We're very pleased to announce that Elly Wray has joined the Scuba Diving staff as our new Photo Editor. Her talent as an underwater photographer and her keen eye for compelling imagery will be a colossal asset to our team as she drives the visual essence of our brand in print, online and beyond.
A native of southern California, Wray developed an appreciation for the ocean at a young age. She honed her passion for photography with BFA degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and then began her career in the photography industry on dry land in Los Angeles. But it wasn’t until a fortuitous trip to Grand Cayman that she discovered the joy and challenge of creating images underwater. She scored a job with Ocean Frontiers and spent the next six years cutting her teeth behind the lens as the East End operator’s photo and video pro. Her award-winning images have appeared in Scuba Diving, Sport Diver, Alert Diver and other magazines, as well as in advertising for the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism.
Welcome aboard, Elly.
Here is Wray’s take on joining the crew, what she loves about underwater photography, how it helped her meet a kindred spirit and more:
What about your new post as Scuba Diving's Photo Editor is most exciting?
I'm really excited about working with so many amazing photographers, and getting a first look at what people are doing and seeing — the images they're capturing in different parts of the world. It's going to be an honor to work with the established greats, and to hopefully get the work of some up-and-comers out there as well. I'm looking forward to being a part of the creative process with the team at Scuba Diving, and of course, I'm thrilled at the prospect of travelling and diving new places.
What makes an amazing underwater image amazing?
To me, there are many things that can make an amazing underwater image amazing. An amazing image could be a technically beautiful capture of light and atmosphere, or an incredibly serendipitous moment of interaction with marine life. It could be a rare or dangerous encounter where the photographer had the presence of mind and the skill to capture the moment, or a commonplace subject shot in a new and interesting way. I think common to all “amazing” images is a moment of awe.
What have been the most productive dive sites for photography during your tenure in Grand Cayman?
There are so many sites to build your portfolio in Grand Cayman. Anchor Point and Pat's Wall have stunning wall growth and swim-throughs for wide angle shooting. Ironshore Gardens, Grouper Grotto, Snapper Hole and Chub Hole are favorites, especially during silverside season, and usually host healthy schools of tarpon. Sunset Reef is an awesome shallow dive for macro shooting, and Black Rock Reef is great for everything from sharks and turtles to blennies and lettuce leaf sea slugs.
What's the story behind one of your most memorable images?
Shelly the Turtle. On my first ever "professional" dive as the Photo/Video Pro for Ocean Frontiers, I had the most amazing encounter with a hawksbill turtle. I was admittedly very nervous photographing customers for the first time, but the encounter with this turtle put all of my fears to rest. As soon as I saw her, she began swimming towards me and didn't leave me for the rest of the dive, even “kissing” my dome port. Either she was enamored with her own reflection, or she was there to tell me, "Relax, this is what you are meant to do." She was the supermodel of all turtles, easing me into my first professional photo dive. I nicknamed her Shelly (a nod to a feeling of kindred spirits). Amazingly, two years later I was diving the same site (High Rock Drop-Off) and had a similar encounter, this time shooting video. I wondered if it could be the same turtle. When I got back to my office I compared the earlier stills to my video footage, and sure enough, both turtles had very distinctive markings that matched! It was the same girl! I've seen her once more, at Maggie's Maze, and again she was incredibly friendly. Whenever I dive in East End, I'll always keep an eye out for Shelly.
Which of the world's dive destinations are you most interested in shooting in the future?
To be honest, all of them! There's something new to see and experience everywhere you go. Most of my diving experience has been in the Caribbean, so I'd love to go somewhere afar. I've never been on a live-aboard and would love to go to Galapagos, Palau, or Cocos. I've also dreamed of getting in the water with some big animals; whale sharks, manta rays, whales of any kind. Most immediately, I look forward to photographing some Florida natives like manatees and Goliath groupers.
To check out more of Wray’s images, visit ellywray.com.