My Other Work: Underwater Portraits

I love underwater photography!
It’s not a secret. I’ve written about it here and have another website where you can see a lot of my underwater work, and purchase prints too. I also have a dedicated Instagram account to my underwater photography adventures.

The Challenge Of Photographing People Underwater:

Underwater PhotographyWhile there is nothing like photographing whales and seals underwater, photographing people is an interesting experience too. All underwater photography is a little more challenging. Handling the gear in huge housings, framing and focus, all while maintaining your breathing, balance and position in the water.

I’m a snorkeler, not a scuba diver, so most of my underwater photography work is in the top 3 metres of the water. This has never bothered me. One of my favourite aspects of underwater photography is natural light, filtering in through the water surface. It is breathtaking. On a sunny day, rays come beaming through the surface, creating magnificent highlights on the subject, but also patterns in the water itself. In deep water, the rays go endlessly downwards. On cloudy days you get soft highlights and painterly effects.

But photographing people underwater is challenging in a different way. Directing someone underwater, or otherwise predicting their movements is hit and miss. A lot of my underwater portraiture has come from ‘candid’ moments – friends swimming around me. I aim to capture their awe, and freedom and child-like wonder. When directing people, there is the challenge of the model posing as you ask in a space with no gravity or sense of control. But these are the things I love about underwater photography.


Some Of My Underwater Portraiture:

Figures Underwater:

These general underwater portraits have been an observation of people I know in unknown underwater environments. These works aim to capture the freedom being underwater gives. You can see the inquisitive nature of adults underwater as you do with children on ground. I find this beautiful. I observe the poetic poses that the absence of gravity creates. It explores light hitting the subjects and creating dimension. You can view this series here.


Down The Rabbit Hole

This series of work was created on my trip to Vava’u, Tonga in 2016. I travelled to this slice of paradise with my sister to photograph humpback whales. It is one of the best things I have ever done. One of my favourite places I have been is Swallows Cave in Tonga. On my first visit to Swallows Cave I was on a tiny tin boat with four other people – one being a Local who was there purely to take us. We entered the cave at a quiet time of day. There was nobody else there. Swallow Birds circled upwards in the cave, their music echoing and creating a surreal scene. Below us, pure black water. As dark as velvet. It looked cold, uninviting.

My sister and I slipped off the boat and into the water. Immediately, looking down, a scene of life was glittering below us. Electric blue bait balls of fish, circling in groups, forming patterns like a kaleidoscope. The rocky edges spiralling down. It was magic. There is no other word for it. It was on this first visit that I took this image:

underwater photography

The Inspiration Of Swallows Cave:

I visited this cave on three occasions in total. The third was to complete this series, which I titled ‘Down The Rabbit Hole’. The first image, above, and my feelings when in Swallows Cave inspired for a semi surreal underwater portrait series. I was inspired by the idea of being lost in an abyss of surrealism, with no sense of space or direction, but being lost in awe and fascination. I aimed to capture not only the freedom of the ocean, but the sense of wonder and and isolation it gives when we are removed from our familiar habitat. There is no oxygen, there is no gravity. It is a metaphorical series to represent our feelings of isolation, and being completely lost, as we navigate our own lives. You can read a little more and see the series in full here.


Pool Studies:

I love photographing in the ocean, it feels like home to me. Gives me peace, and a sense of purpose. But underwater photography extends to more than the ocean. I’ve created work in controlled environments, like swimming pools, too. It allows me to create with more direction. Often, I have dropped a dark background in the water to make my subjects stand out. Mostly I play with reflections and patterns from the water ripples.


This image below was a standalone image where I used the water ripples on the skin and the background to create a confusion between figure and ground. You can read a little more about the conceptual ideas behind this shot here.

Underwater Photography


A bit of colour:

While a lot of the work above is in black and white, it is worth showing you the colour versions as well. The vibrance of the ocean is so beautiful, so whilst the black and white effect is interesting, so many people love looking at the coloured versions too:


Two Passions.

Underwater Photography is a passion, alongside my love of portraiture. When I get to combine those things, it is really rewarding for me. You can see more of my personal and conceptual work here.

For above-ground portraiture and headshots, have a look at my portfolio! If you’re interested in advice on how to get the most out of your session, or would like to read about some of my other work, go back to my blog and have a browse.


 

Julia Nance Melbourne Corporate Headshot

Julia Nance is a headshot and portrait photographer based in Melbourne, Australia. Her vibrant creativity is inspired by her experiences. From photographing whales underwater to travelling in Europe. With a vast background in a range of photographic areas, it is Julia’s natural ability to connect with her subjects that ultimately drew her to the art of portraiture.
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