Cayman Compass: Under and over all in one

Jazzy is seen swimming off Seven Mile Beach in this over-under image. Photo: Irene Corti of Deep Blue Images
Jazzy is seen swimming off Seven Mile Beach in this over-under image. Photo: Irene Corti of Deep Blue Images

(Published in the Cayman Compass, Friday, 20 February, 2015)

Capturing the best of both under and over the water in one image is a specialized area of photography that Julie Corsetti of Deep Blue Images has got down to a fine art.

Over-unders, or split-shot photography, are underwater photos where half the image is above water and the other half below. The images offer a fun spin on conventional photography, helping to connect the different landscapes of the land and water in one spectacular shot.

Corsetti set up her photography company in 2001, offering mostly underwater photography, later expanding her skill sets as the company grew to include weddings, events, portraits and real estate photography. Today, her spectacular over-under images are among the most popular.

“Our over-under sessions put a different spin on everyday photos that you see in Grand Cayman,” she said.

“We photograph real estate from the water, as well as swimming dogs, kite boarding, paddle boarding, families with kids snorkeling, and the stingrays.”

Corsetti explained that it has taken years to perfect the high-quality images they are now able to create in this particularly challenging area of photography.

“It is unique as it requires a lot of both underwater camera gear, as well as DSLR digital camera gear,” she said. “To get these shots, you need an underwater housing, flashes, which are often required to balance out the ambient light, a wide angle fisheye lens and a large glass dome part.

“It’s challenging as you are often dealing with unpredictable and changing water conditions. Of course, this is all while having a mask on and being in the water looking through a small eyepiece. It gets complicated. However, getting the image perfectly exposed to showcase the beauty of Cayman along with the subject is incredibly rewarding.”

My experience

I found out about Corsetti’s over-unders when a feed popped up on my Facebook page. Having wanted a professional photoshoot to be taken of my three pets for a while, I decided Corsetti’s over-unders would be a fun and creative way to do just that.

After a few cancellations – weather and water conditions need to be just perfect to capture the ideal shots – I met Corsetti and her colleague Irene Corti at a secluded part of Seven Mile Beach.

Daisy, a former rescue dog and true water dog, wasted no time in heading into the sea. My two little ones – Chloe and Jazzy – needed a little more coaxing. Thankfully, Corsetti and Corti are fellow dog lovers and seasoned veterans at dealing with the most challenging of subjects. Undeterred, they worked with all three for about an hour. Corti was with the dogs in the water, while Corsetti used a long lens to capture images of the three of them coming out of the sea or frolicking on the beach, ensuring no angles were missed. The result: some truly amazing pictures that I will treasure for years to come.

“Photography really is all about capturing a split second in time that will never occur again, and I believe that’s one of the reasons why looking at a photograph has such a huge effect on people,” Corsetti said. “So, whether I capture a great portrait, snag a shot of a special moment or take a few pictures to help a friend’s new business, photography has the unique power to spread a lot of joy. And that’s one of the reasons why I chose to be a photographer.”

Corsetti developed a passion for photography when she borrowed a camera from a friend while diving in the Galapagos Islands. She moved to Grand Cayman in 1994 to work as a dive instructor and later took her first job as an underwater photographer at Bob Soto’s at the old Holiday Inn.

“After diving three dives a day, six days a week, I continued pursuing my love for underwater photography for some six years,” Corsetti explained. “I learned the art of photography through tons of practice and from friends, who were also mentors along my journey. These were the days before digital technology so I had to learn all the darkroom steps on how to develop slide and print film.”

While Corsetti’s photography has moved on significantly from the days of print film, her passion for the art remains the same.

“I love people and I enjoy taking on lots of different challenges at once,” Corsetti said. “Owning a photography business fits my personality perfectly. Engaging with people every time I work and occasionally continuing some of those relationships beyond the job itself.

“I’m constantly being challenged in dozens of areas with marketing, social networking, and creativity in both my shooting and editing. In fact, there are few days where my job actually feels like work. However, one does not do this alone. My team of photographers, Sonita Malan and Irene Corti, share the passion for photography as we inspire each other with new techniques and ideas.”

Staying on-trend and continually coming up with creative photography ideas have helped Corsetti and her team stay one step ahead of the competition.

Commenting on the latest trends, she said underwater glam fashion photography and trash-the-dress wedding photography are particularly of-the-moment.

“Some of my favorite images have come out of a desire to experiment in the moment,” Corsetti said. “Those non-posed, natural moments that just happen without direction.”

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