Submerged Flower Project

I like to capture flowers in a variety of manners - dried, frozen, and now submerged. I recently discovered Photographer Barbara Cole’s submerged flower project. She photographed flowers in a swimming pool; the final photographs were dreamy and impressionistic. I was mesmerized by the final images and thought this sounded simple enough to recreate at home. This post will share my process and key learnings. 

Step 1: Determine the container to shoot and the flowers to photograph. I tried the kitchen sink, a bathtub, and a large circular container. As the photo shows, I decided to use a tall glass cylinder-shaped vase to hold the flower and let in plenty of light. The sink and bathtub didn’t offer enough room to handle the flower and receive enough light. Bright-colored flowers would be ideal. I tried some white flowers, but they just didn’t have enough contrast with the clear water and the white flowers. 

Step 2: Set up your workspace. I set up my table and vase near a window and planned to shoot on a bright day. I had light filling the space at a 90-degree angle. I set up the container and my tripod in front.  I used a couple of different lenses when shooting, an 85MM macro and a 50MM. At this point, I did some test shots for exposure and to make sure that I did not have large shadows on the vase; if you do, adjust your light source or move the vase to avoid shadows. You will want to use a shutter release cable or a timer on your camera. This is critical to hold the flower in the water and take the shot. 

Step 3: Place the flower in the container and begin to shoot. This is the challenging part - holding the flower and pressing the shutter release. If you have a remote shooting app that you can use on your phone or tablet, that will make the process so much easier, or ask someone to hold the flower for you. I liked shooting the flower still in the shot and capturing it with some movement. The movement really adds to the scene and the impressionistic quality. Try adding intentional camera movement or use a straw and blow into the water to get movement captured. You will be shooting the flower upside down - unless you have a very tall container. This is ok; you can flip the image in post-processing if you want it straight up. 

Step 4: Editing the shots. After taking lots of shots, the process of culling and editing begins. For these images, I did some basic cropping, cleaning up, and enhancing the colors. For additional creative elements, you can bring them into a program like Photoshop to add texture, more movement, blur, etc… The options are endless. 

I enjoyed this project and exploring capturing flowers underwater, I will continue to play with this technique thru the seasons.

Here are some key takeaways. 

First off, try different containers to see what works best for you, and be patient! You can also get creative by having a helper blow into the water or stir it to create movement. If you’re shooting at home, keep in mind that you won’t have the luxury of natural water movement, so you’ll need to create it yourself.

For the best lighting, try to work on a sunny day so you’ll have plenty of natural light to play with. This will make your life a lot easier, and you can focus on the other details of the project.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different flowers, and try adding food coloring to the water for a unique blue tint. Adding a backdrop can also add some interest to your images.

Finally, have fun with post-processing to get the final look you like. I love playing around with adding textures, blur, vignettes, and darkening the background colors to give the images a painting-like effect. The possibilities are endless!

Here is a video with my setup and some additional images.

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