Benjamin Von Wong is the photographer behind these stunning underwater shipwreck images. He likes to tackle photography that creates challenges to overcome to create unique images that leave the viewers in awe. We recently sat down with Von Wong to find out how he made these images come to life.
How did this project come together?
Ever since my first shoot underwater, I’ve been dreaming of taking shoots out of a swimming pool into a shipwreck so when my parents told me to take some time off and go on a vacation in Bali I leaped at the opportunity to put together this shoot.
Up to this point, I didn’t yet have my dive certification but since I was a strong swimmer with underwater photography experience, I felt confident that I could pull things together if I had the right team around me. And so the search began as always on facebook, reaching out to my fans and seeing if someone knew somebody that could help.
Turns out the head of the Asian Dive Expo, Cassandra Ann Dragon was tuned into my adventures and enthusiastically recommend underwater photographer and dive instructor Chris Simanjuntak to me.
I sat down with him on my first day in Bali while my parents went touring and we began to line up the elements that we would need to bring our shoot to life – Free Divers, Dresses, Makeup, Location, Time, Constraints, Gear…
Are there are special techniques/equipment to be used when photographing underwater?
I knew from past experience shooting in a swimming pool that lighting in the ocean was going to be no easy task. Thankfully, through conversations with Chris who also happened to be a pretty awesome photographer in his own right, I learned that I would be able to shoot at ISO 400, f4.0 and a minimum shutter speed of 1/50th across most of the shipwreck with nothing but ambient light alone, even at 30 meters depth. In regular english? Images that wouldn’t be blurry or excessively grainy despite the 5 year old Nikon D90 that I was using.
“But I saw you use some lights underwater in the video!”
And you’re absolutely right! Mike Veitch had brought a set of strobes that I could use and I couldn’t help but try them out. Not only did they make my kit exponentially heavier and swimming more complicated, it would also give the images a “deer in the headlight” feeling where the foreground objects would be oddly brighter and properly coloured as opposed to the background objects.
What were some of the challenges shooting underwater?
One of the challenges shooting underwater is that the deeper you get, the more desaturated everything gets. Thankfully, with a couple layers of color balancing (Color Balance, Curves, Selective Color), dodging and burning, and some careful masking, I was able to paint back color and tones into my image.