Daniel Botelho is a famous marine photographer whose work has warranted swimming with great white sharks, ferocious Nile crocodiles, gigantic blue whales, and elusive narwhals in freezing cold Arctic waters.
Nonetheless, he says one of his toughest assignments was photographing a model named Ane in the balmy Caribbean waters off St. Martin. The reason was that Botelho’s stunning Underwater Photography Series, “Swimming with Jets” required placing himself and Ane in such a way as to feature her and the low-flying jets in symmetry.
The images are split-level, implying Botelho’s lens was 50% in and 50% out of the water to capture both Ane and the jets in focus. Wind chop or current makes this hard chore all the more challenging.
The shoot (undwerwater photography series) was sponsored by an airline company. The site was Maho Beach, in front of Princess Juliana International Airport, which is notable for very low flights over the beach. The Brazilian photographer arrived at St. Martin with high aspirations & in good spirits.
“When we arrived,” Botelho said, “I was doing the check-in at the hotel and an airline pilot was doing the same. I told him, ‘Captain, if during the next week you see a crazy diver in the water taking pictures, please send a ‘bye-bye’ from your flight-deck window.’ “The captain started to laugh. I think he thought I was joking or maybe just crazy.”
But right at the onset of the project, frustration began to mount. Botelho had to depend on incoming flights being on time. Weather conditions had to be perfect, besides the synchronization of Ane’s swims, related to the jets, had to be flawless. On some days the duo spent eight hours continuous in the water, working tirelessly “while people all around us were drinking beers on vacation,” Botelho said.
Occasionally, the two became so frustrated that they felt like calling it a day. “It was like mining for gold, taking tons and tons of land to achieve some small pieces of gold,” Botelho said. “We needed many days and many photos to reach the set of images needed for this assignment.”
A principal aim was a Boeing 747 from KLM, because a famous image of this jet’s fly-over was what inspired Botelho. (Some KLM images are included.)
“And this plane only comes on Mondays, Fridays, and Sundays,” he said. “So during one week we had three times to do this. Of course we had some days of bad weather, and other days the model wasn’t in the right place, and other days the waves were so big that we couldn’t run the shoot.”
On the whole, though, it was a rewarding effort, as far as Botelho is concerned. And we’re thinking his fans who have seen the images feel the same way. Said the photographer, “After hundreds of hours in the water and thousands of photos taken, it was pretty funny to find myself on my way back home inside the plane looking out my window at people on the beach, watching the takeoffs. I can say that I will never look at a plane the same way I did before this assignment.”