Call it what you will; test shoots, trade, TFP, TFCD, barter, working for free…. I will always make time to shoot personal work. It’s almost laughable how so many people look down upon the practice yet it happens on all levels in the photography industry. I do it to test new equipment, new ideas and to practice my craft. This past week I got an email from Caroline. She’s new to modeling and found me on Instagram. My goal with recent shoots has been to try making unique images and Caroline was going to be my first guinea pig. A few months ago I found my Canon Wp-1 35mm camera. The WP1 is an underwater point and shoot that’s about ten years old. When I found it I started brainstorming how to use it. My first thought was to use it for a fashion portrait shoot in the rain. We all know how much it rains in LA so that never panned out. A few weeks ago was my first swim in the ocean for the season and I thought that roping a model into the ocean would be a great way to experiment. When Caroline and I chatted about the shoot I mentioned my water idea. When she mentioned she had a swimming pool her fate was set.
In addition to my WP-1 I have an underwater housing for my Canon G9. The G9 is equally antiquated camera but it’s digital and shoots RAW files. It would be great compliment to the 35mm so that I could show Caroline that her efforts were worth it. Armed with a ten year old 35mm camera and a seven year old digital I set up shop in her backyard. We started with a swimsuit look poolside before we committed to getting wet. We slowly eased into getting her wet because we didn’t know how her makeup would hold up. Once we figured out her makeup was going to cooperate we started shooting underwater. It was hard. Both cameras are really slow and the effort it took to get to the bottom to frame up was exhausting. Because of the speed of the cameras I was only able to shoot one or two frames before having to come up. Since we didn’t know how the film was turning out it was great to have the G9 to show us that what we were doing was worth it. Had we not been able to see a couple cool frames we probably would have given up at the first sign of exhaustion.
I brought some red, sheer fabric for the shoot. I figured it would make for cool shapes and color in the water. Little did I know that those would be some of my favorite shots. Besides coming away with some unique shots I learned a lot during the shoot. Hence one of the main reasons I test.
Lessons learned: 1. Shooting underwater is hard. It’s hard for the model to exert herself that much while maintaining a look of beauty on her face. It’s equally as hard for me to frame up the shot while holding my breadth. (you also may want to have a chat about contact lenses before the shoot)
2. Shooting with slow cameras can ruin a shoot. I used my G9 to shoot RAW files so that I’d have the largest file size to edit. That cost me and in the end I would have been better off shooting JPGs at a faster speed. The film is at the lab so I still can’t say whether that worked out.
3. Trying to properly color balance an image shot in and or surrounded by turquoise water is near impossible.