Interview for Bernard Magazine

In the following interview for the magazine Bernard, you can learn a lot of interesting information from behind the scenes of underwater photography.

Alice, why did you actually decided to shoot underwater?

I “met” normal photography, thus above the water, about 20 years ago when I got  my first camera as a gift. A few years later I started to scuba dive, which led to the connection.
I was fascinated by underwater observation, perceiving a collection of many facts and details that complement each other, mingle, and thus create a unique, unconventional fascinating whole. I’m talking about the unusual behavior of light, the refraction of the water, the slow, graceful movements of things, hair and of course the movement of people. Also, the ability of the release, about how to be him/herself, realizing lightness and space. Water is perceived as relaxing, feelable on your skin, creates pleasure. Where we are clamped into the clothes, we put into the water … freedom. Maybe a little irritating to us the fact that water is uniquely element and our contact with it, especially in open water, is somehow a little adrenaline to our humiliation.
And I am so incredibly attracted to try to print all of it as closely as possible, to capture on the little square digital sensor. And that’s not easy. :)

But you did succeed, didn’t not you? At least the Federation of European professional photographers in Brussels think so.

(Smile) .. Well, it is very nice to see, that your efforts gets the evaluation. Last year, 2010, I received an award QEP – Qualified European Photographer set for underwater shots “Swordsmen” in Brussels. The same set was afterwards honored at the Festival as the Warriors important event of the year. It’s so nice!

Are you doing exhibitions? Where can wes ee your photos in person? And are your photos also for sale?

I organized several exhibitions, but at the moment I prefer the presentation through the opening. I published my photos in magazines with diving and underwater themes. In several places, forming interior decoration. And yes, photographs from my original production are for sale.

You take pictures just for yourself, or not? Can people come and order the photoshooting?

I divide my work as originals, and custom photography.

In my own work I use usually somewhat more complex and it is more likely demanding mission, but which is also much more expensive. Thanks to the custom shooting above water and under water, I can easily fulfill my dreams.  Although I photographed a couple of folks who are not afraid to take on larger projects. Very interesting was shooting for Czech Television program Stardance.

How does the custom shooting proceeds? 

Firstly, the client should contact me :) Then, for better communication and imagination, customer comes to me, I can show him possible underwater scenery on my computer, the backgrounds and we will agree on a “story” that also depends on all the arrangements, therefore, costumes, wigs, makeup, decorations, accessories, etc. I also show the premises to customer, where the shooting will take place. It is a training diving pool, two depth levels, the whole facility has a shower, toilet, sauna and hot tub where they can get warm. The pool water has 29- 30 degrees. The complexity of the arrangements and the shooting itself is also dependent on the number of subjects.
Underwater photography is somewhat challenging and fatigue is then noticeable, so it is good to plan the photoshooting for Saturday. Before the customer arrives, the whole of the agreed scenery is prepared in advance. After coming together we thoroughly discuss the progress of photoshooting. Then we should make the makeup + dressing gowns, costumes, accessories, etc .. Meanwhile, children are getting  familiar with the environment and they can swim in the pool. Then I lightly do the makeup on kids and dress them. Also under the clothing we placed the burden for improved stability. Then we all go into the water, where we  repeat after every emersion, what we will do.

And is it really possible to do underwater exactly what you agree with the client?

Although in my underwater photography there are sophisticated thematic sceneries, and a fundamental pillar remains preserving the “nature” of your subjects, non-traditional environment, the overall emotional impression. I mean that, although precisely defined in advanced, the movement, attitude, expression, etc., I am leaving purely on the subject. Then  we just fine-tune technical details – such as a babysitter flowing hair, clothes, decorative materials to hamper engaged, to prevent inflated cheeks when you breathe so.

It sounds a bit complicated …

Well, it is a bit difficult, but believe me, yet everyone, from infants to adults, did absolutely great! There is nothing to worry about. On the contrary! The entire photo shoot takes place entirely in a friendly spirit. The pool is equipped with a swimming rings, armbands, and toys that children can use freely. For better relief while staying in the pool, I also can play their favorite CDs with songs. I often shoot in a presence of my three children those were in front of my lens under water countless times. Their presence and assistance means a great support to client’s children. From my experience, the children always enjoyed the photoshooting while playing in the pool, it is a joy for them.
But it’s not just about photography, overall it will be an extremely unusual, unconventional experience. And the photographs you will get will please not only yourself, but for example, you can give them as a special gift to your loved ones.

What is under the water? What is the technique you use?

The swimming pool has two levels deep, 4 meters and 1.70 meters. I work with children in the shallow section with an area of ​​16 square meters. There I actually create a photographic studio. It has a dominant background against which the photo shoot will take place. Furthermore, light, lightning, decoration, diving bottles with air forming bubble showers etc.
I am using professional photographic equipment – Nikon, Ikelite flash device, mobile lights Green Force.

