At first glance, New York artist Kim Keever‘s landscapes look like traditional paintings. But then, on his site, you note aperture, camera, focal length, and shutter speed for each piece. What otherwordly lands does Keever travel to for capturing these stunning shots? No further than his studio, where he creates micro underwater landscapes in water tanks. He then adds materials like paint, plaster, and mylar in the water, hones in the dreamy lighting, and shoots away.

In his own words:

What makes these dioramas unusual is that they are created in a 200 gallon tank filled with water. Though I sometimes build a scene in front of and behind the tank, most of the “action” takes place in the tank with paint injected into the water for cloud formations. I use whatever materials I can find on the street, in stores and on the internet that might add to a perception of reality that is not quite what it seems.

kim keever studio2

kim keever-west-38g-32x48-48x73-56x86-20071

kim keever studio


keever studio shot

Hi-Fructose did a great interview Keever, where he gives insight into how he developed his methods:

My original photography work started in 1991 and involved tabletop models that appeared to be on a planet without an atmosphere. I was satisfied with this look and the concept changed abruptly when I realized I could get a landscape photograph with a more realistic diffused light by submerging everything in a water filled aquarium. It eventually occurred to me that what diffuses the light in the atmosphere is mainly water vapor. Since water vapor acts like a gas, its “liquid state” would be water. So with my 2 feet of water from the front of the aquarium to the back of the aquarium, I must be capturing miles and miles of atmosphere in a compressed scale, that is. This started to make a lot of sense to me because I had read about fractals and how they occur in many aspects of nature. I noticed that as the liquid paint (which I use for clouds) flows around in the tank it often resemble real clouds. This makes yet another suggestion of fractals, where small systems in nature or math mimic large systems or vice versa.

It’s amazing to see the dynamic motion he creates in the tanks before photographing:

Keever also talks about how his engineering background has helped him:

Yes, having an engineering background has certainly been helpful. I can quickly and inexpensively build things that will hold up for as long as I need them to. If you learn anything as an engineer, you learn to analyze problems in the real world and think about how the issues can be resolved.There is plenty of trial and error in what I do. There is a lot of experimentation in terms of moving things around in the tank, changing colored gels on the lights, moving the lights around,and getting streams of paint into the water. I always start off with a general idea of what the piece will be and then let it go its own way so to speak. The way the paint spreads through the water is relatively uncontrollable in any case. But this is really what I like.

Here are 12 more of Keever’s gorgeous shots:

And for more, check out this great mini video profile of Keever, by NewArtTV: