Last year Canon EOS asked me to write a Beginner’s Guide to Underwater Photography, so of course I was happy to oblige…
Last year Canon EOS asked me to write a Beginner’s Guide to Underwater Photography, so of course I was happy to oblige…
One of the most important aspects of underwater photography is the equipment. It can be bulky, heavy and costly but it’s important to research and find what is best to suit your needs. It’s also very important that it’s reliable and you look after it well to avoid leaks and yes I have had one!
My equipment has certainly evolved over the years from the earliest, waterproof compact cameras when it started as a hobby while Scuba diving, then when I got a little more serious about 10 years ago, I bought the waterproof housing for my Canon G10, then about 4 years ago I got a GoPro Hero4 black.
When I decided to make it a profession about 3 years ago, I did a lot of research. I was using a Canon 5D iii for my regular shoots and found the suitable waterproof housing for that with Ikelite. It was a big investment with the housing, lens, wide angle lens 16-35mm, dome port and strobes but I was willing to make it and found all the parts at ScubaCam in Singapore. There was a bit of a learning curve in setting it up, which I can now do very quickly but there is no room for error.
Usually I set up at home before a shoot but sometimes I need to do it on location and I had a close call recently when I did this and was a bit slack with the checks. One thing I always do is submerge the camera slowly initially and when there are bubbles coming out you know there is a leak. This time it happened and I pulled it out straight away. Water had seeped in because a small piece of rubber seal was out of place. A decent amount of water had got in but luckily hadn’t affected the camera! Big scare though and I will be more careful in future as it would be an expensive mistake.
So far I have been extremely happy with the equipment and it was worth the investment. The upsides are it’s easy to use once you get used to it, it’s reliable (if you use it correctly and look after it). The downsides are it’s heavy and bulky and sometimes kids (and adults) can be intimidated by it. When I go to a shoot I usually have my Lowenpro suitcase which carries the heavy weights I use to hold down a backdrop, the strobes, backdrops and all the extra parts like chargers and cables. I also have a Murph&Murph bag which is perfect for carrying the camera and housing and then compartments for my weight belt, mask, towel, suncream, water, phone and all the extra bits. Its a great bag which I use for days at the beach with the kids as well.
I also have a huge box of fancy dress items, props, fabrics and outfits which I will bring along depending on the shoot. Having a daughter and two sons means I have mermaid tails, princess and fairy dresses, superhero costumes, pirates, Christmas, Halloween costumes you name it! I do love a themed shoot and kids do too.
These kids had a great time dressing up and were fascinated by the equipment (as was their Dad) which really helped them feel comfortable and we got some super cool shots with them.
Anouska decided to do an underwater photo shoot to use in a Christmas card to send to family and friends around the world. I think this is such a great idea, especially when you are living in tropical Singapore while your family is in cold, wet England : ) It is something unique and fun to capture your lifestyle in Singapore. They also live in a beautiful condo on Sentosa overlooking the sea so it was a great way to capture their surroundings as well.
It was going to be a fun, challenge to include three generations of their family which included Anouska and her husband, his brother, their two young children and his parents. Not everyone felt like getting wet which was fine and we did some over under shots to start. I like to do this anyway showing people’s legs underwater and the rest above.
Then the family of four jumped in for some fun underwater shots…
And some more over/unders for the two year old girl who couldn’t go under…
This was on Christmas Eve morning and I managed to edit a selection of the best shots to send to Anouska just in time to send to family for Christmas!
It’s so nice when the whole family gets involved in an underwater maternity shoot. I loved that father and son came dressed in their matching whites which looks really cool underwater and Mama was rocking a black bikini and we did some glamour shots in gold heels too.
This is one of my favourite pools to shoot in, which I happened to discover at a private party at the house and the kind owner was happy for me to use it from time to time for shoots. The smooth, white fibreglass surface lends itself very well to an underwater studio.
Poor Ana was struggling a bit during the shoot as she’d had some sinus issues, which is particularly common towards the end of pregnancy and was find it hard to put her head underwater. In this case I concentrate more on over/under shots (split between above and below the surface) or just her head above water, showcasing the beautiful bump as seen below.
After a while it got easier and we got some beautiful shots to celebrate the impending arrival of their baby girl.
I was asked to shoot some mermaids for MermaidMe mermaid tails. My eight year old daughter already had one of these tails which she loved and was very excited to be involved in the shoot and try out their gorgeous new designs and material. It was a super fun shoot with four gorgeous mermaid girls in a lovely, deep swimming pool (not easy to find in Singapore).
These cleverly designed mono fins allow the wearer to glide gracefully through the water and channel their inner mermaids.
Here are some fun digital montages showing the mermaids in their natural habitat of the ocean : )
Ibiza is one of my favourite places in the World and we have had some fabulous holidays here over the years. People are often surprise that we go for family holidays but it really is very family friendly and these days it’s more about the beaches, long lunches and boat trips than the super clubs.
There are about 50 beaches and coves around the island, all with different qualities and vibes. Some are hard to get to and quite deserted while others are jammed with restaurants and sunbed with a party vibe. Some are pebbly, some are sandy. We usually discover new ones each time but have some favourites too. It is some of the clearest water I have seen anywhere (Barrier Reef, Hawaii, Maldives, Indonesia, Fiji included but yet to go to the Bahamas!)
