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It’s a different world below the surface of lakes and rivers—and this Mainer captures it on video

“When you can be absolutely still and silent, that’s when the underwater wildlife will come to you”

LYMAN, Maine — Is there anyone who has spent more time shooting video underwater in Maine’s lakes, ponds and rivers than Steve Underwood? Not likely.

For years now Underwood has traveled all over the state, often guided not by a map and travel books but by the water quality reports compiled by the organization Lake Stewards of Maine. “They would list the lakes by clarity, so you would see the top ten clearest lakes in Maine, and I would just start driving and diving those lakes,” he says.

At first he went diving for fun, equipped with a wet suit, camera and snorkel. “Early on people said, ‘oh, you must use scuba.’ Never. I'm certified, but it's so heavy and clunky and you're making a lot of noise underwater. When you can be absolutely still and silent, that's when the underwater wildlife will come to you.”

As time went by and he shot in more lakes—he’s up to about 110 in Maine--Underwood realized his video could do more than capture the otherworldly beauty he sees below the surface. It could teach people about the importance of protecting lakes and rivers from invasive plants such as milfoil.

Recently Underwood has spent a lot of time shooting video for a documentary on Big Lake in Washington County, where people are struggling to control or eradicate invasive plants. It’s a cautionary tale.

“Hopefully, it will wake people up to the fact that you can be in a hurry to put your boat in,” he says, “and a tiny piece of plant on your prop or your paddle or whatever can start a chain reaction where some really nasty stuff gets growing in lakes that is not good for them at all.”

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