The pools that capture the dream of summer

Francesca Street, CNNUpdated 17th August 2020
(CNN) — Glistening turquoise water rippling in the sunlight, a pop of color from a coral-colored parasol, a figure lounging on a sunbed.
In Brad Walls' Pools from Above series, the Sydney-based product manager and part-time photographer captures snapshots of swimming pools across Australia and Southeast Asia.
They're inviting, enveloping shots that make the viewer feel like they could dive straight in.
Walls tells CNN Travel his series celebrates the almost universal appeal of pools. The images inspire something between nostalgia and escapism -- a reminder of a summer gone by, perhaps, or the dream of a perfect summer that you hope's still to come.
The aerial shots spotlight each pool's different shape, sense of space and shade of blue.
"Each pool kind of has their own little personality," says Walls, who was inspired in part by "Splash," a book of photography spotlighting swimming pools by Tim Street-Porter and Annie Kelly.
Walls was also influenced by travels across Southeast Asia. While in Bali, the Philippines and Malaysia, his eye was turned by what he describes as the "peculiar" aesthetic attraction of the pools when viewed via his drone from above.
Walls' background as a product designer means his eye is turned by interesting geometry, negative space and empty lines, as well as cerulean water and bright colored props.
The result is a series of aesthetic shots that transport the viewer.

Escapism in a photo

Brad Walls is attacted to interesting shapes and angles. Pictured here: a public pool in Sydney, Australia.
Brad Walls is attacted to interesting shapes and angles. Pictured here: a public pool in Sydney, Australia.
Brad Walls
Walls checks out the spot he wants to photograph beforehand via Google Earth, to get a feel for the location.
Once he's got the drone in the air and set the position, he plays with different angles, crops and altitudes.
He prefers to be relatively close to the pool, to home in on his subject.
Some of the shots are as candid as they appear -- swimmers frontcrawling in lanes, for example. Others may include a model, such as a woman lying artfully with a large sun hat shielding her face from the glare.
Walls explains that he always asks permission of anyone who incidentally ends up in a shot.
And when he chooses to position a person, parasol or towel in focus, he says it can "personalize" the photo.
"It kind of helps people visualize what it could be like to be there," he says.
Lighting is also integral to making the images a success.
"Managing the shadows of these pools is a huge thing," he says. "You really want that crystal blue popping off the screen."
His images also play with lighting to make the pools pop. Pictured here: a private pool in Bali, Indonesia.
His images also play with lighting to make the pools pop. Pictured here: a private pool in Bali, Indonesia.
Brad Walls
Walls' love of intriguing geometric patterns means his images could surprise anyone expecting to see a series of rectangles. He's attracted to more unusual shaped pools -- and other times Walls will crop the shots in a specific way to create a different visual look.
He pinpoints a photo taken at Elements of Byron Resort & Spa, a luxury resort in Australia's Byron Bay.
The photo focuses on one corner of the pool, showcasing immaculate blue water, crisp gray sunbeds and a smattering of tiled surface.
"The way it's shaped, and the way I've cropped it, was just quite unique," says Walls. "And it was just a different way of looking at pools which I'd never really seen before."
It took him around 50 crops to get the exact crop and shape he was after. It remains one of his favorite shots in his series.

Visual vacation

Walls reckons the images provide escapism and provoke nostalgia. Pictured here: a private pool in Bali, Indonesia.
Walls reckons the images provide escapism and provoke nostalgia. Pictured here: a private pool in Bali, Indonesia.
Brad Walls
Walls' dream is to continue photographing pools around the world, ideally visiting California and Palm Springs to put his spin on some of the world's most photographed swimming pools.
In the meantime, Walls is delighted there's a bit of a buzz around his series, which has taken off on his social media at a time when many are confined to their homes and unable to travel in the wake of Covid-19.
Walls is happy if his shots can provide a temporary vacation for the mind.
"There's always a lovely pool somewhere," he says. "And I think it kind of just does take your breath away sometimes."