The other day I was watching the Gulf Photo Plus competition video for 2014, in which Zack Arias and Sara Lando went head to head to create an image in 20 minutes in front of a live audience. Sara Lando won, by taking a picture of her subject, printing out the photo, and then submerging the print in water and pouring more water onto it, making it look like her subject was drowning/struggling underwater. Great idea, right? (make sure you check out her blog post about it here). It reminds me of this old Irving Penn image, although I’m not sure it’s the same technique.
Anyways, I have been thinking about that process ever since, and exploring ways to tweak it and come up with something different. Today I figured I’d start out by just experimenting with the basic setup. So picture in a tray, three lights to illuminate it, and pour some water on there. I decided quickly that I liked the ripples best, as well as having reflections on the water and shadows cast onto the image, so I went with that. The picture in the tray is a black and white image, I experimented with crosslighting the pouring water with gelled lights, but I didn’t like how it looked against the b/w shot. Here’s a video showing my process:
Pretty simple. As you can see, it would be easy to make it look like it’s someone actually under the water.
I’ve got a few more variations I’m going to experiment with. Food coloring in the water? Color picture in the tray? Float a lot of small objects in the water? Motion blur? Shallower depth of field? Deep DOF? Squirt guns? Distort the image in the tray before printing so that it looks more watery/swimmish? These pictures are all just old practice shots and lighting test images that I got printed at Costco. Actually shooting a picture with this process in mind would create much more interesting images, I’m sure.
It’s interesting to take an idea that you’ve encountered somewhere and then see how far you can go with it. How many iterations of the idea can you come up with? Sit down with a notebook and see what happens. These are a few of my ideas, but there are so many more possibilities, so many more directions to go. The fun thing about trying out ideas like this is along the way you come up with so many more ideas/paths to go down. And you’re learning the whole time, obviously. Good luck, and happy idea hunting!