Erena Shimoda's underwater photography is just breathtaking - each of her stunning female subjects are transformed into otherworldly sea goddesses. Based in San Francisco, she has produced ethereal images for many fashion, bridal and maternity clients. If you are looking for a unique portrait session, Erena's your woman.
Curious about her craft? We chatted with her recently to learn more about her art.
When did you start having an interest in underwater photography?
Erena Shimoda: I started scuba diving in 2004 in Honduras and immediately fell in love with the underwater world. After I got my open water certification, I rushed to a store right away to buy a disposable camera. That was the first camera I used underwater and I was hooked!
Who inspired you to start your craft?
I have two favorite artists who inspired me to pursue what I do—Zena Holloway and Tomohide Ikeya.
How long did it take for you to master it?
I’m still learning and improving my skills with every photo shoot as I’m working with different clients. I want to keep growing and getting better.
Did anyone mentor you?
No. I only knew underwater photographers who photograph marine life. I searched for an underwater fashion photography workshop and I found one in Houston, Texas. I contacted James Wiseman to convince him to have a one-on-one workshop with me. As soon as he agreed, I flew down there for the weekend. I learned a lot from him.
What are your favorite subjects to photograph - humans or fish?
I love both. Shooting marine animals is exciting with each dive because things change according to weather. You don't know what to expect and you have no control over things. I like the surprises. I also love shooting people either in the ocean or in a pool. Unlike fish, we humans can actually communicate with each other. I specialize in doing portraits of each individual’s personality. I enjoy planning with clients and being creative as a team to produce personal, conceptual images.
What is your creative process like for each shoot?
I want the photo shoot to be each client's own project. They should be involved in pre-production so we can get to know each other and feel pumped up about the shoot! For me, the most important and beautiful aspect of my work is to be able to successfully present who the subjects are through their expressions, emotions and personalities. Telling them what they should look like would defeat the purpose of my goal, so I prefer not to do that. I help them feel comfortable and relaxed underwater.
Where do you shoot your clients?
It works well if the client has a pool or know someone who does. I also know a few people who have access to outdoor pools. San Francisco isn’t a tropical city, so it’s usually not warm enough to shoot in the ocean. I’ve also done off-site shoots in tropical islands, but those have to be arranged in advance.
All photographs used with permission by Erena Shimoda.