These Groundbreaking Photos Show Two Worlds in One

Photographer David Doubilet's "over-under" images present a view of the ocean most people will never get to experience.

National Geographic produced this content as part of our partnership with Rolex, formed to promote exploration and conservation. The organizations will join forces in efforts that support veteran explorers, nurture emerging explorers, and protect Earth’s wonders.

A thin layer of molecules separates two worlds on our planet: the undersea and what lies above. Photographer David Doubilet unites these disparate universes in his captivating "over-under" images.

The idea began as a childhood memory, Doubilet says. He was in Elberon, New Jersey, bobbing in the Atlantic with a mask and watching fish swim below the surface, when the lifeguard waved him out of the water. He began developing the photographic equivalent of that experience in the 1970s. He was inspired by an underwater camera housing called the OceanEye, which was invented by National Geographic photographer Bates Littlehales and optical engineer Gomer McNeill.

"Their invention gave me the ability to use a super-wide angle lens behind a large plexiglass dome to perfect the technique of an over-under image," Doubilet says.

His first published National Geographic over-under image was of Scotland's Loch Ness in June 1977, showing two divers beneath Urquhart Castle. (See also: David Doubilet on the World Beneath the Surface.)

The ocean covers more than 70 percent of our planet, he notes, yet so many people will never be able to see what's below the surface.

"I want to create a window into the sea," he says, "that invites people to see how their world connects to another life-sustaining world hidden from their view."

David Doubilet on the World Beneath the Surface