet in length and therefore qualify as the largest fish in the sea-- eat plankton (tiny plants and animals) and occasionally small schooling fish. We've photographed whale sharks all over the world, and they are one of the scuba diver's "must see" animals.

We had so much fun snorkeling with whale sharks we're thinking of doing a special whale shark photo trip in 2014. Let us know if you're interested in coming along!

Whale Shark, gulp feeding on sardine eggs from Brandon Cole MARINE PHOTOGRAPHY on Vimeo.

Monday, February 25, 2013


It is with great pleasure that we announce the imminent arrival of our new book, "Reef Life: A Guide to Tropical Marine Life." It's supposed to touch down in book stores around the globe starting in mid March.

At a healthy 616 pages, we're calling it our Magnum Octopus. From whales to snails, it's all in here. 1100 pictures. Twenty years in the making...

Pre-order now at Amazon.com

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


February 2013 marks twenty years in business for Brandon Cole Marine Photography. Thanks so much for your support over the last two decades! We sincerely appreciate having the opportunity to share the wonders of worldwide oceans with you. Our image library continues to grow and we look forward to continued collaboration. Our commitment to you remains unchanged- to happily provide exciting, beautiful and affordable imagery from beneath the waves, and superb service backed up by accurate information and solid scientific knowledge. Please let us know how we can be of assistance. No project is too large or small.

To help celebrate our partnership, when you license a picture from us in the next three months we will send you a gift (a signed print of either a photo in our collection or Melissa's artwork at www.brandoncole.com/melissacole_20years.htm ), make a donation to a marine conservation organization on your behalf, or offer a special discount off your licensing fee.

Thanks again, and we look forward to hearing from you soon! 

Kind Regards,

Brandon and Melissa Cole

Key to photos, starting at top left and continuing same row to right, then continuing left to right each row beneath:

Oceanic Whitetip Shark, Hawaii USA 1993; crab camouflaged on sea cucumber, Indonesia 1994; Killer whale breaching, Washington USA 1995; gooseneck barnacles, Canada 1996; anemonefish, Thailand 1997; spawning Sockeye Salmon, British Columbia Canada 1998; Leafy Sea Dragon, South Australia 1999; Great White Shark, South Africa 2000; Green Sea Turtle, Hawaii USA 2001; Whitetip Reef Sharks feeding at night, Costa Rica 2002; nudibranch, Indonesia 2003; Horse-eye jacks schooling, Belize 2004; Florida Manatees, Florida 2005; Giant Pacific Octopus, BC Canada 2006; Humpback Whale tail flukes, Alaska USA 2007; coral reef, Fiji 2008; Bottlenose Dolphins, Honduras 2009; California Sea Lion with seastar, Baja Mexico 2010; aerial view of Greet Barrier Reef, Australia 2011; Green Anaconda, Brazil 2012 

Thursday, February 14, 2013


SHARKS ARE IN BIG TROUBLE. We are killing upwards of 50 million each year. Among Ocean's most highly specialized creatures and critical to the health of the marine environment, many shark species are now facing extinction. Why? For a bowl of soup... To learn more, please watch this excellent short video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeYimVDchqA  . And please stand up for sharks by talking to friends, family, and policy makers, and also by supporting marine conservation organizations such as WildAid ( http://tinyurl.com/aa7tfjy  )

Visit our web site to see photos of these amazing creatures alive in the wild, and also to see more pictures of sharkfinning