Amazing Underwater Dog Photography
Lifestyle Pet Photographers, Studio Roo, have provided our latest guest Blog with a fascinating insight into how they managed to get amazing photographs of dogs underwater.
Studio Roo came about as a kind of natural evolution from a mutual love of photography and animals. For the last 15 or so years professional photographer George Stoyle has been taking photos of wildlife and landscapes all around the world both above and below the water. Since moving to Yorkshire a few years ago with his wife Kat Sanders, and acquiring their first rescue dog, Tilly (aka Roo) in 2010, a new library of images began to accumulate. After rescuing two more dogs and taking more and more photos, setting up a pet photography business to run alongside the other photography business seemed like a logical progression, and so, Studio Roo was born.
With Studio Roo we wanted to offer something slightly different, something which most other pet photographers don’t offer and something which would draw on our experience in photographing the natural world. We are firm believers in combining the things you love the most whenever possible, and so, as we both share a passion for the underwater world, we started to look at the possibility of photographing dogs underwater.
A quick bit of online research revealed that, far from being a novel idea, underwater dog photography had become something of an online sensation. A particular set of images shot by an American photographer, simply called Underwater Dogs, had recently gone viral on the internet attracting over 100,000 hits per day. These superb photos got us quite excited inspired to have a go ourselves and because these kind of images require fairly specialist underwater photography equipment, very few pet photographers in the UK were offering this service.
Living on the windswept coast of North Yorkshire means that obviously personal swimming pools are not particularly common, and it was unlikely that any public pools would allow dogs. So we decided to approach some hydrotherapy centres with the idea of combining some of their usual client sessions with a photo session. The plan we put forward was to run group sessions over a day devoting around half an hour to each dog…and see what we could get in that time!
Teaming up with the Black Dog Hydrotherapy Centre in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, we arranged our first day’s photo shoot for 8 of their existing clients. On arrival at the pool we donned our wetsuits, took a few test shots, and awaited our first willing (or unwilling) hound. One the biggest challenges (and pleasures) of working with dogs, or in, fact any animal, is the uncertainty of how they will react to certain situations and understanding what works for one dog, may not work for another. This is the case regardless of whether you are in the studio, in a forest or at the beach. In the water however, the challenges are tenfold! Will the dog want to swim? Will they move in the direction you want them to? Will they willingly put their head under to retrieve a toy long enough to get the shot you want? It quickly became apparent that the real skill in photographing dogs underwater is to attempt to predict all of that whilst maintaining the correct position, selecting the right camera settings, all the while, lying on the bottom of the pool holding your breath!
The session begins at 10am and ends at 4pm. The variety of dogs we see throughout the day ranges from gigantic to tiny, confident, nervous, excited and everything in between. Some dogs resembled seals in their ability and willingness to dive for toys, whilst others preferred to stand on the ramp and just splash. Each and every dog presented different challenges but all provided endless amounts of joy and fun to photograph.
We usually begin with a fun swim, just getting the dog used to the strange, black rubber-suited man who is suddenly sharing their pool, lurking beneath the surface, making flashes as they swim over him. As they progress we introduce toys and different techniques to see if they are likely to dive or put their head under to retrieve them. Each session ends with a shower, shampoo, and blow dry for each dog with a treat on departure.
We will be returning to Black Dog Hydrotherapy for a second underwater photo session on the 7th December and can’t wait to see what surprises await us. We also plan to connect with other hydrotherapy centres around Yorkshire to share our new-found passion for photographing dogs underwater.