Capturing our hearts: Oceanic Photographer Christian Vizl

Photographer

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Internationally acclaimed oceanic photographer (former Wildlife Photographer of the Year and International Photographer of the Year), Christian Vizl takes us on a surreal underwater journey with his stunning black and white ocean photography.

We’d like to thank Vizl for making his new book, SILENT KINGDOM: A World Beneath the Waves, available as a silent auction item at Off the Reef. In addition to featuring images both other-worldly and dramatic, the book benefits from contributions from president and chairman of Mission Blue Dr. Sylvia A. Earle, as well as many luminaries of the diving and conservation world.

We spoke with Christian to learn more about how Sylvia’s voice has contributed meaning to his career.

IOFF: Tell us about yourself. What first interested you in the ocean and what gives you hope for its future?

Vizl: Ever since I was a kid, as far back as I can remember, I was attracted to the sea. I dreamt about what lay beneath the waves, and how would it look if suddenly all the water vanished, leaving in stasis all the animals and living creatures. In this way, I could walk inside the ocean and see them all, suspended for a moment in time and space. My hope for the future is for us humans to at least achieve the goal of mission blue; to establish a worldwide network of marine protected areas large enough to give life in the Ocean a chance.

Christian Vizl pauses for a photo with Dr. Sylvia Earle on an Arctic expedition.

Christian Vizl pauses for a photo with Dr. Sylvia Earle on an Arctic expedition.

IOFF: How has Sylvia Earle’s work pioneered the way for others in this field?

Vizl: In so many ways! Her long life career devoted to Ocean exploration and conservation commands the highest respect, admiration and gratitude. As the problems that we humans have created in the ocean (which is our most important support to all life on this planet) are ever increasing to the point where we are putting all life at risk, her kind, wise and powerful voice of protection and hope is one of the most important and influential voices in my life, giving a clear intention to my own work, which is to be a voice of and for the ocean.

IOFF: What is an example of recent policy changes or conservation wins that are good for the ocean and planet? How can we catalyze more of those?

Vizl: In 2017, the Mexican government created the National Marine Park of Revillagigedo, the largest marine protected area in North America with over 15 million hectares fully protected to any fishing or commercial activity. Of course Dr. Earle was the guest of honor of the Mexican government in the official announcement. To catalyze more of these actions it is important that every person raise his/her own awareness of the importance of protecting the Ocean and to start taking actions and support the creation of more protected marine areas all over the world.

We look forward to sharing more Sylvia Stories leading up to the benefit. Make sure to follow us on social media and use the hashtag #SylviaStories to share your own story.

The Off the Reef Fall Benefit is hosted Saturday November 2nd in San Francisco, CA. All proceeds benefit the Student Education Program a free film program hosted in March for over 1,200 Bay Area middle and high school students. For more information and tickets to Off the Reef, visit our website here.

Immerse Yourself With Erika Woolsey

Erika Woolsey

THE HYDROUS

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Erika Woolsey is all about taking the plunge and experiencing Earth’s oceans for oneself -- even if that means harnessing the power of virtual reality and 3D coral models to do it. She is a marine biologist, National Geographic Explorer, and CEO of The Hydrous, a nonprofit that aims to create open access oceans for the public to explore the world’s threatened waters using VR and photogrammetry.

IOFF: Why are you passionate about our oceans?

Woolsey: I’m passionate about ocean science because marine life is beautiful and fascinating, and because the ocean is too amazing and too threatened not to explore, understand, and share. 

IOFF: How has Sylvia Earle’s work pioneered the way for others in this field?

Woolsey: Dr. Earle is a pioneering scientist for her contributions to the fields of marine biology and phycology. She is a pioneering explorer for living thousands of hours underwater. She is a pioneering public servant as the first woman to become Chief Scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She is also a pioneer for ocean activism, calling on world leader’s to protect the ‘blue heart of our planet’ with a global network of marine protected areas. 

IOFF: What is an example of recent policy changes or conservation wins that are good for the ocean and planet? How can we catalyze more of those?

Woolsey: I'm proud of the California Climate Policy to reduce emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. California's economic and political clout influences policy throughout the country and the world, so our individual power as citizens and consumers have real impact.

We look forward to sharing more Sylvia Stories leading up to the benefit. Make sure to follow us on social media and use the hashtag #SylviaStories to share your own story.

The Off the Reef Fall Benefit is hosted Saturday November 2nd in San Francisco, CA. All proceeds benefit the Student Education Program a free film program hosted in March for over 1,200 Bay Area middle and high school students. For more information and tickets to Off the Reef, visit our website here.

Fishing For What Matters With Carl Safina

Carl Safina

The Safina Center

“Watching the places I loved disappear turned me into a conservationist,” says Carl Safina on his site

Safina is an ecologist and award-winning author who has worked tirelessly to change U.S. fishing policies, ban high-seas drift nets, and to launch his own non-profit called The Safina Center. His organization aims to unite the arts and sciences in order to lend a voice to nature and awaken audiences on an emotional, not just intellectual, level.

Below he took a quick moment from his day to express what Dr. Sylvia Earle’s work has meant to him over the years.

