NG cover shot of James Cameron taken in a tank

James Cameron cover photograph behind the shot

Many underwater photographers specialize in underwater studio set-ups for portraits, but National Geographic opted for an even more controlled underwater studio for their June 2013 cover shot of James Cameron. Here is the behind-the-scenes story:

Putting Academy Award winner James Cameron underwater on National Geographic’s cover this month called for a little Hollywood magic. “We have to show science is exciting,” Cameron says.

The National Geographic explorer-in-residence really was submerged—but inside a giant water tank at a soundstage he uses in Manhattan Beach, California (two 40-foot models of the Titanic, both seaworthy and wrecked versions, sat nearby).

Sand, plants, and bubbles were added to the image to create the illusion of Cameron on the seafloor, a place well-known to the director of Titanic and The Abyss.

Photographer Marco Grob had just two hours to make the portrait before his subject had to leave to catch a flight for Australia. So Cameron, whose solo dive into the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean, is featured in the June issue of National Geographic, donned a wet suit and went to work. He was a pro at holding his breath: “I was sometimes concerned,” admits Grob. “I’d knock on the window and say: Hey, come up.”’”

Find the full “Behind the Cover” article here.