When Perth, Australia-based sports, lifestyle, and portrait photographers Ian & Erick Regnard heard of Niue, an isolated island in the Pacific where you can see 60-100 meters underwater, a seed was planted and an idea was born. Everyone they shared the idea with told them they were crazy. They couldn’t find anyone who had done this before. But that didn’t stop them.
Ian & Erick headed to Niue with their 4×5 Polaroid to shoot underwater images, calling the project Floating Bits. The island itself is a large limestone coral coming out of the ocean where all of the rain filters through the limestone, creating unbelievably clear water. Ian outlined the extensive process:
The 4×5 Polaroid (PN55) is a great film as you get a positive and a negative, which you wash out in water to finish the process. No need to go to labs, everything is done on site. But little did we know how extensive this project was going to be! There is a few problems with this idea: the air between the lens and the port of the underwater housing affects your distance underwater so we couldn’t get a camera with a variable bellows up the front. With the help of Camera Electronic, we decided to strip it down and rebuild it so the bellows would be at the back of the camera. We then got an underwater housing made for the camera. We made a huge ruler and took some shots of it underwater to see where the focus would come to and made notes.
On location, the model would take a measuring tape and go to the distance wanted and Erick would reel back the tape before going down underwater. The other thing is— you can’t see through the camera so you have to judge where you’re pointing it. Because it’s 4×5 film, you can only take one shot at a time. So you take the shot, go back to the surface, open the camera, take the film out, process it, reload, close it and go back down. The housing was so big, we needed 15kg to make it sink! For the test shoot, we were in Tahiti for three weeks, shooting eight hours a day doing about one shot an hour!
Ian and Erick’s passion and determination paid off, as they won the International Photo Awards in the special category and the project is currently an exhibition at the Linton and Kay gallery in Perth, Australia.