Berkley White: All Shootout staff rotate boats to dive with new guests each day. Today's rotation put me back on the Hilma Hooker and gave me another chance to shoot some DSLR video of this awesome wreck. The top deck and interesting features on the Hooker are all in shadow, thus it was great to have the Gates lights to highlight these details. Marissa from Pegasus Thruster was nice enough to buzz around the wreck and made for very fun shooting.
This afternoon Mary Lynn Price gave a great seminar on the basics of Final Cut Pro and a sneak preview on the freshly downloaded Final Cut Pro X. Final Cut can be a monster, but Mary Lynn did a great job at breaking down the basics in easy to understand steps. New this year was Jim Decker on DIY audio in Garageband. He's a musician, and did a great job of showing us how to make our own tunes using built-in loops. I guess I no longer have an excuse not to use original music on all my videos!
The Shootout staff has been working some long hours, kicking off with a meeting at 6:45 am and finishing up dinner close to midnight. I’m typically pretty exhausted by the time the slide show critique wraps up around 9:30 pm, but for the past few nights, I’ve been pushing myself to pack in a couple of night dives after the festivities wind down. One of the real highlights of this trip for me was getting to know Charlie and Ross from NightSea. I can remember being inspired by a portfolio of stunning fluorescent photographs by my friend David Doubilet more than 15 years ago in National Geographic Magazine, and learned this week that Charlie supported him in shooting that story. Charlie and Ross have been providing all of the necessary gear and great advice on how to use it to capture fluorescent images this week, and I’d been seeing the amazing results in the nightly critiques. I wasn’t about to let the opportunity to try out fluorescent photography pass by me just because I was a little tired.
My first fluorescent dives were absolutely surreal. Seeing a green glowing sharptail eel slithering across the rubble by the pier is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in all my years of diving. Mantis shrimp, bristle worms, and anemones all have a completely different look with florescent light. I came up from my first fluorescent dive and immediately got another tank and went back in. My roommate Chris spent over 3 hours on one of his dives. It’s that cool.
Fluorescent diving is only getting started - there is still much to see and discover. I can’t wait to get my own set of NightSea Filters and look for florescence in every location I travel to. NightSea has completely reinvigorated my interest in night diving.
Jennifer Penner: One of the things I love best about the Shootout is encouraging new shooters. It wasn't that long ago that I stood in their shoes...
While I am by no means a teacher, and still have loads to learn about underwater imaging, I can pass on some basic tips that I have learned along the way. It's very rewarding to see a diver interested in underwater photography become an avid shooter in a week's time. And this is the place to fulfill that dream! Easy, warm water diving with endless visibility so your diving can be second nature. Demo gear galore to play with and test drive to find the system that suits you best, with manufacturer's reps and tech support to get you up and running, taking some pretty great images right away.
Jim Decker: Today I presented a seminar on how to use Garageband on the Mac to create your own royalty free music. Royalty free music is essential to anyone who wants to post a video or slideshow on YouTube or the web. If you use commercial music, YouTube will kill the audio from your video. Not good if you made cuts to the beat. Garageband is very easy to use even for the non-musician. I suggest checking it out if you are going to publish your work with music.
Gear tested today
I was shooting the Panasonic LX-5 in video mode today. I have to say that I'm a little less than thrilled with the results. The key to good video above all else is an accurate white balance. I could not get this with the LX-5. The colors just weren't there. Even though the LX-5 has manual exposure control in video, it doesn't matter if the colors are off. While I think that this camera is on the short list to be one of the best compact cameras out there for underwater stills, the video is a little disappointing due to the inacurate white balance. If one was to dedicate a set of super bright video lights to this rig it would have better results, but the summary is that ambient light shooting is not the way to go with this camera.
Rusty Sanoian: Today our boat is headed to the Hilma Hooker, which is a large wreck located in 100 feet of water and has many photo opportunities. I am diving a prototype Nauticam EPL-2 housing with a Panasonic 8mm fisheye lens (16mm Pen’s 2x crop factor). The Nauticam housing has several features that put it a step above the Olympus Pen 2 housing. It has a nicely shaped zoom knob that is easy to turn especially without gloves on versus the Olympus housing which can remove fingertips due to its extreme tightness and sharp edged plastic knob. The Nauticam EPL-2 housing also has a raised “Function” button and when focus is assigned to it, you can easily reach it with your thumb allowing ease of focus versus the Olympus Pen 2 housings buried function button that sits lower than some very close menu buttons making it slightly harder to reach/push.
