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Sunshine Coast Underwater Portrait Earns International Photography Award

underwater photo of pro triathlete man wearing swim goggles and surrounded by bubbles

I’m a professional underwater photographer who offers immersive portrait experiences for women… but I do photograph men as well 😀  This underwater portrait of an elite triathlete just won a Silver Distinction in the Iris Professional Photography International Awards 2020. The story was picked up by several local newspapers, including Noosa Today. Below is a copy of their report…

Sunshine Coast photographer Liz Harlin earned a Silver Distinction in the prestigious Iris Awards for her striking underwater portrait of Noosa-based Ironman World Champion triathlete Pete Jacobs.

Underwater portrait photography has been trending in recent years. People now have access to affordable underwater cameras and smartphone cases, opening the door to a new world, while professional photographers are using high-end underwater gear to push their creative limits in the fine art and commercial genres.

Liz is a Master Photographer with the Australian Institute of Professional Photography, and one of Australia’s foremost underwater photography specialists. “Water transforms portrait photography. It’s you, but you in another world, seen in another way,“ said Liz. “More and more people choose an underwater portrait experience to celebrate a key moment in their life.“ Rebel Wilson showed off her 18kg weight loss in an underwater photoshoot last month, and Beyoncé did an underwater maternity photoshoot when she was pregnant with her twins.

The watery backdrop made this award-winning portrait very personal to Pete. “I love the experience of being underwater—the physical, the emotional, and the sensory feelings,“ he explains. “I’ve spent a lot of time swimming at the water’s surface while training for triathlon. But, for me, the complete weightlessness and almost complete silence of being underwater is unique. Underwater is my favourite place.“

Liz chose a three-point lighting set-up for this portrait—it’s a classic photography method for portraiture, but with the challenging twist of bringing all the lighting underwater. She asked Pete to lift his arms up then forcefully sweep water downwards from the surface as he crossed his arms; this created a cloud of fine bubbles to add an extra dimension to the portrait.

The Iris Professional Photography Awards celebrate innovation and excellence in photography. The annual event is open to professional photographers around the world, and has been running for over 35 years. Award recipients are among the very best in photographic talent. “This award is such a thrill and an honour,“ said Liz.

Find out all about the underwater photoshoot experience

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