Mel moved to Hawaii in 2013 to study marine biology at Hawaii Pacific University, but she never imagined how intimate her relationship with marine life would become.
A few years later, she received a job offer from Dolphins and You to become a tour photographer. Since then, she’s been able to see dolphins, sea turtles and other marine life up-close almost every day.
We sat down with Mel to talk story about her favorite memories, career accomplishments, what sea animal she would want to be, what she does in her free time and more. She shared with us how taking photos underwater can be more challenging than above, and she explained what she loves most about working for Dolphins and You.
Watch the video to hear and see some highlights from our conversation, or read the full transcript below.
Interview with Underwater Photographer @mel_weezy
How did you get into photography?
I got into photography a few years ago. I was into photography back home, but when I moved here it was just the best way to document all of my adventures.
When you’re not working as a tour photographer, what do you like to do with your free time?
I like to dive a lot outside of work. I like to work out (laughs) and hang out with my friends.
You like to work out?
So, I’m a CrossFit athlete. I train to compete at CrossFit competitions with some of my teammates from the gym I attend.
View this post on Instagram
Do you think being a CrossFit athlete helps you with photography in any way?
It definitely helps keep me in shape for the job. So when the weather’s not in our favor, or when I have to go help guests in the water and stuff, being in shape has definitely helped me.
How did you decide to work for Dolphins and You?
It was a job opportunity that I came up that I just couldn’t pass on. I was working for another company, then this opportunity came up. Swimming with dolphins… kinda hard to pass on that!
Are there any challenges to working as an underwater photographer?
All the factors underwater are uncontrolled and unforeseen.
I can go out there some days and the water’s super murky. Sometimes it’s really wavy. You have to adapt to all those things. Also it takes a lot of post-processing sometimes to get the photos to share what you see.
What has been the most rewarding thing that’s happened to you in your photography career?
I’ve had photos published by MTV Australia. One of their writers, they came out on the boat as a regular guest. And it was playing the slideshow of my best photos on the bus, and she really enjoyed them.
What are some of your favorite memories from the tours?
This one day that we were at Makua, we were waiting for the dolphins to go past us. This one just kinda swam directly at me, and I didn’t really know what to do.
I kind of just like stayed there thinking like ‘oh my gosh’ this dolphin is getting really, really close.
I felt like it was gonna get so close it was gonna head butt me. But it got so close, and then it got like a couple inches from my face and it just like turned and just kept going.
Wow! Any other memories?
My first time ever shooting a manta ray was one of the happiest moments of my life.
I was in the water. I was just there, still, and the manta ray kept like swimming in circles around me. And the conditions were prime. Like, the water was shallow, it was clear, the manta ray was friendly. I was so happy I felt like I was gonna cry.
What is your favorite part of being a Dolphins and You tour photographer?
I enjoy working for Dolphins and You. I get to meet so many people every day. I’ve been exposed to so many different countries and cultures that I would not have had the opportunity if I wasn’t working for this company.
And, also, I love the fact that I get to be out in the water every day. It’s always a good day out on the water.
If you could be any underwater animal, what would it be and why?
If I could be any animal I think it would be a manta ray. Just ‘cause they’re – well one they’re super chill and cool. And they’re so rare, at least to see around our island. And so every time they come around it’s, like, kind of a big deal.
So I’d like to imagine that I’m super chill and it’s kind of a big deal when I come around (laughs).