Facing My Fear
I have an almost irrational fear of water. I don’t like to be in water if it is deeper than waist deep and I am almost petrified if I am over water looking down into it. For example I can walk onto a pier (providing it has rails) and look out over the water no problem, but if I lean over the rail and look down I can feel my heart rate pick up. When driving over large bridges there is no talking, stay quiet, I have to focus. Boats? You’ve got to be out of your mind. Yet despite this I love water in photography. So what do you do when you love something in an image, but fear it as a person? You face it, head on.
This summer I did exactly that by challenging my fear and creating images centered in or around water, these are the results:
Motion Blur and the Human Form
If you have followed any of my past blog post or social media you know I love nudes in art. Done right the human form can be a beautiful and gracious. In the book of Psalms David said we are fearfully and wonderfully made. To me the human form is the greatest work of art created by the greatest of all artist. Me I’m just doing my best to capture it in a way that is at least captures a small fraction of that beauty. For this series I took a my model Lacey to a creek bed in south Georgia. Now it was summer but this water is freezing cold, in fact it is always freezing cold. I’ve shot here several times (three times this year in fact), and I keep saying I’m done that I’m not going back but then I think of one more thing to try. This time with Lacey I took only a camera, tripod and some neutral density filters to reduce the amount of light coming into the camera. I asked Lacey to lay across the rocks while I took images using a slow shutter speed to allow the water the blur in the images. Nothing complex but the end results were beautiful.
Same Place Different Idea
On this day I just wanted to create some fantasy styled portraits. Nothing complicated in this except how cold the water was. Normally your body adjust to cold water after a few minutes, but on this day every time we thought we were adjusted the temperature the water would shock us again. The fact that Kayla managed not to be grimacing and didn’t have blue lips is amazing in of itself.
Ok if being in water and being over water scares the bejeebers out of me, imagine what putting my head underwater felt like. But I had to try. I always wanted to do some underwater shots and with a affordable underwater bag I did exactly that. We shot some images with dresses and some nudes with tulle but unfortunately the dress shots turned out horrible (not the models fault, that is totally on my shoulders). However it was a learning experience for me, here is what I learned:
- We shot in a pool and I thought I wouldn’t need a mask. WRONG!! You need a mask. I couldn’t see anything through the viewfinder. Couldn’t see to compose, couldn’t see to make sure I had put the subject in focus. Everything was blurry. The result of this being I had to shoot very wide aiming the camera in the models general direction, hoping I got a good frame.
- Blue pools make very blue pictures. Unless you want that blue look you need to put black into the pools background. For this I put in a 10×15 black cloth which we weighed down with some concrete weights.
- Stay close. Water distorts light so the further you are away from the subject the more out of focus your pictures will become. If you have high end diving gear for your camera you probably can avoid this, but if you are like me and only want to play around underwater dropping a few grand on underwater gear for a DSLR is probably not something you want to do.
- If your subject is not a diver or used to being underwater stay in the shallow end or just go for the random dive shot. Remember they are holding their breath and trying to pose all the while while you’re trying to hold your breath and frame a picture. The both of you near the shallow end will make it much easier until you get the hang of what you are doing.
- Wear a mask (yeah I know I said it before, but it is really that important).
This last set was fairly easy on me since I didn’t get into the water. I live just a little north of Panama City, Florida so every summer you can expect to see all the local photography bulletin boards to be full of swimsuit pictures of girls in skimpy bikinis. So much in fact it actually gets boring before the summer weather ends (which for us is the end of September). I wanted to shoot at the beach this summer but I refused to shoot a swimsuit set, I wanted to do something no one else was doing. So I called Marysa and asked if she would be willing to wear a dress in the surf. I sent her some ideas of dresses I liked, then on the day of the shoot she showed up in what was actually a mummy costume, but Marysa could wear a burlap sack and look good in it. I shot all natural light and even did some slow exposure frames with and without the tripod. It was a great deal of fun and a fantastic way to end my water obsession for the year.