Cinematographer chases adventures beneath the sea
Paul Cater Deaton fell in love with underwater photography when he was a small boy growing up on a West Texas ranch, he said.
Watching classic television series like “Sea Hunt,” Deaton saw a diver spit into his mask to clear it, then tried the same trick in the ranch’s livestock tank, he said.
From there, he has never looked back on a life spent chasing treasures hidden beneath the sea.
Just more than a year ago, Deaton and his wife, producer and photographer Monica Gephart, made a historic, high-ceilinged apartment on Ball Street in Galveston their new home after a hurricane tore through St. Thomas, their island home for 19 years.
“Our house on St. Thomas was basically destroyed,” Deaton said.
Life in the Caribbean had been good to him, providing a steady stream of commercial underwater work and a stint on the reality television series “The Amazing Race,” filming competitors plunging into the water from a famous rock promontory in search of messages in a bottle. One of Deaton’s tasks was to capture classic splashes as jumpers hit the water.
A diving journalist by trade, Deaton loves putting together music, narration and photography in films he shoots and edits, he said. One of them, “Finding Nemo’s Garden,” filmed in Italy, was screened at Galveston College in late March.
“I saw a story in a food and wine magazine about an Italian fellow about my age who grew up on the Ligurian Sea south of Genoa,” Deaton said.
The subject of his film wanted to grow herbs, vegetables and flowers underwater in temperature-controlled biodomes anchored to the sea floor.
“The domes function like terrariums,” Deaton said. They are a dive attraction in Italy, but for Deaton represented an underwater story like others he has shot about people doing unexpected things in watery worlds.
In another of his films, “Wine Diving in Croatia,” Deaton followed a group of restaurant entrepreneurs bottling and aging wine underwater in amphoras — tall, oval-shaped, two-handled stone vases fashioned by the ancient Greeks to store olive oil.
In February, he went ice diving in a rock quarry in Wisconsin, checking out the rock strata from decades of mining operations from a unique underwater perspective.
“The main reason I did it is if someone who does films in Antarctica needs a camera man, I’m qualified for the job,” Deaton said. Wearing a special dry suit over undergarments, he had to learn the skills of buoyancy compensation and cold tolerance, and got to enjoy the sight of wondrous shafts of light through ice, a photographer’s dream, he said.
The Deaton home is filled with enlarged photos of his favorite water spots — a Solomon Islands farmers market, its merchants crowded by tropical fruits in side-by-side canoes, shot from above; Dubrovnik with its terra cotta roofs and blue water, shot from a distant hillside; and the Red Sea where he experienced his most memorable dive in 2001, just shortly after the 9/11 attacks in New York City, looking for a wrecked ship in clear, still waters.
“We were far away from land, so there was no river silt,” Deaton said. “The water was so clear it was almost like vodka.”
To see some of Deaton’s work and learn more, visit www.paulcaterdeaton.com.