What takes me away from the ocean


I know this is a huge change in style compared to the kind of photography you normally see from me. Please give me a minute to explain.

I get contacted quite regularly for commercial photography assignments. If a job presents enough of a challenge, revolves around water, has a good team of people and excites me, then I’m interesting in talking ideas.

When these jobs do come along the clients generally take ownership of the images and there are all sorts of embargoes on where and when they can be used. That’s why I very rarely get to share them with my followers or through social media platforms.

So along with supermodels Maddy King and Steph Maddren, Makeup artist Jemma Browne and production manager Sherrie Coleman, I put together a project just for fun to share with you the kind of photography that sometimes takes me away from the ocean. All involved wanted to be able to share the images, have creative control over the end result, enjoy ourselves and have the freedom to be as experimental as we liked.

Unlike nature photography, which is a very individual and generally solo pursuit, creative fashion photography requires a team. And I felt very privileged that these four amazing women all agreed to give up their time and venture out of the house while the 50-year ‘storm of storms’ was lashing Sydney.  On the day we had booked to shoot there were mass power outages, road closures and floods causing chaos throughout the city. It’s a good thing I had decided to run this project at an indoor pool. As long as everyone could get there and the power stayed on, we could go ahead.

I decided on a vintage fashion theme, underwater (of course). I then had to hunt out the right clothes. The best place to find vintage clothing is in second hand clothing shops and I had been told that the best collection of second hand fashion stores were in Melbourne. So I spent a few days wondering around the rainy city, eating at some awesome restaurants (Melbourne really is good for food) and hunting through the racks of the trendiest second hand clothing stores I have ever seen. Yeah, you read that right; I visited an inland city and spent my time in ladies clothing stores.

Finding the right models is probably the hardest part of an underwater photography project. Along with all the attributes normally associated with a model, the girls also need to be extremely comfortable in the water and able to perform sustained, repeated breath holds. To give you an idea, we were working in a pool that was 4m deep. I would submerge (using SCUBA equipment) then the model would dive and pose in front of the lights every 30-45 seconds. They would keep this up for just under 30 minutes per shot, then take a break to have makeup re-applied and go through a wardrobe change while I alternated models. We kept this up for 3 hours. It was physically demanding, eye stinging and at the same time, lots of fun.

Planning for a project like this is a much larger task than getting the actual photographs taken on the day. If everything is as it should be, I know well in advance what needs to happen and when. Run sheets are set to the minute and lighting setups are put together based on sketches that had been tested well in advance. Of course things never go 100% to plan, but when you have plan a,b,c etc it is easy to move on from one challenge to the next. This usually means bringing along a lot of extra equipment, but more importantly having the right people who all know their job inside out.

I know there are a lot of enthusiast photographers out there who will be interested to know what photographic equipment was used on a project like this, so here is list of the main items on hand: Mamiya Credo 80 with 55mm f2.8 Schneider LS Lens, Canon 1DX with 24mm f 2.8 lens, Aquatech housings for both cameras, 4 x Canon Speedlights, 4 x Speedlight housings, Waterproof sync cables and transceiver housings, 2 x 1100ws Studio lights, 4 x underwater light stands, 2 x dry light stands and one very large and cumbersome backdrop. We also had a stack of spare camera equipment, lights, tools, cable ties, tape, batteries… you get the idea.

If you like what you see please leave a comment and let me know. I have countless ideas that I could push through. This was a pretty major break from what I normally share with you, but I like to challenge myself, I love working on new projects and I hope you can appreciate a selection of beautiful images.

For the creative directors, ad agency gurus, campaign managers and business owners, if you would like to collaborate with me I am open to talking ideas. Just try not to book anything on the days when the surf’s looking good!


Also, for those interested in increasing their photographic skills, I am running an three evening workshop in July, details (here).


Before I go, I just wanted to say thanks again to Steph, Maddy, Sherrie and Jemma – you’re all superstars!


Enjoy your day,
Joel Coleman.

  • tom-paul jagg
    Posted at 23:53h, 26 April Reply

    Joel, to a man who lives life to the fullest, hang on, doesn’t Mick Jagger do that? Well there ya go. Fantastic Works, esp No. 6 and the last.

    Cheers, tpj

  • Jason
    Posted at 00:25h, 27 April Reply

    Incredible images Joel & team.
    well done. 50’s style with an underwater bent. I like it

  • Ivan
    Posted at 01:19h, 27 April Reply

    Awesome idea, awesome execution. Great work Joel these images are very different from your normal work but show how accomplished you are as a photographer, well done!

  • Kat
    Posted at 03:39h, 27 April Reply

    Super beautiful. Love them all

  • Lisa
    Posted at 03:40h, 27 April Reply

    Fantastic !!! Congrats!

  • Bruce
    Posted at 03:47h, 27 April Reply

    Good work.
    Those pics are really creative and damn good.

  • Ellie
    Posted at 03:50h, 27 April Reply

    Awesome work! Brilliant team! Keep the amazing job you guys do, very classy 🙂

  • Tracey McKenna
    Posted at 04:01h, 27 April Reply

    Absolutely stunning Joel!

  • Mick Freeman
    Posted at 05:37h, 27 April Reply

    Great images Joel!! Well done Sherrie and the girls awesome.

  • Ness
    Posted at 09:13h, 27 April Reply


  • Tyler
    Posted at 09:50h, 27 April Reply

    Looks unreal, nice one.

  • Jude
    Posted at 22:47h, 27 April Reply

    Absolutely beautiful. Love your description of the technicalities of doing it 🙂

  • Benny
    Posted at 02:18h, 28 April Reply

    Stunning Joel! Love seeing the diversity of your talents!

  • Dave
    Posted at 03:34h, 28 April Reply

    Awesome,would have been so hard to get right so congrats to everyone involved…….more..more

  • Saïd
    Posted at 12:33h, 02 May Reply

    Love your work!
    Saltmotion – coming to a Cosmopolitan magazine near you… 🙂

  • Craig Brokensha
    Posted at 00:19h, 08 May Reply

    Sick shoot Joel, thanks for some background on it as well! Red diamonte one is the shot!

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