I'm an American expat, writer. photographer. and old-fashioned romantic in love with celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I appreciate timelessness, the natural world, and a slow life lived with simplicity and intention. When I'm not photographing families or  slowly traveling the world and writing about it in a little notebook, I'm happily grounding myself in nature and cozying up with my sweet husband.

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The underwater world might be the most unique landscape on our planet. In this three dimensional world, you have the ability to move freely in all directions – backwards, sideways, upside down, and doing somersaults and corkscrews as you’re doing it.  As a photographer, I am able to push my boundaries while photographing underwater. I mean, there is nothing more fun than taking a photograph of a brilliantly colored coral reef while floating and doing a handstand!

I am a novice in every way imaginable when it comes to underwater digital photography. And while I have no intention of ever doing it more than just a fun hobby while I’m traveling, there is something truly special about discovering a new passion in life. Uncovering those little sparks that sets our hearts on fire and then having the courage to pursue those curiosities is what makes life so interesting. It allows this life to be a playground: free for us to roam and discover and play. 

I first discovered scuba diving when I was 19. On a road trip through Utah and Idaho, my aunt and uncle gifted me a discover scuba class in a pool. While it was cool to breathe underwater, it wasn’t until I enrolled in my Open Water Certification courses at Manta Dive on Gili Air in Indonesia that i fell in love with diving. It was the ocean and the living world underneath it that beckoned me to continue following this little curiosity of mine. It was the giant Hawksbill turtles and grey tipped sharks that inspired me to continue. It was swimming alongside swarms of colorful fish and exploring ancient shipwrecks that kept me  coming back to my fins. Diving, I felt like I was part of a community of living, breathing creatures I had never witnessed before. And once those quick 4 days of diving all day were complete, I was already planning my next diving trip.

Currently, I’m living in a little seaside village in Egypt – Dahab. This town is known all over the world for being the best diving spot with it’s neon-colored fish and brightly lit, untouched coral. The Red Sea definitely adds up to it’s reputation. I’ve spent my days exploring huge caves only accessible by diving down and through tight crevices 30 meters deep. I’ve observed the most exuberant displays of coral thanks to the sunken islands that now are home to thousands of fish and their families. And I said a little prayer and braved the most dangerous and famous dive site in the world – Blue Hole, Dahab. Along these dives, I’ve befriended loads of Moray Eels and massive Tuna and showy Lionfish. And even a friendly Crescent Wrasse that curiously followed me and my camera around for an entire hour. (Side note: It was later on that day that I researched the little wrasse and learned that they are very approachable and inquisitive towards divers. Aw! My new little friend!)

Freddy, the curious Crescent Wrasse (above) and a portrait of me and Freddy (below).

The Joys of Discovering New Passions

While my primary love and passions are in photographing families and children (and keeping up with my writing on this blog!), I love diving the world’s oceans. Discovering new interests, whether that be watercolor painting or rock climbing or playing the guitar, adds so much richness to a person’s life. And following those curious thoughts and “what if”s can lead to such vibrant adventures and life experiences. I, like most creative individuals, am a multi-passionate person and when I uncover a new passion for something different, I feel more A L I V E than ever before. I feel like the world truly is my oyster – wide open and ready for the taking.

This world is a p l a y ground, friends. An ever-expanding, imaginative and light-hearted playground. It is filled with vibrant gems and jewels that we haven’t even seen, often because we are so focused on work, stability, security, success and fulfillment. But it is here…and always present. This playground of ours is meant to be explored and looked at closely. It is meant to be here for us to find its treasures no matter how far or deep they may be. And when we follow those curious yearnings and callings and hobbies, we may find how deeply enriching it

I don’t dive for money or work or achievement. I dive because it brings me joy and a feeling of aliveness to this life I have. And that, by golly, is a damn good reason to try something.

I urge you to follow those hidden talents and nudging curiosities that are buried within you. To take 30 minutes of your day to explore that little voice that’s telling you to pick up that guitar or pick up that book. I encourage you to ask yourself what interests you – and then to go try it. To take action and discover what makes you feel alive.

And if you’re ever curious about diving the ocean someday, I encourage you to sign up for a class. The ocean is a vast, unique and wondrous community, and it is here to be explored.

Your Turn!

What is one thing that your heart is urging you to go do right now? How can you set aside some time to go do it?

Photo Diaries: My First Underwater Photographs

For my Advanced PADI Open Water Course, I had to choose a specialization, so of course, I chose Digital Underwater Photography! During this two day course with H20 Divers , I used my awesome instructor’s Canon 700D and her underwater housing and strobes. Several of these images are of my instructor Jenny Lord and Freddy, the Crescent Wrasse who charmingly wouldn’t leave me alone. May these inspire you to get into the water sometime!

 

My Journey Scuba Diving

July 24, 2018

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I'm Helena! As a creative storyteller, I document magical, emotionally honest family and children's portraiture. A lover of childhood, fairytales and natural light, I photograph families across the world. I'm the ultimate Disney nerd, and I'm obsessed with cats and expressing my love for the simple joys of slow, daily life.

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Helena Woods is a destination newborn and family photographer based in France and New England and travels worldwide. She is known for her natural light, modern classic, and emotive photography style.

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