Berkley White:The first days of diving are always about relearning skills and dialing in your gear. We started the first full day of the Shootout with nice dives off the wall. Rusty and I fired up the scooters and played in the deep sand cuts on the reef walls. Up in the shallows, the groupers begged for attention and followed us like puppy dogs.
After the morning dives, I gave afternoon seminars on macro and wide angle techniques. We discussed focus and exposure techniques and most of the group are dedicating the week to dialing in their wide angle skills. The reefs here at Little Cayman are a perfect classroom for wide angle!
I was very impressed with the images the group shared at our first bar party. We discussed getting closer, choosing better backgrounds, controlling ambient light, and strobe placement. It's so nice to be literally immersed in photo and video for a week. Eat, sleep, dive, shoot! This is going to be a great week!
Doug Sloss: What a great start to the Shootout on Day 1. Everyone was loaded with demo gear and tested personal rigs for two awesome dives this morning out on the wall. Sola dive lights, made by Light and Motion, seemed to be used for everything from focus lights to the perfect model light. Participants loved testing out the lights on both dives and the afternoon excursion too. It's great to see participants getting more and more confident with wide angle photography and it's only day one. Sting rays, a nurse shark and 4 turtles were a highlight for many in the water with lots of little stuff too. Back at the resort, class officially started with Berkley giving two great presentations on macro and wide angle techniques to take participants to the next level. Tomorrow we get everyone up to speed on Lightroom and everyone is excited to learn the program! A rum punch party tonight, and our first critiquing session for guests should make for a fun and interesting evening. Tomorrow off to the Tibbetts!
As an underwater photographer, you NEVER want to use the words "camera" and "surgery" in the same sentence. I, unfortunately, had a situation my first day diving that required camera surgery. Please forgive my lack of technical jargon as my "newbie" status has only slightly elevated to "less newbie" as I describe my predicament… the mirror inside the camera body came unglued from the plate it was mounted on. None of the photo pros had EVER seen anything like it before.
Was my situation dire? Would I be able to shoot anything during the week? If my camera was toast, would there be any demo gear I could use? Berkley White to the rescue! With his handy-dandy tool kit and some glue, he painstakingly and successfully managed to affix the mirror back onto its mounting, with no negative impact to the images. Crisis adverted and Berkley saved my week!
Jim Decker: Today I was testing the Aquatica T2i housing for the first time. I was shooting my favorite wide lens, the Tokina 10-17, with the new 4 inch dome port from Aquatica. The 4 inch dome port is great for getting in tight for close focus wide angle. It also allows you to position the strobes very close where other larger domes wouldn't let you get them in that tight. There is a trade off however. That is smaller domes don't have very good corner sharpness compared to larger domes. And a dome this small pretty much
only works with some fisheye lenses. It is definitely a specialty dome, but certainly makes for easier packing.
The housing has some very good ergonomic features. Major buttons such as the set and record are oversized and very easy to reach. There is a lever for ISO so you don't have to take your right hand off the housing to make an ISO change. The housing is quite small, but this combined with a 4 inch dome, tends to make the system negatively buoyant. Adding a few arm floats fixes this easily.
Tomorrow I'm shooting video with the Rebel.
Rusty Sanoian: The wind picked up today, and we had some pretty good chop on the surface. Our first dive site was called Sarah's Set and had a nice sand channel that separated a small wall before the Bloody Bay Wall which drops to over 6000ft. In the sand channel, we saw turtles, rays and some large amber jacks feeding on smaller fish.
Today, Berkley and I tested and filmed with the new Bluewater Camera Scooter. It is based on a Dive Xtras Sierra Scooter and has a removable nose with a built in camera tray that allows you to use DSLRs like the Nikon D300s, Canon 5D MKII or Sony video cameras like the CX550 and XR550. This site had some really tight cracks and canyons and we zipped up and down like a pair of fighter pilots hugging the terrain. Typically with a housing mounted to a scooter, you are limited with places you can film especially if there are restrictions. The Bluewater Scooter Camera's slim profile and agility make it an ideal tool for cave and wreck diving or if you don't want to hassle with a separate housing when you travel with your scooter. We will have some video posted later in the week so be sure to check it out!
Our second dive site had a pair of Nassau groupers that our guides said pretty much demanded you pet them when you dropped down. Sure enough, I had just entered the water and was at 20ft when "mini me" swam right up to my mask for her tummy rub. The two of them followed us the whole dive bouncing back and forth between divers. It felt like I was at home with my dogs!
We had a great day today, good diving, good people and a great location! I am really psyched about tomorrow's dive as we are headed to the wreck of the Russian Frigate M.V. Keith Tibbetts with our scooters!
Dan Baldocchi: After two amazing morning dives today, we were feeling pretty good. We took that good energy into the classroom where we began the underwater video portion of the workshop. We've got a great group of shooters this year, eager to learn more and start producing underwater videos right away.
