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A Few Tips - Underwater Self Portraits

As we start up another new year, many of you may have planned personal projects. We LOVE personal projects here at Underwater Kids and believe if you really want to see growth and development in your photography, there is NOTHING like them to get you started!  

But what about getting you in front of the camera as part of those personal projects?  I know, I know, there is a reason why you are behind the camera. Believe me, I am with you....but lets just say you give it a try. And then let's say you want to try it underwater? How do you even begin? 

We have asked a few of the most incredibly talented photographers we know to share their favourite underwater selfies and give us a few tips on how they accomplished them!  

First up, the fabulous LeAnna Azzolini with her incredible pictures and a few tips on getting started taking those underwater self portraits. 


Just gorgeous right?  We asked LeAnna for a few tips on shooting underwater self portraits and she had this to say.

It’s always been a dream of mine to learn underwater photography. When my daughter was born, I immediately had visions of swimming out in the ocean capturing her surfing alongside her Daddy. She’s still young though, and we’re starting small for now. This summer, she was three and we finally reached a point where it was safe for us to swim next to one another in the swimming pool. At the beginning of 2017, I began a journey with a self-portrait group and underwater photography was my main goal to incorporate into my project. I’d had shots planned in my head for years and thankfully my husband was able to hold the camera and help me to jump in the frame with her. Our underwater shots ended up being some of my favorites throughout the 52 week process. I’m still learning how to handle light and to maintain a consistent and cohesive look with my editing. That’s my biggest challenge. Colors are very different to work with and the way the light shines differently during the day still throws me off. It’s quite a learning curve for me so far. I’m completely hooked though and plan on sticking with this in the years to come. My next big dream is to get in the ocean and see where it takes me.

Become a fan of LeAnna's work:





We next asked the incredible Chelsea Cronkrite to share some of her favourite tips for taking self portraits underwater.  This is what Chelsea shared with us.

Tips :
Practicing sinking and breathing techniques will help you keep your cool when shooting underwater.

For taking self portraits, fully submerging your Go Pro Hero 5 sticking it all the way at the bottom of the pool facing can help make for a cool dome effect. Also shooting with it on a stair case or a ladder can help create other cool perspectives. If you have a split level dome, those help make for some pretty epic selfies as well. Using a bendy tripod can also up your self portrait game.

Things I Find Difficult :

Flotation, i'm very buoyant ha - and patience seem to be my main issues with shooting underwater    

What Inspires Me:

Watching my daughters bond together through swimming, create new images that inspire others to create new inspiring images, watching the waves from underneath the surface


Keep trying even when you fail a thousand times over, you’re always going to learn something new with the process.

Follow Chelsea's work here:



Thanks to both of these incredible artists for sharing their thoughts and their work!  Stay tuned for one more blog post about tips and tricks for self portraiture underwater next week!!




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The Challenge of Underwater Photography in Lakes

I promised a while ago to write an article about underwater photography, and I have been so swamped I haven’t been able to!  BUT I thought I would start by sharing at least one before and after, so you can see what shooting in a lake can be like. I chose this shot because it gives you the sense of what the conditions in the lake are like. Literally pockets of light in very murky water that you have to learn to see. Personally, thats what draws me to keep shooting in the lake despite the challenges. 

I will show you what I mean. Below is what you often encounter in lake conditions. This was taken later at night. I find you can get images under water when there is little light left, often past what you would expect to be able to.  The light was fairy flat, except for the neat pockets of really pretty light just barely penetrating the water.  I knew when I shot it it would just be about the light, and there would be a lot of shadow fall off, so I looked for interesting pockets of light and how the light wrapped my subject.  



In terms of gear, I was shooting with a wider angled lens, the 17-40mm 4L Canon, at 24mm. It  isn’t my favourite lens to shoot with, but it allows you to get closer to your subject and still get a sense of space, which I like. Because lakes are so murky, its important to get closer to your subject if you want to be able to see them, although I have gotten really ghostly images that I love by shooting further away too. 

For this image,  I waited until I saw the triangle shape made my the bubbles and the spotlight effect on him and exposed more for the light as I do like to add visual interest and structure into underwater photos.

Processing is key to all underwater images, especially those taken in a lake. In my processing, I wasn’t so concerned about anything else but about the way the light highlighted his skin and hair, the bubbles (always a favourite element of mine) and the reflections. The image below was quick to process because I already knew it would be about the light and structure before I took the image. I find you have to add contrast and blacks back into underwater images and this one was no different. A slight crop and you find the image below. To me it speaks to what you find underwater in lakes in the summer, dark, murky and full of mystery. You will find that lakes have the most lovely hues of blue/greens and after seeing images all taken in the pools with the bright blues, I find them a welcome change!  


If you have any questions at all – ask away! I am working on a more comprehensive post about underwater photography.




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A Few Tips - Freelensing At The Beach!

As we move into winter, a number of us start to dream of those sun drenched beaches and plan our winter getaways.  We wanted to give you a few tips to stretch your creativity and push yourself while you were away, and what better way to start than by talking about frelensing. Barb Toyama, a true master at the art of freelensing, offers some quick tips for you to try if you are heading to a beach this winter on your next family vacation!  

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Meet Guest Moderator Mary Okner!

