A good shot of a diver rarely happens by chance and is usually the result of planning and co-operation between photographer and model. The model must know what sort of shot is required and the pose needed before entering the water as communicating such information underwater is notoriously difficult.
Once underwater and in the correct location, the photographer needs to guide the model into the required position, and there are several simple hand signals, such as horizontal palm up which means go up a little, for example, that can be used. Every underwater photographer will have his or her own signals which must be practised and explained before the dive to ensure smooth communication.
Most good diver shots show the model exhaling a pleasant plume of bubbles and this can often be the most difficult combination to orchestrate – they may be in the perfect pose in between breaths but move off slightly before exhaling. A simple technique I use is to tell the model to watch my finger on the shutter – when I raise it I want them to breath out as soon as possible. This achieves two important things – firstly, a nice plume of bubbles and secondly, the model knows that the shot is about to be taken. The pose can be held momentarily while the picture is taken. The model can then relax and look to the photographer for the next signal.
There are two basic styles to diver photography. The first is the diver in an general scene where the diver is merely indicating scale and giving a sense of being underwater, and the second is a shot of a diver actually doing something such as laying out line, for example. Readers of National Geographic will know that David Doubilet is a master of the first style, and often gives the model a powerful light to hold which adds a final bit of sparkle.
When photographing divers in activity, avoid having them look into the lens and get them to concentrate on what they are doing and pretend the camera is not there. There are endless things a diver can do for the camera but the most straightforward and possibly most difficult pose is simply to look at something. A good model will hold a pose which gives a feeling of action by tilting the head slightly towards the subject being viewed rather than a more obvious stiff pose. Attention to such detail will dramatically improve results.
A good diver picture is a just reward for both photographer
and model. This shot, above, was taken with a Nikonos V and 15mm lens
with Kodachrome 64 film.
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