Back in March I accompanied the very experienced Dari Divers on a filming dive down to Peleliu to document the spawning aggregation of Sailfin Snapper. The schools at this time of year number in the tens of thousands. We did three divers and were able to witness some incredible numbers.
When it comes to companies that represent me and my work, I can be very picky about who I send material to. After all, I am sending them my artistic content and there needs to be both a level of trust and commitment to the future representation from them in their site design and business plan.
So it’s not often I can say that I have decided to sign up with a new agency and have them represent my Stock Content.
Aerial Entertainment Studios though is one and my initial submissions have impressed them enough to add me to their Exclusive team of artists.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As the worlds oceans become overfished to the point of species extinction and ecosystem collapse, it becomes increasingly important to prioritize sanctuaries and no take zones. Of course those that want to fish will do so illegally regardless of the laws in place. That is why Palau has continued to increase it’s capacity for Policing it’s EEZ and National Marine Sanctuary.
In my capacity as a media producer I can help document this effort to raise awareness.
Now with the latest surveillance operation concluded I thought I would share some photos of the aerial component.
Flying with Pacific Mission Aviation in a Beech Queen Air Excalibur, daily sorties go out and conduct searches over vast tracts of ocean within Palau’s EEZ. The patrol boats are in the area but cannot cover such a huge area in the same time.
Each flight lasts about 8-9 hours and does an expanding square pattern out from a central point determined by visibility and altitude.
All eyes are pealed as we search
My job apart from being an observer is to provide documentary evidence so we employed GoPros attached to key parts of the aircraft.
Part of this is also for promotion and as part of the remit was to include the aircraft in the shot with 3 patrol boats I proposed that we have a GoPro attached to the wing looking back at the aircraft and then have the plane fly just in front of the boats in formation.
We trialled it first with just the housings attached and found the sticky mounts were not strong enough when the aircraft descended in a dive……about 150Knots, the result…we out both the housings. So we took to attaching them a bit more securely with bolts and this time around they survived and did so with very little vibration and rolling shutter issues.
The above video shows how precisely the pilot maneuvered the plane. We set up a WiFi link to an iPad inside the plane so the pilot could see in real time the view from the camera. At one point the plane was close to 70 ft above the water doing over 100mph banking at 45 degrees…..quite a rush.
The end result was two apprehended illegal fishing boats loaded with illegally caught fish.
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.
I’ve been a Media Producer in various guises in Palau for 10 years now, initially as an underwater cameraman with a little bit of topside work thrown in, then diversifying into Time-lapse, run n’ gun, aerials (drone and aircraft), interviews etc.
Palau has changed a lot in those 10 years and this has made me change with it.
Here are 10 things (actually 11) I’ve learned about Media Production in that time:
Now more than ever people have cameras, as a dedicated cameraman I’m being squeezed by the ready availability of cameras. Everyone over the age of 5 seems to have one (gross over generalization, I know). So now more than ever I have to be inventive with my imaging, flexibility and the old cliche of thinking outside the box are more important than ever before. Don’t be afraid to try new techniques, think about a sequence or image you want to acquire, no matter how crazy or impossible it first appears to be, then work out how to do it. Dare to be different.
Fixing services, location scouts, permits, talent, crew, camera assets, camera rentals, customs clearence, vehicles, accomodations…. All things you would rather know about BEFORE you get off the plane for your production’s location shoot.
This is where having an experienced and well connected local crew can save you time and money, ensuring you get what you need to deliver your project on budget and on time.
A location shoot doesn’t have to be stressful, it shouldn’t be stressful if you have done your research and found the right guys on the ground to get things done for you. If things for whatever reason don’t pan out, and sometimes no amount of research will stop it, it’s good to have people there that are focused and can still deliver if the Gods of fate are not smiling.
Pooling your resources is important. Having what you need a phone call away is something that only a well connected and experienced fixer can provide. After all, it’s not what you know it’s who you know. No amount of years filming for this or that company will enable you to get an interview with the President or find you the village elder that can deliver the story clinching quotes.
Lightning Strike Media Productions has at it’s disposal an accumilation of decades of media production, journalism and living in Palau experience. If you are a Producer, DP, camaraman or one man production unit, you should let us help you realise your production goals. We work closely with the Government and NGOs on a variety of projects so have great contacts and experience where it matters.
Our clients have included Discovery Channel, ABC Australia, CNN, Arte, ZDF, Al Jazeera Economist magazine and the BBC along with numerous ad agencies and independant producers.