Last year in 2018 was one of our most epic trips yet as we spent 2 weeks there celebrating my husband, Christian’s 40th with about 40 family and friends over a few days. One of the highlights is always a boat trip out to Formenterra and lunch at the iconic Juan Y Andrea, where you eat barefoot in the sand some of the freshest, tastiest seafood, salads, salted fish, drink rosé all day and those Spanish olives… yum!
Above: not our boat / our boat : )
During the second week which was spent with a family in a different location, near Talamanca, we were able to explore some different places and also chill out in the villa pool with its incredible view over to the Old Town,
One of our favourite spots is the Cotton Club at Cala Tarida. When you walk down those steps towards the beach it is such a Wow! moment. It was a fabulous day of swimming, jetty jumping, rock jumping and lunching at the Cotton Club which has to be one of the best lunch spot views on the island if not the World. The pictures speak for themselves but don’t even do it justice!
We took another boat trip around the South-West part of the island and it was one of the best days ever! The water was just mind-blowingly beautiful and we just swam off the boat with the kids, stopped for lunch at a fabulous, rustic restaurant reached by boat, Ses Boques and cruised around different bays, beaches and the famous Es Vedra rock, which is thought to have mystical, magnetic healing powers.
A special thanks to Jonny Turnbull at Fancy Ibiza who helped organise this epic trip for us! If you are going to Ibiza, I really recommend his concierge company who can help book anything from hotels, villas, restaurants, boats you name it! See you next time!
I think underwater photography lends itself perfectly to maternity. Where else can you feel cool, weightless and graceful while 9 months pregnant but in the water! The trend is really catching on too, with the help of celebrities such as Beyonce, who did an underwater maternity shoot when she was expecting twins.
So when my gorgeous, pregnant friend Becky said she wanted to do an underwater shoot with me, I was thrilled. Being a yoga instructor with gorgeous, long hair I knew that the result would be special. However, she is quite critical of herself in photos generally and I do feel more pressure for the result to be amazing when it’s a good friend so I was a little nervous. She said she was as well and it’s certainly not the easiest holding your breathe underwater and trying to sink while looking natural and posing but she soon eased into it and we took it slow and had some fun.
We played with different fabrics which can look really amazing in the water and also different backgrounds. Some pools are better than others to shoot in and sometimes the tiles can be a distraction so I will use a backdrop. I also like doing digital montages, such as the one above which I combined with a photo I took of the stunning water in Ibiza.
As Christmas was coming up, we did a fun Christmas themed shot with this outfit.
Thankfully, Becky was happy with the results and even made a calendar of the images to give to family for Christmas which was a great idea. She had these lovely words to say:
“I was feeling a little nervous about the underwater shoot and my ability to hold my breath being so late in my pregnancy. Vanessa is so patient and wonderful to work with, guiding me through the shoot making sure I felt comfortable and at ease. The final images are absolutely stunning and this is big coming from someone who generally doesn’t like herself in photos, such incredible talent and I highly recommend underwater photography with Vanessa to anyone looking to feel extra special during their pregnancy or any occasion!”
Here’s a little behind the scenes video…
In November 2016, my family celebrated my Dads 70th Birthday in Fiji. He also shares his birthday with my son who was turning two, so it was a double celebration. I was so excited to take my kit in the sea for the first time!
It was worth lugging it on the three flights to get to Jean-Michel Cousteau resort in Savu Savu. The house reef was lovely although not much live coral. A lot was sadly destroyed in the cyclone which devastated the island in early 2016. The resort had only recently reopened after rebuilding a lot of it. The water clarity was great though and plenty of fish life.
We took the kids snorkelling for the first time with mixed success but they enjoyed the glass-bottom boat ride nonetheless. Christian and I managed to get a couple of dives in which were nice. One was particularly colourful and the other Shark Alley, although sadly no sharks had some great caves and swim throughs which was fun. A little tricky navigating with my rig at times!
The day of the birthdays was spent having a picnic on a little private island. The kids loved exploring the rocks and reefs. I was on a mission to get an over under shot of the whole family, 5 adults and 4 kids which was not going to be easy. Especially as it was low tide and I had to take it in about a foot of water. The result turned out ok and it was a pretty epic day!
Funny story on the last day, my brother was snorkelling on the house reef when people started waving at him. He waved back and continued going until he realised they were calling him out of the water! A 14ft hammerhead had just swum under the jetty towards him so he hammered it (pub intended) back to shore! One of the staff jumped in a dingy to follow it and I jumped in too and we saw some fin but it swam away. Apparently, they’d never seen a shark of this size so close to the resort. Luckily it was the last day or my shark-fearing British husband would not have gone in the water! I couldn’t resist this little montage of my brother…
Luckily my kids are all water babies. They have been swimming since they were a couple of months old and swim every other day. My daughter is pretty amazing at posing underwater and looking natural so I take advantage of that by using her as my guinea pig for testing out costumes, backdrops, video shoots etc. Often we are just having fun in the pool and I feel like taking photos so i’ve ended up with quite a few of them.
We have quite a good fancy dress collection now and I love to use them in my shoots. It just adds another level of interest and the colours really pop.
I love bubbles and splashes and experimenting with the effects they make for a more abstract underwater image.
Underwater photos are also a great opportunity to do themed shoots such as Christmas, Halloween or Mothers/Fathers Day,