Shooting Waverunners in Mexico – In the Ocean

Well, I am kinda with my buddy Kirk here. We have had some distinctly powerful discussions on working for free and what to charge. So we are going to lighten it up a bit with some discussions on images.

So let’s take a look at something I am working on right now. I have been asked to do some lifestyle ad shooting for a local client. We are looking for something a little edgy to promote some villas in Rocky Point. I am doing the photography and the creative, so I am working with owner on the direction of the work.

The project will be a brochure, an ad campaign, and a couple of large billboards. He wants to make the look very modern and he has a pretty good design sense anyway, so it will be a nice collaboration. Some clients think they are pretty design savvy, and this client is actually better than he thinks, so it will be a good working arrangement.

We did an audit of competing companies direct mail and large display ads and determined that a lot of them were saturated color and fairly static… shots of the villas themselves, or empty swimming pools with zero edge.

I presented a more ‘active’ and compelling direction to the work. The images are fun, distinct and a bit desaturated for a look that would stand out. My plan is to deliver the ‘fun’ and ‘excitement’ of staying at a villa in the little Gulf of California town south of Arizona. They are experiencing quite a downturn in visitor traffic so the plan is to focus on the fun. And I want the viewer to feel they are a part of the fun, not just looking at it from afar.

We are also going to do some video work, but that is down the road a bit. However, as I am working on the stills and direction of the still work, I have to take the video shooting into perspective. It will be necessary to tie the two together to provide a cohesive look to the ads, collateral and display advertising.

Briana on a Waverunner in Rocky Point, Mexico.

This is one of the shots we are using for the testing portion of the pre-production. It was taken very early in the morning a year or so ago in Rocky Point. The shot puts the viewer ‘in the scene’ by keeping the camera angle low. The wide angle lens choice brings the waves right up to the viewers chin. Point of View is such an important part of making an image.

This shot was also shot at the same time as the one above.

I mocked up a simple layout (not the final design, folks) to kind of show how the type and the image work together to provide a nice context for the viewer… come to Mexico and have fun. Being there, so to speak.

It was very, very early in the morning because we had decided to make our Mexico trip about two weeks too early and it was hot as hell. The water was actually like a bath, and the heat had already started to make itself felt at 7AM. The girls had been in makeup since about 4AM (we had 4 models and only one MUA, so we staggered the calls to get them in and ready for the 6:45 call. I think they drew straws… heh.)

I had the two models ride by and hit the brakes/gun it to create a big splash and lots of flying water. I would take a few bursts of shots as they played and acted happy. Well, they didn’t have to act that much cause those things are a hell of a lot of fun. I was up to my neck so that I could get that POV that I wanted when making the shots.

Continued after the jump.

I should note, that when I was shooting these, I didn’t have this gig. It was the opportunity to shoot image from a different angle that drove me to the water. I am also shooting with my Rebel because if I dropped it, I would lose an inexpensive camera. The lens may or may not make it, but could be fixed. Was this kinda stupid…? Yeah, so? I should have had a waterproof housing. But I didn’t, so I was as careful as i could be. I didn’t plan on getting it wet – and I didn’t. Mostly.

It can take a lot of coordination to get the models to work with you when they are on loud machines and you are right next to the water where sound doesn’t travel nearly as good as you expect. We had a great little arm/hand motion going so I probably looked pretty silly out there neck deep in the water waving like a crazy guy.

NOTE: When standing neck deep in the Ocean, it is very important to remember that the water is about 12 inches from eye level. So dropping it to your waist as when standing on the land can be catastrophic. Yes, I caught it in time… Sheesh.

When this gig came about and we started talking about the stuff we were going to do, I remembered these shots and am using them for creative direction. So far so good.

Post processing includes: open shadows, higher contrast, increased luminance contrast, and de-saturation. The challenge for the shoot will be to get some clouds in the sky – whether by them being there or putting them in during post.

The scene of the crime.

Yeah, we were deep into the water, and kinda, you know, wet.

All in all we shot for about an hour… one girl, two girls, even working on getting two Waverunners going by each other head to head and neck to neck. I shot about 1000 frames. And while I like some of the images with the two Waverunners, it is my nature to go for the simpler, more ‘deliberate’ images. I like the cleaner look, and the graphic design of the image being straight forward.

