Before
the Shoot

Location Equipment
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This was a difficult session to go through with. T and N were amazing and had the perfect mindset, but the conditions were tough: we had a very small window of opportunity to make this shooting happen, and underwater sessions are hard to undertake with time pressure. Additionally, once we got to our shooting spot the water was very green, and hazy with lots of particles in suspension. It happens sometimes when the swell is too small.

And finally, I was 7 months pregnant when we did this session, so while still feeling quite fit, I knew I wouldn’t be diving as deep or for as long as I normally can. But, T and N were decided on having fun, I knew this would likely be my last underwater session in a long while so I also wanted to make it count, and so we simply decided to pour our hearts in and do the best we could.

The fact that the conditions were really not ideal on the one hand, but my couple was so great on the other hand really made me want to make it worth their while and push myself creatively and embrace the challenges as an opportunity to create something memorable. I think that particular photo is the result of exactly that combination of challenge and will.
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Location

Location Name

Dream Cove

Location aDDRESS

Dream Cove

Country

Vanuatu

Location TYPE

Underwater

Equipment

Camera

Sony A9

Flash

None

Lens

Sony FE 24mm f/1.4GM

Lens Filter

None

Other Equipment
No additional equipment was used.

During
the Shoot

Directions Composition Focus Light & Exposure
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Directions

Tags

Calm Holding Each other Natural Playful

Description

I asked them to go under, then swim towards each other, and for T to wrap her legs around N’s waist, with her left hand in his neck/hair and her face to his left side (so I could see it). I then asked N to pull them both back up with wide, ample leg movements.

When doing an underwater session I accompany verbal directions with physical gesture to demonstrate what I mean every time it’s possible.

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What was said

alright guys, take some time to breathe. When you are both feeling ready, let me know. What you will do is dive under, then swim towards each other. When you meet, T, please wrap your legs around N’s waist. Then grab his neck with your left hand and pull him in, with your face to his left side. let’s practice that pose before you dive.

Great. You’ve got this. Now N, please, once T is all wrapped around you, I would like you to wrap your right arm around her and pull her in, and just let your right arm loose. Then, pull you both back up to the surface using only very wide, ample leg movements.

Are you ready? Alright, breathe in, and go.”

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Composition

Why I composed the way I did

T and N are honestly so glamourous! N has a very strong, charismatic posture and T is full of grace, even more so with the dress she was wearing, that we chose because we knew it would have a beautiful flow and very romantic feel underwater. This combination of strength and grace is what inspired this image.

With the water being murky and all I wanted to be on the safe side with a tried and tested pose, plus I knew the direction to wrap her legs around his waist and swim up would be easy enough to follow, so we wouldn’t waste the little time we had going over directions over and over.

The arms would create an interesting asymmetry and add a dynamic to the image, reinforcing the story-telling elements.

The real game changer here is the shooting angle. Being pregnant and not as fit as I might usually be forced me to think creatively, and that’s when it hit me: if I shot from up the surface (which would be more comfortable in my condition), from above them, it would look as if they were flying, with him carrying her. That’s when I though about asking him to amplify his legs movement, so he could look like he was running, or jumping. It all just clicked and I loved the potential story telling that could develop from there. So I adjusted my directions to fit this little twist to something tried and tested. The result was so awesome, it just looked entirely different to any photos I have taken underwater before, despite a pose I had used several times in the past.

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Tags

Rule of Thirds Center Framed Wide

Focus

Focus mode

Single point auto focus

Focus Technology

Continuous Autofocus

Focused on

Her face

Focus description

Focusing under water is always tricky. Your camera is in movement, so are you, and so is your couple. Not to mention you’re wearing a mask, and your camera is in its underwater case… that’s a lot of layers to shoot with, especially when you only have a split second to focus. To be on the safe side during underwater sessions I always select a wide focus area and shoot in continuous AF.

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Shutter Speed

1/1000

Aperture

f/4.5

ISO

320

White Balance

Auto

Other Light Sources
No additional light sources were used.
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Light &
Exposure

How the light was used

We were shooting just around midday, which might seem counter-intuitive for photographers but is actually a great time of day to shoot underwater. One of the benefits from deciding to shoot this image downwards was that it would allow me to make the most of the midday light hitting them from above. It really made them stand out and strengthened my composition.

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Tags

Soft Light Natural Light Sunny Noon

After
the Shoot

Editing & Presets
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Editing &
Presets

Editing Software used

Adobe Lightroom

Preset Used

custom presets

How I edited this image

The main work here was to correct the very heavy green cast that affected the image all over. I applied my custom underwater presets to warm up the general temperature and boost the tint. Doing this usually allows me to recover some decent skin tones, which is always my primary focus when editing underwater images.

The next thing I usually do with underwater images is to work with the dehazing tool to give them more depth and texture. This was particularly important in this image because I really wanted the couple to be detached from the seabed so that he impression of defying gravity would be obvious.

Finally, I worked on the water, playing with the green, aqua and blue HSL cursors until I got to nuances that I loved and felt made the seabed pop. I finished off with some vibrance to bring the image to life and that was it pretty much.

I applied some vignetting to accentuate focus and give an intimate feel to my image, and used a brush to lighten up T’s face a bit.

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Conclusion

Challenges Solutions Advice

Challenges & Solutions

Events that were challenging during the shoot

The main challenge on the day of the shooting was the limited time we had. I knew it was up to me to take the lead and make sure we made the most of literally every minute.

In terms of final result, I knew the green cast and murky water was going to be my main challenge. A green cast is hard to recover on skin tones, and murky waters can really affect the sharpness, crispness and cleanliness of an image.

Solutions I found

When in a hurry, nothing beats knowing your craft: knowing the right settings for your gear; understanding how the light will play out in your composition; and having poses you know how to work with and can easily twist without wasting time thinking what your next move might be, or how to communicate it to your couple. Having develop a consciousness of these skills over time is what allowed me to fast-track the decision making process, be on the safe of things knowing I’d be able to pull off some decent images, and allow me a tiny little margin of time for creativity, which is what led to this image. Had I needed to spend time figuring out gear settings etc., I would not have been able to take a second to allow myself a little bit of creative thinking.

With regards to the green cast and murky water, it’s hard to predict exactly how much will end up affecting the image. Shooting closer to the surface helps as it retains more light and true colors (thus shooting them both coming up), having a mid-range aperture, as well as a decent shutter speed, will helps retaining some level of details in the image. Finally in post production, tackling to the skin tones first (generally, bump up temperature and tint), and then managing the greens and blues in the image allows for good results.

Advice

Study your own craft. This is true generally speaking, but even more so when shooting underwater as usually comes with a lot of challenges that you cannot control much. Drawing from past experience to make quick and efficient decisions is a sure way to make sure you come out of a session with satisfying results.
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Photographed by

Valerie Fernandez Photography

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