beneath the wild waters

Mesmerising underwater photography with James Kirby

Words and images by James Kirby

Beneath the Wild Waters

Back in 2017, I started wild swimming. My first swim was on New Year's Day, which was a cold start! Since then I've swam over 700 times in all sorts of beautiful places, through winter in the snow and ice.

After 16 years of outdoor event photography in the Lake District, I thought it was about time to bring my experience to my new love of swimming and I purchased an underwater housing for my camera. I wanted to bring swimmers photographs from beneath the wild waters of the lakes, tarns and rivers and add a new angle to my photography.

Starting in a waterfall

Gilly is a cold water swimmer who lives in the Lake District, a trad climber, an artist, a super kind human and so much more! We went to a local shallow waterfall for our first shoot, where I could get used to using the underwater housing.

- Being able to stand the colder Lake District waters is needer for photographs like these!

Wanting more mountains in my photographs and some more experience shooting with the new waterproof housing, Gilly and I headed to Buttermere.

With a mountainous backdrop and much deeper water to play with, it was perfect for me to learn what I needed to for the next photoshoot/event. I was very pleased with how these ones came out!

- The ability to hold my breath for quite a few seconds is needed in order to get the shot, whilst keeping an eye on where the subject is within the frame.

"The ability to hold my breath for quite a few seconds is needed in order to get the shot, whilst keeping an eye on where the subject is within the frame." JAMES KIRBY

james kirby

My next opportunity was a sprint triathlon with the swim discipline being in Capernwray. After learning how to use the underwater housing properly I was able to capture photographs of all the swimmers efficiently, so everyone got their photograph in the water.

- Being a strong swimmer is key to being able to move around within the water while the subject is moving past or the water is trying to push you in another direction.

There was time to photograph a friend while the swim discipline of the triathlon was on. Swimming creates so many smiles :D these are the memories I hope to be able to provide to the swimmers of the Lake District for a long time to come.

Underwater Provisions

We're into late Autumn now and the waters of the Lake District are getting colder.

Shooting non-wetsuit in 10°c water is more challenging, but the engagement with the cold water is something I enjoy. This shoot was a good test of my skills as a photographer and a cold water swimmer. The light was beautiful.

As you can see, Gilly got hungry mid-shoot and started to tuck into an Outdoor Provision bar before getting out of the water. A woman of many talents!

Gilly has also shot a couple of photographs of myself in the water, after a few of the shoots we did.

Here I can be seen relaxing and being a merman beneath Buttermere fells.

Pushing into the coming winter I'm planning on photographing through the ice for some more interesting angles on ice swimming with Gilly.

You can find out more about my work on my web site, on Instagram @jumpyjamesphotography and you can find Gilly on Instagram @gillymcarthur

Take care and be kind!

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