From Weddings To Bar Mitzvahs, Diving Into Underwater Photography

By Barbara Corbellini Duarte
Sun Sentinel.


Beneath the water’s surface, the bride-to-be’s pink gown flowed around her as she posed for engagement photos.

She let her lengthy tulle skirt and her long dark hair float as the groom-to-be pulled her in for an underwater kiss.

Then, flash!

Photographer Victoria Machin, also underwater, snapped rapid shots on a recent afternoon before the couple ran out of breath and rose to the surface laughing.

“Oh, wow! She turned into a mermaid!” Machin exclaimed, perusing the photos.

Machin is among the photographers submerging their cameras and their clients into the ocean or a pool for shoots commemorating all occasions, from engagement and pregnancy to quinceaneras and Bat and Bar Mitzvahs. They say the region’s fascination with water, and its weather, make underwater photography perfect for South Florida.

“Down here there’s such a water culture, with the sun, pools, and everything. There’s so many people into water that the market is really nice,” said photographer Adam Opris, of Fort Lauderdale.

Opris grew up swimming, snorkeling and surfing in South Florida. He said he often uses humor to make his clients comfortable in the water.

“I have to make them my best friends in five minutes,” said Opris, who has taken clients to the reefs of Key Largo. “If a client trusts you, and you have that friendship laugh, you’re more inclined to be yourself. People laugh real laughs, they smile real smiles.”

Boynton Beach husband-and-wife Rich Centauro and Thais Galliani modeled for Opris in 2012. He took the then-engaged couple out on a boat for an underwater shoot in Boca Raton a few days after Hurricane Sandy had passed by the coast. The waves forced them to turn around, and they ended up shooting in a pool.

The couple remembers the water being cold. “In a lot of the photos, we have goose bumps,” Centauro said.

“I didn’t really know what to expect, and I thought, ‘Underwater, how hard can it be?'” Galliani said. “But it was a lot harder than I thought, to do the poses, and hold your breath and swallow a lot of water, too.”

Once they saw the results, though, it was worth it, they said. They did another photo shoot after the wedding, and Galliani took her bridal gown underwater.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Opris. “It looks a lot more glamorous than it is when it’s happening in person. It’s a lot of laughing at each other, a lot of choking on water.”

Weston photographer Ricardo Serpa recently did a Bat Mitzvah shoot in Hollywood, Fla.

When he arrived at the beach on Nov. 4 with his young client, Sophia Handley, 13, he noticed a choppier tide than usual.

“I can’t believe how high the tide is,” said Handley’s mother, Melissa, of Weston, as she looked at the large waves.
“But it’s OK,” said Serpa. “I love to improvise.”

Serpa took the teen into the messy ocean and photographed her in between waves that broke on top of their heads.
Sophia didn’t hesitate to jump in and pose in the water.

“She’s a great swimmer, she paddleboards, she’s very athletic, so I wasn’t afraid,” her mom said. “I just thought it was amazing because he brought out how she really is. Normally when she takes pictures she’s a little shy, and he brought out her real personality.”

And Serpa, whose passion for water photography began with surfing, can’t help but change his own mood once he’s in the ocean.
“Maybe I go back to my childhood, too, because I’m feeling like a kid in the water,” said Serpa, a native of Brazil. “I get the energy out of it.”

Machin, born in Spain and raised in Miami, works with elaborate set-ups in her pool at her Miami Lakes home.

She receives her clients almost like a grandmother receives her grandchildren. While they get their waterproof makeup done, she offers them snacks and coffee and plays music.

“When you come to my house, I want you to feel welcome, and I want you to feel like you’re at home, and then from there, you’re part of the family,” she said.

She transforms her pool into a studio, with props like flowers, a large background cloth, a saxophone, a gate or an entire piano in the water. Underwater photography also requires, of course, an underwater case for the camera and special flash and lights.

Client and bride-to-be Enileidy Amaran wanted her photo shoot to stand out.

“I wanted to do something different. I don’t like what everyone else does, the same photo shoot on the beach,” she said. “I was scared at the beginning because I thought it was gonna be harder, but it was perfect.”

“They get excited,” Machin said of her clients. “It’s an experience. It’s not something you do every day.”

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