Elena Kalis: Stingray

All photos courtesy of Elena Kalis

One glimpse of the ethereal underwater portraits of Bahamas-based photographer Elena Kalis and you might find yourself questioning your life goals. After all, what's more fulfilling than spending your days with your daughter exploring underwater caves, observing marine wildlife, channeling your inner mermaid and documenting it all?

Elena Kalis: Underwater plunge

Kalis got her start with underwater photography seven years ago, and she's amassed an impressive portfolio of surreal portraiture since then.

While there are many models featured in her portfolio, her primary muse is her teenage daughter, Sacha, who possesses such a natural comfort and affinity for the water that it wouldn't be too surprising if someone mistook her for a mermaid. She has shared the water with all kinds of wondrous marine animals over the years, including dolphins, stingrays, turtles and sharks.

Shooting portraits beneath the waves requires an extra investment in equipment — from underwater camera housings to scuba diving gear — but when the otherworldly refracted light of the water combines with the weightless whimsy of the models, it makes Kalis' hard work seem worthwhile. Don't take my word for it, though — continue below to see more photos!

Elena Kalis: Manatee and Sacha Kalis
Elena Kalis: Plunging in the dark water
Elena Kalis: Stingrays
Elena Kalis: Under the mangroves
Elena Kalis: Underwater bokeh
Elena Kalis: Mermaid
Elena Kalis: Tight roping underwater
Elena Kalis: Dark water
Elena Kalis: Plunging in the water
Elena Kalis: Striped stockings
Elena Kalis: blue ocean
Elena Kalis: Floating
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Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.