I started off the session with an in-depth seminar on what I like to call the "core" underwater video techniques. We talked about the use of manual white balance and the color correction filter, AF and focus lock, shooting with the sun at your back, getting close and holding still. We also covered a pre-dive set up checklist and talked about the "gotchas" that tend to bite us in the butt, like the proper camera settings, bubbles on your lens or smudges on your filter. These are the little things that you need to be thinking about on the dive to capture the best quality images. Since there are only so many dives we can do this week, we need to make the most of them.
Mary Lynn then took over with a session on basic capture and review. With these new digital high def cameras and powerful laptop computers, you can really edit quality video anywhere, even on Little Cayman. Apple MacBook Pro computers and iMovie seemed to be the most popular systems and she got everyone on the right track and ready to edit on day one.
This only left us a little time for image review and critique and then it was straight to work on editing. With dives this good, there is a lot to edit. Oh, and we have an evening presentation tonight and we really want to see some videos up on the big screen!
Tomorrow I'm going to talk about wide angle vs macro shooting techniques, lens choices, and the use of ambient light and on-camera lighting. Once all the technical stuff is out of the way, we're work on our creative side. That's where our story telling expert Mary Lynn takes over and shows us how to make a movie that's not only fun to make, but fun to watch.
Mary Lynn Price: Off to a great start in the video sessions today! We have a couple of folks learning video editing programs for the very first time. This is always one of the best parts of the Shootout for me--seeing videographers begin to make their first short video creations. We began getting into the rhythm of diving and shooting in the morning, doing seminars in the afternoon, then sorting through the day's clips to make "dailies" to show at the evening imaging parties. Some of the footage is looking great! Now looking forward to seeing some edited pieces!
Erin Quigley: Skipped the dives this morning in order to finish some last minute thrashing around before the seminars began. I updated a couple of video tutorials to match the workbook info - both of them about exporting images for the nightly slideshow, one for pix exported from CS5 and one from Lightroom 3. Even though all I'm doing is talking myself through a familiar (to me) workflow while making a screen capture of the process, it's amazing how many times I had to scrap and restart because I made some freaky flub in the narration. Of course, there were other roadblocks to contend with. At one point, a new piece of countertop (YAY!) was being added to the Help Desk room, and the noise from the power tools kinda put a dent in my recording. I moved to my hotel room to finish recording in a quieter venue, but for some reason I had a slew of visitors, all of whom innocently interrupted the narration. I finished just in time to make it to Berk's first seminar, and open up the Help Desk for real. I had a great time working with everyone - some old acquaintances from Shootouts past, and some new folks as well. I can tell this is a committed group. Even when the announcement came that there was free rum punch and appetizers at the bar, the photo room remained full of digital enthusiasts, willing to sacrifice a free drink in the name of technical and creative advancement.
Jean Bruneau:Day 2: Gear de-bugging day is pretty much over and I can feel the sense of purpose of both the attendees and the staff. From the participants, I feel a certain awe that so many people are actually quite eager to share the knowledge they have, and I understand their point, having made my way through the film camera all the way to digital. I soon found out that all too many photographers guard their tricks and methods as if it was some witches brew recipe. Let them keep it, I say. This venue is quite the opposite, it's all about learning not only the rock solid basics of underwater photography, but also the tweaking of post processing your shots, learning new lighting approaches, trying gear before shelling out big bucks for it and getting the commitment from the staffers that you will walk away from here a better photographer, one I hope that will be happy to share his learned skills.
Me on my part, I gave my new Sigma 17-70mm lens a spin around the wall and was pleasantly surprised, it has a great zoom range, one I would say to the usable limit underwater, and has somewhere around 1:2 macro, a really great scouting lens. And when used behind the Aquatica 8'' dome, it gives great performance in the corners as well. In the next day or two, I want to try the 4.5mm circular fisheye, it should be interesting as far as results are concerned, definitely not a portrait lens. BTW! I'll have some shots up as soon as I can.
On another note, the walls here, while lush and teaming with life on the parts accessible to us, are somewhere around 6,000 ft. depth. There is something about these depths that made me check my camera lanyard whenever I hovered above the deep blue. Makes you wonder about all the wreckage and trash down there and how you don't want to contribute!
THE ED AND CHUCKIE SHOW!
Ed: With breakfast as good as dinner last night, we headed down to the 8 A.M. call on the Holiday Diver. Captain Clive and Dive Master Laura gave us a very through briefing and we headed out to the first dive. I chose to shoot a housed G11 with a wide angle adapter. While my past results from the G11 in an underwater housing were good, the wide angle adapter made all the difference. Where'd Chuckie go?
Chuckie: Before the dive we were told to pick up our weights for our weight-belts. When I went to get mine, they gave me a chunk of chain… I think Ed had something to do with that. I chose to shoot the 5D MK II in an Aquatica housing. The first dive was on the "Wall", 30 feet to a drop of 6000 feet! I kept my eye on Ed the whole time!!!
Ed: They forgot to attach the cement block to the chain! The second dive was as outstanding as the first and accompanied by a friendly grouper that likes his chin scratched as much as Patrón the cat.
Chuckie: I can't wait for Ed to try and scratch the chin of that big lizard. The second dive was wonderful, coral heads in 20 feet to the 6000 feet of dark blue water drop-off. Lots of little fish and wonderful color! Ed swam right into my fins, so he thinks.