Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, John Rawlings spent much of his childhood alongside his avid fisherman father gazing down into the emerald green waters of Puget Sound and wondering what really lay beneath the surface. Like thousands of others in his generation, he found himself "glued to the television" when episodes of "Seahunt" and "the "Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau" aired. A disabled veteran with a noticeable limp to prove it, John initially learned to dive in the mid-1970s while still on active duty in the US Army. It wasn't long before he developed a burning desire to photograph the many colorful animals and scenes he regularly saw while diving so that he could share his wonder with "topside friends".
Starting with a used Nikonos II and a dented flash-bulb system, John became a self-taught photographer as he struggled to find the best methods to photograph the underwater creatures and sights of Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and British Columbia. Often having to deal with typically Northwest low light and poor visibility, these conditions contributed much to the manner in which John views both his subjects and the methods that he uses to capture his images. In the early days he would emerge from each dive with an old breadbag full of used bulbs lashed to his weight belt and a "wee bit" more knowledge about Pacific Northwest underwater photography bouncing around in his head.
John continued his love-affair with diving while both raising a family and attending the University of Washington on the GI Bill. He graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelors' degree in History as well as being honored with a membership in the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa Society in recognition of his scholarship while at the university. Always having been completely fascinated with history for as long as he can remember, John's articles on diving are now frequently tied to historical events that occurred in the vicinity of the modern dive sites themselves.
Now a proud grandfather and into his fourth decade of Pacific Northwest diving, John is the Chief Staff Writer for Advanced Diver Magazine, in which for the past seven years his work has regularly appeared. While some of his articles for ADM have covered "warm" locations, primarily they have been about subjects, animals and areas within the cold waters of Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. He is also a contributing writer and photographer to the regional publication Northwest Dive News. His photographs and writings have also appeared in other publications in the USA and Canada dealing with the Pacific Northwest, in both the print medium and on the web.
A technical and advanced trimix diver for many years, it was because of his interest in underwater photography that John first caught the "CCR bug". During several trips to the Sea of Cortez, he became increasingly frustrated at his inability to approach schooling Hammerhead sharks while diving with open-circuit gear on the El Bajo seamount – the sharks quickly fading off into the distance upon his approach. Simultaneously, John found himself admiring a series of shots taken literally within the school by another visiting photographer using a rebreather. The "hook was set", and then and there he set a goal for himself that ultimately culminated in acquiring a CCR of his own. John spent an enormous amount of time researching the various units available from the different manufacturers. Meeting Gordon and Kim Smith of Jetsam Technologies through his role at Advanced Diver Magazine, he found himself increasingly drawn to the KISS line of CCRs due to their simplicity and reliability. Deciding on the Classic KISS as his unit of choice, John has never looked back and has been extraordinarily pleased with the unit's performance – particularly in the cold green waters of the Pacific Northwest where it has enabled him to get "eye-to-eye" with many species of marine life.
In terms of photography, John now primarily shoots digitally. He uses Nikon cameras and Nikkor lenses exclusively. Additional personal favorites in terms of photography are Aquatica camera housing, Ikelite digital strobes, the Ultralight buoyancy arm system, and the Fisheye HG20DX digital focusing light.
Having traveled to a variety of locations throughout the world for ADM, John still treasures the cold underwater world of his home waters above all others. Year-round.....sun, snow, wind or rain..... he can usually be found striding out of the surf on a desolate beach or climbing back into a dive boat, his camera again containing new images from the cold, green waters of the Pacific Northwest – his "greatest love".
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