What if a big company approached you with the following suggestion, how would you react?
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when Ballantines approached Benjamin Von Wong with such a suggestion, he reacted by upping his underwater shooting game. He wanted to “recreate the iconic scene of a young Chinese cormorant fisherman hard at work on a bamboo raft – shot 30 meters underwater in a cenote just above a toxic layer of hydrogen sulphide“.
Ben explains the motivation for creating this image:
Traditional culture as a whole, is something that is inexorably fading with time. I wanted to create a piece that would immortalize a piece of my own culture – the iconic cormorant fisherman. By placing him directly above an underwater river, within this portal that was believed to lead to the mayan underworld, seemed like the perfect way to bid farewell to a proud tradition
That is not a trivial task, and both Ben and the team at Ballantines knew that it is a job that would live or die by the crew assembled. And the crew had a top notch commercial diver, a free diving model, several safety divers, and a film crew. A location was scouted, a sketch was prepared and the production started.
Aside the obvious added work of shooting underwater, shooting underwater also poses challenges on the gear, communications and time to shoot fronts.
As far as gear, the team used 8 Orcalights (6 secured to a plexiglass lighting rig and 2 hand held), and a D800 + 14-24mm lens secured in a Nauticam case.
Each shooting cycle was only 2 minutes long as this is how long each freedive lasted, so the team went through a pre-planned modeling routine and communicated using a dive slate and hand gestures.
You can see the full behind the scenes in the video below
[Toxic underwater portrait – 30m underwater for Ballantine’s Scotch Whisky | Von Wong]
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