Resource Magazine Interview with Michael David Adams

What and honor to be recognized and interviews by RESOURCE MAGAZINE about my Underwater Photography, how it came about and a bit of my insights on my work. 

It was a pleasure to answer all of Robin’s questions, and revisit what brought me to the place i am, and a great vantage point on seeing where I want to go. 

I will post most of the interview, but also include a link at the end of the article if you would like to visit it to read in it’s entirety.  

Diving Into the Mystical Underwater Photography of Michael David Adams

Michael David Adams and his wife, Viktorija, have always had love and respect for the water, from the gorgeous, exotic beaches and the smell of rain to the vast allure of the sea. Growing up, Adams studied martial arts for 10 years, and to this day lives by a Bruce Lee quote he discovered in his youth: “Be like water…,” Lee said, because according Adams, “Water always knows what to do and where to go. It adapts and survives everything, it gives life, yet it also can take it away.”
Today, Adams is a New York-based photographer who showcases his love for water by combining it with his passion for photography. He’s shot for both international and U.S. versions of popular magazines, such as Harper’s Bazaar, ELLE, and Glamour, and has led fashion and travel photo shoots around the world. We caught up with Adams to learn more about what it’s like to shoot beneath the sea.


Somewhere along the way, you apparently became interested in underwater photography, which is quite a niche area. Can you tell me about that? 
On my honeymoon in Croatia in 2010, my wife’s friend from her youth, who is a scuba instructor and underwater nature and wildlife photographer, introduced me to underwater photography. She took us to an ancient shipwreck off the coast of the Omis, where my wife grew up. The depth was only around 10 feet, so we could easily hold our breath and get to the bottom with the help of a weight belt. The surface of the water that day was very choppy, yet when you got underwater it was calm and serene. It was there, standing on the bottom of the sea in the crystal clear waters of the Dalmatian Coast, a place where the human body is not supposed to be, with schools of fish swimming around me, that I became obsessed with taking my personal style of photography to the underwater world and making it a reality. Photographing for intentional results underwater can be very challenging, but the imagery you can achieve is unmistakable. Well-executed underwater fashion photography is beyond inspiring to say the least.


You and your wife, Viktorija, are also a husband and wife photo team. Can you tell me about that? 
Viktorija and I started our careers independently, but we met early on and developed our skills, talents and vision together. Creating images and all sorts of things together has been the underlying theme of our relationship and is one the joys in our life. One main goal of ours is to always better ourselves, personally and professionally, so we have the respect and ability to be more honest with each other about our shoots and what we would like to achieve, or what we can improve on in the future, perhaps more so than other creative partners. Having been born on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, Viktorija has always had a love for water too, but it’s more me that had the desire to explore it as an environment for photography. We’re excited to work together on anything, and the thrill of water work is an added bonus.


Have you ever encountered any dangerous situations, especially working with models that are perhaps untrained, on underwater shoots? 
When shooting underwater, safety is the utmost importance. Many things have the potential to go wrong or not as planned on any shoot, and working underwater raises the level of things to be prepared for. On my first shoot, I had a scare for myself, when in a moment of exhaustion, I almost couldn’t get back up to the surface when I needed to breathe. I was in only about 4 feet of water but was practically laying down on my back on the bottom and I had weights on my arms, as I hadn’t known fully yet the best places to wear weights.  I didn’t realize how tired I was, but couldn’t get my footing to get up. I had a minor panic moment, but quickly realized I needed to calm down and just roll over to get feet and legs under me. So having experienced that myself, I always make sure the models and crew are safe and explain everything to them about the shoot requirements and safety aspects of working underwater.

I don’t always use compressed air to breathe when I shoot.  It really does help, but if not everyone is using air, it can potentially be a little bit of a communication barrier between the photographer and models. If I’m the only one who has air, I still like to start out the day with the models doing breathing exercises for them to get the hang of controlling their heartbeats and breathing to keep them relaxed. It can be exhausting work and confusing at times, so communication is really important.

You’ve built an impressive portfolio of underwater work. Is there a particular shoot or image that stands out to you?  

