Motherland Chronicles #23 - Dive + Behind the Scenes

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Motherland Chronicles #23 - Dive
Photography: Zhang Jingna

Video: Underwater Assistance: Brenda Stumpf
Model: Jessica Dru Johnson
Makeup: Jenn Nelson
Photo Assistant: Matt Cadwallader
Special thanks to Brian Sousa for the pool

My first underwater photoshoot!!! It was so fun, but so hard too. T_T

I was fortunate to have my lovely model Jessica help pull this together, and her friend Brenda Stumpf (wonderful underwater photographer) give me all the underwater guidance, assistance and equipment I needed for the shoot. So thank you Jessica, Brenda, Jenn, Matt, and Brian who helped make this shoot possible. I can't say it enough!

Brenda managed put a little video together. It doesn't have very much footage unfortunately because the camera's housing got flooded :( But I figure it's still cool to see how things looked behind the scenes:

(Hello my first YouTube video. I'm not sure if I'll have anything again, but why not subscribe just in case? :D :D)

The shoot --

I know a number of people who've attempted underwater model photography. I've heard about the difficulties, I've imagined it, I've even experienced it as a model once.

But knowing the difficulties didn't quite make the shoot easier.

Sure, I didn't go in blind, but knowing it won't be easy just made me afraid that I wouldn't be able to get a single shot at all. (A trend in my Motherland Chronicles photoshoots, me being terrified of taking bad pictures, and after every one I'm drenched in enough self-loathing to bathe an army. It's very sad.)

Nevertheless, exploration is the point of the exercise.

Thank you Brenda for getting a picture for me
We had one light fixed to the camera housing (on an arm which I can adjust and twist around), and another above water, for when the sun started to go down.

I think the thing I'm most unused to is the wide angle lens and impeded movement in water.

Lens because I shoot with a 70-200mm most of the time when I'm photographing people, and movement because I like moving around when I shoot. It made me very sad when I can't shift as freely as on land. Or stay still when I'm floating.
Actually, you know I need to review photos every few shots, and it's not quite ideal while threading water, so my preferred position is to stand with my feet on the pool's floor.

But because I need depth for the model's dive and clothes to move around, I can't shoot in the shallow end. The compromise is to stand where I can just about raise my head for air if I tiptoe, so when my hands are occupied with the camera I can still surface for breaths. 

But like, I have these weights tied around my waist to help me sink when I dive, and so I keep sliding towards the deep end when I'm tiptoeing, and sometimes it means going under before I've taken a breath... It's very inconvenient.

Ohai, don't mind me, I'm just floating.
In other news, because I was inexperienced and it took some time to get the hang of things, I ended up staying in the water for 6 hours. I don't think I'd ever been in the water for so long in my life.

My hands were so pruney by the end of the shoot I felt that my fingernails would come off if I tried to peel them with a little bit of force.


I'm really thankful that Jessica's such a great model because I know it's hard to model underwater, and harder when it's so many freaking hours (and freezing, after sundown). She was positively shivering by hour 4, and I know I tend to not rest till I've gotten my shots so... thank you Jes for putting up with me. ♥

I can't wait to do this again.

And here, have some screenshots because I think the video is cool. It also makes me want to try filming next time.


Anonymous said...

I would love to do an underwater shooting one day ! What kind of camera do you have to use, is it a special underwater one, or do you add something to your normal camera so it can go underwater ?

Love your work.

Naokawaii said...

Just awesome! I really love your imagination, your photos and your models!
Good work!! <3

Ren said...

Oh my god, I'd love to see what you would make when you do migrate to film! <3

These are beautiful. It makes me want to try underwater modeling (unfortunately my eyes are superglued shut whenever I'm underwater and it's hard to break that habit of self-preservation).

filipovsky said...

OMG! Zhang Jingna! You're incredible! Without a doubt! Soooo inspirational! Btw - aren't you interested in coming to Greenland to take some shoots for your Chronicles? :) You're always welcome here!

Amanda said...

These pictures are amazing! And loving the behind the scenes video! I hope that one day I will have the opportunity to take underwater pictures :D

Mahalita said...

So glad to see you had a video and a behind the scenes post for this! Really interesting seeing the process you go through to take your amazing photos. I'm a big fan :)

Mahalita said...

Really glad to see the behind the scenes post and video for this! It's interesting seeing the process and work you do to make your amazing photos. I'm a big fan :)