White sands, blue water, and gentle breezes were a welcome sight after muling 15 bags of demo gear through a few airports. The crew at Cayman Airways delivered our full load with smiles. The classic "island time" is different here in the Cayman Islands. One usually expects delays and a dash of confusion, but here it's all smiles and professionalism. Jason and the staff at Little Cayman Beach Resort have pulled out all the stops with style!
The staff is primed and we've even charged the scooter batteries. Time for great diving and in-depth seminars! Let the show begin!
We made it! A long day of travel that began at 4:00AM ends with a 19 passenger turboprop Twin Otter touching down in Little Cayman. Sunny skies, warm water and an awesome resort! No shoes for a week! What a great first day of diving on Bloody Bay wall; turtles, grouper, huge sponges and tons of sea fans. Everybody is here and the Shootout officially is on! Looking forward to a fantastic week with everyone!
OK... I have to admit, from what I'd heard from fellow divers about luggage not making it to Little Cayman right away, I was nervous at first. But the scuba Gods were shining down on us as we made our 30 minute connection from Grand Cayman to Little Cayman aboard a Twin Otter plane, with scuba gear and underwater imaging gear in tow. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of flying on a Twin Otter, picture a flying soda can with 19 passengers crammed in (no aisle which means no beverage service, no overhead compartments to stow your gear, no cabin pressurization and worst of all... no air conditioning!). Between Joel and I, our eight bags, weighing 325 pounds (the airline's per person baggage allowance in the Caymans is 55 pounds gratis), we safely (and quickly) made it to Little Cayman, where the airport also serves as the island's fire department and post office! This small, island-paradise is where the Shootout attendees and Staff will call home for the next week at the Little Cayman Beach Resort.
Once the "work" of unpacking and organizing gear took place, my only decisions have been to the questions, "What rum drink do I want to try next?" "Did I save room for the dark fudge chocolate cake?" and "What time do we have to be on the boat?"
Stay tuned for a week of fun-filled underwater imaging seminars and full event coverage... Cheers! We wish you were here!
Welcome day at the Digital Shootout! Today is the official arrival day. We sorted out some gear issues, nothing major. The most common issue we see is flooded bulkheads. We cleaned out at least 3 today, so please keep an eye on those bulkhead o-rings!
I arrived to the island earlier this week and have a few dives under my belt. For the past 2 days I have been shooting the new Olympus Pen camera in the Olympus housing with a prototype Zen dome for the 9-18. Putting this lens behind the dome yields an angle of 100 degrees in the wide side, which is great for underwater wide angle photography. I was shooting the new YS-01 strobe from Sea & Sea, and also the YS-110a. I was blown away at the accuracy of the TTL from the pop up flash of the Pen with these strobes. It didn't work too well on a grouper, so I just kicked it over to manual for that.
Tomorrow I will be testing the new T2i housing from Aquatica. This is
another prototype that will be shipping very soon. More on that tomorrow..
It is our first day here at Little Cayman and the water looks inviting. It is sunny and warm (surprise) which makes you want to get in the water every opportunity you get. We boarded our boat for the day, the Cayman Sister and were greeted by our captain Sunny and Dive Master Dottie who were very knowledgeable and fun. All of the staff here at Little Cayman Beach Resort is super nice and very helpful. I feel like I am at home on one of our local dive boats.
It's a short ride out to the north side of Little Cayman where Bloody Bay Wall is located. I've wanted to dive the wall for a long time and was looking forward to our first dive. I grabbed my 5D MKII camera and Subal housing and rolled into the beautiful blue water, no wetsuit necessary as it averages 82-84 F. We dropped down to the reef bottom, which was around 40ft and swam out towards the edge of the wall, at this site the wall plunged vertical to 6000ft!
I kicked past the edge into the blue, pretty incredible to be in 6000ft of water with a good 100ft of visibility and just stare down into the void… There were fish of all shapes and sizes, they were common Caribbean reef fish like Nassau grouper, damselfish, rainbow parrotfish, angelfish, tangs, jacks and snappers, but they all seemed more alive on the wall. The basket sponges and tube sponges on the wall are some of the healthiest I have ever seen. With so much to see, I was not shooting much on my first dive, just took it all in and made sure my buoyancy was dialed so my dives over the next week would be impact free to the reef.
Our second dive was at a site on the wall with several swim-throughs. Some had really incredible lighting in them and I hope we revisit them so I can experiment with some long exposures. I shot my 5D MKII in video mode on this dive. The 5DMKII camera is incredible in low light environments so I am hoping I have some cool footage.
