This presentation is part of the Cape Perpetua Speaker Series, hosted by the Cape Perpetua Collaborative.

Join Laura Tesler as she takes you on an underwater safari starting in British Columbia and traveling south along the coastline all the way down to California. See what lies beneath the beautiful ocean waves and why it is worth braving the rough conditions and 40 degree waters to dive the coastal waters of the Pacific.

My name is Laura Tesler and I live in Salem, Oregon which is sadly landlocked (it is about 2 hours from the Pacific Ocean). I grew up in Michigan, which was even farther away from the sea however! I did not learn how to dive until I was 40 years old, but I grew up watching the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau and old Sea Hunt episodes with my Mom and always thought it would be fantastic to learn how to dive. On my open water certification in 2005, I remember sitting at 50 feet underwater and watching rockfish and thinking I was stupid for not learning how to dive earlier. In any case, I eventually gained my Divemaster certification in December 2014 and I have not turned back.

My father was also a photographer and I had the benefit of his training and skill. When I was 14, I had my first camera (Nikon FG-20)- so it seemed natural I would pair a camera and diving eventually. In 2007, I added a point and shoot camera and for the first 5 years took a lot of bad pictures… however I eventually got to the point where I made a large investment in my camera equipment (currently a Nikon D500, housed in a Nauticam) as my diving skills improved. Now I take better pictures (my opinion). I love to travel, and although 90% of my 800+ dives have been in cold water, I do treat myself with a warmwater trip to a foreign locale every now and then (although I usually annually dive Florida as my in-laws reside there). I also am a certified level 5 Pacific Northwest REEF surveyor, so I am usually surveying marine life whilst I am diving. I also have two sets of dive gear now: a warm water kit, and a cold-water kit. My husband had to build me a dive locker!

I also have been branching out into freshwater diving and snorkeling in rivers, lakes, and streams. I live in the land of salmon and trout, and there are many opportunities to be found right by my house. Using a GoPro in these environments is a lot easier and flexible than lugging a huge camera housing up rapids and while climbing over logs and rocks.

I find I am an oddity in the dive community, as I prefer cold water diving. Most of my dive club members and shop community like warm water- and are men… although that is changing (I am happy to report!) as I have lots of lovely woman buddies now. I think that cold water diving can be as beautiful as warm water diving, but I will admit cold water can be challenging with the extra weight, the conditions (surge, waves, weather) and the thermal extremes.

My favorite cold-water place to dive is British Columbia. British Columbia has the most amazing visibility. You can easily have over 100-foot visibility there. If you dive out of Port Hardy on the tip of Vancouver Island, you will dive on the most amazing walls that are totally encrusted with anemones, fish, kelp, nudibranchs and … life. My favorite warm water place is evenly split between the southern Red Sea and the Bloody Bay Marine Wall Park on Little Cayman. I am sure there will be more favorites as I discover them. My ultimate goal is to make rockfish as famous as seahorses and whales as far as charismatic icons of the oceans through my photography.

My favorite species to photograph are rockfish (Sebastes spp.) and I also like to photograph nudibranchs and species that I can capture using a snoot- like pink mouth hydroids. I have been experimenting with blackwater photography the way we do it in the Pacific Northwest, which is float a light at night in shallow water… and then sort of wait and see who comes to the party underneath it. In Indonesia, I really enjoyed shooting macro and super macro… capturing things .25 inch in size was a real challenge.

I also enjoy doing close focus wide angle work as well, which works well with our sometimes fickle visibility in the Pacific Northwest… a good day visibility can be 25 feet.

One of my favorite stories was the mola mola sighting in 2019. We were diving in British Columbia on Browning Wall and my buddy thought he saw a mola mola- which I scoffed at, as mola mola live so far south usually, as in California. The next day we were at the safety stop, and I was taking pictures of brooding anemones in the kelp with a macro lens, and my buddy was insistently tapping me on my shoulder. I turned around and my buddy was just pointing, eyes wide… at the 4-foot mola mola swooping in and out gracefully right in front of us!!! My regulator almost fell out of my mouth I was so shocked, and sadly I only had a macro lens on, and even though I did get pictures, they were not very good- but still what a fabulous thing to see underwater! My buddy and I were high fiving each other like crazy!

I live with my husband and son and they are certified non-divers and great shore support. No worries though, I have a bunch of wonderful core dive friends that I am always having fun and adventures with. I went to school to be a fisheries biologist with a focus on inland freshwater fisheries. I currently am gainfully employed (for almost 25 years) as a program coordinator for a mitigation program that purchases property for wildlife habitat in the Willamette valley. When I retire, I look forward to making my side photo gig into a more full-time business of promoting pacific northwest ocean life through my pictures and traveling much more extensively.


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