Jimi Smith is probably one of the most popular photographers on the planet that you never even heard of. That is of course, you happen to be in the pool industry. In which case, his name is immediately associated with stunning photographs of over the top inground swimming pools.
Although Jimi has only been shooting pools for less than 5 years, his reputation has already begun to grow. His eye for detail and ability to stage a pool has led him to all points of the globe. Jimi’s talent as a professional high end photographer of luxury inground pools is now well established.
How Jimi Smith Got Started Photographing Pools
We had the opportunity to discuss pool photography and chat with Smith for over an hour. In the course of our discussion we learned alot of interesting things about this up and coming star in the pool industry. His journey as one of the world’s leading pool photographers began roughly five years ago while he was living in the Virgin Islands.
“At the time, I was working in a scuba shop. I had studied photography in school. Whenever I’d get off work at the dive shop, I’d head down to the local beaches and take photographs on my off hours. Before long, I began selling photos for postcards and got really good at it.” Smith explained.
“I started to build up a name as a photographer and built a website that year. I’d post my photos to social media and was building up quite a big following.” Smith continued. “It was at this point in time, I got a Facebook message from a buddy of mine from high school named Shane Leblanc of Selective Designs who was making quite a name for himself as a traveling design consultant.”
“Shane Leblanc asked me, are you willing to travel to shoot photographs? Next thing I knew, I’m on a flight with my gear. I wound up shooting 4 pools in 3 days. That was it, I was hooked.”JIMI SMITH – luxury Pool photographer
“I had no clue pools like this even existed in peoples backyards. Shane introduced me to that whole world. He had gone through the Genesis program and was doing really incredible jobs. He’s definitely at the top of his game right now.” said Smith.
Word of Mouth Lead to a new Career
As often happens in the pool industry, word began to get around about Smith’s abilities. That year Leblanc entered Smith’s photographs in several design competitions and won numerous awards including the APSP International Award of Excellence – Gold award. Pool Builders were impressed at the caliber of the photos Leblanc had submitted and Shane was more than happy to recommend his friend Smith as the photographer who had so expertly captured his amazing designs.
That was a watershed moment for Smith’s career and that is when it truly began to take off. From that moment on, Smith began to receive requests from all over the country from some of the most cutting edge and well-known builders in the swimming pool industry. It was a far cry from what he had been doing only a few years prior. Smith says he still can’t believe how fortunate he is to be able to do what he truly enjoys doing.
“I fly all over the world now for work. When I’m traveling people often ask me what I do for a living. I just take out my cellphone and show them photos of the pools I’ve photographed. ” said Smith.
Smith is an unassuming and incredibly talented young man. He’s a veritable open book and fountain of knowledge when it comes to photographing pools. Jimi took the time to share a few insider pro tips with our readers to help them make their own photos stand out. He routinely consults with pool builders that want amazing photographs of their work but may not have a pro photographer on staff to shoot their pools.
Advice From Jimi Smith on how to take amazing Pool Photos…
“More often than not, pool builders want to photograph the completed project before it’s truly ready. Ideally, you want to wait until the landscaping is completed, not just the swimming pool.”JIMI SMITH – PROFESSIONAL POOL PHOTOGRAPHER
Smith also suggested until waiting for the right time of year to photograph the pool area. “A large percentage of what makes my photos so appealing is also the house and other outdoor living amenities. Waiting until the landscaping, outdoor kitchen or pergola is completed can really help fill in the negative space and adds a big impact to the photos.” said Smith.
Taking world class Pool Photos is all about timing…
“I’d also advise pool builders not to wait too long until after the backyard is completed before taking photographs. You want the backyard to look pristine, and unlived in for these types of photos.” said Smith who added that he often spends time positioning furniture and setting lighting to properly stage his shots.
He advises to take multiple shots and from different angles of the pool to highlight the features and amenities of the backyard. “Quite often, I see pools photographed, where it looks like the photographer was trying to cram in the entire backyard into a single shot. Your eye doesn’t know what to look at first.”
Smith, who has an incredible eye for detail also has an in-depth knowledge of operating a pool. Quite frequently he performs unassisted out in the field. He’s become quite capable of operating all of the equipment, water and fire features, automation, and lighting in the pool. Smith said that he does this on nearly every job he shoots. He offers a key piece of advice here for anyone trying to photograph a pool at night.
“The golden hour is right before sunset.” said Smith. “It’s during this key timeframe that you’re able to get great shots of all the details of the pool. You can still see the led lighting in the pool if you turn it on. You also get some ambient light from the setting sun which helps to create these dramatic layered looks.”