When we arrived on the wreck there were three boats of divers so finding a spot on the wreck with no divers would prove challenging. The 8mm fisheye lens is a really sweet piece of glass and I was able to get some shots on the bow where there were not a ton of divers. With the Panasonic 8mm and 45mm you have lenses that are comparable to my favorite DSLR lenses the Sigma 15mm and Canon 100mm IS.
Our second dive was at a small pier with some French grunts so I took some verticals with the pier structure and grunts thinking it might work as a good Black and White with some nice contrast. The Micro four thirds cameras are really impressive and for someone looking to upgrade from their point and shoot system, the cost is an effective option without the bulk and expense of a full blown DSLR system.
Charlie Mazel & Ross Kniffin: Several of the Shootout staff have become real fluorescence enthusiasts, or in the words of Backscatter founder Berkley White, ‘NIGHTSEA monsters’. The side effect of their diving late at night after a normal day’s work is showing up late for the morning staff meetings. But their newfound interest combined with the skill and talent they already have is resulting in some fantastic fluorescence images. Here are a few photos from attendees William Stohler and Steve Kopp.
||Dan Baldocchi: Light & Motion has been one of The Digital Shootout's biggest sponsors. In fact, there may not have ever been a Digital Shootout without them. Back in 2001 at the very first DSO, Light & Motion sponsored us with 10 Olympus C-3030 digital cameras and Tetra housings to help get our event off the ground (and into the water!) Every year since, they have supported us with demo gear, on site staff, and great prizes for the contest. Of course this year is no different, they have provided us with demo Sola 600 lights for all the participants to try. Funny thing is, this light has become so popular that many folks have one already. Oh well, that just means there are more lights for the rest of you to try. And who knows, you just might win one in the photo contest :-) Thanks Light & Motion!
Mary Lynn Price: There have been a number of firsts this year in the Digital Shootout video realm, including a number of folks shooting HD video on a variety of DSLRs and compact cameras. We also had the chance to play with 3D GoPro video both topside and underwater!
Jim Decker shot the 3D GoPro rig, and I had the opportunity to tinker with the 3D footage in the new GoPro Cineform Studio software that comes as a free download for use with the GoPro 3D Hero System. The Cineform software makes it really easy to do simple adjustments of the 3D images, and the clips can be very readily edited together in Final Cut Pro afterwards. Lots of fun, and a pretty manageable 3D editing workflow for these cool little cameras.
Another first at this year's Shootout was the opportunity to take a quick tour of the new Final Cut Pro X during the video editing session shortly after the new version was released. Suffice it to say that some very interesting discussions about the pros and cons of the new FCPX software ensued. Another great Digital Shootout event!
Erin Quigley: Fantastic video seminars today - Jim gave a great concise intro for building audio loops in Garage Band, and Mary Lynn nailed an overview of Final Cut Pro, especially apt since the new Final Cut Pro X was just released last night. People are rocking the software! Not only did we bring demos of cameras, housings, scooters, strobes and luminescence technology, we also brought fully functional 30-day demos of Lightroom and Photoshop. People are improving their image editing and organization by leaps and bounds. I've starting getting requests for more advanced techniques in both Photoshop and Lightroom. Dig it!
Jean Bruneau: Hump day! Tomorrow there will be more days behind than ahead for the Shootout. Did Klein Bonaire today and both dives were rewarding. It’s a nice feeling to help out the group with their photography. Everyone is appreciative, and simple things like explaining light fall-off when shooting macro and passing along some tips you've learned along the years, kind of gives you a nice fuzzy feeling, especially at the nightly presentation when you see the results of your coaching on the big screen.
I loaned My Aqua View enhanced viewfinder to someone today so they could try it out, and man oh man! I spent the day without it and pretty much felt as blind as a bat. I had no idea how valuable this piece of gear had become for me. The demo gears are chugging along, the most popular one being the Aquatica AD7000 and the AD7D, for the Nikon D7000 and Canon 7D respectively. But I have feeling that will change once they see the underwater panorama taken today by Randy with the Aquatica AN-5, our housing for the extraordinary small Sony NEX-5, it does awesome video as well as panorama on the fly and actually stitches all the pictures before saving them on the card. It’s so simple that its almost sinful!
