Berkley White: I had a blast diving today! Marissa from Pegasus Thruster slapped a Thruster scooter on my tank and we flew around the reef for over an hour. I was stunned by the speed you can get from such a small scooter. With its tank mounted design, your hands are free to control the camera. I shot Canon 5D Mark II video with a set of prototype Gates VL24 LED lights and had the Thruster trigger on my left housing handle. What a great new method to shoot video!
This afternoon I gave seminars on macro and wide angle underwater photography. I shared my favorite tips for focus and how it leads to composition, simple exposure techniques, and jumping from auto to manual exposure. I spent quite a bit of time on "where the heck do I put my strobes" and shared my simple rule of thumb regarding strobe placement. The vibe in the room was great and many guests were ready to try new ideas in the morning.
This morning we had some great dives, and I had the opportunity to test out the Sony NEX-5 again, this time using the 16mm pancake lens, fisheye converter, and Nauticam 4.33 inch dome port. This combination delivers an extremely wide perspective, and allows focusing within inches of your subject, both critical factors in underwater photography. The small size of the dome port is great because it allows you to bring in the strobes tight for lighting the subject when doing close focus wide angle photography. Between the 18-55 kit lens and the fisheye, the NEX-5 is ready for most underwater subjects.
In the afternoon, Berkley delivered a crash course in the principals of underwater photography for all of the participants. I’ve learned most of what I know about shooting underwater from Berkley, and I pick up something new every time I see him speak. He’s one of the most generous photographers I’ve ever known, and a real inspiration to all of us on the Shootout staff.
In the evening, we had our first slide show party, and it was fantastic to see everyone’s images projected on the big screen for Berkley and I to give feedback. The guests have already captured some impressive photos and videos. We’re off to a roaring start!
Jennifer Penner: A typical day at the Shootout goes something like this... Early to rise for 7:00AM breakfast. Go diving for two tank boat dives. Back for lunch. Seminars in the afternoon from 2:30PM - 5:00PM. Nightly slide show of participant's submitted images for critique at 7:30PM - 9:00PM, then off to sleep to wake up the next day and do it all over again. However, add in afternoon boat dives, shore diving the house reef 24/7, test driving demo gear and dropping by the help center, better known as 'Go Ask Erin or Sterling', for quick tips in either Lightroom or Photoshop, and you've got more than a full plate on your hands! Wasn't this supposed to be a vacation?!?!?!
Indeed, it is your vacation. So take it fast or take it slow. We encourage everyone to participate only as much as he/she desires.
So if we see you by the dock gearing up for a dive when seminars are in session, we'll give you a big smile and a thumbs up!
Jim Decker: Today is the first official dive boat day. The mantra for this trip is after you set up your gear, take 3 test shots and make sure that all controls are working properly. There have been some people that have not done this. And of course the thing that you don't check is sure to be the one that doesn't work. The last place you want to find out that stuff isn't working is at 80ft on the shipwreck.
Gear Tested Today
I was test shooting the Panasonic LX-5 in the Nauticam housing where I ran into a sea turtle who was being a very good model. The level of detail in the highlights and shadows is excellent. The housing has a threaded front port allowing you to use macro and wide angle lenses. I was using wide lenses and getting close to the subject. The camera has a good focus lock feature that works great for wide angle, and the TTL in manual exposure mode is awesome. I'll be testing the movie mode later on in the week.
Rusty Sanoian: Today is our first day on the boats (unofficially, with the official boat schedule beginning on Monday) and everyone is excited to get in the water! I am looking forward to trying out the new systems and putting all of the demo gear that I can into people’s hands. We had our first slideshow tonight and there were some really good pictures and videos. For many of our guests, this would be their first time editing video or shooting pictures underwater. For one of the guests on my boat today, it was her first ocean dive. It’s incredible to watch guests’ images improve over the course of the week, and I look forward to seeing the winning images at week’s end!
Charlie Mazel & Ross Kniffin:First night dives with Digital Shootout participants. Three divers in the water with us tonight – two for the early shift starting at sunset, one more for the 9:00 late shift. We rigged up their camera gear with NIGHTSEA excitation filters on their strobes and barrier filters on their cameras plus a BlueStar light rigged so they could both spot subjects and use it as a focus light, and of course the filter visor for their mask. We had provided starter photo settings in advance (ISO, f-stop, shutter speed) and these worked out fine. They were all seeing good images on their displays right off the bat, with the usual minor tweaking from subject to subject to adjust for differences in fluorescence intensity.
We saw all the expected photo subjects – corals, giant anemones, lizardfish, and fireworms – plus some less expected – nudibranchs, small but colorful anemones in the sand, some tiny glowing shrimp, and more. Even a mildly fluorescent mantis shrimp just a few feet from the end of the pier. The mantis posed nicely during the first dive but became camera-shy after that, disappearing into his burrow as soon as we showed up. The divers all spent over an hour in the water and came back with a new dive experience and a collection of strikingly colorful images.