Since Jimi Smith has seen so many luxury pools over the years, he has developed a critical eye for quality of workmanship as well as design. Smith says he can often spot quality construction when he attempts to level his camera tripod. “Frequently on a high end build, I will hardly have to adjust the level at all on my tripod. The pool area on some of these jobs I’ve photographed is so perfectly level that I barely have to make any adjustments.”
Working with Jimi Smith
One of the major reasons that Jimi gets so much work in the pool industry has to do with his prowess and overall knowledge of how inground swimming pools function and operate. Over the years, Smith has spent considerable time upping his pool IQ. His comfort level in operating all the components and features of even the most sophisticated luxury pools is only matched by his abilities behind the camera. Consequently, he’s become a favorite of major pool builders across the country who have come to rely on his particular skillset.
Seeing as he works with so many builders, we asked Jimi a question he confessed he gets alot… “Who is your favorite pool builder?”
“It’s hard to pick and single out one builder. I’ve shot for so many great designers.” said Smith. “Randy Angell is one designer out of Dallas, TX whose work I really appreciate. He’s a big believer of ‘form follows function’ which appeals to my personal aesthetic.”
We asked Jimi which designer he hasn’t worked with yet but is eager to shoot for. “Kirk Bianchi is one designer I’d love to work with. He’s out of Scottsdale, AZ but has spent alot of time overseas in Japan. His designs are exquisitely unique and have an Asian influence that you don’t find very often in the pool industry.”
It was definitely a privilege to talk photography with Jimi and you can certainly see for yourself why his skills are in such high demand these days. Interested in hiring Jimi to photograph your pools? Check out his website https://www.jimismithphotography.com/ or follow him on Instagram @jimismithphotography.
Photo Credits: Jimi Smith Photography
Pool Designer Credits: Danny Wang, Randy Angell, Ryan Hughes
A Look Back at Ocean Dome
Now only a footnote in the history of pools, once the largest indoor waterpark in the world.
One of the most incredible pools that I have ever seen is sadly a thing of the past, but there’s no reason why we can’t take a look back at the engineering marvel that was Seagaia Ocean Dome. This amazing indoor pool and artificial beach was located in Miyazaki, Japan.
Unfortunately the park was closed back in 2007 and ultimately demolished in 2017. Your opportunity to visit this one of a kind experience is long gone, but it’s lasting effect as one of the most phenomenal wave riding waterparks in the world has not yet faded from memory.
This mammoth structure was the artificial wave equivalent of Pipeline, which was capable of producing powerful waves. And, based on video clips from the time, it would be on par with modern-day BSR Surf Resort in Waco, TX in terms of the fun it delivered to wave riding enthusiasts.
The artificial beach featured 12,000 square meters of simulated sandy beach, crushed from 600 tons of stones; and an “ocean” six times the size of an Olympic pool, filled with 13,500 tons of unsalted, chlorinated water kept hot at 82 degrees.
At one time Ocean Dome was considered a destination for world travelers receiving an annual 1.25 million visitors a year. There was even an “active” volcano that erupted every 15 minutes and spewed fire once an hour. The structure was once listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the largest indoor pool in the world.
Ocean Dome was closed in 2007 for renovations to the resort and was later purchased by Ripplewood, an American private-equity fund. Sadly the park was never to be reopened and wound up being demolished in 2017.
Largest Indoor Waterpark In The World: Tropical Islands Resort
While a thing of the past, the project is reminiscent of Tropical Islands Resort an indoor pool boasting Europe’s largest tropical holiday and current title holder for the world record Ocean Dome used to hold.
Can’t get to Germany? That’s okay, you can still check out Kalahari the largest indoor waterpark in the United States located in the Poconos in Pennsylvania featuring a wave pool, lazy river, wave coaster, and funnel ride.
Know of some incredible indoor waterparks we should check out? Tell us your favorite ones in the comments below.
One on One With Rick Chafey of Ask The Masters
Rick Chafey is one of the top pool designers in the country and the co-owner of two design / build firms – Red Rock Pools & Spas & Red Rock Contractors, out of Chandler, AZ. He’s also an instructor at Watershape University as well as the co-host of Ask The Masters, a popular podcast that focuses on education and the more technical aspects of what folks who build and design pools for a living, really want to learn about.
When it comes to swimming pools, Chafey is a fountain of knowledge. We had the opportunity to sit and talk shop with one of the top designers in the industry. Chafey first got his start around 25 years ago as a general contractor and around 5 years in, got into the realm of pool design and construction. “Early on we weren’t a design firm much at all,” said Chafey, “We pretended to be designers like a lot of pool builders do early on, without any real knowledge or education about what we were doing. We made pretty pictures and hoped and got our subcontractors to help us stumble through being a builder.”
