SPRINGFIELD, Ohio – As the head photographer and expedition team member for Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society since 2002, Carrie Vonderhaar, Wittenberg class of 1999, has traveled the globe, capturing marine life from every angle through her camera lens.
PBS viewers will now have the opportunity to view Vonderhaar’s work in a special series examining 13 National Marine Sanctuaries in the United States. Titled “America’s Underwater Treasures,” the two-part PBS program will air at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, and at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27.
The program, which serves as the series finale for Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventureson PBS, will take viewers to seldom-visited coastal locales in Michigan, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Massachusetts, California, Oregon, Hawaii and American Samoa in its quest to introduce Americans to vibrant but fragile marine sanctuaries.
Despite being chased by hurricanes, attacked by swarms of insects and chilled by plunges into frigid waters for the series, Vonderhaar cannot imagine a more perfect life or profession.
“I have the pleasure and honor of being on an expedition with the most amazing film crew,” she said. “Several members of the team were on board the Calypso and the Alcyone with Captain Jacques Cousteau, and I love hearing their stories.”
A political science, French and fine arts triple major at Wittenberg, Vonderhaar first became interested in photography while studying abroad in Europe during her Wittenberg days. From there, she had the rare opportunity to study under renowned underwater photographer Cathy Church in the Grand Caymans, and by graduation, her interest had transformed into a passion, which has since resulted in a rewarding career.
“Being a Cousteau photographer means that you have to adapt to different situations and cultures,” Vonderhaar said. “The rewards are plentiful, and I live for the challenges.”
From witnessing coral spawning like fireworks among the reefs; kelp forests as thick and tall as the California redwoods; the rusting wreck of the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor; the recovery of lost fishing nets off the Olympic coast; and even a flourishing city under the sea, Vonderhaar and her team have managed to film nature at its best for the PBS special.
“I like making images that not many people have seen before,” she said. “I’m constantly learning.”
Whether it be staking out the Georgia shore with mosquitoes and sand gnats to snag a shot of a sea turtle or filming gray whales in Baja, Vonderhaar finds each experience amazing.
“Watching a loggerhead turtle lay her eggs and then go back to the ocean just as the sun is rising is absolutely magical,” she said. “I love my job.”
The only person on the Oceans Futures team to dive and photo-document all 13 National Marine Sanctuaries, Vonderhaar has studied at the Universite de Rennes 2, Haute Bretagne, France, Moscow State University and the well-known Brooks Institute of Photography. Her work will also appear in a forthcoming coffee table book on the PBS series.
- Written By: Karen Gerboth