Two stories about photographic sessions ending in tragic results came out of the news last week. First, a tourist in Denali was fatally mauled by a grizzly bear when he spent about eight minutes photographing the bear. Park rules require that a hiker stay a quarter of a mile - that is about 440 yards - from the bears. This man was photographing the bear from just 50 yards. They know this because they recovered his camera and, using the focal length of the lens and the pictures he had shot, the calculation was made. The result was not worth the picture.
The other story is tragic as well. A bride wanted photos of her "trashing the dress," a practice whereby the bride is photographed in a scene where her wedding dress will be damaged, usually involving water, such as jumping into a lake. The woman waded into a lake just above a waterfall, and asked the photographer to take pictures of her swimming in the dress. The voluminous fabric became weighted down as it was soaked, she got caught in strong currents, and she was drowned.
That last story bothered me because of the deceptive nature of the risk involved. A bear is a wild animal; we know it is dangerous, and especially a grizzly bear, as we have heard stories before of people being killed by them. But in the second scenario, who should have known better?
I feel sorry for the photographers, who had to be treated for shock after the bride drowned. They tried to save her, according to one: “I jumped in, I was screaming and yelling, we tried our best," said Pagakis, pushing back tears. How much risk should be place himself in?
|Please note that this is meant to serve as an example of an underwater "trash the dress" shot, found on this photographer's site. I am by no means suggesting that the photographer or the couple pictured took any unnecessary risks in shooting this.|
I read a unique perspective on a photography forum that I wanted to share with you in the hopes that if you - like me - think a shot like this would be beautiful and great, understand what is required to get the shot:
Lifeguard, swimmer, and underwater model here. Clothed underwater modeling is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Even after a short shoot you usually finish exhausted.
The first thing I tell other models is be careful with clothing and fabrics. A light weight fabric becomes extremely heavy underwater. I am an All-American Swimmer and even I have difficulty surfacing in a full dress without a sturdy pool bottom to get some force behind my movement. If you are going to wear your wedding dress in water do it in the shallow end of a pool where you can stand with your head above the water. Never, ever in flowing water with no sturdy surface. You will quickly realize how difficult it is to move. A good photographer can get great shots even in the shallow end using just a few tricks.
Yesterday, I assisted photographer Bryan Allen on a photo shoot at a scenic location near Loudon, TN, for a lingerie catalog. It sounds glamorous, shooting beautiful women in such attire. In fact, it makes for a long and tiring day - driving home with one of the models, she remarked how she knew she would feel sore the next day because she had spent the day posing, sometimes stretching or contorting her body into a pose that looks unnatural to a bystander, but great in the camera, and often done not to highlight her, but a detail on the outfit. And that was on dry land, where most of the time we were indoors in air conditioning. If I were to consider doing some shots in water, outside in the heat and sun of August in the South, which would be a much slower process since the posing is harder to set up . . . yes, it would become tiring very quickly for both photographer and model. And if a person was not aware of risks - sometimes when shooting you can get into a "zone" where you are not fully aware of the conditions around you - you may not notice when you have pushed too far, be it exhaustion, exposure to the sun, hypothermia, etc.
Again, I think underwater photography for fashion is fabulous. But the comment I read above makes me stop to realize, you need the right people. And you need to step away from the "my-god-this-will-be-fabulous" excitement and question your capabilities and that of your model. Because what would you do if you had a bride in her dress execute a perfect dive off a pier . . . and not surface? What if a model was underwater in a depth of 12 feet, swallowed some water, and panicked . . . and no one there had any experience in lifesaving?
As i said, fodder for discussion among photographers.