Art cannot be created without dedication, passion, and unique vision. A true artist evolves a feeling into a concept and that concept into reality, never giving up on breathing their soul into their work...never succumbing to a challenge.
Austrian photographer Harald Slauschek combines his two greatest passions, diving and photography, into the adventure of artistic underwater photography. His motto is Passion meets Profession.
I like to show the beauty of nature as well as living beings in a particular aesthetic and as a possibly reduced form, without unnecessary picture content all around. And aesthetics plays an especially important role in my pictures with human models.
Years ago, when Harald discovered Lensbaby, he knew he had to find a way to use Lensbaby lenses below the surface to capture the mysteries of the deep. He saw how the range of creative effects would enable him to achieve that selective focus and refine his preferred aesthetics.
I was interested in the first Lensbaby optics but not yet ready to work with them: it didnt seem that they could have underwater use. However, this changed with the launch of the Lensbaby Composer Pro. I photographed a family vacation in 2013 exclusively with the Sweet 35: I was enthusiastic about the new approach to photography, the unique image looks and ordered the Edge 80 optic during the holidays.
Harald could see how Lensbaby would change his photography, enable him to express his visual voice in his chosen medium. But he had to overcome a major obstacle: how could he protect the lenses underwater? Would a submerged Lensbaby be able to function and yield the desired effect? How would manual focusing impact the process?
Harald took it upon himself to find out.
I discussed this intensively with my partner for underwater housing, the Austrian company SUBAL - one of the worldwide leaders of technology and innovation in this sector. It was an intensive process and exchange of ideas, since very complex aspects have to be taken into account when using a lens underwater. The first test dives with the Sweet 35 I did with existing products from SUBAL. They were limited by the settings but had very interesting visual results as well as findings.
Harald mastered how to use (and protect) the Composer Pro underwater, but he didnt stop there. He wanted more: more possibilities, more challenges, more magic of expression. And he found that in the Circular Fisheye and Velvet 56.
With the Circular Fisheye and Velvet 56 it was significantly easier since they are not pivoted from the optical axis. SUBAL special diaphragm drive rings and/or focus rings were manufactured, so the manual operation of the lenses underwater with very high quality became possible.
Haralds story is that of a true artist. He envisioned the possibility of photographs he could create with a tilted Composer Pro or a dreamy Velvet and he took it upon himself to make them reality. He didnt let the potential difficulty of manually focusing a Lensbaby underwater deter him from his dream - he embraced it and fashioned his own unique art form.
The compulsion to implement pictorial ideas of manual and craft leads much more to varied and playful approaches. And it is much more fun to work with Lensbaby than with many other lenses. Just like driving a manual 1968 Ford Mustang GT 390 is more fun than driving one of todays automatic sports cars.
Haralds Lensbaby journey has just begun. His philosophy on photography, his belief in how to realize his visual voice, is just what Lensbaby embodies.
I find that especially in photographers who in large part teach themselves photography, the personal note slowly crystallizes in their pictures. You have to try a lot to recognize what you do not like. At some point it goes "click" and the personal expression is clear in its basic features. However, it must be understood that this is subject to constant change or further development. Standing still is, in the long run, a step backwards!
Haralds Lensbaby work has been published in the German magazine Unterwasser, he was named one of Scuba Diver Ocean Planet magazines 122 Inspiring Shooters You Should Know, and numerous other publications have featured his breathtaking work. See more of his photography at his website, H2O-Photography or on Facebook.