Steve and Sue are a couple that I befriended while surfing the waves of the Gulf of Mexico in Panama City Beach. They coach at Gymnastics Plus in Lynn Haven and are kind of my surf mentors. I used to watch them surf in my learning days and hope to be half as good as them. Nowadays I can sit with them in the lineup and catch a wave or two. (they are still waaaay better than me, though) Knowing that I am a professional portrait photographer, Sue mentioned a photo shoot that Brigham Young University had done for a gymnastics calendar. It involved gymnasts jumping in water. She wondered if I would be interested in photographing their gym students in a similar way. I immediately agreed. Sounded like a really cool thing to photograph!
There were a LOT of things that went into making this Panama City Beach professional portrait photography session happen. Steve was able to locate a beach house that would let us run extension cords for our photo shoot. The homeowners also let us use their water. (Thanks guys! This shoot would have been much different if not for your generosity.)
We needed a dark background, so a night photo shoot was in order. Being that is was going to be pitch black, I brought every light that I own down to the beach. We set four of the lights up. Two in the back and two in the front. My wife and Steve dug a small pit and placed a tarp in it so that it would hold water and give the girls a pool-like area to jump in. Someone (Steve & Sue probably) brought buckets for throwing the water on the girls. Oh yeah…and my in-laws were kind enough to watch our son so that my wife & I could be free for this undertaking.
When all the setup was done, it was time for pictures. We took a few group photos of the gymnasts and then it was time for the fun stuff. It was kind of a trial-and-error type photo session at first. When should the water be thrown? Before the jump? During the jump? How much water should be used? Should their hair be wet before the jump or not? We powered through all of the questions and went for it.
I spent my time belly down in the sand trying to get as low as I could get so that only the dark sky, water and the gymnast would show up in the final image. Parents and others gladly filled up buckets with water and threw bucket after bucket onto the girls as they did some pretty awesome jumps. Time quickly passed by as the gymnasts and water flew through the night sky.
It was a ton of work, but I had a great time photographing the gymnasts on Panama City Beach. Photo shoots like this are a big undertaking and very stressful, but the end result is well worth it. I hope to be able to do another epic Panama City Beach photo session like this one real soon.