Freedive with Katharine Kollman and the Analogue Aqua Simple Use Camera1 12 Share Tweet
Following up from her previous feature, we sent freediver and analogue photographer Katharine Kollman the Analogue Aqua Simple Use Camera along with some LomoChrome Metropolis and Berlin Kino B&W 35 mm film stocks to test out.
Let's see her results and hear all about her dives!
Hi Katharine! Welcome back to Lomography Magazine. Can you fill us in on what you've been up to since your last feature?
It’s been a few months since my first interview, and I’m really grateful to Lomography for having me back! I spent over a month in the Midwest this fall visiting family and to celebrate my big brother’s wedding (they got married in my grandma’s backyard on the river, it was gorgeous and I wept.) Since coming back home to Honolulu, I’ve just been getting back into the work groove and trying to be in the water as much as conditions allow. My six weeks away on mainland is the longest I’ve gone without diving in about five years. Unfortunately, the transitional season into winter has been a little rough this year, and diving has felt messier than usual— but we always make do! Or fly to another island where conditions are better, which is what I did to test out a few things that Lomography sent me to try underwater!
Can you tell us a bit about what you decided to shoot with the Analogue Aqua Simple Use Camera and film stocks?
Lomography sent me a roll of Berlin Kino 400 to plug into my own Nikonos camera, as well as the Analogue Aqua Reusable Camera pre-loaded with a roll of LomoChrome Metropolis. I’ve never shot underwater using any Lomography stocks, and I was really excited to see how they’d behave. I planned to shoot both in a variety of settings (location, depth, subject, etc.) to experiment in different environments.
I spent a few days visiting friends on another island, and that morning we planned to take their little rib offshore to see what we could find. We were lucky enough on this day to hop in the water with manta rays within ten minutes of leaving the harbor. I had the roll of Berlin loaded into my Nikonos, which was perfect because the mantas were swimming on a deeper reef, close to 20 meters down, and the water was still a little murky from the weather that week. Despite the visibility and depth, 400 ISO is still a high enough speed film to pick up light and detail underwater.
I swapped between shooting the roll of Berlin in my own camera, and taking drops with the Analogue Aqua camera to see if I could line up any shots. The latter is rated to 10 meters (about 33 ft) though, so it wasn’t the ideal choice for something this deep. However, there aren’t many cameras aside from the Nikonos series that are rated for depth, so it was awesome to test the simple housing down at 10 m and know for sure that it wasn’t going to leak.
We continued boating around offshore and eventually stopped at a buoy. The buoys can be great for viewing wildlife, as they offer some protection to small bait fish, which consequently draw in bigger pelagic fish that want to prey on them. The second half of the Berlin roll was spent on my friend as he took a few drops with his speargun, and got a great shot on a kamanu (rainbow runner.) I was so excited because I haven’t always had my Nikonos on me when we get action, but I managed to capture the hunt on a few frames.
The roll of LomoChrome Metropolis was finished during a shore dive back home, in a more shallow area that wouldn’t stress the camera’s housing at all. I also purposefully took it out in a spot where there is more reef, to see how the color shifts of Metropolis would affect a more colorful area than the general monotony of offshore blues.
How do you manage to bring different kinds of equipment on your dives?
Being freedivers, we are blessed with loving an extreme sport that has pretty minimal gear requirements as compared to others (ie. BCD and tank for scuba diving.) All you really need are a mask and snorkel, fins, a weight belt, a wetsuit for cold water, and a dive flag and float if you’re diving heavily trafficked areas. This makes tacking on photography a pretty simple task, since we have both hands free and there isn’t any big gear for the camera to knock up against.
When you’re shore diving with a float, divers will oftentimes clip off gear (spearguns, cameras) to their float with a carabiner or on a kui (stringer) to keep their hands free in the water, and this makes it very easy to swim around with bigger pieces of equipment— you just need to be careful if there’s any kind of shore break! And if you’re diving offshore off a boat, it becomes that much easier. Every dive boat will have a special flag up indicating to other boats they have divers in the water within 150 ft of the vessel. You can also store as much gear as needed on the boat while you’re in the water without having to worry about carrying it all around with you. For me, this means that I can shoot multiple rolls of film on boat days because I can exit the water, dry off and reload my camera before hopping back in, as opposed to shore diving, when I have to make a single roll last for a several-hour dive.
The entire roll of Berlin Kino was finished during a boat day, which usually means deeper diving and more gear. The Analogue Aqua camera was shot mostly on a shore dive, which typically means shallower diving and hauling less gear.
What were your first impressions of the camera and film stocks?
When I first began shooting film underwater, I used a camera that was really similar to the Analogue Aqua Reusable Camera and housing, and a little part of my heart was so thrilled to be shooting with something like that again. The simplicity of the point-and-shoot camera is so refreshing sometimes because it forces your creative brain that overcomplicates everything to shush for a moment so you can just snap a photo and let it be. For that same reason, I don’t think it would be my go-to for bringing my artistic visions to life, but as a general for-fun and durable camera, I love it.
