The story behind our ‘Magic & Ritual’ cover, by Vivienne Rickman

Stillness, silence and being let into a moment that belongs to one person only. Vivienne Rickman shares the grace and wonder of her underwater photography as well as her own journey to exploring every single body of water in Eryri (Snowdonia National Park)

The December edition of Outdoor Swimmer magazine examines our connection with ritual, magic and seasonal celebration when we swim in open water. Stories explore how humans went from fearing the abyss to meditative bathing; how we can nurture our connection with nature’s cycles and the turning seasons by embracing the Wheel of the Year; and how to harness the ‘ice mindset’ and tap into the power of your mind when contemplating an ice mile. 

Photographer and contributor to the magazine, Vivienne Rickman ​​captured the themes of the issue beautifully in her enchanting cover image (above). We spoke to Vivienne about exploring women’s special relationship with water and her own journey to immersing herself in every single body of water in Eryri (Snowdonia National Park).

Where did this shot take place? What draws you to this body of water?

This shot was taken on one of my underwater photoshoots in a mountain lake in Eryri (Snowdonia National Park). I choose various different bodies of water for shoots but this one in particular has great clarity throughout most of the year, which is essential for working with the camera underwater. It also has a fantastic array of blue tones that change with the depth. Sorry, no disclosure on the location!

What do you love about the Outdoor Swimmer cover shot? 

The stillness, the silence, the depth, the moment that belongs completely to Sarah (the model).

Tell us the experience of shooting this image – what were conditions like on the day? 

The environmental conditions were a dream: calm, clear and still. The biggest challenge of any shoot is the preparation that goes into it. From ensuring everyone is clear about what they want to wear, and how what they choose can impact the look and feel of an image, to ensuring the kit is ready to enter the water, as well as giving clear concise instructions in and out the water. The camera is heavy and time in the water is not infinite in a cold mountain lake.

How does it feel to capture women swimmers in these locations; to be let into what must be very emotional moments for the people you’re working with?

I’ve spent many years exploring the relationship women in particular have with water. I love how the water makes women feel, no matter how unconfident they feel about their bodies on land they are all graceful, confident movers in the water and in my photographs I invite the viewer to be a voyeur into the inner performance that took place below the surface. 

How did your journey to explore Eryri’s (Snowdonia’s) bodies of water begin, and how has this evolved over the years?

I am someone who embraces change; sometimes a little too much, I admit. I never like doing the same thing twice and exploring all of Eryri’s lakes came about by not wanting to swim in the same lake again. I looked on the map, spotted all the blue bits and well, that was it – I was off. It started off as a bit of a tick list and became something huge – I started exploring entire river systems, anything man-made that contained water (old sheep dips!), explored underground lakes and eventually realised that something which started with a definite end point had now become something that was endless. I no longer feel the need to chase after lakes; now I focus on my creativity. 

Please scroll down for more of Vivienne’s enchanting underwater photography.

Vivienne Rickman offers underwater photography shoots in the glorious mountain lakes of Eryri (Snowdonia). You can still buy a copy of our December issue ‘Magic & Ritual’ or subscribe to Outdoor Swimmer magazine to get more immersive stories delivered straight to your door each month.

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Jo is the Gear Editor for Outdoor Swimmer and also writes news and features for the website. A keen open water swimmer and long-distance walker, she loves seeking out lakes and lidos close to her home in the Mendip Hills, Somerset. She is the author of The Slow Traveller, editor and founder of independent magazine, Ernest, and has previously tested outdoor clothing and kit for BBC Countryfile Magazine, BBC Focus and Ernest Journal.