IOFF: How has Sylvia Earle’s voice and work inspired you?

Safina: Sylvia is one of the top few true great souls speaking for nature in all of human history.

IOFF: What is an example of recent policy changes or conservation wins that are good for the ocean and planet? How can we catalyze more of those?

Safina: Whales, turtles, and many fishes are recovering where they have gotten good protections from overly rapacious humans and our endless appetites and greed. The more we protect living things, the more they recover.

We look forward to sharing more Sylvia Stories leading up to the benefit. Make sure to follow us on social media and use the hashtag #SylviaStories to share your own story.

The Off the Reef Fall Benefit is hosted Saturday November 2nd in San Francisco, CA. All proceeds benefit the Student Education Program a free film program hosted in March for over 1,200 Bay Area middle and high school students. For more information and tickets to Off the Reef, visit our website here.



Getting Hooked On Oceans with Cristina Mittermeier

Cristina Mittermeier

SEA LEGACY

Continuing with our Sylvia Stories, we have Cristina Mittermeier. She is a woman who dips her toes in many waters as an award-winning photographer, a National Geographic adventurer, and co-founder of SeaLegacy.

Her iconic photographs capture our attention, but it is the stories behind her images that move audiences to action. Using her skills as a photographer, she inspires us to rethink our own narrative and the connection we have as humans to take care of Earth’s lifeblood -- our oceans.

Mittermeier was kind enough to share a small piece of her story with us in honor of our Off the Reef Fall Benefit keynote speaker, Dr. Sylvia Earle.

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IOFF: Tell us about yourself. What first interested you in the ocean?

Mittermeier: I grew up in the mountains of Central Mexico and spent my childhood reading pirate books. Those were my first call to adventure. I became a marine biologist to pursue that passion and pretty soon realized that our oceans have been in trouble for a long time. 

IOFF: How has Sylvia Earle’s voice and work inspired you?

Mittermeier: As a young marine biology student in Mexico I had no access to any inspiring female role models. I did have access to a small university library where I was able to read Exploring the Deep Frontier: The Adventures of Man in the Sea. I could almost hear Sylvia's voice narrating this book. That was the first time I knew other women were out there exploring the ocean.  

IOFF: What is an example of recent policy changes or conservation wins that are good for the ocean and planet? How can we catalyze more of those?

Mittermeier: Beyond working with governments to declare new MPAs [marine protected areas], we have a lot of work to do to reform existing practices. Public pressure to ban driftnets in California; public pressure to remove open-net salmon farms from BC coast, public pressure to ban oil drilling in Lofoten are all examples of how SeaLegacy is mobilizing audiences to change policy.

We look forward to sharing more Sylvia Stories leading up to the benefit. Make sure to follow us on social media and use the hashtag #SylviaStories to share your own story.

The Off the Reef Fall Benefit is hosted Saturday November 2nd in San Francisco, CA. All proceeds benefit the Student Education Program a free film program hosted in March for over 1,200 Bay Area middle and high school students. For more information and tickets to Off the Reef, visit our website here.

Diving in to the #SylviaStories with Ana Blanco

Ana Blanco

International Ocean Film Festival

In honor of our Off the Reef Fall Benefit keynote speaker, Dr. Sylvia Earle of Mission Blue, we are launching the Sylvia Stories! We'll be speaking with some of our ocean heroes, and sharing their individual Sylvia Story - how they are inspired by "Her Deepness" herself.

Today, we sat down with Ana Blanco, Executive Director of the International Ocean Film Festival (IOFF). Ana has been honored to hear Sylvia speak, and notes Sylvia's spirit infectious - she makes everyone want to take action immediately. In Ana's case, it was taking the plunge (literally!) and learning how to scuba.

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IOFF: Tell us about yourself. What first interested you in the ocean?

Ana: I moved to Lima, Peru from Texas when I was eleven years old to live there and meet my Dad's family. It was my first visit to the Pacific Ocean. As we came down the malecon to the shore, I was mesmerized by the beauty, the smell and the vastness of the ocean. I didn't want to leave it was so amazing!

IOFF: How has Sylvia Earle’s voice and work inspired you?

Ana: Hearing Sylvia speak so passionately about how to protect our oceans, one can't help but want to get involved and do something - to become the solution! Her dedication is contagious and her spirit infectious - she makes everyone want to do something immediately and to tell others to do the same.

IOFF: What is an example of recent policy changes or conservation wins that are good for the ocean and planet? How can we catalyze more of those?

Ana: One popular policy change that comes to mind is so many cities across the United States are banning the use of plastic straws in restaurants and encouraging them to not use straws at all, or to switch to paper straws. The best way to catalyze more change is through the power of film - and the power of speaking to your legislators.

We look forward to sharing more Sylvia Stories leading up to the benefit. Make sure to follow us on social media and use the hashtag #SylviaStories to share your own story.

The Off the Reef Fall Benefit is hosted Saturday November 2nd in San Francisco, CA. All proceeds benefit the Student Education Program a free film program hosted in March for over 1,200 Bay Area middle and high school students. For more information and tickets, visit our website here.