+Behind the Scenes

Chantal Lamour in one of our first underwater shoots.

+The Project

James Wallace Martin patiently poses at 30 feet.

This project was started several years ago when I began taking underwater photographs of my kids on vacation. My interest in underwater photography continued to the usual venues of seascapes, fish, and reefs. Problem of it was, I could only shoot underwater about twice a year during vacation. Luckily I have a pool, and that's where the concept was born.

Since there was nothing too interesting in the pool, I thought we should add something interesting --- people. And what if we could replicate an underwater portrait studio, complete with backdrops, cool lighting, costumes, and sets that you'd find on land?

The Spring of 2013. Cool temperatures plus heated pool.

The Spring of 2013. Cool temperatures plus heated pool.

So we set up a backdrop and threw an iron bench into the deep end. We got some amazing photos.

Autumn Bodell (center), Ashley Malone, hair stylist (left) and Sara Martin. makeup artist (right)

Autumn Bodell (center), Ashley Malone, hair stylist (left) and Sara Martin. makeup artist (right)

Just like on land. A strong theme makes everyone focus and them we can go off from there. We started with Underwater Evil Queen. From there it was Snow White meets the Little Mermaid.

So, we enlisted the least evil model we could find and got to work on hair and makeup. Ashley Malone styled the hair. Sara Martin did makeup. The crown is a left-over from a Halloween costume. The gold disco robe is from some forgotten Black Tie event in the late 80s.

Evil Queen underwater with a mirror and backdrop.

Since reflections work great underwater, we added a backdrop and a mirror. The gold robe lent a regal air to the shot. Autumn got in touch with her royal side and floated in eight feet of water for this shot.

So You Just Shoot Women?

No, it just has worked out that way so far. But there are some amazing images to be had when we do spur of the moment stuff as well. This image started out as a longboard shoot with my son James.

Daisy, our amphibous Vizsla, had other ideas and turned a photo-bomb into a cool shot we call "Walkin' the Dog".

James Martin and Daisy's photo bomb.

James Martin and Daisy's photo bomb.

+The Images

The images take on a magical quality underwater. There is an organic feel that can't be duplicated on land. The light is unpredictable. Yes, you can control it, but part of the fun is allowing the light to do what it will do through the refraction of the water.

Shadows add intriguing patterns to the images and create a sense of motion even though the models are staying still. On bright sunny days the patterns just happen. 

The conditions are especially tough for models.In order to sink to the bottom of the pool they have to leave all the air out, and be able to stay there, hold a pose, keep their eyes wide open, look sensational and then return to the surface.

Shooting with a SCUBA tank allows models to move at their own pace. 

Great expressions are really tough. Eyes can start to burn even though we have very little chlorine in the pool. The tried-and-true land poses just may not work. Air bubbles can look like tears or they can look like a runny nose.

Beckie does back flips in blue sequined dress.

Even though the pool is heated to 80 degrees or above, the air temperature can be as low as 60 degrees. Models can get pretty tired, pretty fast. Makeup can run even though its "waterproof".

Eyes are a huge problem. Some people have a really tough rime with keeping their eyes wide open under water for such a long time.

Dancers seem to take to this style of shooting because they have a great sense of body position and graceful movement.