Photography, Filmmaking, and Design Explorations

Design Project: Dive

Design Project: Dive

Magazine spread graphic design project. Uses photos I shot while shooting the Leica M8 underwater with model Meredith Kimberly (MM#96286). Thanks, Meredith. (See the full set of photos.)

My design goal was to contextualize the underwater shoot and bring some meaning to the images via brief text and captioning. It was another opportunity to use the Müller-Brockman grid, while seeking a clean, modern look.

Design Project: Underwater Magazine Spread - Cover

Cover


Dive
An Underwater Photoshoot
June 2011

Model
MEREDITH KIMBERLY
MM#96286

Photos, Writing,
& Design
WILL STOTLER
MM#1338163

Design Project: Underwater Magazine Spread - pgs. 2 & 3

FLOAT

The weightlessness of the underwater environment encourages photographs like this–free floating, as if in deepest space. Surrounded, for a moment, by blue void and tranquility. Unbroken silence. For a moment.

Design Project: Underwater Magazine Spread - pgs. 4 & 5

PUSH

A push through the water–leaving a trail of bubbles and churn, captured as glistening spheres, a cloud of motion-that-was. Up is down and down is up, the light playing on every trail left behind.

Design Project: Underwater Magazine Spread - pgs. 6 & 7

TRAVEL


The water’s surface, seen from beneath, is a mirror, trapping and reflecting light. Tilted, and working the angles, the surface becomes a wall of liquid, suspended in space before a traveler: a gateway to another world.

Design Project: Underwater Magazine Spread - pgs. 8 & 9

STILL


Captured breath, rising, and otherworldly hair playing in the void are the only hints of which way is up. Slow motion, frozen in time.

DIVE GRAPHIC DESIGN PROJECT

My interest in underwater shooting began near the end of the Summer of 2010: It started with a thread I wrote on the Leica User Forum asking if there were any way to shoot the M8 underwater–apart from spending eight thousand dollars on a custom-made housing, of which (I learned later) only 12 were made.

Comments ranged from “why would you want to use an M8 for that?” through to a few snide drive-bys. Apparently, it hadn’t been done.

Within a week or two, I acquired an EWA Marine U-F housing, which includes a built-in glove for focusing and adjusting camera settings. The housing is an industrial-grade plastic bag with a glass porthole in the front, rated to a depth of 33 feet. The M8 drops into the housing.

While running a few underwater tests, I discovered that the rangefinder (used to focus the camera) didn’t work in the bag. Framing was troublesome: The glass porthole and lens adaptor blocked about 60% of the viewfinder, which was troublesome to use underwater anyway because of distortion.

But, I got some interesting shots over a few days, the possibilities seemed bright, and we closed the pool for the season.

Enter early summer 2011 and model Meredith Kimberly. I had the pleasure of shooting very briefly with Meredith in February–but I’d seen her work. She had grit and, being trained for theatre, sweeping moves. So, I invited her to shoot underwater with the comment: “The shooting goal? Succeed.”

This set of underwater photos with Meredith is the two of us working with the medium: she explored weightlessness, fluidity, and the freedom to pose without regard to an “up” or a “down.”

The work itself was very tricky.

Light: Light was at a premium (we were shooting at night). I encountered the troublesome tradeoff of speed (usually 1/180th of a second) versus depth of field.

Depth of Field: These photos were all shot at f/2, which at a medium distance provides a foot-or-so of perceived “sharp enough.” But it’s not a lot to work with when you and the model are both drifting. Focusing was accomplished by measuring distance from camera to subject, prior to submerging, by 3.5 foot, 7 foot, and 15 foot pieces of string. Like this: Submerge and don’t shift distance forward or back. Additional light was added in some of the shots by free-handing a very strong diver’s light. This had mixed results. But I haven’t played with it enough yet. I have ideas.

Framing: Ah, framing. When 60% of your rangefinder is blocked there’s a lot of guessing about where your subject is. Especially when your subject is moving. Not to mention that the distortion renders a clear view troublesome, at best. (I’ve since worked out the framing problem by not using the included lens adaptors provided for the U-F housing–I have an acceptable 10% blockage now.)

I can’t stress enough that Meredith was an excellent sport and very collaborative when working to get a good performance. Repeated submerging. Treading water. (And not very warm water, at that.) Me: “I didn’t get it. Let’s do it again.” Meredith: “OK!” Thanks much!

As a parting shot, several folks online told me: “You’re doing this the hard way.”

Yes. I am doing this the hard way. Because doing things “the hard way” builds skills while leading to new ways of working and, often, new and interesting results.

–Will Stotler, July 2011

See the full set of photos.

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