Carrie Vonderhaar ’99 Captures the Underwater World
Although covered with mosquito and sand gnat bites following an expedition to film loggerhead turtles nesting on Wassaw Island, Ga., Carrie Vonderhaar cannot imagine a more perfect profession.
The head photographer and expedition team member for Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society since 2002, Vonderhaar daily combines her love of nature photography and underwater adventure.
“Watching a loggerhead turtle lay her eggs and then go back to the ocean just as the sun is rising is absolutely magical. I love my job!” says Vonderhaar, who months earlier photographed gray whales in San Ignacio, Baja.
Interested in SCUBA diving at a young age, Vonderhaar took her first dive several years ago in the Red Sea. “The first breath I took underwater changed my life,” she says.
Her passion for photography developed soon after while studying abroad in Europe as a student. From there, she had the rare opportunity to study under renowned underwater photographer Cathy Church in the Grand Caymans, and by graduation, her two favorite hobbies had combined into a career.
“I like making images that not many people have seen before,” she says. “I’m constantly learning.”
Currently working on a coffee table book for Jean-Michel Cousteau’s latest expedition to the 13 National Marine Sanctuaries, Vonderhaar has also photographed marine life in Oregon, Washington and the British Virgin Islands. The team plans to travel to American Samoa, Hawaii, Georgia, Texas, The Great Lakes and the Outer Banks shortly as part of Jean-Michel’s six-hour TV series, Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Adventures airing on PBS in 2006.
“I have the pleasure and honor of being on expedition with the most amazing film crew,” Vonderhaar says. “Several members of the team were on board the Calypso and the Alcyone with Captain Jacques Cousteau, and I love hearing the stories.”
A political science, French and fine arts triple major at Wittenberg, Vonderhaar says she regularly uses her liberal arts education in her career.
“Being a Cousteau photographer means that you have to adapt to different situations and cultures,” she says. “The rewards are plentiful, and I live for the challenges,” she says. “They keep me on my fins”!