Neon green sea grass and fiery fields of red coral bubble with life. Streams of light dance weightlessly to the sway of a gentle current. Tentacles wrap and release tight circles. Urchins preen and pucker. Mighty mammals travel ancient water routes in search of warmer waters. Life in the ocean is a technicolor masterpiece.
Ten years ago, Annie Crawley made a decision to capture underwater life, changing the entire course of her own. She sold her car, quit her successful corporate sales job and bought a professional underwater camera. She spent the next five years with camera in hand, living and working in Galapagos, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. She then spent another five years traveling the world as the Underwater Director of Cinematography for a large format film company on a series of IMAX movies.
First bitten by the scuba bug in Australia post-college, Annie discovered an unlocked vault inside herself. “When I breathed underwater for the first time, I was awakened to a life and world I never knew existed. Everything became silent all around me, even the voices in my head and every single one of my senses was tantalized by my surroundings.”
Today, Annie and her breathtaking underwater photography have made her one of America’s leading ocean-environmental speakers and educators. Annie Crawley (known to her students as Ocean Annie) uses her multi-media company — Dive Into Your Imagination — to transport students on an imaginary dive around the world teaching life lessons about respect, responsibility and character.
She has produced an award-winning series of DVDs, books and lesson plans, and was awarded four grants from the Save Our Seas Foundation. Some of her best-selling photography eBooks are available on Amazon, including a Readers’ Digest publication, Ocean Life A to Z, which is in the hands of more than 100,000 children.
As a young girl, Annie founded a tree-climbing club, hosted archaeological digs in her backyard and spent summer days in the pool pretending it was the ocean. “If you would have told me that I would go on to become an award-winning underwater photographer and filmmaker, I do not think I would have believed you. I am proof that no dream can be too great.”
If imagination is her muse, then conservation is her mission. Annie documented the SEAPLEX expedition in North Pacific Gyre to bring awareness to the problems of plastic and pollution. “When I returned after 22 days at sea, nobody wanted to know about this issue as it is below the surface.” But it affects everyone’s quality of life according to Annie, “The ocean is responsible for seventy percent of the oxygen our planet needs. With every breath we take, we are breathing ocean. When you break it down this easily, we need a healthy ocean.”
Two decades after her first dive, Annie now calls the Pacific Northwest home. “After visiting several times, I fell in love with the people and the region.” She has found a balance between international travel and home life and cites the local scuba diving community as one of the many reasons she took a position as Camp Director of Beach Camp at Sunset Bay and created Annie Crawley’s Scuba Diving Camp.“I want children to fall in love with the ocean because we protect what we love.”
When Annie stays close to home her favorite local dive spots include Brackett’s Landing in Edmonds. “It is in my back yard and has become one of my favorite places to dive in the Puget Sound.” With more than 75 shore dives to choose from, she is “still exploring” Pacific Northwest waters.
Annie has a rare gift. “I feel so free when I dive and feel as if I come home in the water. To be able to capture the underwater world and share them with others gives me such pleasure. It opened me up to a world beyond my imagination.” There is no doubt that Annie’s exhilarating images and commendable conservation efforts will continue to trigger newfound reverence for the ocean, and further reveal inexhaustible mysteries of the great deep.