Behind the Lens: Photographing UMBC Swimming & Diving

Published: Jun 19, 2019

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA (Spring 2019 cover with swimmers swimming towards you)

UMBC Magazine‘s longtime photographer Marlayna Demond ’11 is used to going to great lengths to get her shot. A former Linehan Scholar, she climbs on tables and ladders to achieve the right angle. She waits quietly in the cold for the right moment to snap the shutter. (Here’s one example of that.) She takes hundreds—and sometimes thousands—of photos to get the one perfect for print. And who even knows how many squirrel portraits she’s captured over the years, simply because we asked? In short: she’s a true team player.

So, when we decided to write a feature on UMBC’s award-winning swimming and diving team, the obvious first question was: “How do we safely get Marlayna (and her camera) under water?” (Read the full story here.)

In addition to the challenges of using electronics in and around the waters of the UMBC Natatorium, we also wanted to make sure Marlayna could breathe easily and have as much range of motion underwater as she would on land. Over the course of a month and a half, our team tested out lighting and camera solutions with the guinea pigs—ahem, wonderful student athletes—on the swimming and diving squads. Marlayna borrowed a “dry suit” that allowed her to float and move somewhat gracefully in the water. Some ideas worked right away, others didn’t. In the end, it was a win-win: Marlayna got what she wanted and no one got electrocuted.

Here’s Marlayna’s take:  “When we started planning for this feature, the biggest challenge was how to get the underwater photos safely—both for my safety, and for my equipment’s! After searching a bit, the best solution was to use an underwater camera and a borrowed dry suit (it’s like a wet suit, but can also keep air trapped inside making floating much easier!). With the addition of a scuba mask and breathing tube, I hopped in the water for our test round photo shoot (looking absolutely ridiculous) and quickly found that my nervousness about photographing in such an unusual environment floated away, and my love of being in the water kicked in instead! The shoot day itself had lighting and timing obstacles to figure out, but all in all, the swimmers were fantastic and patient, and this was one of the most fun photo shoots I’ve gotten to be a part of here!”

We’re grateful to UMBC’s swimmers and divers and Coach Chad Cradock ’97 and his team for giving us the time and space to explore these new depths of photography with them. And we hope you enjoy these behind-the-scene peeks of our time in the water.

— Jenny O’Grady, Editor

Getting ready to jump in! With Candace Cage, designer.

Marlayna enjoying her time in the “dry suit.”

Marlayna waited in the water to capture Elijah Wright’s dive in slow motion.

Did we mention how amazing the student athletes were?

Testing out shot ideas with art director Jim Lord ’99 and designer Candace Cage.

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Read the full story: The Best Team You’ve Never Heard Of

Header image: There’s a strong possibility they’re cheering because it’s the final shot of the day.

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