Title: Joan of Arc
Model: Virginia Hankins
Armor: Mike Gould
Makeup/Topside Assistant: Mindi Combs
Underwater Assistants: Mike Varga, Dan Johnson
*Special thanks to the Combs Family for the use of their pool.
The "Joan of Arc" image has become one of my most popular. I met Virginia on Facebook, and when I approached her about doing an underwater session in her armor, she thought it was a great idea, so we picked a date, and I started to assemble my crew.
I was a bit concerned about how to deal with the weight of the armor. When you ask someone if they want to model underwater, you don't usually have them also wear 40lbs of weight. Talking it through with Mike (safety diver), we decided the best route would be to shoot in the shallows, allowing Virginia to then take control of her submersions - and Mike would make sure there were no slips or mishaps.
The side effect of this approach was that Virginia's comfort level was very high, as she retained control of her assent, and I (as the photographer), had to lay on the bottom of the pool to 'shoot up'. Shooting 'up' would give her this greater than life angelic quality... that I really wanted. But it wasn't exactly the most comfortable position I've been in.
My tendency when I shoot on breath holds, is to exhale to sink. Each round would start with all parties on the surface. We'd breathe together and drop on count... me exhaling and making bubbles, Mike playing double duty as safety and stylist, and Virginia settling into her poses. This shoot, we were getting about 45 seconds or so before we had to surface to breathe. Not bad.
We went through a lot of different ideas, and two sets of backdrops. The weather was really working for us, nice and cloudy - not bright at all, so I could remotely fire strobes not attached to the camera housing via optical slaves. It was fantastic. This allowed us to really play with the lighting underwater. Mindi then became the 'top-side' strobe master - creating sun flares, halos, and dramatic lighting for each shot.
We took a lot of images, because even though it was cloudy, there was just enough brightness to throw off the optical slaves from time to time - an annoyance, but workable. I was probably getting about 1 out of 5 strobe fires at the worst point. I think we spent about an hour or two trying different things before I felt we got the shot. But everyone was such a sport, and the time really flew by.
At the end of our session, Virginia decided to try to 'swim' in her armor... with Mike at about arms reach. Well... 'swim' she did... and ohhhhh... did she sink. Right to the bottom. I watched her for a while... at the surface... breathe... all... the... way... to... the... bottom... KICK UP... Mike's help... breathe again and repeat.
I knew right then that I would have to get to know this woman better... it was the start of a great friendship.
More images taken above and below the water that day.