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How to photograph superheroes underwater

We dive underwater with Ikelite brand ambassador Ken Kiefer to find out how he works and how he managed to capture great shots with some of his favourite superheroes. [blockquote style=”2″]”I have always been a big fan of superheroes. From reading the comics, to watching the Batman series on TV, to today’s great productions. I
Published: June 17, 2018 - 12:49
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 16:55
How to photograph superheroes underwater

We dive underwater with Ikelite brand ambassador Ken Kiefer to find out how he works and how he managed to capture great shots with some of his favourite superheroes.

[blockquote style=”2″]”I have always been a big fan of superheroes. From reading the comics, to watching the Batman series on TV, to today’s great productions. I just can’t get enough of them all the time. So when I saw a super realistic Iron Man costume at my friend’s house, I immediately asked – can this thing get wet? The answer was no, all because of the electronics and the large amount of metal parts, but he said he had a Spider-Man costume that he had designed and made so that it could safely be submerged in water! While we were planning what we could do with this idea, he went ahead and created for his girlfriend, a superhero costume of Black Cat – Spiderman’s ex-girlfriend. Thus began a truly amazing photo shoot! – Ken Kiefer[/blockquote].

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1

What camera, lens and settings did you use ?

I shot all the images with a Canon EOS 5DS camera with a Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM straight zoom lens. Each time at ISO 100 and shutter speeds between 1/160 and 1/200. Apertures generally varied between f/5.6-f/18, depending on the position of the sun and the effect we were trying to achieve.

2

Do you use a script or do you go more on the spur of the moment?

I’ve never used a script before. We have a shot list with ideas and reference photos on the side of the pool to spark creativity and work on authentic poses. Almost all initial ideas end up turning up something new once we start working. Some things come out well underwater and others don’t. There is a lot of experimentation with this type of photography.

3

Did the colourful costumes and bright ambient light make editing these photos difficult?

We were looking forward to a sunny day, so that the costumes really started to look like a comic book superhero. I then used some flash lights at full power to even out the sunlight underneath the models.

4

What is the difference in approach to working in outdoor pools compared to indoor pools?

Indoor swimming pools are usually very poorly lit. I find it most visually appealing in these conditions to light the model well and draw them into the main focus of the photo.

Outdoors you can get dancing rays of sunlight or light/dark interplay on cloudy days that add depth and texture to the background. I worked during a huge downpour once and got some really interesting shots with the rain hitting the surface of the water.

5

You are a talented underwater photographer. What is your favourite lens for this type of photography?

In cases like the shoot with Spiderman, I always go for really wide rectilinear lenses for model photography, whereas I choose fisheye lenses for sharks or large animals. The slight curve of a fisheye image can add unwanted curves to model areas. In the pool I often use a Canon 16-35mm or 11-24mm.

6

Do you think that working in the pool keeps you in top form and improves the quality of photos taken in open water?

As with any other activity or use of equipment, repetition is key. Frequent use of my underwater housing and lights has greatly improved all aspects of my photography. I feel comfortable with every feature and button on my equipment, and shooting in such a variety of conditions has helped prepare me for many situations.

Whenever I photograph sharks or crocodiles, familiarity with the camera’s control panel is invaluable. When this happens, you can’t take your eyes off a large predator, so familiarity with the housing helps you stay safe while making the necessary adjustments to get the best image.

7

What are the requirements for a good model in underwater photography?

Working as a model underwater is quite challenging. During this seven-hour session, Alex struggled to breathe between shots through wet lycra. Usually the aerial part is not difficult, but almost anything can be challenging underwater. Trying to convey natural facial expressions and body positioning, without being overly tense or strained, requires a high level of comfort in the water.

The really difficult thing, and for everyone, is to keep your eyes open and a calm relaxed attitude underwater. And holding your breath without hamster-like cheeks or unnatural mouth placement takes a lot of practice. My wife Kimber is invaluable when working with models, as she has been on both sides of the camera. When we are photographing passing information both ways is invaluable to the final result.

8

We invite you to follow Ken Kiefer’s work on his fanpage.

The article originally appeared on IKELITE website.

Photo: Ken Kiefer

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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