There are few things in this world more mystical than the ocean. Her dark plunging depths, her unapologetic beauty, and her disregard to conform. Personally, I have always been captivated by the ocean, and a little scared. With her great movements the ocean has always shown that human race must always bow to her wishes. Her cruel storms and unimaginable secrets draw many to there ends. Yet, the mystery she holds is far too intriguing for me to stay away.
For me, one late night TikTok post came to me and it got me thinking about this great ever changing abyss. (Yes, a TikTok post.) In this TikTok a photographer had two models sitting in a small blue inflatable swimming pool. You know, the ones from when we were kids. Well, 90's kids will understand. The photographer was perched up on a ladder shooting down into this pool at these two female models. I thought "Well, alright, you've got my attention..." As the TikTok goes on you see this photographer has placed a black tarp under the two young ladies and filled the pool about half way with water. "...OK, you still have me..." It continues on with the photographer placing flowers around the models and she proceeds to shoot. After a while, I presume, she adds milk. "...WOAH, now you're living in 2050!!" A few of the shots pop up and I just have this flood of ideas hit me. It's never 1 o'clock in the afternoon these ideas hit me, its always at 1AM.
So the next day, I making plans.
As of late I have started a photography journal. It's very simple in that, it allows me to get these quick vibrant ideas out of my head and somewhere, where I can revisit. Half of them I expect will never come to fruition, but I love that my creativity knows know bounds and it's reaching for the highest peaks of photography. Anyways, I start planning this shoot with crude diagrams, crossed out words, and a supply list. I'm not sure if misery is a cruel mistress, but she's definitely not nice. When my idea starts to take actual form, the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown hits. "GRREEAAATTT." So, the idea got put on a back burner for the time being. I started working on other ideas and concepts. But that damn shoot was still lingering in my head. When I'm inspired I feel incredibly desperate to create; I wanted to make something beautiful in this time of negativity and heartbreak. But all I can do, is wait. And wait. And wait.
I am a part of the workforce that was furloughed due to a closure of my place of employment. I figured that there is no time like being furloughed and home alone all day to take the time to look into how and what I was doing a photographer. How do I make my business stronger? What are my goals? What is my plan to get there? How do you feel you're doing as a "small business owner"? I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea. I watched video after video about photography. And I came up with two things:
So what else do you do when you're feeling energized and wanting to push yourself and your craft forward? Well, you pre-order a $5800 camera and you build a website. It was a hell of a week, I tell yeah. Ive never spent so much money on something for myself; outside of buying a car. But like a car, these things are tools. The camera and this website are tools I need to achieve my goals. You can't give your photography life, if it is shut away in the dark recesses of your hard drive. You also, can't move past where you are if the tools you are using are beyond their limits already. Scared and unsure, I dove headfirst into this ocean of photography.
I have always been one to make a lot of things work out even though I don't have exactly what I need. Turning desk lamps into spot lights and using old wooden doors in your brother's apartment into backdrops. You work with what you have. And that's how this Dark Water Shoot began. At first I acquired a Facebook market place blow-up kiddie pool, a black bed sheet, and then bath bombs. Yes, bath bombs. After doing research and thousands of reference images later, I felt like the mystery of this "dark water" could just be amplified by making the water darker and even more murky. A week or so out I decided to unveil my idea to the world. I organized a Facebook event and invited some of the models I am used to working with. When working with a new skill or a concept I've never employed before, I like to organize a day of mini shoots. This allows the kinks to get ironed out and helps me identify where my own personal short comings are. I also like to shoot with another photographer, who is also a dear friend of mine. We met what feels like a a decade ago, but really its only been about four years. He is what I like to call my "twin creative flame". We are both able to lock on to these creative endeavors and find truly amazing story telling through photography. He is always right there with me learning and growing as we navigate this art form.
Some background information on my shoots, I like to send a run-down of my photo shoots to each client/model. I like to set a clear and concise expectations for my clients/models before, during, and after the shoot takes place. I like to believe it gives some sort of comfort to the client/model, so they aren't walking into a shoot blind. Furthermore, I also follow up these shoots with a model release or contract. Again, having clear expectations for both sides keeps you and your client/model safe from lawsuits and disagreements.
Now, for the good part, the shoot.
I like to think that any person can walk onto a shoot and they can turn into a total rockstar. They pose just right and they are able to take direction. But not all dreams come true, especially when working with other humans. Me and my fellow photographer, had two models for the afternoon. One fairly experienced and the other was doing this for the first time. I honestly love shooting with new clients/models. They tend to feel like they are going to mess up a shoot or not do well enough to get a good image. But once you upload an album and do a few edits, they light up with excitement. And that's such a great feeling to be able to give that to them. Of course getting a good shot pumps you up during a shoot, but for me, giving someone something they didn't think was possible...it's incredible.
Below you will see a few before and after shots taken during the two sessions. As you will see, I had quite a lot of reflection and silly me, I didn't use a circular polarizer. Of course, I didn't realize this until I got to the editing process.
My first set here is of Laura. She was our new comer and I believe that after all the nerves settled she was able to really sink into the photo shoot process. She would need some guidance and a few laughs, but overall I was very impressed. However, it was a bit of a challenge on the editing side. As I mentioned above, not using a circular polarizing filter really added a lot to the back end of the shoot. But with some trial and error, I found that using "dehaze" via the brush tool in Adobe Lightroom Classic, eliminated all of the reflection and achieved the goal was after.
The second model was Sarah. Her and I have known each other for some time and have done multiple projects together. As you can see in her before image, you will see just how bad that reflection was. You will see myself, my photography partner, and my significant other. (He was our light diffuser holder.) With Sarah, we had to work against the clock. The water began to get a bit too cold and that has its own implications when shooting. She definitely pulled though and delivered elegant and ethereal shots.
Overall, I really like this shoot and I feel like this will be one I will do again. I also believe that the shoot in general can be very adaptive. From an elegant more delicate shoot to one more dark and gritty. it can also be used from the newbies to the more experienced. And I as a photographer will be better prepared for this shoot in the future.