The cover of the July/August 2013 issue of Orion features “Cloud of Tadpoles,” an image from Vancouver-based photographer Eiko Jones. We asked Eiko, whose photographs of dramatic, undersea worlds have appeared in National Geographic, Diver Magazine, and elsewhere, about the story behind his remarkable image.
There’s a lot going on in this image, and it takes a moment—a delightful moment—for the viewer to orient himself. What are we looking at here?
This is a picture of a huge cloud of tadpoles (hence the title) streaming through a jungle-like setting of pond plants. They numbered in the thousands, and they were swimming along an area of marsh at the edge of Cedar Lake, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
I’d found the area a few weeks prior to shooting, and I was interested in it because of the abundance of plant life. The tadpoles were a bonus.
This image teems with life, while conveying both motion and depth. What intrigues you about this photograph?
I think it’s especially intriguing because most people can connect with tadpoles—many of us played with them or collected them as a kid. The image of their seeming flight through underwater jungle stalks is surreal and sort of unexpected, visually. It takes the viewer a moment to grasp what they’re seeing.
You’ve made underwater photography your specialty. What is it about the submerged parts of the planet that intrigue you as an artist? Is any special gear required?
I like the underwater world for all its diversity, and for the fact that it is relatively unexplored. I like to go to parts that even most divers or photographers overlook. For a photographer, the underwater environment is a special place: light works differently down there, and it can make for more dramatic images.
As for special gear, I use a Nikon SLR camera in an Aquatica housing that’s specially designed for underwater use. In this particular shoot, I was using SCUBA equipment, even though the water was only a few feet deep. That way, I could crawl along the bottom slowly without stirring up too much muck.
Your series of photographs from Cedar Lake was taken in 2012. What are you working on now?
I’m still visiting this part of the marsh and chronicling its life throughout the year. I also spend a big part of the summer months swimming with migrating salmon in the rivers on Vancouver Island.