FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – It’s not easy to take a good photo. It’s even harder to take them underwater.
You either don’t have the right skills or the proper equipment, have a less-than-ideal subject, or unfavorable conditions exist that prevent you from snapping one usable photo among hundreds of shots. Sometimes, you get a combination of all of these challenges.
But underwater photography and the determination to get the perfect shot are exactly what Razorback swimming and diving sophomores Chloe Hannam and Anya Quedens excel at.
Through their work in the Razorback Student Athlete Advisory Committee’s marketing unit, Hannam and Quedens have become the go-to photographers for the student organization, using creative photography techniques to promote various athletic events on social media.
“I’ve been really interested in photography for a long time,” Quedens said. “My first interest in photography started probably in the fifth grade. I was obsessed with Photoshop. I loved changing the pictures, the colors, and editing. My dad has a really expensive camera, so I would always play with that.”
Hannam, Queden’s teammate, said being naturally imaginative and having a passion for both aquatics and photography was the driving force behind their participation in SAAC.
“I think we’re both really creative,” Hannam said. “Even when we’re with friends, we always take cool pictures and when this committee was presented to us, we were like, ‘Oh, that’s a great opportunity!’”
Quedens agreed, but added, “I’m not a photographer by any means.”
“I have way too much respect for real photographers because they study it, and I just really play around with it,” she said. “I wouldn’t consider myself a photographer at all. But yeah, just from teaching myself, we volunteered and were like, ‘Oh yeah! Chloe knows how to use a GoPro, and I know how to use a Canon or Sony.’”
Despite their modesty, Hannam and Quedens have managed to capture striking images of their swimming and diving teammates in an environment absolutely hostile to electronics, with a graceful style that typically takes professionals years to master.
How did they learn to do all of this? In a medium that’s primarily visual, the only way to learn is to look at other photographers’ work, examine how they got their shot, and try to emulate it.
“I follow a lot of Instagram accounts of photographers and just general accounts that post nature photos,” Quedens said. “I really like landscape photography, that’s what interests me. I also follow Nike, SwimSwam, and some of the other swimming Instagrams.”
Hannam said these photos spark great ideas for techniques they’d like to try.
“A lot of the photos inspire you in the different angles they take and the different ways they go about it, Hannam said. “It then gives us ideas to [use] in our photos.”
With the incredible amount of digital imagery created and posted on the Internet every day, it’s hard for individual photos to rise to the top and get noticed. But when you’ve got natural skills, the right equipment, and an interesting subject in a unique environment, you’re going to get some attention.
“SwimSwam has an Instagram where they post pictures of swimmers from around the country if you tag your photo,” Quedens said. “I took a photo and I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll submit it just for fun,’ and they actually ended up reposting it and [my picture] got 7,000 likes.”
When Hannam and Quedens started talking about their methods, the settings they used, and how they framed some of their photos, the duo sounded like veteran photogs exchanging war stories on how their best shots came about.
“You’re holding your breath [underwater at the bottom of the pool] and you just point and shoot and hope it turns out,” Quedens said. “With GoPros, you can take 2,000 pictures and maybe get five decent ones.”
Hannam agreed, but said it’s not a task for the faint-hearted.
“It’s hard because of the bubbles as well,” she said. “I realized when I was underwater, my bubbles would get in the way of the swimmer on top of me.”
Hannam and Quedens haven’t limited their scope to just the swimming and diving team. Their work with SAAC extends to covering other Razorback athletic events that have been designated as “Code Red”.
“For the SAAC marketing group, it’s not just for the swim team,” Quedens said. “We’re also in the midst of doing photography and videos for other sports as well. I took a video yesterday of volleyball, they made a really cute rap to the Fresh Prince of Bel Aire tune saying, ‘Hey, come to Code Red, it’s on Friday at Barnhill.’”
Part two of the “Phot-Hogs” series will cover Hannam and Quedens’ work promoting ‘Code Red’ athletic events creatively on social media.