The Path Towards Becoming a Leading Design / Build Firm
As Chafey progressed in his career, he began acquiring an education and expanding his acumen eventually gaining an in-depth understanding of the way pools are designed and built. Chafey began building a team that would eventually comprise 40 employees that handle design / build construction projects throughout Arizona as well as the rest of the country and overseas. His design team consisting of 2 licensed architects, a civil engineer, and 3 drafters comprise the consulting arm of Red Rock Pools & Spas. This forward-thinking expansion has allowed him to provide services throughout the industry for other builders both locally and abroad and has helped propel him as one of the leading design consultants in the swimming pool industry.
As one of the top design / build firms in the country, his firm is frequently brought in to consult on some of the most over the top and elaborate pool construction projects in the world. A frequent collaborator with some of the elite names in the pool industry, Chafey has developed a wide network of experts whom he can call on to help assist with various aspects of a given project.
An $8 Million Dollar Resort Style Pool Is Par For The Course
Currently, Chafey and company are working on an $8 million dollar backyard resort style luxury pool complete with its very own shark tank. “Structurally and cosmetically, we can figure that part out,” said Chafey, “but then we need to get involved in safety, and life support for the fish, and access and all those parts.”
“It’s got a flowrider surf machine, full size commercial 1,000 hp surfing machine. This one’s, unique because it’s the second one they built that’s designed on the same platform as an inflatable paddle board or a rigid inflatable boat.” said Chafey.
In describing the unique complexity of the project, Chafey explained how the system will work. “We can actually deflate the system and then we’ve got a transversing hydraulic deck system that closes it off from view and UV rays. When it’s not in use – it won’t look like a giant inflatable jump toy in the backyard.” Twinscape USA will provide the expertise for that application, said Chafey
“It’s also got a lazy river tied to it,” Chafey explained, “The main pool section has big grottos and underground water features. To top it off, its got a go-cart track tunnel that goes all the way underneath part of that river for a few hundred feet, then comes back out and back to grade. Soup to nuts, that project adds up to 50 different small design projects and we’ve got 6 different consultants to try and put all that together.”
Did Someone Say Shark Tank?
This over the top resort style luxury pool has an incredible amount of moving parts and degree of difficulty rarely found in most residential pools. Swimmers can splash around in the swimming pool while viewing through a shared acrylic wall at a 30,000 gallon shark tank on the other side. To add to the complexity, the shark tank has to be load bearing and support several portions of the home. The remarkably intricate project has been years in the making and has included the collaboration of a different teams of individual consultants. Chafey was brought in by the general contractor early in the game before there was even a budget allocated to the project.
Putting The Best Team Out On The Field
Ultimately, Chafey explained that it’s his ability to organize teams and orchestrate the various moving parts of a given project that help differentiate his firm as an elite design / build firm in the pool world. Chafey’s project portfolio has grown substantially over the last two decades, helping him achieve recognition with both some of the most discerning homeowners as well as his peers within the industry.
Chafey had some advice for aspiring pool builders looking to get into the realm of high end custom luxury pools, “Part of it is you have to start building a body of work to where you start making those connections and getting the requests,” said Chafey, “That’s just something you have to build up over time. As long as your concepts and creativity are getting peoples admiration and you’re able to pull them off, you can slowly build that body of work to where those projects are getting bigger.”
Trying to advance to higher end pool projects before going through the learning process is a recipe for disaster insisted Chafey who said, “It takes time, no matter how much you try to accelerate your capacity, it takes time and opportunity and then you have to be able to pull them all off throughout that process.” Rick’s own path took him a while to begin to receive the notoriety and recognition as an elite design / build firm. “For us, over the last 25 years, we’ve built a lot of relationships with design teams and general contractors.” said Chafey.
When it comes to being one of the elite pool design firms in the country, Chafey said that lately he finds himself in a small field of competition when it comes to the firms that are able to tackle projects of the size, scope and complexity his firm takes on. His ability to scale Red Rock’s consulting services to other builders has dramatically increased the number of projects they find themselves involved in.
Co-Owner — Brett Blauvelt
Lead Designer – Jake Lupe
Field Superintendents – Jordan Walker and Ken Kauffmann
Project GC Regal American Homes
Aquatic Glazing International
Aquatic Exhibits International
This certainly isn’t the first large scale project that Chafey has been involved with. Widely regarded in the pool industry for his expertise, he’s a full time functioning contractor not just an educator. Given his role on Ask The Masters, it’s only natural that his own work is often critiqued and analyzed. Having that kind of visibility comes with a price which means that all of his projects are under the microscope and scrutiny of the rest of the industry. As a leading consultant Chafey is often closely studied by his peers and as an educator even more so by folks looking to benefit from his wealth of knowledge.
