“It’s like I’m living in a movie — I’m just a guy who loves dogs,” says photographer Seth Casteel when asked if he was surprised at the widespread popularity of his 2012 book Underwater Dogs. That tome depicted a bunch of dogs submerged in a swimming pool, with the pooches’ warped and wacky facial expressions captured by Seth and his camera as they galavanted around. Now he’s repeating the trick with Underwater Puppies, a follow-up project that stars a pack of exuberant pups.
With Underwater Puppies being released this week, I talked to Seth about the dynamics of shooting in swimming pools, how to take pics of your own subaquatic dog, and how there’s a deeper message of safety and canine adoption behind his striking images.
Also, read on to the end of the interview for a chance to win your own copy of Underwater Puppies.
Phillip Mlynar for Dogster: Why did you decide to use only rescue puppies for the project?
Seth Casteel: The goal was to feature some amazing rescue puppy ambassadors to remind people that adoption is a wonderful option. There are so many awesome pets that need loving families, and I hope people will consider bringing a shelter pet into their lives.
Were you tempted to take any of the pups home after the shoot?
Which dog took to water the most enthusiastically? And were there any that really needed coaxing?
Quite a few of the puppies went bonkers for the water — two to mention are Zelda and Reason. And yes, there were many that needed coaxing. I worked with more than 1,500 puppies in the course of making this book, but most of those puppies didn’t even get photographed — they just had a brief swim lesson to learn confidence and safety skills and then they went home.
Did you notice whether any particular breeds were better swimmers than the others?
Many people tell me that the Labs and Goldens are the obvious swim stars, but that’s not always the case as I discovered in Underwater Dogs. And the same applies to Underwater Puppies — you can never understand a puppy!
What tips would you give to someone attempting to take pictures of his dog underwater at home?
First and most important, never ever throw your dog into the pool. This can be dangerous and traumatic for your dog. Your dog should ultimately choose to participate. Underwater Dogs photos are based on the game of fetch, so start with a toy on land, then on the surface of the water, then a few inches below. If you get to 10 feet, you’re doing pretty good I’d say.
What about from a technical point of view?
Make sure you have an underwater camera with flash to illuminate those priceless expressions. Take lots of pictures. And have fun and remember to always take breaks and let your dog rest. Many dogs love the water activities and just don’t want the fun to end.
What do you hope people get out of reading the book?
Joy — everyone loves puppies! But also water safety. Each year, thousands of pets drown in backyard swimming pools in the United States because proper safety measures have not been taken by their human companions.
These terrible tragedies can be prevented. If you are a pool owner or your dog has access to a pool, please consider all precautions including alarms, proper pool exits, limiting access to the pool, and, most importantly, teaching your pet how to get out of the pool in case they choose to go in or accidentally fall in.
Also, a swimming pool is not a natural body of water, which means pets naturally don’t understand the concept. Many people assume that their pets won’t go into the pool or they deny their dog the right to go in and learn. This mentality is directly putting your dog in danger, because at some point your dog will be in that pool, and it is absolutely critical that he or she is prepared.
Finally, remember that adopting a pet is a great option. It’s still shocking to me how many people buy their pets. You can find any type of dog — puppy or adult, purebred or mixed breed — through shelters and rescue organizations. You just have to make the effort. My dog, Nala, is a beautiful and loving mini-Labradoodle with an incredible personality (and fantastic hair style), and I adopted her from the shelter.
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About Phillip Mlynar: The self-appointed world’s foremost expert on rappers’ cats. When not penning posts on rap music, he can be found building DIY cat towers for his adopted domestic shorthair, Mimosa, and collecting Le Creuset cookware (in red). He has also invented cat sushi, but it’s not quite what you think it is.