Guest writer Felix Hernandez R. is a commercial photographer based in Cancún, Mexico. He is a very active member of our Fstoppers Facebook group and is well known for his stunning composite work and food photography. In this article he explains how accomplished his amazing series, 'Magic Moments' with the use of compositing and underwater photography.
Magic Moments is a series of 5 final photographs that were commissioned by a client (a Dolphinarium based on Cancun, Mexico). They wanted a series of images that captured the thrills of their dolphins swim programs. The challenge was to represent in a single image one of this dolphin's swim programs called "footpush" for the viewers to understand it.
The "footpush" is an activity where one or two dolphins push by the feet and through the water to the guest. Normally photos of this activity only had shown the water surface action (guest been pushed). But the dolphins (the main issue) didn't appear in the images.
A first idea and attempt was to do the photo in one shot. I thought that with an underwater housing kit and in a proper hour of the day I could capture the best of two worlds (underwater and water surface with the sky). But the reality was that I had to shoot early in the morning where the sun doesn't light enough of the underwater scene. And of course if I tried to expose the underwater scene, then the surface water, the sky and the model were blown out!
Also, the real background of the scene was too distracting. It had bushes, palm trees and part of the facility construction whereas I wanted the viewers to focus only on the main subjects - the dolphins and the guest.
So, to create this image I had to approach from a different angle.
I'm a photographer, but I'm also a graphic designer, so why not do a composite? This wasn't a photo for a contest or a submission for an editorial article. It is a photo intended for a commercial use to show and sell a product. No matter how you do it, what matters is that it can be understood by anyone and of course, invoke a WOW!
For the composite I needed 4 main imagines or photographs:
One for the underwater scene with the dolphins pushing the guest. One for the horizontal line that divides what is underwater from the surface. You get that line when you use a housing (it also lends more realism to the photograph). One for the guest being pushed on the water surface, and the last one for the background, in this case, the sky and clouds.
The photo for the background ended up being part of a original photo I shot that day and a image bank photo. Sure, I would have loved to use my own cloudy background, but the reality was that my background didn't have the "dreamy" look that I wanted. So, as in this case, I think it is okay to use some stock images that adds to your concept idea.
So here are the gear and technical specs I used for each photo:
• Underwater photo: 7D with a Sigma 10 - 20 lens (with a Ikelite housing)
• Horizontal lines photo: 7D with a Sigma 10 - 20 lens (with a Ikelite housing)
• Surface and guest being pushed photo: 5D MII with a Canon 24 - 105 lens. (No housing)
• Background sky photo: 5D MII with a 24 - 105 lens. (No housing) and part of it with a stock photo for the clouds.
Have to say that it was my first time using a housing unit. I had to rent it and with it had to rent the 7D camera, since they didn't have a housing for my 5D. So it was kind of tricky to familiarize myself with this new gear in underwater conditions and inside 5 hours!
I had to shoot close to 100 photos for the underwater image, of course those 100 photos where taken on burst mode. I only had a chance to do the dolphin footpush for 10 times after which the dolphins must rest, at least for one day. Of all those 100 underwater photos only two where worthwhile for my composite!
At the end I think that what really matters, at least for me, is bringing alive your ideas and dreams. For me, this experience was a true "Magic Moment".