Ethereal Underwater Portraits by Gabriela Slegrova
Gabriela Slegrova works as a mountain guide in Cape Town, South Africa, a job with enough fun and adventure for her taste–plus plenty opportunities to take beautiful photos. Originally from the Czech Republic, she fell in love with photography two years ago as a way of telling stories without using language. “If I could tell a story with words I wouldn’t need my camera,” she says.
She has gravitated towards taking portraits in natural scenery–like the stunning landscapes she sees as a mountain guide–but recently, she’s discovered a new love: underwater photography.
Taking underwater portraits has opened up a whole new world of adventure for her. It started during a weekend trip to a lovely lagoon with her husband and a friend. She had bought a simple underwater camera case to experiment with, but the lake was too cold and muddy to try anything.
Then, a week later, she decided to try out the camera case in a small swimming pool, using her friend Alice as a model. The water quality and temperature were great (27°C). “As I learned later in my other shoots, the quality of the water is very, very important,” she explains. “If the pool is often cleaned with too many chemicals like chlorine or salts, it creates very milky and hazy water, and you can forget about the photo shoot as you will hardly see the person.”
At first, she tried to shoot while wearing goggles and a snorkel, but that proved to be too difficult. Water kept seeping in, and the goggles became misty and difficult to see through. She also found it difficult to stay down in the water, since the underwater case was filled with air and kept lifting her up. Ultimately, she removed the goggles and floated just below the surface, which seemed to work fine.
Meanwhile, her model Alice was doing a great job. She was graceful, elegantly suspended in the water, and even managed to look at the camera and smile.
Altogether, the shoot took about 40 minutes. Gabriela could only control the shutter due to the underwater case, so she shot on Aperature priority the entire time. The photos turned out rather green, so she adjusted the white balance and increased contrast during post-production. “The main struggle was ‘smoothening’ the background as the walls of the pool were not that nice,” she says.
Still, she loved even these first underwater portraits. The whole process was a big adventure for her (and her model), as well as a great learning experience. Already within 40 minutes, she had learned so much for the next time.