I challenged myself to take underwater photos while on my trip to Lake George, NY this year. In some ways I was successful and in many other ways, I struggled. I'll, of course, explain below...
I am completely in love with underwater photography. I've done so little of it but I'm totally obsessed. The draw for me is that there are so few people on this earth that even know what it looks like under the surface of most bodies of water. In fact the ocean is truly the last frontier on earth. It's beautiful and scary and surreal. It's like a whole other planet exists right under our noses and we barely notice.
The draw for me to take photos under the surface of Lake George is multifaceted. One, I LOVE Lake George. It's possibly my favorite lake on this planet. I grew up there in the summers. I know the surface of it like the back of my hand. I can close my eyes and tell you where every buoy on the lake from the village up through the narrows is. As a kid (and still as an adult) I love to dive down deep and open my eyes (with or without a mask) and just listen to the underwater sounds and watch the light dance. It's truly the most peaceful and strangely turbulent world I've ever had the privileged of falling in love with. I did a little research and found very few underwater photographs of the lake. Knowing that on good days the visibility is about 30 feet, I figured I'd take a stab at photographing it. I rented a Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens and brought it along. My previous underwater photography adventures included a 50mm macro lens. I wanted to try something new and see if I could master underwater landscapes. As you'll see, it didn't come without challenges (even 30ft of visibility is hard to get sharp wide angle images). But despite it's challenges, I had a blast!
OK, so here's where I tried to capture the dancing light underwater. Paradise bay is quite deep. I asked my twin sister to dive down while I took some photos. With our kids losing their shit on the boat, we had very little time for this. But I captured a couple neat photos. I suppose I'll always be chasing that perfect underwater photo - the one that captures all the wonderment and peace I experience when I dive down deep in this beautiful and clear lake. So, screaming kids or no, I'll be attempting many versions of these photos in the future.
So this is the part where I talk about all my failures and fears. Boy are there A LOT! They all led to some valuable lessons but I really could have done without them...
First off, like most people, I think that all successful photographers and successful creatives of all types have no fears. They are successful, why would they doubt themselves? Only people like me doubt themselves. Well, I'm 31 now and I realize what a bunch of bullshit that is. We are all afraid. I am afraid all the time. Especially when it comes to my work. I don't want to fail. Failure blows. I'm scared of it all the time! It's stopped me in my tracks. It's terrible. It causes endless procrastination. That fear and self-doubt is the number one reason I seem lazy and the only reason I have not reached the goals I've set for myself. And even being aware of this, I still can't always face the fear and keep working. Because, shit, it's hard to believe in yourself when the judgement of your work is soooo subjective. The only thing that keeps me going is the work itself. When I can manage to drag my butt off the couch and go out and shoot, I lose myself in it. I mean my husband had to drag me out of the water on numerous occasions to remind me that my other slightly more important job of being a mother, needed to be tended to. I heard somewhere (can't remember where) that when it comes to photography, if you don't love the journey you're never going to survive. Why? Because there really isn't a destination. It's a fluid medium. There's no point at which you're going to say, "I've made it. I don't need to learn or create anymore images." That's just ridiculous. So for me, I realized I DO love the journey. So much so that I'm willing to battle the fear almost every day. Sometimes its an easy battle, but most days it's really f'ing hard.
Now that we've gotten the fear part out of the way, let's talk about my failures on this trip! The biggest thing was thinking things would be easier than they ended up being. I underestimated the challenges of shooting wide angle with only 30 ft. of visibility. While it's doable, it's not easy to get sharp images. I also did a good job of mucking up the water for myself. Especially if I was hovering in the same spot for a while trying to get the nesting fish. Second, I was staying relatively close to the surface to use ambient light which worked sometimes and not other times. Third, I saw a very inspiring photo by adventure photographer Emily Polar that I wanted to try to recreate for a self portrait and I figured it would be cake! Turns out making a normal face while holding your breath is really, really hard. (See below images... I pretty much gave up). And last but not least, my biggest regret and hardest lesson learned... I spent an extra week at the lake with just my son while my husband flew back to work. Because I didn't want to truck a ton of bags and a 2 year old through the airport on my own, I sent him back with my underwater gear. UGH! Total mistake. The day he left this huge mama bass and her school of babies came into our swim area and stayed there ALL DAY LONG. Without my gear I tried using my ancient GoPro to capture them but as you'll see below, it failed miserably. I was grumpy about it most of the rest of the trip. So lesson learned. Suck it up and keep my equipment around. I'll always hate myself if I keep letting opportunities go by because I'm afraid of a little discomfort.
That concludes the underwater portion of my two week trip to Lake George. Next week stay tuned for the kid travel portion. I'll go over flying by myself with a two year old (yikes!) and what it's like to photograph with toddlers around and, of course, some really awesome photos I took of the kiddo and his cousins.
In conclusion, I just want to mention that I recently watched Chasing Coral on Netflix. I cried through most of it. Please watch it. After this blog post you have to know that I love the water. Watching the oceans die is really emotional for me. I always find myself wondering what the oceans looked like 30 years ago. Especially since I've noticed the coral bleaching and dying on dives I've taken in Hawaii. It's heartbreaking. I'd like to share this underwater world with my kid someday. We need to protect it. That's all! Enjoy your week and let me know if you have any questions or want to share your own fears and failures in the comments below!