I’m super in love with the SnowDrop series I’ve just finished. I had a vision of depicting SnowDrop, which is the original title of what’s become known as Snow White, while she was unconscious in the forest after being poisoned. I’ve wanted to begin incorporating my underwater photography into our Story-Tellers project, so what better way to show a person in suspended animation then to be floating underwater.
I also really love the Breath from Another series, a story of lovers who depend on each other to share their breath of life. I enjoy working with multiple people, capturing the interactions or tensions between them. I definitely want to shoot more multiple people underwater in the future.


On your website, you say Story-Tellers is “a very special project by the husband and wife team.” What makes it so special?
This project is special for many different reasons. The first one is for our daughter who is 2-and-a-half years old.  She has brought so many wonderful things to our lives, so projects like this take on new meanings and understandings. Viktorija, having grown up in Eastern Europe, was raised with a respect and teachings of fairytales and folklore that isn’t really taught too much here in the U.S. anymore.  She was shaped by Hans Christian Andersen stories and various Grimm fairy tales, among other local folklore. Unfortunately, during the war in former Yugoslavia, that precious book was lost and she always had a dream of creating her own book as an homage to her childhood and others who grew up with fairy tales and legends as learning tools.

The project is our way of interpreting fairly tales and folklore in ways that visually speak to us, and ways that we would love to see. Our lives in the industry have always been about telling stories through photography, either in the realm of fashion or beauty or commercially in advertising. This project allows us to approach image-making from a more artistic side of the craft. Although we still love to incorporate fashion and the other industry specialties we have access to, this project is also very much about collaboration of artists and creative minds.

Can you elaborate more on some of the specific stories and tales you’re interpreting? 
The concept of the project is not strictly stories that have been previously written or documented, for example, the first image we did is a vision of Viktorija’s, which she called “Rush.” She wanted to portray what it felt like when you’ve been emotionally frozen for a long period of time,



Digital Photographer Magazine Interview

It was an honor to be approached again by the editors of Digital Photographer Magazine to give my input into their “Secrets to Success” Article. 

IN THE BEGINNING THERE WERE MANY: – early in your career –

“SCRATCH MY BACK” – be willing to do favors for the people that are giving you their time. You’ll be remembered for it and appreciated.. Having said that, be wise and use your judgement, there will always be people ready to take advantage of goodness.

“HUMBLE PIE” – be aware that you (meaning the whole crew) are all in this together, its a learning process. The other individuals in your crew are starting out too, so try not to be too critical about them if something is not up to your perceived standards. Maybe in the beginning, you may not have it all together either..

“THE PERFECT STORM” – Don’t wait for the “perfect storm”, or the ideal situations and circumstances to start shooting.. “Make it happen” with what you have in front of you.. My first studio was a large shed in my backyard.. i emptied it out, built a flat wall in the back, painted it and painted the floor, and with my terrible lights and lens that had a small chip in it, I started shooting…

“BE TRUE TO YOURSELF” – If you focus on shooting what makes you happy and aim towards making the kinds of imagery that you are excited about, it will show in your work and you will be asked to do those jobs in return. You’ll be noticeably excited about your work, and the cycle will continue.

“KNOW THE RULES BEFORE YOU BREAK THEM”. – Even if you are self taught, as I mostly am, it’s still very important to know the basic rules of your craft before you can go about breaking them. This way you know the core building blocks and can build upon them in your own way. Also, it’s good to be aware of the peoples work that have come before you, as opposed to revisiting an idea that has already been done in the past, all the while thinking you are the first one to do it..

“REPUTATION IS EVERYTHING” – Always meet your promised deadlines, and be sure to thank everyone appropriately who has worked for you and given you their time.


PRODUCTION VALUE: – Pre, during, and Post.

“BE SKETCHY” – Sketch out all your ideas for your shoot on actual paper and keep these sketches with you.. – A lot can happen throughout the life of a shoot, before and during, and your attention can get spread very far.. so keeping your ideas on paper, and close at hand, will keep your shoot going on track, and you’ll accomplish what you’ve set out to do.

“BACK UP THE BUS” – Always have back up plans in mind…. for everything. Equipment can fail, plans can be altered due to circumstances that you have no control over.. So having backup ideas for all sorts of things will save you when the unthinkable happens, – because that unthinkable thing will certainly happen!