I will be going down with two models to do the shoot in early October. It will be so much nicer then, and we will be able to do the shoot without being encumbered by extraordinary heat and horrible humidity. Since “Sandy Beach runs East/West, I will also be able to shoot in the morning and the evening. Two chances for some pretty cool clouds.

One last thing. You will notice that we do not have the models wearing life vests. It is because we were working in a very small area right next to the beach. We had permission to do that and we had help standing by. The area was clear of any other craft so we were pretty tight and safe. When the shoot was over and it was time to play on the Waverunners, the life vests went on. And we had a blast.

My most recent posts are:
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  1. Looks like a lot of fun! It definitely gets my brain going with the possibilities. Just curious: did you do any shots from a boat-to-boat perspective? As in sitting on the back of the lead waverunner, shooting the model driving the training waverunner? Or shooting over the shoulder of the trailing driver toward the lead boat, putting the viewer in a following-the-leader position?

    • Hi and thanks.

      No, I didn’t do any other POV shots. For the campaign we are doing a camera mounted on the handle bars shot, a protected camera shot of two waverunners going on either side of the camera from the water perspective. If it is too hairy, we may do one on one side and then the other and composite them… we’ll have to see how brave I decide to be with 20 year old girls on Waverunners coming within 24″ of my head… Heh. We will also be shooting catamarans, desert ATV’s and beach shots… all from a POV of someone in the action. It should be a really fun gig.

  2. Super cool! Thanks for sharing how you did this!

  3. Cool; thanks! Yeah, I’m envious!

  4. Uau, you are brave! 😀

  5. Good article. Having photographed a lot of motocross in days gone by, having a sixth sense is really important. Any moving vehicle has the potential to go in a different direction that what it is supposed to and that can get really messy. I have had times when I stepped back to have a bike land where I was standing. great action photos are fantastic to see but many people do not realise the challenges and risks in getting them. They very hard on gear and can be physically hard work as well. My view with action photography was “if it feels too dangerous to be here then it probably is”. Jet boats traveling at over 100mph make a big mess. Although my photography is on the back burner at the moment I find your articles very relevant for the work I am doing developing a training business and many of the issues you raise apply to any business setting. Keep up the good work and say it as it is.

  6. Like that note on the POV and the perspective and angle of the shot. Lovely work and the image came out as expected.. stunning.. I really feel I am watching them while in water.. :-)

  7. Nice article. I was wondering, seriously out of curiosity, not finger-pointing, what your thoughts were on the girls not wearing life jackets in the shoot for an ad campaign for a resort/whatever that does require life jackets. Would you say it is false advertising? Because the point of the campaign, from your article, is to say, “Hey look at how much fun you can have.” I could easily see someone thinking, “Ah and you don’t have to wear life jackets! Sweet!” And then she arrives for vacation and is told she must wear a life jacket. “But…” she protests, pointing at the large billboard of the girls NOT wearing life jackets…..

    Oh, and why would someone want to ride the jet ski with no life jacket? Or why would she be upset if told she did? I don’t know, but I live in SC where there is no helmet law for motorcycles. And people come here to ride for that reason alone.

    • Thanks for the comment.

      As stated in the article, these images were shot at a different time and are being used to sell a concept to the advertiser. We plan on going back to reshoot what we have deemed to be appropriate for the campaign.

      As to the reality of it… well, in advertising reality is quite a bit different than what is portrayed. I am sure that disclaimers of ‘closed track with a professional driver’ are used to advantage on car ads. I would say that the life-vests would not be an issue for this campaign… I mean it is Mexico, so there is no LAW that states they have to wear them, it is a ‘given’ among the guys who rent the JetSkis. And if it is decided we need to do it, we will certainly make efforts to get some sort of ‘approved’ life vests that are at least attractive and not the beat up old orange ones they have on the beach. Heh. 😉

      As for SC no helmet law… yeah, I would come there to ride as well. Love the area so much… and the Smokey’s – wow. A Photographer’s dream of locations.


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