Rick Chafey on his move to Watershape University
Early on, Chafey placed a premium on education, becoming a staff member at Genesis where he was an instructor and Chaired the Advisory Board for several years before eventually joining Watershape University. Chafey is now an instructor and is helping to shape the curriculum for the new education program with Dave Penton, Dave Peterson, Michael Nance, and Bill Drakeley along with other well-known previous Genesis faculty.
“When it comes to education, the main thing is to get involved, regardless if it’s Genesis, Watershape University, PHTA or whatever program you choose.” said Chafey, who said that he feels that Watershape University gives him to opportunity to adapt the new program towards more high end pools rather than production pools.
Chafey explained that the new program will provide a complete textbook level class that features distance learning options as an alternative to the costly in-person events that attendees typically spend thousands of dollars to attend in addition to the courses they are taking.
“Everyone learns better face to face. However that’s also what has been holding us back as a group because we were only teaching at certain locations at certain times a year, it made it very difficult and much more expensive for people to travel.” said Chafey, “If you’re on the east coast and have to travel to Las Vegas and spend 4 or 5 nights in a hotel and spend money on airfare and meals and pay for education… it’s not always practical. What Watershape University is currently doing is putting as much online as possible, hour by hour – each segment can be done online on your own time.”
“The intensity and requirement of doing our hydraulics class is pretty thorough. Dave Petersons class on hydraulics is the best class any pool builder in the entire country can ever take. If you’re a guy like me that wants to do higher level work, once you start taking a class like that you will get sucked in and realize how much you didn’t know and how much you have to learn.” said Chafey as he was describing what Watershape University brings to the table in terms of it’s offering.
After a long hiatus due to Covid-19, the program plans to have a big presence at the International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo in Dallas in November. Chafey who co-hosts the Ask The Masters Podcast with Dave Penton, says he plans close integration between the two online platforms.
Get to know Rick & Dave on the Ask The Masters Podcast. We feature their content in the Pool Magazine app and you can also find them on Facebook where they host one of the most active groups in the pool industry consisting of thousands of members.
Listen to our entire interview with Rick Chafey on the Pool Magazine podcast.
Deepest Pool In The World – Deep Dive Dubai
Visitors can free dive and explore an entire sunken city at Deeb Dive Dubai, the world’s deepest swimming pool.
The world’s tallest building and the world’s largest mall are already located in Dubai. The world famous city now has the distinction of having the world’s deepest swimming pool.
Deep Dive Dubai debuted on July 7, barely ten days after Guinness World Records designated it the world’s deepest dive pool.
The new indoor pool has a depth of about 200 feet and a capacity of nearly 3.7 million gallons of water. It also has a large underwater attraction that looks like a “sunken city” that divers can explore on their own or with a guide.
Explore a Sunken City in Deep Dive Dubai
Dubai’s new vertical diving pool contains the vestiges of a forgotten sunken city, with graffiti, collapsing structures, and a big photo of Marilyn Monroe hanging on the wall. There’s an arcade featuring a classic Pac-Man game, foosball, and a pool table, as well as an apartment complex and library.
Guinness World Records has certified the pool as the world’s deepest swimming pool for diving. It holds the equivalent of six Olympic swimming pools. According to Deep Dive Dubai, it is 15 meters deeper than any other dive site.
According to the firm, the facility, which is shaped like an oyster in honor of the UAE’s pearl diving legacy, is also the region’s largest underwater film studio.
Beginners can dive to a depth of 40 feet, while certified divers can explore the entire pool with or without a guide. Certified divers can also “free dive” while attached to a fixed ascent line, which means diving without a tank and relying solely on their own air. There are also courses offered to educate a variety of new talents.
Bookings are only accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Will Smith, an actor and rapper, documented his visit in an Instagram post that has received over 3 million likes in just four days.
Deep Dive Dubai’s pool is 196 feet deep and contains 3.7 million gallons of freshwater, roughly the same equivalent of six Olympic-sized swimming pools. Scuba diving and freediving are two ways for swimmers to explore the pool. The pool also boasts 56 underwater cameras monitoring the sunken city.
The pool breaks the world record of 147 feet set by Poland’s Deepspot pool. According to the website, due to the scale of the underwater city, numerous dives are required to thoroughly explore it.
The new Deep Dive Dubai pool is regulated at a pleasant 86 degrees Fahrenheit, which should make exploring the depths of the pool a comfortable experience for divers. The sheer magnitude of this new attraction, has captured the world’s imagination and is creating a long waiting list of visitors eager to try out the new pool.
Featured Photo Credit: Antonie Robertson/ The National
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