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#SeatizenSunday: Boogs Rosales, Studio H2O

Once an aspiring pilot, Boogs now journeys underwater to the most beautiful and unexplored places on Earth as an underwater photographer and cinematographer. Boogs was able to turn his interest in diving and photography into a fulltime job—an “unusual progression,” he says, from his former stints as a programmer, IT consultant, and corporate trainer. “My philosophy has always been that if you recognize that you are good at something, you owe it to yourself to at least try to make a living out of it. The challenge is finding the time to develop skills that can expand your career options, while maintaining a job that affords you that luxury.”

Boogs’s pursuit to improve his craft eventually led him to one of the first underwater photography clubs in the Philippines, the Network of Underwater Digital Imagers (NUDI). As there weren’t a lot of similar groups at the time, many of the members were commissioned for underwater photo and video services. To address this demand, Boogs and his colleagues formed Studio H2O.

Tell us about your current work.

At first, we focused entirely on providing underwater photo and video services, but when drones became more widely available, we found another niche and added that to our toolset. Studio H2O has managed to grow into a small but rather specialized video production agency. In the last 2 years, we’ve worked on quite a few nature programs for international television, as well as local online travelogues.

On the side, I organize and lead dive expeditions around the world for a number of liveaboard companies and resorts. I do this on a personal capacity at least once every quarter with one of my partners, and take groups of up to 25 divers to places where there are good opportunities for interactions with marine wildlife. The common theme has been sharks. I’ve been lucky to dive with over 20 species of sharks, and I love sharing the experience with my guests.

Boogs at work in Boracay Island

What’s the best and worst parts about your job? How do you overcome the negative parts?

I suppose the worst part is that you never know what to expect even with careful planning. First, you are at the mercy of the environment, and nature always wins. Whether it’s a crashed drone or a flooded camera, nature can be very unforgiving to camera equipment. Then there is the logistics of getting the people and equipment to the location. We carry a lot of equipment, and we need to work with all the restrictions and limitations of each destination.

Our biggest priority is our group’s safety. When you’re at sea, there is always a real risk of accidents or even getting lost. We do our best to avoid being in situations that are beyond our training and experience. That said, I still always remind myself that if it were easy, then everyone would be doing it.

The best part goes without saying: we get to see some of the most beautiful places on Earth.

What can people do to help your cause?

Avoid single-use plastics whenever possible. Most of it ends up in the ocean and gets broken down and ingested by marine animals, eventually entering our food chain. I’ve seen plastic waste even in the most remote locations.

What 3 pointers would you provide for people who'd like to start pursuing an environmental lifestyle?

- Try to scale your efforts and measure your impact. Being environmentally conscious is not just about feeling good, it's also about being part of a collective effort to address issues that affect us all.

- Don’t be preachy about it. While it’s important to have conviction about certain issues, arrogance and self-righteousness can drive away the same people we want to influence. Listen, be patient, find out how the same issues may affect others differently, and let people feel that they can be part of the solution. Empathy is key to meaningful dialogue.

- Remember that governments and big corporations have the capacity to make the most significant impact. People elect governments and consumer demands drive businesses. Don’t take away their burden by making them think that it is all up to us.

Fun fact about a species that you think people should know.

Sharks aren’t interested in human blood. Look at it this way: we can all detect the smell of fish guts in a wet market, but it doesn’t mean we automatically want to eat fish. And it’s not true that they can detect a drop of blood in an Olympic-sized pool. The figure is closer to 1 drop in 100 liters. Also, rays are basically flat sharks.

Behind the scenes of a Studio H2O shoot

Aside from conservation / environmentalism, what are other causes near and dear to your heart?

I care a lot about local and international politics and try my best to be generally active by keeping informed, engaging in discourse, and letting our leaders know how I feel about certain issues. I don’t think many people fully appreciate how the political landscape affects our quality of living. What’s sad is when people are all smug about not knowing anything about politics. I don’t think it is anything to be proud of, not knowing how a government functions and how a community we belong to or society at large is shaped by it.

What is your why - why you do what you do?

The more time I spend documenting the marine environment, the more I understand how vulnerable it is and how quickly it is deteriorating. But the stories we tell have the power to compel people to make better decisions. They give us hope, so that the images we create don’t become a mere record of what once was, but a reminder of how much there is for us to lose.

Follow Boogs on Instagram @boogsrosales and Like Studio H2O on Facebook.

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Not all messages come in a bottle.

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