I admit that at first glance one would not believe that it is under water. Some can say it is a montage or computer magic.

(Laughs) .. If you want the facts? Okay. Own work versus my vision. I can imagine exactly the whole picture. There are plenty of them. And then … I just need to get it under the water and then into the camera. Unfortunately, financial options tie my wings. I take it as a temporary thing. My vision is much more epic, more ambitious than I had so far produced. I do not create extra for photo itself. I shoot from a purely clean, simple reason. I enjoy it because I work at home. But, especially because the main characters in my work are my three children. We will spend together wonderful moments when they also change naturally my vision. Creating interesting pictures, those will stay in our memory. I decided to publicly present their photos so I could share the joy, and make people express the emotions. Both positive and negative. Independently on opinions,  I will go on and realize my visions. That makes me happy.

How much time photographing the entire custom take?

First, there is a meeting at my home, where we agree on the shooting plus a tour around the pool area, it is the max. 1 hour. The very day of the shooting is about preparation – makeup, clothes and a short briefing before immersion, about 2- 3 hours. Shooting in water, respectively, beneath the water surface takes 1-2h. Then about an hour to warm up in the hot tub or sauna to relax + stay in the locker room. All the time, of course, depends on the number and complexity of the subject’s underwater scenery. Usually it takes a half a day.

What about the reactions of the clients? Are the photos based on their ideas?

This is the stage at which I look forward the most. Customers come to my house for a final photo, where it is presented on a large PC monitor. I enjoy immensely and look forward to see the look of a surprise in their eyes. So far, the pictures always surpassed their expectations. Customer satisfaction for me is absolutely on the first place, and therefore I am incredibly pleased when it is so.

Were you surprised by anything during the underwater photoshooting?

One photo shoot of young beautiful black man who did not tell me that he could not swim at all, which his “thematic role” required. We had to improvise on the spot, and the whole scene and everything had changed. Among other things, flexibility and perception, is perhaps the most important on photography.
Once I was also surprised that when shooting two strangers, a perfect decent dating may arise, especially when I photograph the theme  “love” .

In your Warriors serie you have stylized a group of stuntmen into ancient warriors in a dramatic formations under water. How is such scenery directed and how you instruct your models to follow the guidelines? Unlike you, they don’t have the scuba equipment so they can’t probably stay long underwater, they struggle with buoyancy …

By creating this serie, I met my longtime dream, thus creating a fight underwater.  A chance encounter with our leading stuntmen also helped me and also seeing the film The Battle of Thermopylae. I am impressed by the artistic design. It was my motivation for creating my warriors ideas. With the difference, that among the fighters I wanted to have a contrast to their strength – ethereal, delicate, fragile, innocent creature. My nine years old daughter has become that being.

Because it was a major project, it took also a wider scope. Several days of preparation of the underwater scenery , backgrounds.. With the stunts we had to meet several times, talking about how it will look like and how the shooting proceed. Then we were trying the fighting techniques, those were closest to my vision. We also had to prepare the choreography of all subjects underwater, so the fight would look naturally, trustworthy, effectively and we also had to be careful so no one could be hurt with the weapons.

The stunts had to rehearsal the fighting scenes by heart and in detail. It was because of the worse visibility without mask under water, which also decreases spatial perception. When the whole scene was ready, we jumped into the water.

Before every dive, we repeated the instructions and phases of the fighting scene. And in detail to each of the fighters. The communication was very intense. It was also difficult to catch the right moment under water, when everyone has the right expression, and there are no disturbing elements around. The plot took place in the shallow water and I was in the deeper part of the pool (4m). That’s why I used the scuba equipment, which is paradoxically less comfortable and appropriate for my way of shooting. It needs quick movements, swimming, so I can be in a short time in the best place. Otherwise I photoshoot without it. Im am underwater the same time, as people I take photos of.

Regarding the buoyancy – I use loads for the clients, so they can be stabilized and they can focus on photoshooting itself.

 On the photo Girl and the deep, there is a small girl fighting with a rusting chain in the bleary water. Where was it taken? And how is it done, that the hat didn’t float away.

 Photo Girl and the deep was taken in Croatia, Mali Lošinj. The clean water becomes bleary after my daughter Bára (the small girl) swirled the seabed. Well fortunately. The feeling from the photo is more interesting. The hat was firmly tied to the fig and the fig well set to the head J

The key thing is – anything that can float away must be fasten.

 I can see from your portfolio, that you dive also brides and the wedding couples. Are those photos real? Are they real newlyweds? I can’t imagine, that someone would love to come totally wet back to wedding reception :)

Yes, those underwater wedding photos were created upon a wish of a real newlywed couple. To be precise, those who planned the wedding.  The photos were used on their wedding announcement.