Kevin Reagan is a graduating senior at the University of Miami studying Marine Science and Biology. As part of the UGalapagos program with Study Abroad, Kevin spent August-November 2017 living on the island of Isabela, the largest island in the archipelago. An exhibit of images from his time on there is on display in the lab for the Spring 2017 semester. View the entire exhibition in the Digital Media Lab or on our online gallery.
Read what Kevin has to say in the following Question & Answer session.
What motivated you to do UGalapagos?
I initially found out about the program during my first year here at UM, and I knew after one info session that no matter what, I was going to go there during my undergraduate career. There was something extremely alluring about the opportunity to go to the very same islands where Charles Darwin was inspired to think of natural selection and evolution. I tailored my class schedule over my first three years at UM to ensure that I would be able to go my senior year.
What most surprised you about the experience?
The scenery was not at all what I expected; I had a vision in my head of lush green forests teeming with wildlife, but found that most of the islands were closer to deserts than rainforests. The highlands offered me the lush green experience I was looking for, but in the lowlands it was all lava fields and cactii.
What part of the trip was the most exciting for you?
There was a field trip that we took to the western side of Isabela Island that was an all-day journey. It took about three hours to get to our destination, which was a small inlet in a completely uninhabited part of the island, where we had the opportunity to snorkel and photograph some of the wildlife. The water was freezing, but the snorkeling was beautiful, and when we made it to the second destination (an inlet only about 10-15 minutes away from the first), we caught a serra mackerel and made fresh ceviche right there on the boat. The best part was the return trip back home. I was sitting on top of the boat speaking with the guide and looking down at the water when I saw a manta ray about a foot underneath the surface. I got excited, as it was the first one I had seen, and pointed it out to the guide, who told me “Just wait.” Two minutes later, we were completely surrounded by feeding, jumping manta rays, who can grow as large as 20 feet in width (wingspan). It was by far one of the most exciting experiences of the trip, as well as my life.
What inspired you to photograph your experience?
I have always enjoyed photography. When I had the opportunity to travel to such a unique place that has things and animals found nowhere else in the world, I knew I had to document the experience and bring those photographs back to people that may never have the opportunity to travel there themselves. That’s why I am grateful for this photo exhibition; it allows me to bring the place to the people.
What do you look for in a great picture?
The general rule that I follow for myself is that if something catches my eye, I photograph it. Not only is it likely that it will catch someone else’s eye as well, but at the end of the day, you photograph to document your life and your experience. In other words, you’re photographing for yourself, not everyone else. You don’t have to follow the rule of thirds and have the perfect aperture and shutter speed all of the time. A photograph can be technically bad, but if it is a snapshot of a memory that means something to you, it doesn’t matter.
Could you share some advice for other students who want to do travel photography?
If you’re blessed with the opportunity to not only travel but to travel and photograph, seize that opportunity and do not let go. Once you’re there, photograph everything. You may end up with several thousand photographs, but I can guarantee that in that large number are a smaller number of fantastic photographs. Don’t ever second guess yourself; with phone cameras what they are today, anyone can be a photographer. There’s never an excuse to not take a photo if you have the chance.