By Allison Antram, Staff Writer
Photos by Prof Sarah Leckie
For many students, going to class involves sitting in a classroom for an hour, listening to a professor and taking some notes. However, for a small group of students last semester, going to class meant grabbing a wetsuit and a camera as the unique opportunity of underwater photography and cinematography came to Asbury for the first time.
“In a typical class we would meet for an hour and talk about techniques…then after that we would head up to the Luce, unpack the scuba van, suit up and get in the water,” explained junior Jake Halm. “Every class was vastly different.”
The class was taught by Professor Sarah Leckie, alongside Josh Howard, a freelance cinematographer from National Geographic.
“There honestly isn’t that much to talk about when it comes to underwater cinematography,” Leckie said regarding how the class was different from an ordinary course. “It’s not something many people know how to do… it’s something you just have to experience.” The experience includes not only tackling the challenge of photography underwater, but also scuba diving and maintaining buoyancy, which proved to be one of the most difficult parts.
Halm explained the complexity of the skills gained and cited proper buoyancy as you work with a camera in your hands as one of the larger obstacles. Another unexpected challenge came in communicating underwater. “Working under water is very different than working above water,” Halm said. “Communication is very difficult, lighting works differently and the way things look are different.”
Another student, sophomore Heather Hollingshead, faced an even more unique obstacle. Coming into this class, she was afraid of water. “I took this challenge to ‘grow myself as an artist’ and kind of break out of some of my fears,” Hollingshead laughed. “I think with a fear preventing you from doing something, the longer you let it, the more power it has over you. And you can miss out on so much that way.” Aside from the knowledge she gained, she was happy to overcome a fear and regards the class as a growing experience. “It brought a new peace and edge to my creativity,” she said.
This class got to venture outside Asbury, as they ended the semester with a trip to Florida. While in the sunshine state, they expand the scuba diving and cinematography skills they developed in the Luce center pool by shooting a short film underwater.
“You’re working with a 3D space; you can get some amazing angles and ethereal looks you just can’t obtain on land. It gives you a lot of options to create a whimsical scene,” said Hollingshead, who is a production major, and enjoyed the experience designing a different kind of set. Halm added: “The class really forced you to stretch your creativity and imagination by thinking of different ways to shoot underwater…[it] taught me how to problem solve in many different situations.”
One of the most interesting aspects about this kind of shooting is that you can’t pick up audio, so the films are silent. Leckie explained how “they learn how to tell a story without words, just images…When you take away half of the film and have to tell a story, it’s like going back to the era of the silent films. And that is challenging as a filmmaker to communicate something without words.” Though it was her first time teaching the class, Leckie said that she really enjoyed the experience. “I love scuba diving and shooting underwater. I enjoy teaching others what I love.”
The students loved it as much as she did; Halm and Hollingshead both said that they were grateful for the opportunity. Underwater Cinematography will be a summer class in the future and will hopefully be offered for summer 2015. “Not a lot of schools give you this kind of chance,” Hollingshead said.