When I go out with friends, I usually carry around an olympus zoom as the designated “party camera,” but it’s hard to bring that same concept into my water outings. The Analogue Aqua camera solves that problem, and I’m so excited to bring it on more adventures, as a little reminder to take things less seriously.
I was equally excited to receive the Berlin Kino, as I’ve heard such good things about the stock, and some friends even told me that it’s their absolute favorite B&W stock. After getting back the scans on my first roll from it, I can see why. It captured great detail and some soft contrast, and I loved the versatility I saw from testing it in different environments.
What was your favorite part of the process of shooting with the camera and film?
Ultimately, it was exciting to try out two new stocks underwater. I’ve tried such a variety over the years, it was great to do something a little atypical. There’s also never a dull moment when my friends and I play around in the water. The divers I went out with for these photos have been with me for years through my photography journey. I’ve shot with all three of them before, so I think it was just fun for us to try something different than what I usually do. And not to sound so “woo-woo,” but for both of the dives I went on to test these products, we really scored on the wildlife we saw — more than usual. One dive got us manta rays and dinner, and on the second dive to finish the roll of LomoChrome Metropolis, we got multiple sharks and a bait ball. So I think a small part of me wants to imagine that the ocean blessed us with great wildlife to celebrate on these two rolls of film.
Did you prefer one film stock over the other?
In my work, there is an obvious preference for B&W over color, so I really loved working with the Berlin Kino and plan to try out more of the Lomography B&W stocks. That being said, I’m now interested in putting a roll of Metropolis through my Nikonos to compare with the Analogue Aqua camera, and maybe some of the other specialty color negative rolls that Lomography creates.
Do you have a favorite shot from shooting with the two film stocks?
Picking a favorite photo from your roll is so hard sometimes, because sometimes you love the photo itself, and sometimes you love how you felt in the moment taking it. From the roll of Berlin Kino, I’m partial to the photo of my friend diving down with his speargun along the right side of the frame, while a school of triggerfish swims away from him towards the left side. I’m happy with the composition and movement of it.
From the same roll, there was a period when we were diving with two manta rays, and as they swam towards each other, there was a brief moment when they overlapped each other perfectly. The photo is a little murky since I wasn’t very close, and you can’t quite tell what you’re seeing, I just can’t help but love it thinking back on that brief merging.
Any tips or tricks for shooting with these two film stocks?
The main “trick” for shooting any kind of photography underwater is to watch the weather for good conditions. In the photos I took using the Berlin Kino, you can see there’s a big difference in the shots of the manta rays on the reef, and the shots of my friend and his speargun further offshore. The first half were done in deeper, murkier water, while the second half was finished in shallower and much clearer water. The manta shots obviously came out a little grainier than the latter, and that’s in part because of the water conditions. It’s not that I prefer one look over the other, but understanding how this specific environment affects the film will help you guess how the resulting images might turn out.
There was a bit of a learning curve using the Analogue Aqua camera, as I had no idea how the photos would turn out from both an unfamiliar stock in an unfamiliar camera. The instructions recommend having your subject within two meters of the camera underwater, and to charge the flash for anything up close, but I obviously didn’t abide by this because I wanted to test its limits. For future use of it, I would definitely follow the 2m rule more strictly, since some of my further-away shots turned out blurry.
I tried the flash a few times as well, and I think this decision also matters on your subject and depth. When you’re on the surface snorkeling with it, no need to turn it on since the sun will give plenty of light. But say there’s some coral growing against a dark rock, that’s when you want to charge the flash to illuminate those colors on your next dive. And be sure to keep the camera within 10m of depth so as to not flood it!
Can you tell us about any upcoming projects that you have?
Like a lot of artists at this time of year, my creative brain has been a little quieter, and I’ve had to put forth a very conscious effort to continue my practice. Sometimes this means blowing through a roll so I don’t analyze every little thing, sometimes it means leaving my camera at home when I dive just to take the pressure off.
A few of my best dive friends have also moved away recently, so I need to start establishing some new dive-model relationships, which is always a bit intimidating. But I have been thinking a lot about this beautiful children’s book my friend read to me last year, and now I have it in my head to try creating some very simple photo stories. I’m heading off island in a few days to visit one of those friends so we can give it a try. I’ve been storyboarding some photos, which is a new thing for me and I feel really excited!
As for concrete projects, I have a piece coming out in Daybreak Magazine from an interview last summer, which I’m thrilled for because it’s such a beautiful publication. And the analogue exhibition I mentioned in my last interview with Lomography has been postponed for March of this year, so I’m really looking forward to seeing Unstable Lights, curated by Fabian Wolf, come to fruition!
I’m also thinking of putting together a zine for my birthday, also in March, but I can’t seem to decide on a title I like.
Anything else you'd like to share?
One of my 2023 dreams is to travel around and collaborate with other film photographers who live in coastal areas on little water-inspired projects to then print in the darkroom or turn it into a book. If any photographers would be interested, let’s make it happen!
Thank you so much again to Lomography for letting me dunk some of your film in the ocean. It was my first time, but it certainly won’t be the last!
If you're interested in keeping up with Katharine and her work, make sure to check out her Instagram and website!
written by eloffreno on 2023-02-01 #gear #people #underwater #diving #analog-aqua