UNDERWATER MAGIC

Recently, I had the amazing opportunity to work on some new incredible shots with two of my favourite teams. I had worked previously as part of a group social shoot, at TankSpace, one of very few underwater photography and videography studios in the UK. The setup is great  – as a photographer, I was very thankful not to have to get suited up and head into the water myself, but get to remain on dry land and shoot through into the tank. Needless to say the previous shots had gone down a storm, and are definitely among the strongest in my portfolio!

Earlier this year I’d also been fortunate enough to test out an amazing new bit of kit my sponsor Interfit had been working on: a new light in the Badger range – the Badger Beam (their existing Badger Unleashed already being one of my main bits of kit!). A new continuous light offering, I knew this would work wonderfully with the setup at TankSpace, so I reached out to ask if both teams would be on board with creating some magic…

Driving up North at crazy o’clock in the morning, we arrived with the new kit, tank ready to go, two models: Audrey and Integra, and a whole host of stunning designs by Syban Syban  – who had made sure the designs would work in the water. Helping us document all the awesome that went down, we were very fortunate to also have Darkics with us, our talented videographer.

SETUP

The Tank setup was as follows; A large glass fronted tank, dark blue-ish on the interior, with smaller glass panels on either side to light through, and an open top. Reflections from the glass are minimized by essentially shooting from inside a blackout covering attached to the tank, which worked really well! There are also bathroom facilities, a lovely changing room fit for both the models on the day, and lots of space, with which we were able to spread out the styling and decide on colour options and what order to shoot in. Because the tank is chlorinated, the TankSpace team helped us set up a freshwater area where we could rinse all the outfits off as they came out of the tank, and the bar running round the edge of the tank provided an excellent area for drying!

Safety is always a massive concern, but even more so between the obvious hazards that come with models being in water, big outfits in water, using electrics, COVID…. so I was super impressed with the safety and knowledge brought by the TankSpace team who were able to advise on anything myself or the models had questions on.

To light, I used two main setups;

1. Shooting through the two cutouts in each side of the tank, using the Badger Beam to shoot with a gel kit to have a complimentary colour from each side

2. Using a Badger Beam from above the tank, lighting down into the water to create those beautiful ‘beam’ effects

Some of the spec for this new Badger family member:

• Under £200 price-point

• 60w

• S-mount

• 45 minute run time on battery

• AC/DC

One of the things I really appreciated about working with the Badger Beam was the ability to use either the battery or plug it in to the mains. When you’re working in an environment with water and electronics the ability to move something easily while not worrying about electricity points is a massive plus point! I was also super pleased that the battery unit is the same as the Badger Unleased (flash) that I use a lot, so the same charger, and fully interchangeable.

STYLING

Of course, one of my favourite things to shoot is big detailed designs, whipping fabric round, and showcasing beautiful alternative wearable art. Syban did such an amazing job in providing us three pieces for each model, so we had a number of different setups to play with. I was so pleased that the bottom of each outfit was yards and yards of flowing fabric, which was bound to look magical.

We had one red look for each model, a blue mermaid-inspired set, complete with scaled hood and crown, a metallic set with silvers and blacks, a gold and blue set, and then finally a medical inspired look.

What I love about Syban’s work, and why I was so excited to work with her on this project is her bold use of structural shapes, and the way she incorporates texture and metallics so seamlessly in her work. These statement elements individually make for beautiful portraits, but together and underwater, there’s something really magical that comes alive. Syban, as it turns out, is also a massive fan of the underwater aesthetic, so it was a double blessing to have a designer on the team who was equally as inspired by the setup.

I took some of these ‘dry land’ photos to demonstrate just how much being in the water adds to the outfits in terms of the magic and feel of the finished images. I absolutely love portraiture, and am constantly inspired by old paintings and fine art where people have posed for hours for portraits – but there’s something that I really love about the movement of designs in water. I think the photos in the tank look more ‘alive’, so it’s always such a joy to shoot here.

SHOOTING

To shoot, I had to make sure the lights were adjusted depending on the gel I was using. For example, using with a yellow gel, everything will look a lot brighter than using a navy or red gel. I always try and choose a colour palette that will compliment the styling itself, so a lot of changes! It was great using the gel kit that I’d also got with the Badger Beam, the easy magnetic gels were super quick to change, and also any of my ‘weirder’ gel colours were easy enough to slap on as well.

As I usually work with flash primarily, working with the continuous light was a very different experience, but worked so well in the tank – seeing the setup really come to life as it would look in camera was amazing. I was pleased the designs did what we wanted i.e. spread out and billow, creating some ethereal organic feeling shapes, the light hitting them gorgeously. Because we also had Darkics our videographer with us, the continuous lighting worked really well for him as well, the atmosphere looked amazing.

