Underwater photography workshops in Palau

Underwater photography is a common art form these days with cameras readily available for reasonable prices. A large proportion of divers now have housed cameras ranging from a cell phone to the latest flagship behemoth “HMS Nikon”.

Underwater photography is art with a physical challenge too. The best photographer on land could be terrible underwater if they’re not a competent diver.

Underwater photography
Sunbursts were the flavor of the day

When everyone has a camera and is “happy” with what they’re doing it’s nice to be asked by someone to help them improve their shooting.

Underwater Photography courses in Palau
A large school of fish offers the creative underwater photographer a multitude of imaging options.

On this occasion my student wanted help across a range of subjects. Here’s a run down of things we covered:

Many issues that lead to dissatisfaction in underwater photographers are down to the inherent intelligence of cameras. Especially with point and shoots and the more automatic varieties. What I mean is that cameras are often thinking too much and because they are mostly not designed with underwater photography in mind, they can make it more of a challenge to get the best shots out of them. Auto focus is a big one for this.

Once you find a cooperative subject shoot it in as many ways as possible

Dissecting what the camera is trying to do for you is the first step. Turning off “intelligent” facets of it’s character often requires reading the manual and a little experimentation. Get to know your camera.

Next comes the basic shutter speed/ aperture/ISO balancing knowledge that all photographers worth their salt should have a rudimentary understanding of. It’s not always available but being able to control them in the camera is so much more rewarding….. and challenging…. but that’s what I’m here for.

Subjects that don’t move too much and will allow you multiple attempts are good to start with

What will absolutely ruin a good underwater photography dive is when the housing doesn’t perform so I always advocate spending as much time as you can on preparation. All it takes is one o-ring or one connecting rod out of place and you have a camera that won’t work on the dive or worse is flooded. Be prepared.

After that we have the lighting and strobe positioning that is so important underwater. Correct or incorrect strobe use will make or break a shot, so developing the mindset of creating a studio  and moving your lights within it and around your subject will reap great rewards.

Often the student photographer has a certain shot in mind or wants to improve on certain elements of underwater images in general. This time we were going for sun beams through the water as a background to our perfectly placed subject so we focused on that when possible.

Spending the safety stop shooting sun bursts and beams

Overall, it comes down to patience and practice, but with an hour of preparation and coaching before the dives we had the set up and basic operations down, after a few trial shots underwater on stationary objects we have a better feel for strobe power and ball park exposure settings. Then after that it’s about looking for subjects and having fun. A few over the shoulder views by me allows a real time feedback for the student and quick adjustments when necessary. Between dives a more in depth discussion as we review results.

Certainly a faster learning curve than the old slide film days………

Contact Lightning Strikes for availability of courses or workshops, individuals or groups are welcome.

 

Cheers

 

Richard

 

Using the 6K RED Epic Dragon in Palau

Filming Manta aggregations in the north of Palau for a cinematic documentary with the RED Dragon. (image: Pete Zuccarini)

We went up north to film the Manta aggregation that occurs at this time of year. I’ve been using a RED Epic Dragon with the Arri 8mm prime lens on front for the widest, closest images possible and we were not disappointed. The footage is for a cinematic documentary on Palau probably for release in the next year.

 

Sailfin Snapper spawning aggregations

It’s the time of year again to be diving Peleliu. Both the Sailfin Snapper (Symphorichthys spilurus) and Red Snapper (Lutjanus bohar) are starting to aggregate along the east reefs of Yellow Wall and Peleliu Express to the corner.

For those intrepid divers, early morning dives just before the full moon will find them spawning in their thousands. Also making an appearance are the predators such as Bull Sharks and Oceanic Black Tips.

Here’s a quick clip of a Sailfin Snapper aggregation I shot this week, it’s still early in the season, maybe 3000 fish here but more than 10,000 likely later.

 

Watch this space for updates as we return to document this impressive natural event.

 

Cheers

 

Richard

 

New promo film for Dive shop and cinemascope 2.35:1 editing

Hi,

over the last few months I’ve been diving with Dari Divers here in Palau. They want to develop their website using my photos and films to show the range of their diving, as well as the new sites they are discovering, together with all the cool fish, sharks and Mantas at these new locations. They asked me to put together a short film of the regular features such as the spawning dives, aggregations, Blue Corner, Blue Holes, German Channel etc to begin with, which you can see here:

All the underwater stuff is shot on the Canon 5D3 running Magic Lantern  capable of outputting 4K Raw footage.

Aerials were shot using the DJI Inspire 1, hand launched and caught from the bow of the boat during the surface intervals.

For the editing I looked at a different aspect ratio this time. 2.35:1 instead of the usual 16:9 to see how it holds up over time and initially I like the look. To me it makes the screen bigger even though it’s actually smaller…..

Let me know in the comments section below what you think to the film and whether or not the 2.35:1 ratio works for this sort of thing.

Watch out for more media coming from this new collaboration as well as views from new as yet undisclosed sites around Palau.

 

Cheers

Richard

 

How to become an underwater cameraman

How to become an underwater cameraman (and make a living from it)

Underwater Cameraman Palau
Underwater filmmaking needs you! Photo courtesy Eric Goh

I get a lot of e-mails asking me how I became an underwater cameraman or how I’ve got to where I am as media producer, so I thought I’d put together a short blog to help all those aspiring shooters.

There is no one course or definite route. The more successful underwater camera operators you meet the more varied the stories  you’ll get. For the sake of this, here are some recurring similarities.

Most of it may seem like common sense but hopefully my contribution offers you some insight.

Underwater camera
Waiting for the sun to set before filming a Grouper spawning aggregation, Little Cayman, circa 2005

Continue reading “How to become an underwater cameraman”

Why you should dive Balicasag Island

Should you find yourself in the Bohol/Panglau region of the Philippines and you’re a diver, there is a place I can thoroughly recommend. Even if you’re not a diver, this place could possibly persuade you to be one.
Every dive shop in the area offers trips there, because it is so good, it’s unavoidable in fact I would say. As soon as the weather is good enough they said, “we’ll go”.
So, with a recommendation like that and a shop like Philippine Fun Divers providing me with good rental gear, a great boat taking me there and expert guides I couldn’t really refuse.
Good thing I didn’t, because even though the weather was still a bit….”marginal” the diving was anything but that.
Once the Banka boat had approached the low lying sand fringed island, myself and the 2 other divers got geared up, had a briefing from our DM Greg and we got in. Almost immediately I’m seeing stuff I’d not seen before or multitudes of critters I see rarely. One of my favorites is the little Tobies or Pufferfish.

The little Tobies and Pufferfish often have highly reflective markings that when hit by your lights really shine.

Continue reading “Why you should dive Balicasag Island”