Deep dive: A Photo Editor interviews Michael Muller about his underwater studio

Heidi Volpe of A Photo Editor recently interviewed Michael Muller about the underwater lighting gear he developed so that he could pursue his passion for photographing sharks—a passion that was featured this past December in the Travel Channel special Shark Shoot Fiji. See below for a couple of choice excerpts. Read the full post here.

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Click to read A Photo Editor's interview with Michael Muller.

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Heidi: How much testing did you do to develop the system?

Once we got the prototype working light made, they happened to be delivered the day before I embarked to the Galapagos Islands to shoot the Aqua Timer campaign for IWC Watches. They arrived at my house at about 4 or 5 in the afternoon, as we were packing all our gear for a 3-week expedition. The trip was also in conjunction with the Charles Darwin Foundation and UNESCO, so there was a huge amount of pressure to deliver striking images. I had promised the president of IWC that I would create images like no one had seen before, without having the lights in hand.

The weeks leading up to the departure were probably some of the most stress-filled days of my career for making these promises and going on faith that the guys would get it and make them in time. When they did arrive that afternoon, I was beyond overjoyed yet still stressed that they would, in fact, work. Being so late in the day with an early-AM flight the following day, I put my trunks on and had the guys hook up the lights and jumped in the pool. I was thrilled when the lights fired. And that was the extent of testing.

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Tell me more about the lights.
The lights were first tested in open ocean in the Galapagos and then further used many days in the pool with Michael Phelps and all the other Olympic swimmers for the Speedo campaigns I shot. I have also used the lights for a multitude of other underwater shoots I have done. There isn’t a whole lot of testing that needs to be done since the lights are just a basic strobe head that happens to be waterproof. The main testing is what the light does underwater and how to control it with use of reflectors, grids, etc. Light reacts differently underwater than it does on land. It bounces and spreads out everywhere, so it has taken many hours and days underwater with my team to get just where we are today, and we still have so much to learn.

That is what I love about “light” and photography, I have been doing it for 27 years almost daily and could do it until the day I die and still know just a fraction of what there is to know about light and the use of it, and how to control it. The minute you think you have got this thing called photography “down” is the day you should maybe put the camera down because you’re being very ignorant. Light is something the greatest minds that have ever lived find mysterious and fascinating. Always be an explorer and try to learn something new with each shoot. Never rest on your laurels, thinking you’ve got it down!

 

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