Jim Edds - Biography
Home Sweet Home
I was born in Wiesbaden, Germany and every couple of years it was moving time. That's right, welcome to life growing up in the Air Force. I got to know a lot of people not very well. The plus side was I lived in Guam, a beautiful tropical Island where I learned to SCUBA dive and swim competitively - two sports that would help me later filming Hurricanes and alligators in the Everglades. Dad retired at Eglin AFB in the Florida Panhandle but after 5 months we moved our net worth yet again to Pensacola, Florida only this time the Air Force didn't do it for us - we did the lifting.
I finished High School here in Pensacola
then went on to Pensacola Junior College and finally got my BS in Chemistry
at the University of West Florida. At the time UWF was an upper level
university and that meant they served beer on campus at the "Rat" - the
local chow hall near the Library. Oh, the good ole days!
Reichhold was bought out by Dai Nippon and moved the lab to Research Triangle Park, NC. I opted not to go because, well, once you get that Pensacola Beach sand between your toes it's hard to leave. I lived out at the beach at the time. Just have a look at a sunset and tell me you could leave this place. It was during my 8 months of being unemployed that I really sat down and thought about what I wanted to do. A good friend of mine passed away from insidious cancer and that convinced me that life is too short not to do what you loved for a living. I had always enjoyed underwater photography so I decided to find a job in the Florida Keys, a place where I had good clear water and lots of underwater subjects. As luck would have it, I landed a job as an Environmental Specialist with the Department of Environmental Regulation in Marathon in 1993. Oh, the diving was good in the Keys. I soon began photographing the underwater marine environment. I also enrolled in a home study photography course with the New York Institute of Photography. That course was key to my future success as a working Pro. At NYIP they teach you all forms of photography not just outside.
In 1996, I met three extraordinary people that really launched my photography career: Many Puig, Mark Rackley, and Mehgan Heaney-Grier. They were looking for a photographer to capture their extreme underwater exploits on film and I was looking for some subjects. It was a perfect fit. Only catch was you had to go where they went and that meant swimming in the Everglades up close and personal with huge alligators as Manny interacted with them. Mark Rackley, a gifted self taught underwater cameraman (of Wildboyz, Jackass, and Gator Boyz fame), would film all the action and it wasn't long before the trio landed their first TV series on Animal Planet called, "Extreme Contact". Mehgan's forte was swimming to155 feet and back on one breath of air. I'd shoot a photo of her whizzing by me on a record attempt for the Associated Press article. "Model sets record freedive" was big news and went around the world. She was 19 at the time and her modeling career took off. Mehgan went on to set a personal best of 165 feet in 1997.
I accompanied the US Freediving Team to the World Freediving Cup in
Sardinia, Italy as the team photographer. Freediving is a very
dangerous sport especially if you do it alone. I watched 7 freedivers
blackout on the first day. Some would break the surface after a deep
freedive and start shaking uncontrollably. The shakes were called
"Samba" by the other divers. Nobody got hurt during the competition
but there were several from other countries that died in training for the
Over the years I used my vacation time to film the weather and build up a stock library. In the spring of 2005 my financial planner said to me, "Why are you still working for the State? I'll be back here in 2 weeks; you know what you have to do". Well, when the financial planner gives you the green light - it's time to start writing the resignation letter. What fun it is to tell the boss how sorry you are to be leaving your job! I put on my best sad poker face when the boss read my letter and asked if this is really what I wanted to do!
I picked a good time to leave the day job because 2005 was a blockbuster hurricane season. I was a dope for scheduling shoulder surgery in June but usually that's a slow month as is July. That year I found myself chasing Hurricanes Dennis in Pensacola (only 10 months after Ivan) and shortly afterward Hurricane Emily in Tulum, Mexico with one arm in a sling and plenty of pain for two men. You have to really like filming hurricanes to film in that kind of pain. I chased Hurricane Katrina for a week including onboard a NOAA Hurricane Hunter G4 at 45,000 feet. Next up was Hurricane Rita passing just south of Key West where I filmed a cyclist get creamed by a giant wave at the White Street Pier - one of my best money shots! Finally, Hurricane Wilma roared through South Florida and the Keys in October putting 75% of Key West underwater. What an eye opener that was. There were 100,000 cars swamped in the Keys thanks to Wilma.
In 2007, I moved back home to Pensacola sensing I had tapped out in the Keys. I had accomplished what I wanted and was on my own doing what I loved. That's the secret to life. Yes, I'm employee of the month every month now! It was a long road to get my own business going full time but heck, that's half the fun! Next up was to take the storm photography worldwide cause there's always a storm somewhere in the World - you just have to find it.
Check out some of my Magazine, Video, & Newspaper/Book Credits
Back to Home Page ExtremeStorms.com