“SAY WHAT?” – Clear communication is essential in all parts – don’t assume other people know what you mean, or know what is expected of them from you. Explaining exactly what you mean when asking questions of all crew is very beneficial. We photographers have our own language and often times we make sense to ourselves, but not to others… Furthermore, communication with your model is very important. (along with everyone else on set) As the photographer, we need to talk to him or her, or them (multiple models) like they are other humans working with us, not just something in front of your camera that has to perform for you.

“WHERE THE #&LL”? – have an exact file system and workflow set up within your computer.. This will help you keep track of everything.. Try to include as many things into your routine as possible – especially when working with outside people. (retouchers, producers, etc..) you need to keep your files together. I have a Hierarchal Folder system set up, a Main job folder, with sub-folders that are planned for RAW, PROCESS, BTS, etc.. and all those with sub-folder for other specific things.. This way, I make a blank copy of the same beginning folders at the start of every new job, and never have to wonder where something is..


“THE FINER POINTS OF LIFE” – Retouching… make sure that if you are not a great retoucher, that you find great retouchers to work with.. In this digital age, retouching is just as important, (or more depending on other issues, which sounds silly to say, but seems true sometimes), than the photography itself. – At the start of some jobs, this is always a big question. (and retouch the WHOLE photo, this includes background, hair, skin, clothing, color tone, etc… ) It can be a simple task some times, but don’t forget to look at everything.

“HUH?” – Don’t be afraid to ask others to explain themselves to you.. For example, with estimates and rate quotes. Everyone is always trying to get as much money as they can for everything, so if a quote seems out of the ordinary, it’s good to speak up and ask about it. You can be sure that you’ll be asked to justify many many things..

“AND I’LL SCRATCH YOURS” – Make sure everyone is taken care of on set.. Either do it yourself, or delegate to others, be it assistants, production crew, etc.. – water.. food.. prep…payments… – it’s all on you as the photographer… if a shoot goes bad or people in your crew aren’t treated the right way, there’s a good chance that you as the photographer will be remembered as holding responsibility for it. – When all aspects of the shoot are fun and nicely memorable, in turn, you’ll be remembered for that too.

“CLIMBING THE LADDER” – Work with talented people that want to work with you and can work within your budget. But don’t be afraid to ask for favors.. people ask favors of photographers all the time… but remember to make good on those favors later.. also, when starting out in your career, work with other people that are on your same level, your peers… of course we all will reach higher in time.. but be realistic about who you are contacting to work with while you are building your book..

“PRESENTATION IS KEY” – Make a standard for your final image presentation, Naming and Delivery system. Too many times, i’ve seen images from other photogs where their naming system is all over the place, and makes no sense… Images are crazy sizes and resolutions.. completely chaotic.. Make a great no-brainer system, and your clients and crew will love you for it.. (we hope)

“AND THE AWARD GOES TO..” – Always give credit where credit is due. Stylists, Hair and Makeup, Crew, Models, Producers, etc.. as much as possible and in the proper places. We all want it for ourselves, so do it for others…


ITS GO TIME: the Shoot itself….

“CAN YOU….” – Make sure you delegate responsibilities to your assistants.. this is something i struggle with myself.. I fall into the trap of trying to do everything myself.. Your assistants and production crew (if you have them) are there for a reason, give them things to do..

“ROCK ON!” – You may love your own music, but everyone on set may hate it.. Just because you like to work privately to a particular style of music doesn’t mean it works well to shoot to.. – If your model and crew are miserable with your music selection, then you’re gonna have bad vibes on set, and a poor shoot..

“CHECK 1..2..” – Don’t assume your camera has the correct settings.. – Check and double check before, and during the shoot.. on some cameras it’s too easy to accidentally change controls and dials. If you find yourself always nudging a dial the wrong way and changing f-stop without knowing, just tape it down.. it’s your camera, make it work for you.


“STOP, CALIBRATE AND LISTEN” – Make sure you and/or your Digitech in on top of everything color wise.. Color calibration, color tone of prints (if you do during the shoot).. etc.. Wrong calibration can make your lighting different that what you think you’re doing and It will affect your relationship with your client if it’s off by too much and not noticed.. – If a client takes prints back to the office, and the colors are way off, the other people in the office won’t know why, nor will they care.. They’ll just see you as incompetent. The buck starts and stops with you, the photographer

“TRUST” – Let the people you have chosen to work with expand on your ideas with ideas of their own.. Control is hard to let go of.. but you trusted them enough to work with them in the first place.. trust and allow their creative ideas as well.. you will grow with it and with them..

