Mark Mawson has taken a liking to shooting fashion... underwater! He explains how he goes about creating his unusual images.

For the past few years I’ve been shooting people and fashion underwater and I love the flowing movement which is created in these shots.

This image is from a personal series I shot with model Verity Booth. We were going for a ‘human jellyfish’ feel. As with any fashion shoot, it can be made or broken by getting the right model. This is especially so with underwater work. You need someone who is totally comfortable holding their breath underwater, keeping their eyes open, and looking relaxed whilst trying to hold a pose!

We rehearsed the shots at the side of the pool before going below, because it’s hard to direct the model under the water - she can’t really see very well.

When I shoot I have an assistant and a safety diver in the pool or at sea at all times. The safety diver is just out of shot, standing by to give the model some air when she signals she needs a breath.

Before I shoot, I check all the camera housings are clean and I grease all the ‘o’ rings to ensure all its openings are watertight to prevent any leaks damaging the camera. As far as lighting is concerned, I use a mixture of studio packs and heads above the surface, and underwater strobes beneath the surface. If I want to replicate the sun shining through I’ll use a hard silver reflector or if I want a soft diffused look I’ll use a large octa above the surface.

Obviously I have to take a lot of precautions with the mix of high voltages and water! The stands are weighed down with heavy sand bags and are also tethered to a permanent wall fixing. All the packs are also placed on boxes to keep them off the ground, preventing them from getting wet.

After the shoot, in post production I use Capture One to process RAW images and Photoshop for any retouching. Red light is absorbed by the water, so depending on the lighting I may have to correct the colour balance and maybe do some retouching to the model, and also take out any ‘bits’ which might be floating around in the water.

Image by Mark Mawson.
Shooting details
Camera – Olympus E3 DSLR
Shoot – Manual mode, 14mm, 1/250s @ f/5.6, ISO 100

Article first published in Australian Photography, March 2011.

comments powered by Disqus