Behind the Scenes Interview With Carlo Cruz on Red Bull’s “Breaking Water”

Custom SLR Contributor

Name: Carlo Cruz

Location: Long Beach, CA

Years of photography experience: 15

Picture Credit: Ian Paredes

Tell us about the Breaking Water project. How did the idea come about?

I have been a b-boy (breakdancing) photographer for a very long time now, so when Red Bull Photography gave me the opportunity to do a project for them, it was clear that it would definitely be about b-boys. I have seen all sorts of dance photos taken underwater—like jazz or ballet—but I have never seen one of a b-boy. I think it’s often overlooked how fluid breaking moves are, and this was the perfect opportunity to showcase that.

Though it seems to be an aggressive dance in comparison to others, breaking in juxtaposition with water highlights the movements and brings out that visual gracefulness that’s often overlooked.

What challenges did you face during the shoot?

There were a lot of challenges for this project. Shooting underwater is tricky since you are literally taken out of your element. You’re working with water, which you don’t have full control over, and the best you can do is find a way to work along with it. A simple portrait that would normally take you a few minutes will take you sometimes hours to do underwater when you consider all factors. I have the utmost respect for underwater photographers who do this every day.

My top priority for the shoot was making sure it was safe. This was a first-time experience for most of us, including the artists, and we made sure to have a master diver and a lifeguard present to oversee the shoot and help us. Everyone was briefed on safety and all possible scenarios were discussed. We had trusses running across the pool, ladders and tables placed underwater, floaters everywhere, and the pool in the studio was heated.

My next priority was authenticity. We were very aware of each frame we took, and we discussed with everyone how we would approach each concept, so everyone had a cohesive idea. We tried to stick with what we initially envisioned and made minor adjustments as necessary. We were very lucky to have b-boys Kid David, b-girl LadieOne, and VillN to help us with the shoot and make sure we kept the “breaking” feel to it.

What kind of planning went into this? What gear did you use?

For the technical aspects, I did a lot of planning and research leading up to this shoot. Using the right equipment is very important. Lighting was very critical to achieve what we were looking for. I DIYed a couple of pieces of equipment using optical cables and fire strobes. I also experimented on different cables and triggers for us to potentially use.

I scoured a lot of thrift stores trying to look for an authentic boombox. For the graffiti shoot, we experimented with various materials to simulate spray paint such as fire proofing spray, extinguishers, toy smoke grenades, bathroom cleaners, face mists, starch sprays, and canned airs. We tried almost all canned air options, but ended up with spray powders and food coloring paint spray mainly because it’s the safest for the models and the easiest to clean without wasting or harming the water.

Gear list:

  • Custom SLR Glide Strap
  • F-Stop Gear, 5D Mark III
  • Canon 16-35 II
  • Pocket Wizards
  • Einstein Flash Unit
  • Aquatica Water Housings and Cables
  • Underwater strobes
  • Canon and Yongnuo
  • Flashes, Pelican Cases (for the flashes)
  • SanDisk CF cards


Anything else you’d like to add?

Going into this project was really nerve-racking. All I had was a concept and this picture in my head without any clear understanding of how to pull it off. Even after doing all the research and experimentation, you just hope that everything goes according to plan because things can go either way.

But at the end of the day, I think this is what it’s all about: trying to learn something new and pushing yourself. With a shoot like this that has so many things that could go wrong, I’m just thankful everyone went home safe and has a new story to tell.

Breaking Water from Red Bull Photography on Vimeo.

When California-based photographer Carlo Cruz set out in search of an alternative angle for his photography of b-boy dancers, his journey took him out of his comfort zone, and below the waves for a unique underwater view of street culture.

To explore all content, visit:

Subject: Kid David, LadieOne, VillN
Photography Assistant: Dennis Baloy, Ian Paredes, Katsi Del Rosario
Videographers: Daniel Zhu, Lee Chesley – Stance
BTS Photographer: Ian Paredes
Post Production: Carlo Cruz, Erwin Raif

Special thanks to:

Red Bull Photography

Artists: Kid David, LadieOne, VillN

Videographer: Daniel Zhu, Lee Chesley – Stance Set and Fabric Consultant: Karla Roble and team (Alfonso, Genevieve, Charisse, Abraham)

BTS Photographers/Production Assistants: Dennis Baloy, Ian Paredes, Katsi Del Rosario

Post production: Carlo Cruz, Erwin Raif

See the full Breaking Water project here.

*All images are available for commercial license.

Breaking Water BTS Carlo Cruz Red Bull

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