“CHECK YOURSELF” – Keep an eye on the overall picture – the crew, clothing, clamps, hair, makeup, nails, everything.. These are all issues that ultimately the photography will be held responsible for if anything is wrong.. Watching all these things will lessen that amount of retouching to do later..

“I ONLY EXPERIMENTED WITH IT ONCE!”- experiment with different lenses if you can.. each has it’s own characteristics, and you might find one that really has the tendencies that speak to how you want your images to feel. Maybe you’ll like lens filters? – and also play around with different objects in front of the lens.. You are creating a fantasy world (sometimes) and your identity, so have fun with it!

“FIRE!”- It’s still a good idea to use light meters.. In this age with digital cameras and large monitors, we can get complacent with not metering light.. photography is all about light and it’s manipulation.. at some point you’ll find yourself without the ability to have a screen in front of you, and you’ll need to know how to read the light surrounding your subject. My favorite is the old trusty Minolta V-F, simple and does the job. Plus keep in mind, the small screens on the back of cameras are rarely anything you should really trust.

If your not shooting to a tower while tethered, and shoot to a laptop instead.. get a Fan cooled platform to go under it.. This will keep it cool, and keep you shooting at decent speed, and also protect the life of the computer.


“YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT?” Surprisingly, some legitimate top ad agencies from around the world don’t always ask legitimate questions or have honorable expectations of you. – on a recent occasion, an agency asked me to lower my estimate due to fears of it being too high for clients approval.. (this is not abnormal thing to ask).. but then after the estimate was trimmed, they proceeded to ask me if I would then add a hidden 10-15 % back into it, which would be then expected to be paid back to agency after paid to me.. REALLY?? – there’s many terms for this practice, pick one…. – needless to say, I didn’t do it and passed on the job..

“DON’T TREAD ON ME” – don’t let yourself get walked on.. Don’t be an jerk about it, but stand up for yourself as a person and a business.

“START AT THE BEGINNING” – educate yourself, know your industry, it’s ups and downs, current rates, etc., and be prepared for crazy requests, and others’ lack of knowledge. If a situation comes up that your client is not knowledgable about, it’s our job to educate them. If we don’t know our own business, how can we enlighten others?

“AND IN THIS CORNER” – Portfolio presentation: I get asked about this a lot. We live in a world that is all over the place with preferences and options for portfolios.. Know that you will get a different answer from each person you ask as to what is the best option. Do what is right for you at the time and for your budget, and always aim higher with cleaner more precise presentation. No matter what format you pick, your images should speak for themselves, not how fancy your book is.. Also beware of sending iPads unless you are right there to show it directly.. Books are easy to open and read and don’t need instruction. Not everyone knows how to use an iPad, (or other devices) nor do they know what seems “simple to view” like you do on your own machine..

“GET THE JOB”. Know your own boundaries of what you can live with.. It’s a cut throat business at times, so know yourself and the kinds of things you can live with doing to “get the job”

Dalia Air Magazine interview with Michael David Adams Photographer

It’s always an honor to be asked by a magazine for an interview, and DaliaAir Magazine is no exception. 

A leader in Private Air transportation, and a 30 thousand foot high window into the world of the most discerning eyes of Fine Art collectors. 

– How did photography appear in your life?

When i was in my 20’s, I experimenting with my first 35mm film camera. I would create scenarios with friends capturing my ideas and was inspired to enroll in a b/w darkroom class. Soon after that I helped a friend build a portfolio for modeling, and that’s when my career was clear to me.. I realized after this that i had a natural talent for the art of photography beginning early on as a child.. When i was young I had an instamatic Kodak camera, and looking back at those images, I could see a intuitive sense of composition, and story telling in the photos I took.

– How do you define yourself as a photographer? An art photographer? A fashion photographer?

I think i am a mix of all of these things.. I shoot a consistent variety of all of different kinds of work. I believe it’s very healthy to continue shooting personal work, and work that can be considered as “art”, as opposed to concentrating only on commercial endeavors.. This keeps my mind open to new ideas when shooting jobs, and brings a fresh eye to each new project.

