Dave Gleason – Underwater In Southern New England

Profile by John Tolmie / Photos by Dave Gleeson

Dave Gleeson spent his childhood fishing the southern New England shoreline with his father and running offshore aboard his uncle’s fishing boat. As far back as he could recall, Dave had been in love with Mother Ocean and had been intrigued by the mysteries hidden beneath her waves. “I read something about spearfishing when I was a kid. Something in that article sparked my interest in harvesting fish in a completely different and unique manner.” Dave recalls, “I started to obsess about it, but I couldn’t find any information about spearfishing here in New England. It was so frustrating!” Dave had seen many underwater photos in his time, but most were of crystal clear waters and coral reefs that were taken in the tropics. “I knew that the waters here in New England were vastly different from all of those tropical photos. I wanted to see what was under our waters up here in the north.” At the age of thirteen, Dave had pieced together a smattering of rudimentary dive gear. With a mask, snorkel, and fins, Dave took his first plunge into the depths of the foaming, cold and rocky green seas. “I was living in Portsmouth Rhode Island at the time. I did my first true dive and I was amazed how much there was down there… how much there was to see! It was incredible! The diversity of life truly amazed me and I was hooked!” Dave knew at that moment that the ocean would forever be his true passion.

Over a winter break, during his college days, Dave had been invited to join a crew on an ice-breaker headed for Antarctica. “I had been dabbling in photography for some time. My father had impressed his joy of photography on me and it stuck. I was given this incredible opportunity and it was here that photography took hold. The Antarctic is one of the most beautiful places on earth!” Dave had been tasked to collect marine samples on the expedition but found himself more interested in his hobby of photography than the work he had been hired to do. “I took over ten thousand photos,” He exclaims, “We had been on the research vessel for about a month and one day we were taken to land by a deckhand on his inflatable Zodiac. We weren’t allowed to get in the water, but the deckhand ducked behind a glacier and I hopped in the Antarctic with nothing on but my boxers!” Dave Laughs, “It was freakin’ cold man! But, I had my GoPro camera with me and was able to take a few underwater shots. It was crazy cold, but it was also an incredibly amazing experience!”

Having earned a Masters Degree in Oceanography, Dave soon found himself conducting research for the United States Navy in Newport, Rhode Island. With his newfound career in place, he decided to join the Tristate Skindivers Spearfishing Club to expound on his hobby of spearfishing. Dave started meeting up with other club members and began freediving more and more into the depths of the murky New England seas. Some days, he would bring his speargun and harvest a few fresh fish for the grill. Other days, he would bring his camera and capture the unseen realm beneath the waves. “If the water was cloudy and the visibility was bad, I would usually bring my speargun, but, if the water was clear and the conditions were right, I would choose to bring my camera.” Many divers use GoPro cameras to record video, but Dave wanted to try his hand at capturing high-quality underwater stills. “I’ve really put some effort into putting the speargun down and picking up the camera this year.” Dave says and then pauses, “If I had to choose between spearing a fish or shooting one on film, it’s a hard decision, but I would ditch the speargun for good if I had to really choose.”

Dave’s humanity and his love for the sea are qualities rarely witnessed in anglers of today. Rather than holding up a dead fish for an egotistical trophy picture, Dave would rather capture an undersea waterscape and share his experience with others. “One of the things I noticed when I started getting into underwater photography, was how most people will never see the things I’ve witnessed. They’ll see all those tropical shots, but they don’t even know what amazing marine life we have right here in our underwater backyard!” Dave exclaims, “It’s so satisfying to me to be able to share these images with people who have lived their entire life in New England and have never seen what lies below. Everyone has seen the Newport Bridge, or Brenton Point, or the lighthouses that dot our coastline… but then you start showing people what exists under our waters, it blows their minds!”

To purchase or view Dave’s Underwater photos and his incredible landscape shots please visit his website at www.davegleeson.com or his Instagram at @daveunderwater

Caryn B. Davis Photography