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Photography at sea

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Computer screen with picture of seahorse and student looking on
(Photo credit: Natalie Cross)

Natalie Cross

BS ‘22
Earth Systems Program

April 15, 2022

“The reason I got into photography was because of an Introductory Seminar on conservation photography,” said Natalie Cross, Earth systems '22, MS '23, whose photograph won first place in the Lab category in the 2021 Stanford Earth Photo Contest. “I ended up buying my own camera after the class and have brought it on every adventure since.”

Cross’ photo portrays a fellow student examining an image of a seahorse during a night watch in the lab aboard the tall ship SSV Corwith Cramer, a 134-foot research vessel. Cross lived on the ship for six weeks through the Sea Education Association (SEA) Semester program in the spring of 2021. As they sailed from St. Petersburg, Florida, to Woods Hole, Massachusetts, Cross attended classes, researched marine mammal abundance, and discovered new aspects of herself.

“The trip made me much more confident about who I am as a person, what I enjoy and how I want to present myself,” Cross said. “I was in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar people and quite frankly, I didn't have time to worry about insecurities when there were so many other exciting things to focus on – like seahorses and dolphins and whales.” 

Throughout the trip, she examined and interacted with marine life up-close – experiences she eagerly captured through photography. “In one of my first night lab shifts, I was sifting through our net and found a seahorse,” Cross said about seeing the animal while off the coast of Florida.“I went down to get my camera and the entire lab was having a photoshoot with it.”

Cross’ passion for taking photos began in her freshman year – a result of the small, hands-on, immersive nature of IntroSem courses. Four years later, through her Notation in Science Communication, she continues to work with photography in science and multimedia communication. The notation program, which trains students to explain science in clear and compelling ways to a range of audiences, supports Cross’s aspiration to continue using visual content to make science more accessible and exciting.

“I really appreciate the notation program’s flexibility and small class size," Cross said. “It allowed me to emphasize my interests and receive specialized feedback from my professors and mentors.”

Visit the Hohbach Hall photography wall in Green Library to see Cross’ photo and the other 2021 winners.