– Are you the type of photographer with a camera slung over your shoulder on the lookout for THE photo or do you think about the picture before staging it?

I typically plan all of my shoots, even the fine art.. When i am on vacations or taking time off from a job in another country (or on a nice trip here in the US), i will then take my 35mm camera with me. But lots of times, when not specifically shooting for a goal of “art” or “commerce”, i will have my iphone with me and use that for snapshots.. I did spend many years always having a camera with me, but now, i quite enjoy absorbing my surroundings without being behind a camera.. Although… I do find that when visiting a new place that i have never been before, the images i capture at that first visit, have a different feel than ones taken after i am familiar with the environment.. The first moments of wonder always feel different on camera.. In those cases, i usually go back to the same place and enjoy it without a camera so i’m not tempted to spend all day photographing.. 🙂

– You work for institutions such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, and so on around the world, what’s most enjoyable about this profession?

Fashion and Beauty photography have many different aspects to them. From the planning of shoots, behind the scenes of the shoots themselves, and seeing your collaborations come to life in the final print of the magazines and covers. All of these are very exciting things, and it’s hard to say which is the most exciting. But I love spending time at the amazing locations, working with the crews, and just being there with people I enjoy..

– Do you have a particular view on life or photography that you wish to transmit through your pictures? What is it you want to highlight?

In my early art career, I was painting a lot with oils and with that, I was exploring my own thoughts and questions on life. With photography, I’m driven to make beautiful imagery, and not make many socio-political statements like I did with painting. I love capturing either a sense of anticipation and tension or a feeling of breathlessness, and love it when a viewer can create their own narrative as to what my photo is about, or the possible history of the person in it, and why they are doing what they are.. One person just recently described my work as

“your photos are like a movie scene with doves flying thru just before the big climatic scene »

This is a great compliment, and a scene that i could actually see myself trying to shoot.. J

– What is it you like about the photographic expression?

I love creating and capturing moments and showing the world through my eyes, letting people see things that they may not have viewed on their own..

– Tell us how you take your photos? The techniques and equipment you use…etc.

Speaking of equipment.. I shoot with either my Hasselblad H2 and a PhaseOne digital back, or with my Canon 5DII.. I usually like to shoot tethered to a laptop or mac pro, when available, but have recently enjoyed shooting free of the computers straight to cards..

When I’m shooting outside, I’m typically pretty simple, just the sun and some reflectors, I love showing the natural beauty that the sun creates.. I will occasionally use a strobe light outdoors if I’m shooting beauty, as beauty photography requires a little different amount of control and balance..

-When we look at your pictures, the theme of water is omnipresent, what does it mean?

Water is something very Zen for me. I grew up in the martial arts, studying a mixture of Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do, and the fluidity of water was always a natural thing of wonder for me. Bruce Lee was quoted as saying “Don’t get stuck in one form,… be like water”..   I had this feeling and respect for water my whole life, but only recently found the quote.   Water always knows where to go, and can take any shape.. With it’s determination it can conquer the strongest of mountains, but it can also soothe you to sleep. It is our life force, but yet it can easily take life away..   For these and many other reasons, one of which, loving being in it and in exotic locations, I love shooting near it, and especially under the surface!

Shooting underwater is amazing. It is incredibly challenging, and the results, when done well, are simply astonishing. It’s very rewarding after all the hard work of being submerged for 8 hours, to see the captured images.. I love it.

– Does NYC bring anything extra to your artistic vision?

A lot of people do ask this question. New York City is special because there are so many creative people here and no other city like it in the US.. It is the center of the creative world for America, and much of the art work you see, and advertising done here and the world generates from our little city. So if you want to really make the creative arts your career and have a wide scope of possible projects, the best place to be is here in NYC.

– Do you have a referent in the field of photography? A photograph that you particularly admire?

I admire many different photographers, and try not to get stuck on any one in particular.. I’ve seen some photographers out there who become obsessed with one photographer, and their own work tends to become a copy of that person that they admire. There is surely merit to possessing knowledge of the work of your colleagues, but a broad admiration of all photographers is something I try to keep in my head instead of any one particular persons work.

Rovinj PhotoDays MasterClass and Guest Photographer

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