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Monday, June 18, 2012

Underwater Bride and Groom

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In today's competitive wedding photography market, it's important to brand your work so you can set yourself apart from the crowd. Part of branding requires that you approach things a little differently. Rising star photographer Kitfox Valentin decided to go an unconventional way by photographing his subjects underwater in a pool, using natural sunlight blended with reflected light to create some stunning wedding couple portraits. The goal here was to create a series of ethereal portraits, and what he achieved was nothing short of magical.
 

This is the team that worked together to create the underwater wedding couple portrait series - the wedding couple, Kitfox and two assistants. 

Kitfox's assistants are strong swimmers and trained in CPR. In addition to positioning and holding the LitePanels during the shoot, they also assisted the bride and groom in the water and would have been immediately available in the event of an emergency. (Wedding dresses hold a lot of water and can become very cumbersome for the bride in the pool.)

Since the photos would be taken underwater with everyone holding their breath, it was important to do a dry run with the couple before entering the pool. Kitfox went over what his goal was and how he wanted the bride and groom to move together to create the connecting moments that would define the portrait. It was not just about getting the bride and groom in the pool, but creating connecting moments that reflected their relationship to each other.

Kitfox uses an Ikelite underwater camera housing unit with an 8-inch domed port. The corrected port helps to minimize the magnification and optical distortion that can occur with a flat port when used underwater.

 

This pool was chosen for this session for a few reasons. The water was not completely clear, which was good, as it allowed for a diffused, natural look. Also, the wall of the pool had a mottled stain, which didn't look like that of a traditional swimming pool. Most importantly, though, the pool had warm water and a shallow end with easy access. A warm pool is essential to work in, since cold water can restrict breathing and make a session very uncomfortable for the subjects.

The Practice Run

The session started in the shallow end of the pool. Kitfox first showed his assistants how to use the Photoflex 39x72" LitePanel and MultiDisc to add reflected natural light onto the subjects. In the image below, notice how the LitePanel is vertical and half sub-merged for the warm-up series. For the later series in the deep part of the pool, the reflectors would be completely submerged.

The light was mostly top-lit and the goal was to pop some clean natural light into the front of the bride and groom. This would keep the photos from looking dimensionless and dull. The beauty of using the LitePanels is that they don't absorb water and they are quick to dry out after a session has ended.

Here's a top view of a practice run with Kitfox and the subjects underwater.

Here's the same setup from an underwater vantage point. Notice how the LitePanel is partially submerged to reflect light onto the bride and groom.

This practice session in the shallow end of the pool was done to help get the bride and groom comfortable in the water and test their abilities to hold their breath underwater. Here, the 42" MultDisc was used as the fill light.

Off the Deep End

Once everyone had adjusted to the water, the session was moved to the deeper end of the pool. The setup consisted of the 39x72 LitePanel with silver fabric attached and the 42" MultiDisc with the silver fabric reflecting. The LitePanel provided the majority of the fill light, while the MultiDisc added a little kicker. Note that both reflectors were completely submerged for the shots in the deep part of the pool.

In addition to bouncing sunlight into the shadows, these reflectors helped to essentially "clean up" the hazy blue cast of the pool water and add a little sparkle to the subjects. 

 

To create a moment of contact for the bride and groom, it was important to first have them apart from each other and then have them approach each other slowly. This helped to create the flowing of the clothing as they moved through the water. 

 

Here's another vantage point that shows the LitePanel in relation to the bride and groom. 

Camera Settings

The entire series was photographed with the following settings:

  • EXPOSURE MODE: Manual
  • APERTURE: f/8
  • SHUTTER SPEED: 1/160th of a second
  • ISO: 640 (necessary to achieve the aperture and shutter speed needed for the desired depth of field and to stop the action)
  • WHITE BALANCE: 10,000K (to overcome the blue cast of the water)

All the images were shot at the 24mm setting on the Canon 17-40 L zoom lens.

 

Here's another view of the setup that shows the MultiDisc being used to reflect light.

The final images capture some unique moments between the bride and groom and gave them an extraordinary product. The goal for Kitfox was to produce a series of images that would be magical for the bride and groom. This goal defines his overall approach to photographing people and helps to set him apart from the competition.

 

By the end of the shoot, the crew was tired and waterlogged, but happy as clams.

To see more of Kitfox's work, visit photovalentin.com.
 

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Photographed by Kitfox Valentin
Setup shots and copy by Steve Kurtz

 

 

 

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Comments

On July 24, 2013 at 08:40 AM, Deevo said:

Great article, used for inspiration for my first series of UW shoots.  I have been renting equipment, do you recommend UW lights or body casings that work best.  I have been using aquatech case.  No lights yet.

On June 09, 2014 at 08:44 PM, Remi said:

Your link to click on the survey does not work!

On June 09, 2014 at 09:09 PM, Bob said:

The link for your survey for an opportunity to win a Photoflex LitePanel Kit is inoperable…..

On June 10, 2014 at 09:14 AM, Photoflex Administrator said:

Thank you for letting us know about the survey, it’s live now.

On February 23, 2015 at 08:38 AM, Sarah said:

These photos look absolutely incredible! I can’t imagine how uncomfortable it must have been for the bride and groom to be in the pool all dressed up like that (especially the bride) but you can’t deny that the outcome is something really special they’ll be able to look back on years later.

Where was this pool? Was it a public or private one? I think it looks much nicer with the plain/mottled background than if it had been tile or mosaics

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