Submission - An Underwater Skydiving Experience

The Submission Project started out being just an idea for a single photograph, to make a skydiving image that was unique and memorable. This is not an easy feat in modern skydiving with so many jumpers using cameras and their flying ability level being so high. I came up with the notion of making some aquatic skydiving images. After putting some initial emails together asking skydiving’s major companies for assistance I realised that the potential was far greater than first thought. Everyone seemed drawn by the concept of putting skydiving in a marine environment. The project would now encompass freefly, canopies, wing suits, and more.

The preparation for the project proved to be essential. It was not the kind of task that could be put together at the last minute. The canopy shot alone took about 6 months to organise, to test and figure out what the best way of giving it a rigid shape. The rigs were shipped in from UPT, the Cypres unit from Airtec, suits and helmets from Tonfly, altimeters from Larsen & Brusgaard, helmet and clothing from Turbolenza, a canopy from PD, the camera housing from Nimar in Italy. There was rigging work to be done to the gear to allow better performance underwater. I had to do my PADI diving course ready for the scuba photograph shoots. Then there was the organisation of the actors and the backstage help, in-between the hours of our normal working days, to dedicate to what became a two year project.

The time and energy that it took to do one shoot was far more than I ever expected. The preparation of the rigs, making sure that there was enough equipment for two ‘skydivers’, and my equipment (camera batteries charged, spare CF cards, the water housing port cleaned and the housing functioning correctly). Then the logistics of the shoot, getting actors and backstage helpers to the location, briefing for technique and safety and then about 30-40mins of shooting. After the photographs had been taken it also required the cleaning all the equipment in freshwater to stop salt corrosion and discolouration of the materials, followed eventually by downloading the images.

Shooting in the water was a challenge especially on the free-dive shoots. To get into the right position at the right time. To be able to judge when and where the actors were going to be, and to capture the shot. Being a competent swimmer and being able to dive on a single breath was essential. The housing also restricted the view of the preview due to reflections of light on the plastic - I had to rely on experience far more than I thought I would have to. The shoots that used scuba gear allowed more time to adjust settings to position myself in the correct spot and to relay hand signals to the actors and safety divers. It was however harder being cumbersome and stopping my air bubbles entering in front of the frame.

The canopy and wing suit shots were certainly the most dangerous. Safety was paramount. I have a lot of thanks for both Stef and Tom form Babylon for putting themselves in these positions. Can you imaging yourself in a wing suit meters beneath the sea’s surface without the possibility of being able to swim? Or to be strapped into a lead laden rig on the seabed with a canopy and its numerous lines waiting to entrap you? Both of these shoots went to plan and the outcome I was more than I had hoped for.

Weather, water conditions, water temperature, the boats (dry docked in the winter),
illness, work, peoples holidays were all factors which contributed to the planning. Not to mention buying and renovating a house & getting engaged.

The Submission project has achieved what it set out to do and I consider it to be a complete success. I wish to thank all who took part, and hope everyone enjoys this underwater skydiving experience.

Posted on 27/07/2012

About Me

Mike Burdon Hi & welcome to my blog, I'm Mike Burdon a freelance photographer based in Spain. I hope you enjoy reading my posts. Feel free to contact me if you want to ask me about a job or just say hello!