We are super thrilled to be featuring a relative newcomer to underwater photography, and amazing all around person Mary Okner from Mary Bea Photography



1.     When did you start your photography journey? 

I actually fell in love with photography while I was in high school. I took black & white dark room photography every year and beyond the magic of watching the images develop in the baths I loved interacting with my subjects.  I was always photographing my little cousins or the children of teachers at my boarding school.

I continued my study of photography by way of graphic Design with a focus on digital imaging in college.  My first job out of college was in the field of photography as a photo assistant for an architectural/construction photography firm. After moving with my now husband across the country to California, I worked for a start up before before taking the leap to follow my passion and open my own portrait photography business in 2013

2.     How many years have you been in business?

I have been running a lifestyle family photography business for four years now.

3.     What gear do you use for your underwater sessions? 

I shoot underwater with an Ikelite housing for my 5d mark iii.  The lens extension and port I use with that allows me the flexibility to shoot with my 50 mm, 40 mm & 19-35 mm lenses.

4. What inspired you to try underwater photography?  Where do you continue to draw your inspiration?

I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t inspired to shoot underwater.  From disposable cameras growing up that had the plastic housing you could bring in the water to a housing I had for my Canon G10 in the early 2000’s, shooting in and around water has always fascinated me.  I continue to draw inspiration from fellow photographers, like those sharing their work on Underwater Kids. Their work drives me to challenge myself to become more proficient shooting underwater.

            5. Your images have such a beautiful use of light in them. What is your favourite time of the day to photograph? 

I love photographing underwater in the early to late afternoon. 

            6. Any advice you’d like to share for someone just getting into underwater photography? 

For those just getting into underwater photography I would say: do your research and then do some more! 

I thought I had really done my due diligence before I committed to the big purchase of the Ikelite housing but it turned out that there were two different types of housings so the first port I purchased didn’t actually work with the housing I purchased and it was a frustrating & long process getting that all figured out when all I wanted to do was jump in the water!

Thanks so much Mary!!!  Check out some of her fabulous art below!  



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Meet Guest Moderator: Blakely Tombs

We are so excited to introduce you to Blakely Tombs of Crescent Moon Photography! She has been a part of our little community with  her fun and beautiful underwater images since the very beginning and we are so excited to have her join us as a guest moderator this week. Thank you Blakely and thank you for answering some questions!


When did you start on your photography journey?

Does high school count?!  I took a lot of art classes in high school and one of them was in photography.  I remember making a camera from a shoe box.  We learned to develop film in a dark room, etc.  It was so cool! Obviously I have switched cameras several times since then ;)


How many years have you been in business?

About 10 years.  I really started to get in to photography when I had my first daughter over 11 years ago.  I would also take  pictures of my friends kids just for fun, and then their friends would contact me wanting pictures as well.  When I realized I was taking pictures of people I didn’t know, I figured it was time to start a business! I am a former middle school teacher, so photography was a great way for me to still work with kids and be a stay at home mom at the same time. I’ve always needed a creative outlet, and photography fills that for me.


What gear do you use for your underwater sessions?  

I should mention that I don’t do underwater sessions for clients.  I’m a Nikon girl for my land sessions, but my underwater photography really is just for fun.  So for underwater pictures, I use an Olympus TG-4 (with or without the fisheye attachment) or I use a GoPro hero 5 black with a dome port to get the over/under shots.


What inspired you to try underwater photography?  Where do you continue to draw your inspiration?

We love to travel as a family.  Last year we were traveling to Turks and Caicos and I wanted to have something that I could use snorkeling, playing on the beach, etc.  And we also put a pool in our backyard last year, so I figured it would be handy to have an easy camera to catch the moments out back.  That’s when I got the Olympus and I thought it worked out great!  You can toss it in your beach bag and not really worry about it!  

This summer we had two trips.  One to Key Largo and one to British Columbia.  We were planning to snorkel in Key Largo and we booked trips to go caving and  to go whale watching in British Columbia on what was basically a 700 hp zodiac type vessel! That’s when we decided to get the GoPro.  Again, something that is easy to just throw in your bag with you.  As a family, we are having fun with both cameras.

My oldest daughter is a year round swimmer, so we spend a lot of time around pools.  I’ve enjoyed taking pictures of her and her friends while they swim.  I love to make photobooks of my family, but most photographers kids don’t love taking pictures all the time.  Photographer’s Child Syndrome is real, y’all!  But I’ve found that taking pictures of them in the pool is ok!  They are having fun playing, and I’m still documenting their childhood.  I draw inspiration from them in watching them play and watching them do what they love to do.  And I draw inspiration from all the fabulous mama’s on instagram posting pictures of their underwater worlds.  The talent that is out there is mind blowing!  I love seeing it all!


Your images have such a beautiful use of light in them. What is your favourite time of the day to photograph?

That depends on the pool!  In my backyard, I like it later in the day.  I like when the sun is setting because that’s when I can get rays through the water.  I often get more colorful bokeh at that time of day too.  I like bright sun for larger bodies of water, though.  


Any advice you’d like to share for someone just getting into underwater photography?

Just have fun!  And have patience.  It’s definitely different than shooting on land.  I don’t feel that I have the same control, but I go into it with an open mind and just enjoy being in the water.


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