Brick Photographer, Diver Takes Readers 'Beneath the Garden State'
Fascinating underwater photos from Brick photographer explore rarely-seen world
Brick resident Herb Segars has achieved what almost any photographer in the world would consider a career highlight: having his photographs published in National Geographic magazine.
But for Segars, 65, the most rewarding aspect of having his photos on display for an international audience was the fact that they were taken close to home.
Segars, a photographer, has been diving recreationally off the Jersey Shore for more than 30 years. Eventually, he told Brick Patch, it was inevitable that he would combine his fascination with what lies underneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean with his love of photography.
"I got bored," he said of diving. "I had been doing some photography on land, and I decided to try my hand at it under water. It added a whole new dimension to my diving."
Once the ball got rolling, Segars honed his craft frequently, experimenting with new lenses and flash bulbs in order to produce the best possible shots of the submarine environment. He's since traveled the world to take underwater pictures, but New Jersey, he said, is one of the most interesting places he's ever dove.
"There's a lot of neat things to see in New Jersey, and if you can capture them correctly, it really opens people's eyes up," he said.
Now, everyone can see what Segars has captured under New Jersey's waters. His book, "Beneath the Garden State," hit the shelves last month.
The hardcover book features stunning photographs of marine life – everything from colorful jellyfish to flounder to sharks – in waters around the state. Many of the photographs were taken close to home at the Axel Carlson reef, which is located in a swath of ocean less than three miles off Bay Head and Mantoloking.
"The majority of people who live in New Jersey just have no clue what's beneath the water," said Segars. "A lot of people would have that first impression that the water is dark, you can't see anything, and you don't need to know anything else about it. But people are amazed when they look and say, 'I can't believe what it looks like underwater in New Jersey.'"
Segars' book provides first-person descriptions of the marine species he's photographed, providing readers with a virtual personal tour of the sea floor and those species that inhabit in.
Even the most seasoned angler might not recognize species such as the ocean sunfish or pygmy filefish, or the brightly-colored ocean pout, just a few of the species featured in the book alongside more commonly-known species such as the summer flounder, grey triggerfish and tautog.
"Jellyfish are a favorite," said Segars, whose book also includes rarely-seen photos of shellfish in their natural habitat.
The book also provides a tour of several of the state's artificial reef sites.
New Jersey's artificial reef network is one of the nation's most robust, consisting of everything from sunken tugboats to decommissioned Army tanks. The remediated vehicles, along with man-made concrete objects called reef balls, provide a home for marine life that can be observed by divers and – in some cases – caught for dinner by anglers.
Local reefs such as the Axel Carlson and Sea Girt reef are featured in the book, as well as several offshore shipwrecks including the Delaware and the Tolten.
Using his Nikon D300 camera, Segars said he still dives frequently and is always on the hunt for new species to photograph. Ocean sunfish and cownose rays are his next targets.
"For the most part, when you're photographing animals anywhere, it comes down to luck, being at the right place at the right time, and not screwing up your picture," he said. "After 30 years, I still dream about running into different animals under the waters of New Jersey."
For more information on Segars' book, visit his website, where signed copies can be purchased. Segars is also scheduled to make several public appearances across the state, including Friday in Sea Girt. For a full schedule and complete information, visit Segars' appearances page.