Erin Quigley: Everyone's shaking the dust off their gear and their shooting techniques. Perfect timing for the seminars to start, with lots of good photo and video subjects already! Seahorses, frogfish, and hideous/adorable secretary blennies are just a few of the critters spotted on the reef today. The biggest critter is probably my friend Ron, who's 6'4", 240 and shooting a Red One camera in a huge Gates housing. With a demo Pegasus Thruster scooter strapped to his tank, he looks like some kind of aquatic super hero. Did I mention the iridescent turquoise unitard?
Today's video tutorial is on White Balance.
Jean Bruneau: Got wet, just under the resort piers, bumped into a small octopus, a moray eel, a fairly large barracuda and tons of minuscule blennies (my favourite, but oh, so frustrating subject). Well what do you expect, it’s Bonaire! We expect that stuff right at our door step and they deliver!!! My roommate this year is Ed Meyers from Canon USA (Ed doesn’t know I snore...yet), both of us have been doing The Digital Shootout and scuba shows for a while now and he has become more than just an acquaintance over time and is just the coolest guy to have as a roommate, quite the brainy guy when it comes down to the nitty gritty of under the hood mechanics of Canon products (I am a self-confessed Nikon user, at least I am still... I think... maybe, well, let’s see what one week with Ed will amount to!). Speaking of Ed, we opened up the Jean & Ed’s Garage, Your Friendly Photo Service AT NO CHARGE in room 729, your Aquatica and Canon specialists (see our custom vintage door sign), just so that attendees know where to find us to demo our gear.
Ed Meyers: Well, time to inbox the printer & set it up. Got the printer humming along nicely. Note to self: Remove ink before shipping back! After last year's Shootout, I decided to bring my dive skills up into the new Millennium by getting Nitrox certified and actually buy a dive confuzer….I mean computer! First dive of the day was a great relaxing dive to get used to the new computer, Nitrox and even a new regulator hose Larry from my local dive store recommended. All worked out well. I think I may be addicted to Nitrox! At the risk of sounding like a suckup (I won't let it happen again) it is a very rewarding experience to listen to Berkley & Staff talk about making images.
The evening brought an excellent display of everyone's great images and terrific short films. On a lighter note, it's a shame not to have Chuckie around to terrorize. Wonder what he is up to this weekend……
Chuckie Luzier (from sunny Florida): It is nice that you are thinking about your old dive buddy, stuck in HOT HOT central Florida. I am still recovering from knee surgery and have come to the realization that I over do it. At the end of the day I walk like Festus, from Gun Smoke. I was afraid if I tried to dive I would just swim circles around you. Wait, I do that anyway!!!.
The ink is a different story. I understand from hearing from "squeaky" the lizard that when the printer was arriving at the island that there was a little guy and a distinguished older gentleman dressed in matching white suits standing next to a Chrysler Cordova with a cool drink in his hand as the little guy pointed to the arriving case and said, "the ink, the ink" is this true?
I miss being there with all of you, but someone has to pay the bills. Off to visit the military for the next few days, will be bringing back-up if they have a need for underwater imaging. Tell all the folks at Backscatter that I miss them and the great instruction they have to offer. Dive deep, dive often and don't hide the Nitrox under the bed this year.
Chris Parsons: First boat dives of the trip - it's great to be back in Bonaire and hear the divemaster rattle off site names that I fondly remember. Today we visited Klein Bonaire, the uninhabited island offshore surrounded by reef. We had a great group on the boat, and other than a blown HP hose, the first set of dives went off without a hitch. I shot the Canon 7D in a Nauticam (of course) with a Zen 230mm. Part of the time I was working on getting some shots for the Shootout blog that would include some people shots and some gear. I decided to shoot the Canon 10-22 for this. Everyone loves Tokina 10-17, and I also love to shoot that lens, but for me there is just something about shooting rectilinear underwater that I enjoy. The downside is that you can't shoot the mini-domes like the awesome Zen Underwater DP-100; the upside is that you get to use the also awesome DP-230. With the combo of the 230mm dome and the 10-22 lens, I got some gear images that were absolutely tack sharp.
In the afternoon I opted for the bugeye lens, officially the Inon Underwater Micro Semi-Fisheye Relay Lens UFL-MR130 EFS60 (say that 3 times fast). This is definitely a specialty lens; hard to get sharp shots, but the perspective it affords is very unique. I enjoy shooting it a lot, and it sometimes frustrates me to no end, but today I managed to get one keeper, a super tight shot of a black seahorse. It's cool to get that close to something and still get a blue and wide background.
Marissa Wiganowske: With boat assignments receiving their final touches, participants and staff were getting on any boat where space allowed. Divers began seeing the Pegasus Thruster for the first time and the questions and curiosity hit strong. With shooters dialing in their rigs and new purchases, Berkley of Backscatter set up his tank to try out the Thruster. Moving with ease underwater, at a speed that was unexpected, he was able to locate great shooting sites for video. With lowering your air consumption and fatigue level, we were able to set the tone for the what the Pegasus Thruster can allow you to do, including an afternoon session on the house reef testing the Pegasus with various rebreather models.