Underwater Dogs Cover

Photographer Seth Casteel has gotten good at holding his breath. And it’s not because his four-legged subjects need a bath.

Casteel spends 90 seconds at a time submerged at the bottom of pools in order to snap photos of dogs paddling around him.

Earlier this year, Casteel’s pictures of splashing pups went viral on social media sites, which led to Underwater Dogs, a book of 80-plus snaps of dogs expressing their graceful and goofy selves while swimming.

Pups Taking the Plunge

It was a lucky accident that introduced Casteel to the revelatory effect that water can have on canines.

He’d been working as a pet photographer when one furry subject jumped repeatedly into the family pool. As he photographed the dog-paddling pooch, he recognized that water helped to reveal for Casteel what he now calls his passion: the personality of dogs.

“Water presents dogs with an opportunity to explore their wild instincts, allowing emotion to shine through,” he says, before ticking off a lengthy list of examples. “Primal, silly, focused, happy, playful, loyal, curious, peaceful, passionate, optimistic, spirited, hysterical, hyper, fascinated, proud. You name it!”

Seth Casteel underwater dog

Some photos capture dogs with teeth bared while lunging for toys, but even when the canine divers look aggressive, they’re merely concentrating on a dogged pursuit.

Casteel works to build trust with his subjects first, but not all pups, including Casteel’s own pets, take to the water. “Many of the dogs featured in the book had never been underwater before,” he explains. “And some had never even been swimming.”

Navigating New Waters

The special shoots involved a learning curve for Casteel as well.

“I’ve applied a lot of the techniques that I’ve learned while photographing dogs in action on land to the underwater series, but there are some variables that are new,” Casteel says. “The gear itself — what housing to use, lens and flash — and the water clarity is a huge factor. If the water isn’t clear, the photos aren’t clear.”

And that’s not to mention figuring out how to light underwater shots, moving quickly under the water and avoiding getting jumped on by enthusiastic canine models.

The popularity of the striking images surprised the lensman, who volunteers his time photographing shelter animals. “I am shocked, actually!” he says. “I was just doing this for fun.”

Casteel is riding the wave of acclaim with good humor. When asked if he ever smells like a wet dog, he responds with “Of course! I’m actually launching a new cologne called Wet Dog — The New Fragrance for Men. Think it will sell?”