Summer in Texas is hot, make that a capital “H” Hot!. Shooting outdoor portraits in the summer HOT months aren’t a whole lotta fun. So last summer we rented some underwater gear and tested out shooting cool portraits underwater in places like the spring fed Comal River. After dealing with the cumbersomeness of the Aquatech Sport Housing we searched for a more nimble approach to get our Canon 5d II underwater. Dealt with Mike at Essex Surf Housings and we figured out a solution to my creative problems – triggering strobes underwater.
So let’s back up just a bit.
Here is Austin, my first mate, in our community pool on a somewhat cloudy day without any extra lights on his face. Nothing wrong with this image, just not the over-the-topness that I am looking for. That and the Lightroom adjustments are plenty starting with +75 red units to help balance out the blueness of the water and his skintone.
Same Pool, Next Day a self portrait with the added light of a Princeton Tec Shockwave diving light that produces a continous source of light at 390 lumens. Not extremely bright for underwater, need to be on the shadow side of the facial exposure (my back is to the sun) and about 3 feet away to affect the exposure in a meaningful way. This light will prove useful for tight portraits but not a main light for the big sets I have planned.
Enter the LumoPro 160 in a Pelican 1060 case. More power! The above photo is taken at iso 100, f11, 1/200th (the 5d2 sync speed). With the help of Mike from Essex Surf Housings we determined that the CST from Paul C. Buff would fit inside the housing and help me to trigger strobes. Megan, a local triathlete, is brave enough to test at Barton Springs with me. For those that don’t know the Springs are a constant 68 degrees. The CSRB and the LP160 make a tight squeeze but in a good way. The flash doesn’t bounce around and the head aim is consistent.
We found that if the camera housing and the strobe housing are just breaking the surface of the water then we had at least 15 feet of range. We didn’t test beyond that distance. However if either of the housing’s were submerged, which the Pelican Product page says not to, then the effective range is about 15 inches. Basically an underwater version of a flash on a bracket.
I had contemplated putting a CTO filter on the flash to warm it up even more against the blueness of water and cursed myself on the drive to the Springs for not bringing one. One of my Pelican Cases is Yellow though and the light it emits is quite yellow/orange which is close enough for me. The light you see in the back of the above image is the yellow Pelican Case with the LP160 firing at full power.
Which brings us to the next challenge in our quest to bring our style fully underwater, adding at least one more flash underwater. To do so, we are going to test out using the optical slave of an additional LP160 in an extra Pelican Case. Using good Strobist technique we will use the radio-triggers to fire one unit as an on axis fill, while hopefully using the the optical slave (not digital slave since we are full manual here) as a key light or a separation light, depending on the sun.
Heading out bright and early to give this setup a go tomorrow morning, stay tuned for the follow up post
Josh loves a good adventure and some of his favorite wedding and engagement shoots have involved “getting crazy” or going somewhere special to the couple.
Josh is a Texas native and long time Pflugerville resident. He started his photography business in 2009 and has never looked back. His photo business even allowed him to be daddy-day-care before his two sons reached school age. Over the years his business has expanded to include just about every type of photography including automotive, editorial portraits, corporate events, sports and food. Through it all, he has continued to love wedding photography for genuine moment, the fast pace and the diversity of subjects it offers. Josh is a co-founder of North Austin Pfoutographic Society and a resident instructor at Precision Camera & Video in Austin, Tx.