The Photo-Shoot - 'Surfacing'
Shooting Sirens & Assorted Mermaids in the pool, with the ‘Naughty Cam’
by Mick Rawport
Primary Model: Julia Ryazantseva
The last place you want to experience nasty surprises is 25 meters down, diving in the deep blue sea - whether that be a jammed trigger or leaky camera housing. For the lengthy periods of time when I’m not diving, I need to maintain and test the equipment. And the gear should be pressure-tested, like at the bottom of a swimming pool.
Enter the Nauticam. That is a well-known high-end brand of underwater housing for cameras ranging from small compact to full DSLR. The smaller the camera, the cheaper the housing. I go with a compact camera, the Sony RX100, but even then the Nauticam housing costs more than the camera itself. But the Nauticam is rugged and tough - a real workhorse that worth every cent. One day, sitting bored at the pool with my dive camera, I thought to myself: I need motivation for testing. Why not shoot some mermaids and sirens in the pool? And then I thought, why not shoot nudes in the pool? So I re-branded my workhorse, calling it the ‘Naughty Cam’.
The Naughty Cam found exotic new creatures underwater. I even discovered a new use for my dive weight-belt: the model would hand over her flimsy bikini once in the pool, and I would stuff it into the weight-belt pockets, and return once shooting was done. Unless someone was actually in the pool, no way to tell she’s nude.
Most models jump at the chance of being a mermaid for an afternoon, but it takes practice to get the breath-holding and swim techniques right. The perfect pool model looks natural, even smiling while breath-holding underwater.
That takes practice, and models are hard to find for this. Some models attempt the pool, get water up to the nose and give up. Or they decide the pool is bad for their peachy complexion and hard on the skin.
Those models will be fine in the kiddies’ pool, keeping very much to the surface.
Other models can spend over an hour in the pool and love playing the mermaid. Models need after-pool-shoot care - a hot shower, eye-drops, skin moisturizer, some drinks.
Underwater, you are moving, the model is moving - so conventional posing is near-impossible.
I set my camera to Burst mode, with multiple snaps when the trigger is pressed.
I also add a GoPro on top of the housing to take random shots in time-lapse mode.
Shooting underwater involves very different perspectives. There’s no gravity, for starters, which makes for some amazing poses that are not possible in the studio. You have to deal with random bubbles that come from the model’s nose and mouth while swimming.
A beautiful perspective is close to the surface, where the model’s face will be reflected under the water. Getting above and below the surface shots is very difficult - and requires a large wide-angle lens.
A major issue here is keeping drops of water off the lens that is exposed to air, as this will result in big blurry bits on the image.
Cleaning the lens with your tongue generally solves this. A great surface shot is the hair-toss, with model starting deeper in the pool and rising up, shooting above the surface and throwing hair back. That can result in dramatic stills and video.
To spice things up and add character to the shots, you can bring props. Long red scarves made of thin material work well - red being the perfect color contrast to the blue of the pool.
You can add marine-themed props like large shells or starfish, marine jewelry, and so on.
One time, I got the brainwave of sinking some furniture to the bottom of the pool for the model to relax in. Meaning the poolside plastic recliner took a deep trip.
This activity, I will admit, got me into deep trouble. After this shoot, I was given the third degree by the building manager, who said everything was captured on a CCTV monitoring camera. She had copied some footage to her cellphone. She was livid about the pool furniture - but also about the model.
On her cellphone, she showed me CCTV footage of the model waving her ass in the air over the kiddies’ pool and glared at me. Naked! she shouted.
I casually turned and fired back: Are you blind? She is wearing a pink one-piece costume - see the pink there? Her face went bright red, and that was the end of that. But I rather got the impression that my days of submerged pool furniture are over for that particular location.
And speaking of bright red, the enthusiastic model from that shoot spent a long time in the pool over two shooting sessions, with the result that her eyes were partially bloodshot, and her shoulders, breasts, and face were somewhat sunburned - in fact, a completely different skin tone from her non-burned lower half. When she showed up for a nude studio shoot with another photographer, he was shocked.
He quickly assessed the situation and went for black-and-white nudes. Sensible decision.
More of Mick "splash" works on the gallery that follows: