Underwater photography was something that I literally kind of fell into. I booked to shoot a wedding in the Bahamas, and while I was sitting in the airport waiting to leave, I was googling photographers in the area. I discovered, much to my extreme delight, my favourite underwater photographer, Elena Kalis resided in Nassau, which was where the wedding was booked.
I wrote her an email, honestly expecting no response. However, she did respond, and my photography career took a change I never expected.
Creating the Dream State Shooting Submerged
I’ve always been inspired by dreams, books, and a supernatural feel to artwork, and shooting submerged gave me access to creating that sensation visually. I was warned that modelling underwater was challenging, but I never expected it would be quite so difficult. Between my body being constantly determined to float to the surface, my face making the scrunchy “omg there’s water going up my nose” expression, and the total unpredictability of hair and material, it became my most demanding quest to date. It even beat out modelling in a blizzard wearing a t-shirt and tutu.
However, I love a good challenge, and I returned to Canada inspired.
Shooting Outdoors in an Unheated Canadian Pool
Edmonton is not known for its private pools, it is uncommon for people to have them in the back yard because 75% of the year we are mostly covered in lots of snow and ice. If shooting underwater wasn’t challenging enough, try doing it in an outdoor, unheated pool, at 9am in Alberta. Determination, dedication, and a solid dose of masochism for creating art, is about the only way you willingly put yourself through it; whether you are the model, photographer, or safety crew. It gets cold at night in the northern realms of Canada, and even during the hottest day in summer, the water often stays quite cold. The only pools we could get access to that had natural light, were big public outdoor pools that only rented first thing in the morning before they opened to the public.
We would rush to set up, get in the glacial water, freeze, shoot, and hurry out once the lifeguard unceremoniously booted us out of the water to make room for the early morning patrons. High fives were handed out, and we indulged in the hottest shower our frozen extremities could manage for the next 15-20 minutes. While we sort through the images afterwards it’s usually the group of us sitting around my computer looking like drowned rats, huddled in blankets and drinking hot tea. It’s worth it, every time.
I cannot express my gratitude to those who fling themselves so willingly into a frozen northern pond in the quest to create beautiful artwork. My assistants, safety crew, models, and sometimes the occasional mom or dad who sits so patiently beside the edge of the water, smiling as we come up gasping for air, are all so integral to the process. I only hope that I can continue to produce images that they are proud to be a part of.
Summer is here, yet again, and so begins another voyage under the shimmery surface.
Growing up surrounded by the vast prairie of the Canadian north and tales of faraway places, Renée Robyn has chased the perfect backdrop around the world. Approaching photography like a treasure hunter, her compositions are uniquely cinematic, often becoming pieces of a bigger world represented beyond reality. Renée’s style is easily recognizable and distinctly her own. Expertly blending fact, fiction, and a little digital alchemy, she has worked with industry-leading brands like Adobe, Wacom, Corel, Capture One, and Intel.
Comfortable facing down gale force winds, climbing fog-shrouded mountains or fast pace commercial studios, her work is impressive and committed. An expert retoucher, Renée applies the same level of commitment to post-processing leveraging her mastery of colour theory, editing, light, and shadow in the digital realm of Photoshop. Renée travels full-time, shooting for commercial and fine art clients.