DPP Home Profiles Zena Holloway - Beneath The Surface

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Zena Holloway - Beneath The Surface

Zena Holloway has staked out underwater model work as her field, and she's definitely the big fish in a small pond

“About a year ago, I swapped everything over to digital,” she says. “It was an expensive procedure given that I always go with two of everything—the kit tends not to be as reliable around water. It's not just from the water that I'm shooting in, but frequently humidity causes big issues. The list is endless. I've been known to blow a few packs and I've had enough static on my G4s to power a small power station. Dribbles of water also get into the kit here and there. Connections on cables need constant attention, and at the end of a shoot, my studio looks like a Chinese washhouse—drying dive kit, props, wardrobe, camera, towels, backgrounds...

“To date, I've been lucky with flooding,” she continues, speaking of the underwater photographer's greatest gear fear, “which means I'll probably flood the next camera I submerge. However, in the last 10 years, I think I've only killed one small video camera and a Mamiya body. I'm very pleased I've made the change to digital, though. It has revolutionized the way I shoot. No more coming to the surface to reload every 20 frames, and the optics are dazzling compared to what I used to get from a scanned tranny.”

Beyond capturing with a pair of Canon EOS-1Ds Mark IIs, Holloway also uses a computer to handle any necessary retouching and color corrections—like removing that cyan cast caused by the water. She doesn't like to rely on postproduction, however, preferring to get the shot right while she's still submerged.

“I tend to treat each image individually,” she says. “Some shots need retouching and others are fine as they are. Essentially, I try to keep retouching to a minimum, but sometimes I'm faced with a task that would be impossible to shoot underwater. For example, the campaign that I did last year of a girl laying on her back and floating above a Jacuzzi needed to be a montage of two images. I shot the girl underwater, and another photographer was commissioned to do the room set—which would have needed a ridiculous budget to shoot underwater.”

Holloway is happy to have that type of advertising assignment, even if she has to share some of the duties with a dry-land photographer. Ultimately, with her camera in one hand and her regulator in the other, she has created a career out of client-funded fun.

“A couple of years ago, I had a run of advertising work,” says Holloway. “And since then, it has been a steady flow. I'm very lucky to have such a great job.”

Zena Holloway has staked out a unique niche; almost all of her photography is underwater. This realm isn't merely a home to her fine-art imagery; it's also the environment where she performs most of her commercial work. By specializing in underwater photography, Holloway gets a steady flow of clients who have a need for the look she creates. There aren't many, if any, situations that are more challenging than underwater photography. Catastrophic gear failures are common. Holloway keeps her gear in top shape and always carries two sets of everything, in case one fails. It gets expensive since she's shooting with Canon EOS-1Ds Mark IIs and a variety of lighting gear. Shooting digital enables Holloway to stay in the water with models and work steadily to refine her images. Water sucks up light, and Holloway works hard to ensure she gets her look by using high-power strobes. Among the benefits of digital is the ability to review an image in the water to see if the lighting worked. In the days of film, a fair amount of uncertainty was part of any shoot, and that just won't do when you're shooting ads for clients like O'Neill.

Holloway's Equipment
"My main kit consists of the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II cameras, which are superb. I have two Seacam housings, which are a work of art and designed to perfection. I nearly always use Subtronic strobes. Their recycling time is very good and they hold a great deal of power for their size."

To see more of Zena Holloway's photography and for information about her limited-edition prints, visit her Website at www.zenaholloway.com.



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