Footnote: It's pouring rain right now and it’s hilarious to see a bunch of divers actually (who paid good money to get in the water here) huddling, under porches and gazebos, from the very element they were immersed in moments ago. We are a funny species! Cheers!
Ed Meyers: At the risk of hearing Chuckie's comments, I had dreams last night about color balance. It was quite odd, I was floating around in CIELAB space looking for a chroma free place to land… What can I say, I dream in geek! I decided to take out my favorite Digital Gray card from RM Imaging and see how the sandy bottom works as a gray reference. The cool thing about this gray card is that it's perfectly neutral across basically all of the visible colors. It's waterproof too!
Shooting the gray card works pretty well to set an in-camera white balance, but it's much easier for still photographs to do a click balance afterwards and apply it to other images shot in the same sort of light. When comparing the card to sand, it's interesting to find that there is a color spread of about 5% on the whitest sand I could find. This isn't so bad and yields a pretty good result. However, if clicking on the more yellower sand (still looks mostly white) there is a more noticeable difference, which is enough to change the color rendering enough that you can easily see the color shift in your images.
So, lesson learned today was that in controllable situations, a proper gray card, or really white sand works well, but if the sand is more, well….sand color, then it might be an OK last resort and a little tweaking to the color might be needed.
Chris Parsons: It's the bugeye lens for me again today. I'm getting better with this lens and think I can continue to push it and get some great images with it. Today, I got a spotted moray that really shows the power of this lens - no other currently available lens could get that perspective. I've been working on getting the sharpness up to an acceptable level. Take a look for yourself and let me know what you think.
One of our divers here just got her certification a month ago. Miranda is here with her parents, who are both u/w shooters, and Miranda is an experienced shooter on land. Well, she isn't letting her lack of u/w experience slow her down. She's been shooting the Nauticam T2i and E-PL2 housings and getting excellent images. She showed off a shot of a squirrelfish swimming head-on towards the camera. This might sound easy, but let me tell you from my experience of shooting hundreds of these little fish - they don't like the camera pointed at them and usually give you the classic fish butt shot. She not only managed to get a head-on shot, but it was exposed perfectly and lit beautifully. Well done Miranda!
Each night during the week, we are getting treated to a slideshow where we get to see what people are working on and there have already been some incredible images hitting that screen. I'm very much looking forward to the final night where we'll get to see the best images in each class.
Speaking of E-PL2, this is a brand new housing for us that arrived just a couple of days before I left for the Shootout. The housing is excellent and really provides a solid upgrade from the OEM housing for E-PL2 shooters. Since you can use Panasonic lenses with this camera, that opens up a new world of lens choices for E-PL2 - one example being the excellent Panasonic 8mm fisheye. I shot this combination on a quick test dive before putting the E-PL2 into our demo gear fleet, and I wasn't disappointed. The 8mm focuses very closely, which in combination with the very small dome port, makes close-focus-wide-angle shooting very fun and easy.
The other Olympus camera we are offering to demo here is the Olympus XZ-1. This is a compact camera in the same class as LX5, and it matches it feature for feature. One thing I like about XZ-1 is the command dial that's wrapped around the front of the lens. That, along with the bright f/1.8 zoom lens make this a very compelling camera. The housing is sculpted nicely and looks great. I was really hoping to be able to get some more test shots with the XZ-1 but I can't get my hands on it as it is going out as demo gear on pretty much every dive.
Marissa Wiganowske: Today’s demo dives were filled with nothing but smiles and laughter, an energy with just a simple joy that can sometimes only be viewed or shared underwater. Family were coming and taking cameras from one another because they had Thrusted ahead and saw a shot they wanted. Friends were sharing high speeds that sent them into the sand, resulting in a constantly flooded mask. Divers even hung out on the dock into the early evening to do another dive without their cameras, all because they wanted the freedom to fly underwater.
With the Thrusters in high demand, I had a few more sent over earlier in the week. They're still not here, but I have a feeling there will be some happy divers on the island if they arrive after I leave.