Seth Casteel’s “Underwater Dogs”:
Seth Casteel is a dedicated pet lifestyle photographer based in Los Angeles. What sets him apart from other professionals in his niche is that he takes the unique approach of shooting underwater photos of dogs chasing toys.
The idea manifested after working with an exceptionally lively pet who loved the pool. Casteel initially utilized a modest point-and-shoot setup to capture some aquatic action. Beginning as a labor of love, Casteel decided to run with it and invested in an underwater housing for his Canon 7D. Upon refining his lighting techniques (which he proudly keeps to himself), he produced a stunning and emotive series of canines excitedly diving into pools from an unusual submerged perspective to capture the peak of the action.
The results were astounding and unexpectedly went viral. The playful, friendly dogs that partook were transformed in the submarine stills taken by Casteel. What’s revealed is an often ferocious, primordial inner beast, and sometimes an alternatively goofy mug.
Photos by Seth Casteel
Previously an advertiser, Casteel began his photographic endeavors as an animal shelter volunteer. After building up his experience, he slowly began to make a living with pet photography and took it up full time. But it wasn’t until the overnight success of his underwater dogs that Casteel really made a name for himself.
These immersed hounds have a fascinating and other-worldly appeal that’s all their own. The crisp renderings give a bizarre and comically-frightening face to an otherwise playful house pet. These are personally some of the most expressive animal photographs that I’ve come across, and they make for an enthralling compilation.
To get a better feel for Casteel’s process, I tracked down a short video of his dog dives. He claims to cut down on the underwater gear by free-diving for 90 seconds at a time while capturing his subjects.
Theron Humphrey’s “Maddie on Things”:
What began as an incredibly ambitious photojournalistic adventure has spawned a light-hearted offshoot project.
Theron Humphrey set out with big plans to travel across the United States, documenting a new stranger’s experiences each day. After many miles and some tough challenges, he has completed his goals. But somewhere on the way Humphrey decided to start posing his coonhound Maddie in strange environs and situations.
The unbelievably docile dog has now been captured in hundreds of photos. Humphrey first realized his pet’s noteworthy posture in the comfort of his own home when she’d quirkily play statue in front of guests. With a little encouragement and the occasional treat, Maddie coolly cooperates for each of Humphrey’s daily portraits.
Maddie has donned work gloves, masks, boots, bananas, and pumpkins. She’s been in golf carts, buckets, sinks, and on stop signs, fire hydrants and horses. This dog does it all and never seems to put up a fuss.
Photos by Theron Humphrey
Humphrey’s photographs are congenially candid, a blissful glimpse into one dog’s peculiar travels. He sticks to the square convention of medium format, supplementing the slice-of-life feel of these everyday exposures.
The images have grown in popularity and can be found on Mr. Humphrey’s blog. They’re also an emerging sensation on Pinterest, with the dog’s photos finding more and more shares and re-pins.
Similar to his former, human-focused series, “Maddie on Things” is a photo-a-day venture that the artist continues to pursue. Theron and Maddie have spent over a year together on their nationwide travels, an endeavor that has now spawned what is possibly the coolest coffee table book ever.
Photo by Theron Humphrey
Carli Davidson’s “Shake”:
Dog owners commonly witness the turbulent shaking of their house pet after they step out of the tub or grab a drink. But what they don’t get to see in a fury of head action is the resulting expressions. The crazed, contorted kinesis is caught with astounding clarity by Carli Davidson in her “Shake” series of dogs.
Photos by Carli Davidson
Like Seth Casteel’s underwater dogs, this series shows them in their raw, primal form. Davidson’s shots evoke each pet’s buoyant personality to a T. The series takes a very different approach to Casteel’s, however (and not just because they’re shot on dry land).
Davidson’s choice of studio setting isolates the animal in the foreground, placing emphasis solely on the dog’s activity and visual appeal. Instead of an environmental, journalistic approach, her photos take the shape of more traditional fine art. They blur the line between candid and contrived; the dog is obviously sitting in front of studio lights, but the resulting portraits are completely organic.
Photo by Carli Davidson
Carli Davidson’s work is vibrant as a whole, and I would encourage anyone who loves her “Shake” series to take a gander at the rest of her portfolio. Some of the finest animal photography I’ve seen, by far.
Sonya Yu’s “Trotter”:
San Francisco-based Sonya Yu is a self-proclaimed “food pornographer” by trade, documenting the very best cuisine by day. But in her down time she has secured a cult following through her pet French bulldog’s costumed charades.
Photos by Sonya Yu
With an arguably Wegman-influenced aesthetic, Yu dons her tiny dog in a wide variety of clothing and accessories. From Harry Potter garb to a pimp get-up, Trotter the French bulldog is surprisingly cooperative for his photo shoots.
While some may write off Yu’s Instagram series for silliness, it’s remarkably well-executed. I do realize how flooded the internet is with cute pet photos, but this goes a step further. The meticulous attention to detail, striking composition and soft use of light to create a distinctive, carefree atmosphere sets Yu’s photographs apart.
It’s also now looking like some of the contemporary canine-capturing talent is starting to collaborate (namely Humphrey and Yu). I pulled this one from Trotter’s own Instagram feed:
Photo by Sonya Yu
If you’ve spotted any other extraordinary pet and animal photography in your virtual travels, please let us know in the comments below!