As an everyday photographer, I’m drawn to capture the watery reflective mood and shared experience of swimming. I’m able to do this by taking my camera underwater with me to shoot my family’s water play in creative ways. It’s not just the vibrant colors I’m able to find in clear water, but it’s the memory of happiness that I seek to preserve with photography. I’ve shot successfully underwater with a variety of cameras, from drugstore disposable film cameras to a waterproof compact camera to an iPhone 5 with a LifeProof case.
Photography is simply the art of creatively capturing light. When bringing your camera underwater, you should always remain mindful of the light. Composition is key, and this is often the most difficult aspect of underwater photography. Wearing swim goggles is crucial while shooting, but even still, it’s difficult to actually see what you’re framing. Jump into the pool after surveying your environment. Consider the position of the sun, determine which side of the pool to position yourself and take notice of what’s in the background of your subjects. Colorful pool tiles, swim ladders and floating toys can either make or break your photo.
Composition is an art, not a science. The best composition for a subject depends on your own personal preferences. As you get more comfortable underwater, you’ll find that your composition becomes more natural and intuitive. I prefer leaving negative space in the frame around my subject. Not only does this ensure that nothing wanted gets accidentally cropped (due to my blurred water vision), but by letting the vast space of water speak for me, it often creates dramatic effects with color and light. Try shooting your subject from below, as natural light from the surface will keep your images well focused and crisp. While shooting from below, you may also discover sunbeams streaming through water particles; this makes a beautiful effect of flare.
Using the surface of the water in our photos is a great compositional technique. Next time you’re in the water, head for the surface. Incorporate surface textures, surface reflections, sunbeams and backlit swimmers into your underwater photography compositions. A swimmer floating near a smooth surface is perfect for a reflection shot. Reflections are best shot when the surface is calm, visibility is clear, and there’s not much wind. The angle of your shot is most important in capturing interesting reflections. Be careful to control your breathing (if using a snorkel), as bubbles can disturb the surface and disrupt the reflection you’re trying to achieve.
Black-and-white photos have always been a favorite form of expression for artists. Abstract or artistic underwater photography includes the use of texture and patterns. Without color to distract the viewer, form, lines and shades can be emphasized. Shooting black-and-white underwater will place more emphasis on the creative side of your photography and less emphasis on the technical. Patterns reveal themselves underwater, as well. You might find that they’re more noticeable if captured in black-and-white.
I grab a pair of goggles and jump in with my eyes open. I’m alone at the bottom of the pool, watching the underwater grins of my family. My camera captures the fluid joy that moves in slow motion. Pool games and bare feet dancing, I see the splash of cannon balls and the bubbles that contain our laughter. Rising to the surface for a breath, I remember childhood freedom, the extreme beauty of water and how extraordinary I feel in it. As a parent, this is now a shared experience with my own children.
Tips for taking underwater photos with your mobile phone and a waterproof case:
|1) Prior to jumping in a body of water, be sure to read all manufacturer instructions for your waterproof case and test your setup in a sink of water before you shoot with it.
2) While underwater, the pressure will affect the touch sensitivity of your iPhone; therefore, you’ll use your volume-up button as your shutter release.
3) Your screen is viewable, yet blurred underwater, so take some practice shots to get a feel for both composition and distance.
4) Shoot from the bottom of the pool to give the illusion of vast space.
5) Look for colors and patterns, not just in your subjects’ clothing and swim gear, but in the sunlight moving through the water, as well.
MEREDITH WINN is a writer, photographer and Associate Editor of Taproot Magazine. You can see more of her work at www.meredithwinn.com.