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Marine scientist editorial portrait for Nature Conservancy magazine

By June 30, 2016February 5th, 2023Editorial Photography, Photos in the wild
Sharon Blance's portrait of Marine Scientist Rick Hamilton in Nature Conservancy magazine

Marine scientist Rick Hamilton, shot by editorial photographer Sharon Blance for Nature Conservancy magazine.

The Nature Conservancy is a US-based organisation dedicated to ecological conservation, with over 600 scientists working on projects in 69 countries.

Rick Hamilton, a marine scientist based in Brisbane, Australia, works extensively in marine environments and recently (re)discovered the rare crusty Nautilus – an elusive sea creature last seen alive in the 1980s.

The June/July issue of Nature Conservancy magazine would feature an essay on Rick’s diving mission to find the secretive Nautilus. We went on assigment to meet Rick in Brisbane to create an editorial portrait of him for the story.

The brief was for a contextual image, ideally showing Rick ‘in the field’. We sketched out a number of ideas to present to the magazine; our ideal scenario was to photograph him in the water with his diving gear and a Nautilus shell:

Rick Hamilton concept sketch

Concept sketch of the key shot we wanted to achieve

On Rick’s recommendation we decided to shoot out at North Stradbroke Island – or ‘Straddie’ to the locals – a short ferry ride from the coast but a world away, feeling more like a remote island with rugged coastal rocks, beaches and tropical waters.

We spent a day location scouting and then met Rick the following morning on what turned out to be glorious, smokin’ hot summer day.

For our hero image we all waded into the water, with the camera in a waterproof housing. Even though we were only waist-deep there were sizeable waves, which made it a challenging environment to shoot in, as photographer Sharon Blance explains:

“Being focused on shooting means I couldn’t see the waves coming and I got slapped a few times with a face full of salt water, or just pulled right off my feet and buffeted around – it certainly makes framing up an image a little trickier than usual.

Brence had the dual task of manning the lighting gear while also shouting verbal ‘wave warnings’ so Rick and I knew when the next one would hit and could brace ourselves.”

We spent the day shooting various scenarios of Rick both in and out of the water, but it was our original concept image that won the day and was chosen for the magazine article.


Being slammed by waves every minute made for challenging shoot conditions.

Dr Richard Hamilton photographed with the shell of an Allonautilus Scrobiculatus, commonly known as the 'crusty Nautilus'. Image shot on location at North Stradbroke Island, Queensland Australia. Images shot to illustrate article about Rick's participation in the search for the Crusty Nautilus in the Bismark Sea (Papua New Guinea), where, using dive equipment, he became the first person to capture underwater footage of a live Crusty Nautilus. Richard Hamilton contact Ph: +61 419 091 418

The final image.

Nautilus shell, inset image for article in Nature Conservancy magazine shot by photographer Sharon Blance

Nautilus shell, accompanying image for the article.

“Sharon and Brence were an absolute pleasure to work with. I am based on the east coast of the U.S., and they made a photo assignment occurring in Australia a painless process both in terms of communication and execution.

They came to the assignment having done their homework, mapping out lots of creative visual strategies and a plan for the assignment that took into consideration all our requests and needs but elevated it through their talent and energy.

I believe that their enthusiasm for the work that they did for us really showed in the excellent visuals that they created.”
– Rolaine Ossman,  Assistant Photo Editor, Nature Conservancy Magazine


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