I was using our new Xit 404 tripod mounts that allow you to use Light & Motion Video lights on the bottom of the housing and doubles as a tripod.
I am looking forward to diving over the next week and know we will have some great entries from all the participants here at the Digital Shootout.
I've never seen water so blue in my life! Looking out of the window of the Twin Otter flying into Little Cayman, I knew this was going to be something special. And my first dive confirmed it, the diving here is fantastic! With clear skies and 80'+ visibility we couldn't have asked for betterconditions to start our underwater photography workshop. There are going to be some great images this week at The Digital Shootout Little Cayman.
As you probably know, underwater photographers tend to pack a lot of gear, and honestly I was a bit concerned that the small Twin Otter planes that run from Grand Cayman to Little Cayman wouldn't be able to handle 50+ photographers all coming in at once. But Cayman Airways did a fantastic job for us and I'm proud to say that everyone got all of their luggage on time! A big thanks to them for a job well done!
We've got a great week ahead of us! Thanks to all our participants and sponsors! Let the fun begin!
Arrived this afternoon on Little Cayman Island. Beautiful resort and gorgeous water! Looking forward to meeting Shootout folks at the Welcome Party tonight, which is being held poolside complete with stunning Caribbean view. Magnificent Frigatebirds soaring overhead everywhere. Love this place already!
Perhaps the best time to write my first missive of the Shootout is not AFTER the welcome party, with all of its celebratory (and alcoholic) diversions. Nonetheless, here 'tis:
I arrived on Thursday and have had a couple of great diving days before the official start of the DSO. It's really exciting to be on staff this year! The only downside is that I won't be able to compete for any of the FAB prizes! I know Berkley likes to play it down, but come on- almost $30K in great trips, gear, gift certificates, etc. Yow! If Ron (my dive buddy) doesn't enter, he'll have to be punished severely. More on that later...
So far, the dives have been rich in turtles and gorgeous reef. And it's not just the diving that's exceeded expectation. I'm overwhelmed by how hard the resort has worked to meet our every need. Guys have been hammering away at a brand new section of pool deck. An enormous screen surface near the pool has been skillfully erected and painted to accommodate our slideshows each evening. The photo and video classrooms are spotless and cool. The Help Desk room, though small, was transformed in no time from a grotty storage area to a lovely little freshly painted cubby for one-on-one problem solving sessions. Can't wait to see it all put to good use tomorrow. Bring it!
Day One: Shake-down diving is what I call it. You get back in the groove, try to not forget those magic little adjustments that you said you wouldn't forget… but did anyway. For most of us, it's a fairly occupational passion (I dare not call it a hobby), one that we do not indulge in on a weekly basis, so a check list is a good idea… but I forgot mine. You can see a developing pattern here... well, at least I put a port on front of the housing ;-). For other divers, it's about having your gear surviving the test. One fellow diver had a minor flood from a chipped O-ring on his Sync Cord, that, unfortunately is an all too frequent occurrence. The scrutiny required for dealing with these little rubbery rings is, needless to say, of the utmost importance. A magnifier (this I did not forgot) made short work of spotting the villain. Amazing that a 10 cent O-ring can cost a few thousand dollars! So after fixing his rig, well, I took mine apart for another inspection, not that I am paranoid!
Now that pretty much everybody has gone through the test cycle, the rest should be smooth sailing. Catch up with you guys tomorrow!
A short one hour flight out of Miami into Cayman Brac and an even shorter 10 minute hop on an Otter, yes, an Otter brought us into slightly developed Little Cayman. We were welcomed by an awesome hotel staff including Patrón the cat and a friendly iguana who shall remain nameless.....although the iguana somehow had a look on his face that said "jeeze, who was that guy with the big clumsy feet!" Where'd Chuckie go?
Here I am sitting in then bar waiting on Ed and he is playing with the cat, and that is the biggest lizard I have ever stepped on!
For some reason, some people choose hobbies like stamp collecting...nice light-weight stuff. On the other hand, some of us like hobbies with heavy stuff. Like SCUBA gear, or camera gear. Or BOTH!
The hotel was kind enough to send one van for us human types and another for the massive array of gear we brought.
What, a van for the humans?... I road with the gear!
For some reason, I am computer challenged when it comes to diving. My dive shop back home thinks it's time for me to get into the 90's and dive with a computer. Anabell, down at the Little Cayman Beach Resort dive shop, got me all equipped and gave an excellent briefing on the gear. After a great dinner, our friends from Backscatter had a great welcoming slide show and introduction.
We're all set to meet at the dock for a great next day of diving!
Diving? I was told that I was going to swim with the fishes.
Too bad I forgot to bring your cement shoes!