Smile! You're on Canine Camera!

Story highlights

  • Photographer Seth Casteel creates a new way to look at dogs
  • A few "underwater dogs" photos went viral last winter
  • Casteel tries to capture dogs' personalities
  • He helps shelters by taking nice portraits of adoptable animals
Seth Casteel never expected his photos of dogs to make a big splash, but then again, he never expected one of his canine clients to jump into a pool during a shoot.
Casteel, 31, is the photographer behind a quirky collection of images of dogs caught in the act of diving, swimming, splashing and generally goofing off in the water. What makes the photos different from anything you've seen before is Casteel's perspective: below the surface, with the dogs lunging toward the camera in pursuit of a toy.
Dogs are an interesting subject, he says.
"They enjoy the benefits of 21st century living, staying in a warm house, sleeping in the bed with you," he says, "but getting in the water brings out the wildness in them."
Casteel's soggy dogs shot to stardom on February 9, when someone posted a few of his pictures on the social sharing site Reddit and they became an overnight viral hit, spreading to Facebook, Google+ and Twitter and in short order reaching 150 million views. His website (www.littlefriendsphoto.com) crashed under the weight of a huge increase in traffic.
"By the morning of February 10 the pictures were everywhere," he said. "It just went nuts. It literally happened in the blink of an eye."
Suddenly he was receiving requests and offers from all over the world. One of those offers was a book deal from Little, Brown and Company, which on October 23 published "Underwater Dogs," a 132-page coffee-table book ($19.99) dripping with drenched dogs. A 2013 wall calendar also is on sale.
"I would have never known something like this could happen," Casteel said. "I went from not having enough work to having too much work."
Casteel said he wants to show the unique personality of each dog he photographs and tell its story.
"I'm interested in how emotional they are and how similar to humans they are," he said.
Seth Casteel hadn't planned on a career taking photos of dogs.
Before the shooting starts, Casteel spends time getting to know the dog and earning its trust.
"I show up, we start playing fetch, we become pals and we just move it to the water," he said.
Casteel wears a wet suit and snorkel mask, and sometimes uses diving weights to keep himself from floating. Then he tosses a toy and starts shooting.