March 15, 2012
The brief involved a woman snorkelling down from the surface and swimming along the bottom. We were hoping to shoot at a depth of around 6-8m, but although the weather was great, there was enough wind to stir up quite a lot of sand in the shallower areas, so we had to go deeper. The location would have been a tough job for any normal swimmer, as we shot at 13m. Luckily for us, we were shooting the 2011 female world record holder for static apnoea, Sophie Jacquin, who can hold her breath for almost 7 minutes, and who had no problems with swimming down again and again. You can see some pretty amazing films of her swimming underwater here - she just keeps on going. I of course was sitting on the sea-bed in full scuba gear, while the art director worked on her tan in the dive boat above.
Technical details as usual: we shot with a Canon 5D MK II, 17-40 f4.0 L, and an Ikelite housing with a super wide 8″ dome. We were shooting pretty wide areas, too large to be able to light practically with underwater strobes, as the light fall-off would have happened too fast to cover the whole image, so I was limited to shooting with available light. Fortunately, there’s plenty of that in the Caribbean, and I was able to get 1/250s at around f5.6 with 100 ISO most of the time, which kept noise to a minimum.
I did some tests with a UR Pro CY filter to compensate for the lack of red light, but in the end the sun was so bright that we were able to get all the colour detail we needed by adjusting the white balance on the RAW files in Capture One, without losing all the light that the filter would have cut out.
We had several days shooting underwater, partly in the sea, but also in a swimming pool and an aquarium with turtles. I was nervous to start with – the people in the aquarium warned me that while one of the turtles was friendly, the other was more aggressive. Apparently she took someone’s ear off a few years ago, although they might just have been saying that to wind me up… She did come over and have a look at me a few times, but the aquarium staff were on hand to push her away with a pole. I was shooting with a 17mm lens, so she was only a few centimetres away in this picture – it was a privilege to be able to shoot so close to such fascinating creatures.
We’re now working on the post-production, but here are some behind the scenes shots of our trip.
Thanks to various people who gave me a huge amount of help preparing for this shoot. Glenn at Newhaven Scuba was amazingly patient with all my questions about locations. Steve at Ocean Optics spent hours advising me on the best way to deal with the various technical challenges. The Guadeloupe aquarium allowed me to dive with their turtles, and took us out in their ridiculously fast twin 225 HP engine RIB (v. nice, I want one) for our scuba diving days.