I can’t stress enough how amazing Audrey and Lauren were in modelling for this day – I must stress, underwater modelling is a tough gig – it’s not for everyone, and to have the guys from TankSpace on hand is always a plus point, as Elle has firsthand understanding and experience of underwater modelling, being part of the Mermaid Cove and TankGirls offering that TankSpace also runs. The need to ‘sink’ is a weird one – for the model to let their breath out sufficiently to be able to sink underneath the surface, and also feel calm enough to allow photographers like me time to get the shot. Obviously, this means a number of dives, sinking, floating, and so on – there’s so much versatility in the setup that each set can have quite a different feel, even though the setups can be similar.

Usually, when I’m shooting flash, I’m pretty specific about always wanting to shoot at ISO100, decent 1/125 shutter speed and so on, but working in TankSpace I always feel a bit more free to push the limits and just work with what’s needed on the camera to get the shot I want – so shooting is strangely less ‘technical’ led, but more emotionally led with whatever works. I think this also has something to do with wanting to shoot relatively quickly as not to completely exhaust our poor models! I would advocate for anyone who is a photographer to also spend even a couple of hours doing some lowkey modelling – purely just to appreciate how tiring it is. Sometimes when I’ve spent time doing self-portraits, I can absolutely wipe myself out for a couple of hours afterwards – so when you’re asking someone to spend hours diving and controlling their breathing, and emoting, and getting in an out of outfits… I think it’s only fair to be as efficient as possible!

POST-PROCESSING

Post-processing for these sort of underwater photos I’ve actually found a lot less time-intensive that my studio shoots – the water can mean you get a lovely soft focus on the skin, reducing the need to spend hours and hours skin retouching (bonus!), but I was pleased that actually the detail in the outfits was still easily picked up and looked gorgeous.

The dark blue interior of the tank also made it easy to make sure the model stood out, and the gelled lighting or the wonderful ‘ray’ lighting from above made for something interesting to add to the set. With most of the space in frames often taken up by the folding swirls of material, it was pretty easy to colour tone and clean up backgrounds etc. for a beautiful finished image.

For some of the shots, I decided to use the bubbles that can be generated as a feature, and keep them all in – for those looking for a ‘clean’ looking background, this is where I highly recommend having an experienced underwater model or someone who is able to remain very comfortable undwerwater as I was lucky enough to have on this shoot, so that you minimize the disruption in the water. I would also mention that avoiding wearing much makeup, or having waterproof makeup is also a massive plus, as it stops the water getting too cloudy if you’re doing multiple sets – again if you’re a bit of a sharpness fiend like me.

All in all, what an amazing day! I was really pleased with all the images we got, the videos look fantastic, and it was a pleasure to work at TankSpace again. I would recommend the space to any photographer who wants to get that unique shot for their portfolio, or for a model who is looking for something different, definitely check out the shoots and workshops offered at TankSpace where you can be sure to be coached and supported in a safe environment.

The Badger Beam continuous light I was excited to try out, and I was suitably impressed. Really simple, easy to use, with a familiar feel from the Badger Unleashed, and compatibility between the two. The ability to use both on mains or battery was a particular plus point for me, and the mount options means I can use my existing modifiers, gel kits and so on to light a very different scenario and work on a different feel, so with a price point under £200 – definitely something getting added to my kit! I hope you enjoyed seeing the output of such a creative day, and a huge thank you to Interfit, TankSpace, Audrey, Lauren, Greg, and Syban for pulling together to make this all possible!

TANKSPACE

Shooting with Newo & the team was an absolute pleasure, we truly enjoy other creatives coming in and using our space as it allows us to experience the venue from a completely fresh perspective – a new pair of eyes, to see what others would do with it. We weren’t disappointed, both the models were incredible and the variety & complexity of the costumes were outstanding. It made a huge difference from what is normally shot in the tank and has inspired us to reach out to more designers and see what other collaborations could be in the making.

The kit supplied by Interfit was superb, we don’t have a great deal of experience with their products and were instantly blown away by the design and functionality – being used to heavy “portable” studio lights that require the hulk just to move the battery pack around, being able to simply slot the lightweight batteries into the light housing itself was a breath of fresh air. Not to mention how much light they output for such a compact designed. If a photographer was in need of a truly portable lighting set up we would absolutely recommend these lights.

We can’t wait to shoot with both Newo & the two models again at some point in the future!

  • Models:
    • Audrey Hipturn
    • Integra Fairbrook
  • Location: TankSpace
  • Designer: Syban Syban
  • Videography: Darkics

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