The eyes are wild with intent and read nothing but animalistic ferocity. They’re crashing with a chaotic splash on the pristine surface of the water in maniacal pursuit of their prey. They’re chasing squeaky toys.
Seth Casteel’s photos of dogs diving into swimming pools in hot pursuit of neon tennis balls have spread around the Internet. Just a few days ago, Casteel had a manageable inbox, a working Web site, a phone that rang a normal amount. Now, his inbox is clogged with 1,200 e-mails, his Web site crashed for a brief period, and calls and e-mails have come in from 50 countries and such entities as Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel and “Good Morning America.”
“I get amused easily,” Casteel said. “I was just taking pictures because I thought it was fun.”
I caught up with Casteel between e-mails to find out more about his photographs. The pet photographer was in California, where he often shoots.
Why do you think people like these photos?
The dogs are getting back to the wild side. I think dogs have been domesticated over the past thousands of years. Not that long ago, pugs were wolves. I think dogs today enjoy being spoiled. I also think they have wild roots and appreciate the opportunity to explore those.
How did the idea for these photos strike you?
I was working with a dog named Buster. He was more interested in a water photoshoot. My goal is always to embrace what they like to do. He was so excited about the water, passionate about the water. His story had to do with the water. The Sony point-and-shoot was my first underwater setup.
What is your favorite photo and why?
The difficulty of the [photo below] was very high level. What’s interesting about this picture is these two are super good friends, pals. They both dive, love water and love each other. I can work with them together with no aggression toward each other. Some dogs don’t want to share the tennis ball. It is a very terrifying picture but behind the scenes they’re friends. The credit all goes to the dogs. I call it “Sharing is Caring.”
Do you have any interest in covering the Westminster dog show?
I like dogs in their natural environment. I think a dog in the show ring is the most boring thing in the world. If someone said come cover Westminster, I’d say, “No, but thank you for the opportunity.” Creatively for me, I have no interest.
What’s your camera setup?
My setup now is the Canon 7d with underwater housing. (Casteel declined to reveal his lighting techniques. “I worked really hard to get the recipe for these shots.”) People want to know if I scuba or snorkel. I don’t. I free drive and can hold my breath for 90 seconds. I weight myself down to the bottom of the pool. It’s physically demanding, the work.
Have you ever gotten injured during a shoot?
The camera is only inches away from the dogs. There is no aggression towards me or other dogs but they are very, very excited about retrieving this toy. I have a pretty good strategy. I know exactly my space and know my working distance.