Some shoots are easier than others, some shoots have setbacks, and some shoots just go to hell in a hand basket.

When this happens on a large campaign, it is the photographer’s responsibility to fix it and he or she should have multiple contingencies planned to make sure that the client gets the shot no matter what. Fortunately, today’s blog is about a shoot that didn’t go as planned, but at the end of the day it was a friend and a photographer trying to see if something was even possible.

I have shot for the last couple years the ASU Women’s Rugby campaign in an effort to help out my friend Ashley and also to give back to my alma mater. The campaigns have been fun, and are usually done on the cheap but with intention to try out some different aspect of photography. This year’s campaign was no exception.

We decided to try and shoot this year’s rugby campaign…. under water. Because when everyone thinks rugby, they think… swimming pools?


Nonetheless, the goal was to see if we could shoot the girls doing rugby moves at the bottom of a pool. An aggressive goal? Yes, but go big or go home. Where things got tricky was that we didn’t have the budget to get underwater housing for the cameras, lights… heck, we didn’t even have the budget to rent a proper pool. However, it was summer in AZ, and shooting in a pool even if we lost the camera might not be so bad. So with a homemade underwater camera case and a bunch of duct tape, we headed off to someone’s backyard to try and shoot it.

For the photographers reading this post, take some notes so that you can skip over making the mistakes I made. First of all, don’t make your own underwater housing, and secondly, duct tape is NOT waterproof. However, the leaks were controllable, so we proceeded. The next huge challenge we were presented was that the lights can’t be triggered from a source underwater, as radio waves do not travel through liquid. To work around this, we had to run a chord from the camera out of the kinda waterproof rig and have it held about the surface. Once that was done, we found that light is cut quicker than the inverse square law when H2O enters the equation, and had to scrap the lights altogether.


The next problem we encountered was that water in a small swimming pool, like the one we had, is nothing but a reflective element of the environment around, our environment was a pool painted white. What this does from a technical standpoint is that it fills in all shadows with cloudiness and makes it impossible for a camera to pick up contrast in the subject, therefor it is not possible for the camera to focus on the person and we would have to manual focus this one.

The final knife in the back of this photoshoot came when we tried to photograph the first girl doing a rugby move, only to find that it was impossible because… big surprise… rugby balls float.


So with that, I had my assistant throw together a quick (above water) setup that he and I had talked about before hand in our, “in case this shoot goes to hell in a hand basket” briefing. With a speedy setup, we shot ten portraits of the girls in a couple minutes and called it a day and chalked it up as a learning lesson. End of story.

Or so we thought…

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I get a call from Ashley that goes something like… “you remember that photoshoot when nothing worked out and we had to just shoot the portraits real quick at the end?”…. Yeah, “so I kinda entered them in the Photography category for the Addys, and you won.”

Somethings never cease to amaze me.