Supergirl and Captain America race to the rescue in the waters off Grand Cayman
At the end of every October, there is a day reserved for the imagination. Although Halloween has had many different symbolic meanings throughout history, in today’s age, it is a day for dressing up and becoming something you’ve dreamed of being—be it a ghost or a superhero. And for underwater photographers, it’s a chance to combine the spooky spirit with the ocean.
Halloween Spirit Underwater
Grand Cayman might be bereft of the late October chill. And we have to play in the sand instead of piles of colorful leaves. However, the Halloween enthusiasm in the Caribbean endures. Neighborhoods are blocked off to make way for the young children seeking thrills and candy as they “trick or treat.”
As the Photo Pro at Cayman Turtle Divers, I always look forward to Halloween to do something creative and different. This year, I wanted to depict superheroes performing some of their above-world missions under the waves. So how do you add an element of the human world into an underwater scene? A good start is to seek out man-made features or to depict a normal dry land activity such as running or standing.
To create a real-world feeling for these photos, I opted to leave the scuba tanks behind. By ditching the tanks, the superheroes are given the freedom to walk, jump, or stand just as they would above water.
Let the games begin: Captain America is ready for some underwater fun
Supergirl shows off her strength. But the real heroes are the men and women who make your dive trip awesome
Super (Hero) Models
Our first photo shoot took place at a newly installed superyacht mooring in Grand Cayman’s West Bay. On this specific feature there is a massive chain dropping from the underside of a large buoy that ends in the sand at about 55 feet. I thought this chain would give us the human or above-world element I was looking for.
In many superhero scenes, the protagonist keeps to the rooftops to watch over the scene below—alert for a citizen in need. That’s the same trope I was aiming for with the images of the heroes hanging off the mooring chain.
Since we were all working on one breath of air, timing was the most important element. Ensuring everyone has ample breathe-up time on the surface and is ready to go will ensure that you have a longer window underwater to capture your vision. The chain also really helped the superhero models control their position and create propulsion for the appearance of flying.
Far above the busy reef city below, these two underwater crime fighters keep a bird's eye view
Since we are buoyant in saltwater, it was nice to portray the ability of flight through this image
We also tried a different location to create the superhero vibe: a calm, clear sandy bottom in the shallows. This environment would allow for the models to work on their ground game—activities that heroes might engage in above water like running, jumping and general action stances.
The models picked up sand and let it drift from their hands as they kicked off—giving the illusion of a jetstream. Superheroes are known for their super strength, so I thought this was a great visual effect to depict this power. I found natural light produced the best results in the sandy shallows. There is some color lost in the superhero outfits, but with sand being stirred up intentionally, using strobes produced too much unwanted backscatter.
Captain America utilizing his shield as a sand skateboard cruising through the Caribbean
The superheroes take flight in order to keep a watchful eye on our surrounding reefs
The Real Heroes
For this Halloween shoot, I used the Canon SL2 paired with an Ikelite housing and dual DS-161 strobes for certain images. This is a great rig to freedive with as it is very compact and minimalized drag in the water. A special thanks to my fellow Cayman Turtle Diver employees for donning the costumes and showing off their freediving skills.
We’ve done themed Halloween shoots for the last two years. Of course, it’s a fun way to celebrate the holiday in the ocean-minded way we do our jobs on a daily basis. Keep an eye out for these underwater superheroes on your dive travels. They might not wear capes, but they are always looking to lend a helping hand.
A lot of superheroes have the ability of flight, which is very similar to our freedom of movement while freediving