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Ohio Life

Beneath the Surface

Chillicothe-based photographer Victoria Shafer’s beautiful underwater images will captivate you.

In one photo, a woman resembling a Botticelli angel hovers peacefully. In another, the subject appears as if she were a sculpture from antiquity, sinking to the ocean floor. In a third, a woman dressed in black casts her eyes upward, both sensuality and innocence on her face. All of them appear to float effortlessly, caught in a world not quite our own.

The mesmerizing images are the work of underwater photographer Victoria Schafer, owner of Victoria Schafer Photography in Chillicothe.

Her magnificent works are anything but mundane, yet Schafer captures her subjects in the rather commonplace confines of the Ross County YMCA swimming pool, which she rents, along with a lifeguard, for her 90-minute photo sessions.

Schafer has been a full-time professional photographer since 2014, but she only recently found a niche taking photographs for clients who want something different. Wearing a wetsuit, diving mask and weight belt, and protecting her camera in an underwater casing, Schafer joins her subjects in the shallow end of the pool.

“I could use a snorkel or scuba equipment, but I expect my clients to pop up for air after holding their breath for five to eight seconds so I should, too,” says Schafer.

The photographer says the most difficult part for her subjects is breath control in order to avoid a stream of bubbles showing up in the portrait.

“Also, the current is moving underwater,” she adds, “so if you are trying to get a specific pose, your body is going to start moving away quickly. It doesn’t look attractive fighting it, so it’s just easier to stand up and start over again.”

Each photo session is a series of small steps. First, Schafer has her subjects walk into the water and then go beneath the surface to practice posing their arms and legs or working with fabrics and props that often add an otherworldly quality to the photos. Schafer will head to South Carolina this summer for a series of underwater saltwater photo shoots.

“I try to capture the serene beauty of being underwater,” says Schafer, who studied the technique with a photographer from California. “I have a fascination for new and different types of photography. I get bored easily, so I am always looking for something new and challenging. Photography is my career and hobby.”

Visit victoriaschaferphotography.com for more information.

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