David Fleetham was born in Vancouver, Canada in 1958. He grew up in Ontario, Canada just outside of Toronto and in his last year of high school he learned to scuba dive in a man-made lake. Soon after he purchased an Ikelite housing and a Minolta SLR camera and spent three months in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean. With his eyes wide open he returned to land locked Ontario just long enough to pack his bags and move back to Canada's west coast. Here David worked in several dive businesses, became a scuba instructor and continued focusing on his passion: underwater photography.
His first published photo was during this time. It was a cover on Diver magazine where David's images and articles still appear to this date. He acknowledges Neil McDaniel (then editor of Diver magazine) and his photography as one of his first influences:
"Neil's work was very precise for the time. I learned much from studying his images and techniques."
In 1986 David left Vancouver for the island of Maui, Hawaii where he again worked in various dive charter businesses and earned a USCG Captain's license, all the while shooting and submitting his underwater images to magazines and businesses. David was approached by his first stock agency shortly after coming to Hawaii and now has galleries and agents in over 50 countries that reproduce his images thousands of times each year.
From Hawaii, David has been on assignments to 22 locations in Indonesia, The Galapagos Islands, Saipan, Truk Lagoon, Fiji, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), Palau, Yap, Guam, Kwajalein Atoll, Pohnpei, the Philippines, Honduras, Bahamas, Australia, the Sea of Cortez, the Red Sea, the Socorro Islands and back to the cold waters of British Columbia.
Prior to receiving his own assignments from National Geographic, the magazine hired David to escort professional underwater photographer David Doubilet while on assignment in Hawaii. Fleetham recognizes Doubilet's work as another influence on his career:
"Doubilet is constantly taking the art of underwater photography to another level. Over the years his images have encouraged me to take chances with photographic encounters that I may not have, had I not had my nose in National Geographic from the beginning."
David shoots primarily with full frame Canon EOS Digital SLR camera's in Ikelite housings. He uses various twin Ikelite strobe setups to light his images. Throughout the decades, David's work has appeared countless times in Ikelite catalogs, presentations, and pacakging.
Awards + Achievements
- Over 200 magazine covers worldwide, including LIFE magazine in 1991 - the only underwater photograph to ever be selected for the cover of this long-running publication
- Published by National Geographic, The Cousteau Society, and every North American diving publication
- The Smithsonian Museum, The North Carolina Museum of Natural History, The London Zoo, Hong Kong Museum, The Waikiki, Vancouver, Monterey Bay, John G. Shedd Aquarium, Maui Ocean Center and the Aquarium of the Americas all display his work
- 1994-1995 + 1999-2000 Honorary Mentions in the Professional Division of the United Nations Environment Programme International Photographic Competition on the Environment (it was the only underwater image chosen in the entire competition)
- 1997 British Gas Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition
- 2000 1st place in the Kodak Oceanz contest in New Zealand
- 2010 Grand Prize in National Wildlife Federation Photography Contest
- Founding member of The Ocean Artists Society who’s members include James Cameron, Wyland, David Doubilet, and Al Giddings
All images Copyright © 2019 David Fleetham