Diver.

Storyteller Filmmaker.

A conversation with Kyle McBurnie

AlgiKnit: We’re so curious to find out: who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?

Kyle McBurnie: My name is Kyle McBurnie, and I was born in Tokyo - but quickly moved to Canada. At the age of 10 I moved to California and I've been living in the sunshine state ever since. I got my start when a friend and I founded a shark diving company in San Diego. Now I'm a full-time freelance underwater cameraman and filmmaker.

From being a deck-hand, to a dive instructor, to a shark expedition leader, and now underwater cameraman, the ocean has given me almost everything I’ve come to love in life.
— Kyle McBurnie

AlgiKnit: Your work largely revolves around marine life. Why is it so influential to you and what role has the ocean and its ecology played in your life?

Kyle McBurnie: Let's see... I worked at Target when I was in high school, but other than that, every single job I've ever held has been marine based. From being a deck-hand, to a dive instructor, to a shark expedition leader, and now underwater cameraman, the ocean has given me almost everything I've come to love in life. There are few people more humbled then those who have spent their years under the sea, pushing their bodies a and minds to personal limits while being surrounded by conscious beings who we don't really understand. In that regard, I like to think the ocean made me who I am.

AlgiKnit: What is the life of a freelance underwater cameraman and filmmaker like? Are you constantly busy and on the road?

Kyle McBurnie: The life of a freelance cameraman is hectic but full of excitement. The ability to multi-task and juggle a bunch of different deadlines is super helpful... I'd say I probably end up being on the road or preparing to be on the road about half of my time. The really nice part is that when you're at home you can kind of set your on schedule - getting those surf sessions in, getting the dog out, and diving for fun. Shooting underwater requires a lot of practice and you have to stay pretty current in testing gear and improving your skills even when you're not on a shoot. Luckily, that's easy to do because it's what I would be doing regardless - I'm happiest in the water.

AlgiKnit: The ocean covers an enormous part of the earth. What are the some of the places you've worked in, what were you doing there, and what were some of your favorite experiences?

Kyle McBurnie: I've spent a fair amount of time shooting in tropical locations, but I would generally say my favorite shoots are the ones in remote, generally less-forgiving areas. Cold water diving in kelp forests is definitely a favorite - I spent a month in the Aleutians Island on a shoot last year with a research expedition documenting WWII wrecks. Anything that gets me further out of my comfort zone is always exciting. All in all, however, I would say some of my favorite encounters are the ones I'm not expecting, like when I get in the water locally or when I'm not on a shoot. Whether it's a chance whale encounter or a harbor seal that decides to comb my hair with his claws, those truly unexpected moments are my favorite.

AlgiKnit: Who are some of your role models or inspirations? If you could collaborate with one of them, who would it be, and what would you do?

Kyle McBurnie: The great thing about the underwater industry is that there are so many amazing people to draw inspiration from! Certainly one of my greatest inspirations is Howard Hall, who was responsible for some of the most successful underwater IMAX films in the 90s. He can still, arguably, hold his breath longer than I can and we routinely get out on the water together in San Diego. Hall, the late Bob Cranston, and Peter Kragh represent the San Diego’s finest and just embody such an amazing dynamic. It's something that Jeff, Alex (my business partners) and I strive for as we continue to improve our abilities in underwater cinematography.

All in all, however, I would say some of my favorite encounters are the ones I’m not expecting, like when I get in the water locally or when I’m not on a shoot. Whether it’s a chance whale encounter or a harbor seal that decides to comb my hair with his claws, those truly unexpected moments are my favorite.
— Kyle McBurnie

Photo Credit: Mark Thiessen

Photo Credit: Mark Thiessen

Kyle McBurnie is a cameraman, filmmaker, and award-winning underwater photographer best known for his work in California. He has also shot motion picture for a number of natural history and presenter-based productions including the BBC and the Discovery Channel. You can find out more about Kyle at http://kylemcburnie.com, and to see more of his work, you can visit https://www.instagram.com/kyle.mcb.