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October 2014; Back Underwater

2014 has been a year of phenomenal workshops and lots of travel.  I’ve had a blast being able to teach across the globe within the past year, even though it has left little time for shooting.  Feeling inspired from the excellent work of so many of my students, I managed to get out of the studio for a change and make some time for some intensive underwater shoots.

Back in the days of only being able to shoot in the pool at night during the Spring and Summer months, I would set up as many shoots as possible in a short period of time.  In the last couple months, I worked very similarly, hosting two excellent models for two periods of relentless underwater photography.  We shot as much as we could physically bear- it can get pretty exhausting!  As I don’t work with scuba gear or anything of that sort, I frequently need to remind myself to take a break and BREATHE, making every shoot quite the aerobic workout.

The first model I played host to was Ruth, who was a student of mine at The Maine Media Workshops. Ruth and I arranged for her to stay with me for a whole week, during which time we would get in as many shoots every day as possible. She was an excellent model and so much fun to work with, and we found ourselves getting into a good rhythm very early on.

With the long shoot days and Ruth’s excellent work as a model, we produced a ton of images I am really excited about! When I’m shooting so actively, the time spent looking at and analyzing images immediately after a shoot is minimal, but the growth and evolution in what I’m seeing is still there. (something about that being very exciting) After some time sorting, editing, and looking at so much of this work, I couldn’t wait to get some of it posted here.

Here are just a few of my favorite images working with her:




Looking at many of these, I became really attracted to a lot of the dark underwater tones.  Many of the images have a deep, atmospheric quality that I just love.  The weirdness, the various distortions and disconnections between what is above and below the water seem slightly more subtle in some of these, but the effect is still startling.  I was motivated to explore these darker expressions in my next intensive shooting session…

Carl and I have worked together for years and is one of my most photographed models since transitioning to color.  A great deal of the latest work in Reflections features Carl as the model.  Working with him for so many years means that we can typically pick up where we left off- we’re so familiar with how each other works that it feels like second nature.  Knowing what I’m interested in and what I’m looking at makes working with Carl extremely productive, and all of that said, he is also a very dear friend.

We arranged a fervent shooting schedule similar to the one we worked on with Ruth, squeezing in multiple shoots every day, and ending with me getting a nasty case of swimmer’s ear.  Needless to say, it was entirely WORTH it:


While I wanted to continue working with the darker tones I had grown so fond of in working with Ruth, I was also interested in exploring ways of bringing in different intensities of color and introducing more of it, similar to the mirror work.  With the mirrors, I had been incorporating this deep, rich red using a filter over one of the strobes.  My initial intention in doing so was to mimic the profound color difference I had discovered above and below the surface of water and recreate that difference in the studio.  Eventually though the red light became it’s own powerful element, and it became increasingly prominent in many of the mirror images.  Now, back in the water, I wanted to introduce that rich and dramatic red into the images.

For several of these shoots with Carl, I brought a smaller strobe to the pool to light his body above the water with the same red filter from the studio, and I LOVED the effect!  The stark contrast of the red light above the water and the underwater strobe- magnified in coolness by the water- was fascinating!


Another thing I was drawn to in the shoots with Carl was the blueness I started getting in the shadows.  Since I’m working with these much darker tones, the exposures are quite long, with rather slow shutter speeds.  The strobe is fast enough to freeze a moment and render it in focus, while any movement is captured from the available light under the water, which is of course very blue.  In many instances, it ends up filling in many of the shadows with what looks like blue mist or smoke, and I love how that looks.


Untitled #09-24-14-477

With so much intensive shooting between the sessions with Ruth and Carl, I have thousands of images that I’m working on, and simply sorting through them is like discovering them for the first time.  These images posted above are some of the first to really standout, although I’m sure there will be more to follow….

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