No one knows the Ocean State quite like Mike Laptew. Like many native Rhode Islanders, he grew up snorkeling, diving, and fishing here, spending summers at his uncle’s home in Jamestown. But his relationship with saltwater life goes far below the surface: Laptew is one of the Northeast region’s renowned underwater videographers.
Laptew’s voyage into photography started in 1958, when he received his first camera, a Kodak Brownie. He started filming underwater in the ‘70s, and by 1990, was freediving (breath-hold diving sans SCUBA gear) to record Rhode Island seascapes and marine life. His clips quickly found a following, especially among fishermen, and in ’95 he launched his eponymous video production company.
Laptew’s imagery has appeared in national and regional publications, and he’s worked closely with National Geographic, The Nature Conservancy, and Save The Bay. Thousands of anglers have been awed by his fishing seminars at sporting shows and expos along the East Coast. It’s no surprise; any viewer would be amazed by Laptew’s stunning captures, from a school of striped bass swimming past the Watch Hill Lighthouse to the close-up and colorful snap of a bay scallop and its many eyes. Plus, Laptew’s passions don’t stop at the shore: He is also an avid wildlife photographer, documenting the birds and animals found in even the state’s most densely populated cities and towns.
Today, the 70-year-old videographer and North Kingstown resident still totes his camera around Rhody to shoot both land and sea. While he has traveled to photograph scenery in Siberia, Japan, Costa Rica, and beyond, Narragansett Bay still holds a special place in Laptew’s heart: “I experience the same excitement and sense of adventure that I first felt when I started snorkeling 60 years ago.”