Behind the lens of a low-volume mask, probing eyes stare down into the blue abyss. Those eyes have serious mileage on them, and have seen things most of us could only dream of—or be afraid to dream of! And yet here they are once again, on the lookout, scanning, searching, hoping…
In an instant, Tony Ludovico fills his lungs to capacity courtesy of a simple plastic tube, gracefully arches his back, and slides beneath the waves. Smooth, powerful kicks of his long, carbon fiber fins drop him twenty feet in less time than it took you to read this. Although his surroundings are considerably darker, there’s still enough ambient light to accomplish the task at hand — capturing the perfect image.
For air-breathers like Tony and the rest of humanity, the ocean is fraught with peril. Here, Man is not the apex predator he is on land, and all those who dare to enter do so with considerable risk, willingly becoming part of the food chain. However, in this beautiful yet unforgiving environment, toothy predators represent merely a fraction of the danger. There are many ways to die when blue sky yields to blue water.
Unfortunately, Tony doesn’t have nine lives—and the one he’s got has come damn close to being extinguished more times than a barracuda has teeth. But despite the innumerable hazards and mind-numbing uncertainty that go hand-in-hand with every descent, Tony couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.
With a career spanning three decades, Tony Ludovico is among the world’s most accomplished professional underwater photographers and videographers. What separates Tony from the other elite aquatic shooters is that he’s the only one who plies his trade without benefit of scuba gear. Tony’s minimalist approach has nothing to do with machismo; it’s all about doing everything in his power to avoid being an interloper in a world where Man doesn’t belong. That requires Casper-like invisibility when he’s there, and leaving zero trace of his presence once he’s exited the brine. If he gets it right, the only evidence he was ever there will be the images he captured. If he gets it wrong, well, Poseidon tends to hang onto his trophies. Fortunately for us, Tony never gets it wrong. In that respect, Tony Ludovico is the rarest of the rare: a true aquatic unicorn. Or better yet, an ocean ghost.
Tony is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, honoring both his artistic eye along with his tireless conservation efforts. His work can be found in virtually every nook and cranny of the globe, in both commercial campaigns and private collections.
Over the course of his illustrious and adventurous career, one of Tony’s greatest visual trophies has been images of the the blue marlin. “The blue marlin is probably the most elusive species I have ever photographed,” says Tony. But that hasn’t stopped him from capturing iconic photos of them all over the world; Cape Verde, Africa, Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, Venezuela, the Bahamas, Guatemala, just to name a few.
His success in capturing the solitary predator may just lie in his free diving methods. “Free diving is a huge benefit when filming blue marlin because you’re able to be very agile in the water. The blue marlin are extremely fast and you really do not have much time to get set up for the shot. You must have your head on a swivel because they come from any angle. They come and go in the blink of an eye.”
From Nova Scotia, where 1,000-pound bluefin tuna sped at him like finned Greyhound buses; to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, where he hovered amid enormous bait balls as nimble sailfish sliced and diced their way through like scaled Zorros; to the Galapagos Islands, where he danced an underwater Waltz with majestic manta rays, and played tag with monstrous but gentle whale sharks; to the mangrove swamps of the Florida Keys, where air-depleted lungs forced him to surface into a barrel’s-eye-view of a drug-runner’s AK-47…
Awesome. Incredible. Unimaginable. Yet it’s all just another day at the office for Tony Ludovico.
Now, Tony’s opening up a secret door and inviting us all inside for a look at the amazing undersea world he knows so well—a world we know so little about.
Better hold your breath. It’s going to be an incredible journey!
Check out more of Tony’s images and his apparel line th2ogear.com.
And follow him on Instagram @tonyludovico.