Two Dogs and a Pool
By Nayeli Pagaza
Seth Casteel’s work is always unpredictable, but one January eveningin Los Angelesbrought more than a few surprises. It was Casteel’s first nighttime
underwater dog shoot, though he was
confident of his technical abilities, having already shot thousands of underwater
photos, and more than 50 of those with
swimming canines (check out “Dogs Gone
Viral” in Rangefinder’s July 2012 issue). He
had also previously worked with the three
dogs on set that night.
The session began to unravel, however,
when the third dog became distracted and
had an “accident” in the pool (resulting in
it being ultimately left out of the shoot).
Casteel was fairly concerned, knowing
that if water is not crystal clear, “Your ratio
of winning shots goes down dramatically,
sometimes to zero.”
Although Casteel and the dogs’ owners
tried to net as many particles out of the
pool as possible, the clarity of the water
was already disturbed, and Casteel had to
be careful not to cloud up his work space.
“Obviously swimming in that water is
not very sexy, but this photo shoot was
After the mini-disaster, Casteel went
to work with seven-year-old Nevada (the
Border Collie, above left), and one-year-old Bardot (the Yellow Labrador Retriever).
Casteel stood at the 4-foot shallow end of
the pool, observing the action from above
the surface rather than looking through
his viewfinder. Because there was very
little ambient light outside, Casteel illuminated the dogs and ball by a flash fill.
Casteel asked Nevada to wait on the
steps while Bardot swam after the tennis
ball he was holding. Casteel carried the ball
in one hand and the underwater housing
in the other. He lured Bardot to the pool
with the ball and made a quick turn back
while giving Nevada the signal to swim
toward Casteel. Bardot was swimming after
Casteel from one side, and Nevada was approaching from the other. Casteel released
the ball at just the right moment so the dogs
pursued it simultaneously.
“You couldn’t even attempt this with
most dogs—it just wouldn’t work,” says
Casteel, who made sure to give them
breaks every 10 to 15 minutes during
the two-hour shoot. “They are wonderful
PHOTO © SETH CASTEEL
dogs with incredible skill.”
Although it took 150 shots to get this
particular image, Casteel says the edit-
ing process was much simpler. He shot
in JPEG and adjusted the image a bit, as
it was slightly overexposed on his PC.
“Technically, the image is tack sharp and
shows so much detail,” he says.
Casteel’s most valuable lesson from this
shoot? He now wears a wetsuit instead
of only swim trunks and a snorkel mask.
“It was nice to have a shower after [that]
shoot,” he laughs.
Casteel’s book, Underwater Dogs, was
released in October by Little Brown and
Camera: Canon EOS 7D
Lens: Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens
Exposure: 1/2250, f/6.3, ISO 400
Lighting: Flash fill
Location: Privately owned pool in Los
Other equipment Surf Housing,