Capturing memories beneath the surface with underwater photography

Published: Jun. 20, 2019 at 8:11 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - When it’s hot outside many people just want to cool off, and your average photo shoot might not sound so fun.

But there’s a type of photography that’s anything but average, allowing you to step out of the box and jump into the pool.

“The limit is wherever your creativity leads you,” underwater photographer Renee Stengel said.

She has done photo shoots for pretty much anything you could imagine.

“A roller derby star in her skates under water, high school seniors in a high fashion gown, engagement session, maternity sessions,” she said.

She’s been playing around with it for years.

“I discovered it on a diving trip to the Caymans about 15 years ago,” she said.

Recently she decided to specialize in it professionally.

"A year ago I decided to take the plunge and put my big camera, my DSLR, in a housing, and put it in our pool!"

The Bauer family is happy she did.

Jona Bauer has been on the hunt for an underwater photographer in the Charlotte area for years.

“I like that there’s no direction!” Bauer said. “That it’s just fun. It captures the true innocence of children. Summertime, no school, and honestly that’s when kids are the happiest.”

She chose a family session and senior photos for her daughter.

It’s like a photo shoot on land with makeup and wardrobe, but bringing it all under the surface.

“You can’t just everybody sit down and pose and create the perfect shot and here let me turn your shoulder, let me turn your chin,” Stengel said.

She only has a few seconds to get it right.

"I use a weight belt that helps me stay down at the bottom of the pool until I'm ready to come up."

She holds her breath and snaps away, capturing memories in a flash.

“I’m actually going to use them as art," Bauer said. "We live on the lake in Belmont so I wanted a coastal feel to our home.”

It's a rare niche.

“A few photographers have dabbled in it here and there,” Stengel said.

It requires access to a pool and lots of time.

“It’s not just the taking the pictures, but the editing is a beast," she said.

But as word is spreading, the demand is growing.

“It’s something that can really be a fun addition to the amazing photography community here in Charlotte,” Stengel said.

For anyone introduced in trying their hand at it, Stengel recommends practicing with an iPhone or GoPro in an underwater case. There are tutorials online for the shooting and editing, but she says it really all just comes down to loving it enough to put in the time.

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