McFall, who serves as the deputy sanctuary superintendent and research coordinator for Gray’s Reef, offers colorful glimpses of a world rich with life, motion and drama. From the intricate yellow and blue patterning of a sea slug to the feathery texture of white sea anemones, this experienced diver and photographer shares the magic of this complex aquatic environment.
“What I love most about underwater photography is capturing images of what I see and bringing them back to the surface for others to enjoy,” he said. “If bringing the beauty of nature to people who may never have the opportunity to see it first-hand is what it take to help forge a connection to our offshore resources, then I am honored to oblige.”
Located just 16 miles east of Sapelo Island, Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary is one of 14 protected U.S. marine areas comprising the National Marine Sanctuary System. The underwater ecosystem spans 22 square miles and is defined by a live bottom reef studded with sea stars, soft coral, sponges and other life forms.
Although McFall has a background in marine biology, some of the strongest photographs on display reveal an artist’s eye for composition. He captures a school of silver fish gingerly framing a tentacled jellyfish in “Precarious Existence” and documents thick veils of orange coral rising from the rocky bottom of the ocean floor in “Soft Coral Curtain.”
“The biggest challenges of capturing underwater images at Gray’s Reef are the underwater visibility and the currents,” he explained. “When the currents are strong, particulate matter and fine sediment gets suspended in the water and is recorded as white spots all over the image. Additionally, the current itself tends to make it very difficult to stay in one place and focus on the subject of interest.”
This award-winning underwater photographer overcame the elements to shoot clouds of striped spadefish and to snap a pair of stern-faced black sea bass traversing the reef like grumpy grandparents. “Cannonball Jelly,” an image of a lone jellyfish floating through a black sea, is so otherworldly it seems as though it could have been shot in outer space.
McFall served as a photographer in the Navy at the age of 18 and completed the requisite training to become a Navy Diver. He was subsequently assigned to a specialized Underwater Photo Team in Little Creek, Va., where he developed his interest in underwater photography.
“My hope is that the photos in this exhibit will connect people with a beauty they had not known existed in the waters off of coastal Georgia,” he said, “and move them to help conserve and further educate others about the inherent value of these special places.”
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Originally from Little Rock, Ark., Greg McFall serves as deputy sanctuary superintendent and research coordinator for Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, where he coordinates scientific investigations into the ecology of hard-bottom reefs. He has a M.S. in Marine Biology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where he studied the ecology of tropical sponges, and a B.S. in Biology from West Virginia University.
IF YOU GO
What: “Live From Gray’s Reef: Underwater Photographs by Greg McFall”
When: Noon-5 p.m. Monday and Sunday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday; through Oct. 7
Where: Jepson Center, 207 W. York St.
Cost: Free to Telfair members; $20 for adults; $18 for AAA and seniors; free for children younger than 5
Info: 912-790-8800, telfair.org