Into the Abyss – Underwater Photography by Chelsea Erwin

Into the Abyss – Underwater Photography by Chelsea Erwin

Into the Abyss – Underwater Photography by Chelsea Erwin

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“All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.” – John F. Kennedy

There is something about the unpredictability of the sea that pulls your body in and allows you to just let go. The feeling of weightlessness and calm. The silence of the depths. The way the body moves in slow motion against the currents.

I am able to bring my clients to another world when they are photographed in the ocean. A world where they can connect directly with mother earth and feel her pulse. Where they can just let go of everything and just be.

I have had my feet in the ocean since I was born. It is a part of me and it was only a matter of time before I intertwined it into my creative work. Photographing people in the ocean is so different than it is on land. It is a challenge, but I love a challenge. When I receive an inquiry for an underwater session my first question is the obvious:

“Can you swim??”  

I know, I know you would think that I wouldn’t have to ask this, but I do.

My next question is:

“Why do you want to do this type of shoot?”  

For couples I want to know what their connection is to the sea and what draws them to this type of shoot. For lifestyle sessions and Fashion, a lot of times I’m working with models so they typically, not always, have experience in the water. 80 percent of the time, though, I am working with people who are comfortable in the water but have never been photographed in it.

I am always being asked how I direct my clients in these types of shoots. It is definitely different directing underwater. You are dealing with currents and waves a lot of the time, it’s very rare that I get flat conditions for these sessions. We are also at the mercy of the tides and weather conditions. The main thing that I do to guide my clients and show them how to pose is actually giving them my mask and having them watch me underwater. Most of the time its me flailing around and looking like a complete idiot so it provides for good laughs.

There are only two places I shoot in the water, the ocean and the springs. Here is a little break down of how these sessions are structured and how I plan for them.


I am at the mercy of the ocean’s moods when planning these sessions. I am always looking at what the tides and currents are doing as well as the wave action. I have a certain spot I really like to shoot but I can’t give away all my secrets just yet 😉 We always start on land shooting and getting comfortable. That is key to help get the nerves out before getting into the water.


The springs are probably the most ideal place to do underwater because the water is ALWAYS clear. Just like the ocean shoots we start shooting on land first. The only draw back of the springs is that they are typically crowded and the closest one to us is about 3 hours away. With that said I have done some of my favorite shoots there and I’m always down for a road trip adventure!

Get out there and shoot! Whether you have a go pro or a full professional underwater setup it doesn’t matter. Just like with anything else in photography practice, practice, practice. It has taken me years to find my voice in the underwater photography world. I’m still learning and I am also now sharing my knowledge with others. If you are interested in learning more about underwater photography check out my new Underwater Mentoring Sessions:



Chelsea Erwin
1 comment
  • Kristey Fritz-Martin September 23, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    Simply GORGEOUS!!! Makes me want to move to the ocean or somewhere with fresh water springs just so I can mentor with you <3

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