Cortez Blue Photography & Marine Art

Philip Bonds - Biography


The Banner County School in Harrisburg, Nebraska, is not as far from the ocean as one can get in the Continental United States, but it is close. In the early 1960’s, Philip Bonds watched a school assembly program at the school. The program featured a husband-wife underwater photographer team. Their slide show and scuba equipment display captured Philip’s imagination. As he watched their presentation, Philip knew that he would become a scuba diver and underwater photographer some day.


Philip chose a career path in education. He was a teacher and school administrator for over thirty-eight years. Most of his education career was spent working in middle and high schools in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. In addition to his work in schools, Philip worked as a seasonal resource management park ranger for the National Park Service in Dinosaur National Monument. During his tenure with the National Park Service, Philip received numerous performance awards for his work as a seasonal park mammalogist and his work with federal wildfire suppression teams. He also became an accomplished wildlife photographer. Living and working in Colorado provided opportunities for pursuit of an active, outdoor lifestyle.


Despite growing up and pursuing a career far from the ocean, Philip never lost interest in the ocean, and becoming an underwater photographer. He was in his early thirties before he had an opportunity to realize his entry into scuba diving. As the training officer for a volunteer fire department in a small, rural community in Northwestern Colorado, Philip was assigned to develop an underwater search and recovery team. Encouragement from the local fire district board to dive frequently led him to discover diving in Northern California’s Monterey Bay. It had taken over twenty-five years for Philip to realize a part of the vision generated by those underwater photographers at the Banner County School. Becoming a scuba diver was the easy part of the vision; capturing high quality underwater images proved to be much more difficult.


Philip purchased a couple of Nikonos underwater film cameras while living in Colorado. Unfortunately, Colorado was too far from the ocean to allow diving frequently enough to master using the cameras. In 2010, Philip and the love of his life, Colleen, decided to retire from school service in Colorado and relocate to a warmer climate closer to the ocean. They relocated in Casa Grande, Arizona. Casa Grande’s location is within easy driving distance to dive locations in Mexico and California. Close proximity to the Sea of Cortez and Pacific Ocean enabled Philip to realize his vision of becoming an underwater photographer. Those old Nikonos cameras are still in service and produce high quality images.


Philip has been privileged to be able to live an adventurous life with few regrets. Cortez Blue Photography & Marine Art reflects Philip’s love for underwater photography, and his interest in marine environment mixed media art. The current focus of his work, a book about California sea lions, involves subjects in the Sea of Cortez and Southern California’s Pacific Ocean. Colleen plays the important role of editor in Philip’s photography work since he sees the world in black & white; Philip is totally colorblind. Philip can frequently be found diving in Mexico, and Southern California.