Full Frame

Golden Opportunity: Andy and Allison Sallmon

Golden Opportunity: Fleeting Moments in the Golden State

We live in San Diego, California, less than 15 minutes away from the ocean. Best shore dive in the area? Charter to Wreck Alley or the Channel Islands? Private expedition to look for kelp paddies and blue water creatures? We can get there with hardly any advance notice. This fact alone makes us pretty lucky. Add in the potential for viewing sharks, sea lions, migrating whales, pelagic invertebrates, squid runs, bait balls, mola mola and our diving life seems charmed, indeed.

There’s a catch, though: California doesn’t always have the best conditions. The swell and surf can be punishing on divers (and their camera gear). The visibility near shore rarely exceeds 5 - 10 meters, so shooting wide angle images can be about as productive and fulfilling as banging one’s head into a wall. The water is cold enough to warrant a drysuit for most (if not all) of the year, especially near San Diego’s underwater canyon. During the summer, our beaches and marinas are so overrun with visitors that dive options are somewhat limited unless you own a boat or are willing to fight for space. And of course, there’s the kicker: like so many other places, there are no guarantees about the creatures you’ll see, even when you’re looking for something that was spotted earlier that day.

In short, Southern California is a great place to have a beautiful dive, but it is a tough place to build a portfolio of large creatures and fleeting moments. The opportunities can make up for the challenges, but only for the stubborn few who insist on diving again. And again. And again. And yet again. Because when it comes to grasping opportunity in underwater imaging, talking about it isn’t enough; there is simply no substitute for being in the water.

Andy and Allison both have website where you can see more of their spectacular imagery.

Blue shark (*Prionace glauca)*)

Blue shark (Prionace glauca))

Blue whale (*Balaenoptera musculus*)

Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus)

Mako shark (*Isurus oxyrinchus*)

Mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus)

Bait ball

Bait ball

California sea lion (*Zalophus californianus*)

California sea lion (Zalophus californianus)

California sea lion (*Zalophus californianus*)

California sea lion (Zalophus californianus)

Comb jelly

Comb jelly

Stingray (*Urolophus halleri*)

Stingray (Urolophus halleri)

Comb jelly

Comb jelly

Leopard sharks (*Triakis semifasciata*)

Leopard sharks (Triakis semifasciata)

Harbor seal (*Phoca vitulina*)

Harbor seal (Phoca vitulina)

Egg yolk jellyfish (*Phacellophora camtschatica*)

Egg yolk jellyfish (Phacellophora camtschatica)

Purple-striped jellyfish (*Chrysaora colorata*)

Purple-striped jellyfish (Chrysaora colorata)

Catalina kelp with salp

Catalina kelp with salp

Catalina squid run

Catalina squid run

Mola mola (*Mola mola*)

Mola mola (Mola mola)