This post is a hard one. Because I have to admit that I am not perfect – but then again, who is?
I have ventured off into the unknown when I bought my underwater housing from Brother Housings in Durban during February 2017. I bought it with an underwater photography workshop in mind, but things didn’t work out for me to go to Johannesburg to attend this session during March this year. My husband turned 40 the day after the workshop and I wanted to wake up with my family at home. So I let go of that idea, and decided I will figure it out on my own.
When my housing arrived, I was so excited. I got a team together consisting of Debbie (makeup), Gerhard Meiring (designer) and Joanna (model) and planned an underwater shoot right here in Hankey where I live.
I went scouting for a deep enough swimming hole in the river and even went diving there the day before to make sure it is clear enough to work in. It was perfect. Shoot day arrived, the sun was shining and we all got in my car and headed to the river.
One thing however I didn’t take in mind, was the loose particles at the bottom of the river. Something I didn’t see when diving the day before, as I had a wetsuit on and didn’t disturb anything.
The moment Joanna got into the water with a snow white wedding dress, the material disturbed the bottom layer of “stuff” and it went floating all over the place. It took forever to settle and by that time I realized that my plan of crystal clear water wasn’t going to come through. I did however get a lot of other images that day that made up for the lack of underwater images. With a lot of post work, I managed to at least get this image which I thought looked pretty damn cool for my first time under.Apart from the underwater images, we did some more water inspired shots that day. With more water, more river, the ocean and wave-like dresses from Gerhard. I have always wondered about shooting underwater. It is not really such a familiar genre and especially here in my area, there are not really any underwater portrait photographers. I wasn’t sure, until Bianca sent me a message – it was my sign, if you wish, that I should jump in and see what it was about. Bianca wanted some underwater maternity images and I got on the phone that same day and ordered my housing.
Bianca and I came to an agreement – she knew it was my first shoot and I told her from the get go that it might not work, as I have no idea what the shooting nor the editing would entail. She agreed to join in anyway and we booked a date. Being pregnant, I assumed that getting in warmer water would be the best idea for Bianca, not wanting her to freeze! BUT again, I didn’t take into consideration that my camera was boxed into the housing and started fogging from the inside the moment I got into the heated pool. I ended up having to get in and out the water, to just let the camera return to normal every few minutes. It was a little frustrating, but again – I learnt something in the process. Bianca brought her daughter, Ava, along and we had some fun. I managed to capture this image, one I was quite proud of at the time. I shared it online as well as on a photography group on Facebook, asking for feedback.Unfortunately this image was pulled apart badly, by someone who has also just done a few underwater sessions. I felt rather humiliated by the harsh comments about the image on the social media thread. I never said it was perfect but I really didn’t expect the negative feedback I got. Especially the part where this person said that “just because it was taken under water, doesn’t mean that she has to think it is cool, and that’s the end of it”… I thought that that was quite a hurtful thing to say. I never asked for approval or for anyone to like it, just for feedback. Although I did take all the criticism to heart, and learnt from it, that stuck. Every time I looked at an image I took under water, all I could think of was that comment. It took me weeks, months to get through these images until I could get myself past the fact that someone didn’t like it. Or maybe that someone potentially felt threatened by me trying my hand at this – because what if I succeed?
That didn’t break me, in fact, it served as encouragement to go and do it better next time. Here are some more images from that session with Bianca and Ava: Ava was such a superstar! And I LOVE this image of her kissing her mom’s stomach!
After I posted that image to social media, I received a call from Thandi, a civil engineer from Gauteng about wanting to do an underwater maternity session as well. We booked a date and to her too I mentioned that I am not really “professional” at this and that she is welcome to come along to play. Because she flew in from Johannesburg, we couldn’t move her date. The weather was absolutely horrid that afternoon and we both got into 15 degree water. The reasoning for her wanting a water session was quite special though and after contemplating the freezing water versus a normal maternity session, I just got into the ice cold water hearing her reasons and she followed…
During a holiday in Mozambique a few years ago, her cousin passed away due to accidental drowning. Since then, Thandi always had a connection with water and with water representing life, she wanted to do a maternity session in the water. We literally went into the water for a few minutes and I got one shot, she said that is all she wanted.
A few weeks later I got a message from Thandi. As I opened it, I was left with an immediate gasp and the rest of it left me crying. Thandi went into early labour. Her water broke and baby had to be delivered by emergency c-section. It was also discovered during the birth that the baby was born with an extremely rare genetic disorder that was never detected during any of her ultrasounds. Something that has only been documented a few times world wide. Sadly, her baby passed away 18 hours later and I would like to extend my utmost sincere thoughts to her, her fiance and family during this time of mourning.
My fourth and last underwater venture thus far was with my friend Danika. I wanted to just try out a few things, but it ended up being a proper session with makeup and hair. I got some cool shots of her and definitely also learnt a lot during this time in the water. This was one of her images:
Danika is such an inspiration to me. I did an article on her during my women’s month posts and she was someone that never really did any training – as she said “her build didn’t really allow for running”… Danika put her mind to something and by eating better, living a better lifestyle and training, she managed to finish the Ironman 2017 triathlon this year.
She is definitely someone I look up to. Someone that I tap inspiration from.
So people are not always going to like what I do and what I attempt, but I have put my mind to this underwater shooting business. It is hard, it’s not just getting in and going, even the editing is different than what I am used to …
BUT I WILL do it…
And I will do it WELL
For now, I am just really enjoying playing around. Hell, what is cooler than shooting people under the water, right? I have made peace with not worrying about what others say. Each one of these images taught me something. Something that will make my next try a whole lot less “wrong” …
” Most people are searching for happiness outside of themselves. That’s a fundamental mistake.
Happiness is something that you are, and it comes from the way that you think “