Photographer Daan Verhoeven is well-adjusted to diving deep underwater. He typically forgoes the use of a scuba tank so he can plunge below 40 meters without cumbersome gear—except for his camera, which he uses to shoot submerged portraits and entrancing images of the typically unseen ocean floor. However, his newest series has a bit more of a playful bent: Verhoeven captured people’s shocked reactions as they dunked into a small pool regulated at 4°C (39°F), just a handful of degrees above freezing.
Verhoeven stumbled upon the nearly-icy setting at the freediving world championships in Turku, Finland. It was located adjacent to the main 50-meter pool, hardly larger than a bathtub. He dared to dip in, but says the effect was staggering: his sinuses froze and his feet started to cramp as he crawled his way out. However, that sense of full-body alarm was soon replaced by “the most wonderful tingle” and the feeling of being “alive and giddy,” plus the inspiration for a portrait project that would catch that shocked reaction on other people’s faces.
The ultimate series reveals all sorts of silly bravery and chilly fun. Many of the participants’ expressions are unwillingly contorted by the cold, as they twist their bodies into acrobatics and surround themselves in bursts of bubbles. You can enjoy a few of our favorites below (while pleasantly warm and dry).
All images via Daan Verhoeven.