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8:00 AM Dive Boats Depart
12:00 PM Lunch Break
2:30 PM Photo Seminars: Lightroom (Sloss)
Video Seminars: Shooting Techniques & Shoot to Edit
5:00 PM Dinner Break
7:30 PM Slide Show Bar Party

Today's Boat Dive

Holiday Diver 1
Great Wall West
Mixing Bowl
Island Sister 1
Mixing Bowl
Great Wall West
Reef Fantasea 1
M.V. Keith Tibbetts
Sarah's Set

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The Digital Shootout 2009 - Bonaire

Video of the Day Berkley White   |   Canon 5D Mark II   |   Dive-Xtras Sierra scooter/Bluewater Camera   |   Aquatica

Excitement is in the air, and all the talk around the buffet and on the dive boats is about camera settings, strobe placement and power, white balancing, video lights, wet mount lenses… The Digital Shootout is now in full swing! Participants' schedules are full with breakfast, diving, lunch, seminars, dinner, bar party slide show, gear set-up etc. Then repeat the next day. Full Shootout emersion is a common thing around here, but it's also vacation time, so we encourage heading to the spa, and chillin' by the pool with a tall, cool beverage!

This year's sponsor list is incredible, with on-site technical support from many of them. Joining us this year is, of course, our gear gurus from Backscatter, Jim and Rusty, and they've brought a bus-load of demo gear, 15 very large bags, to be exact. Aquatica's Technical Advisor, Jean Bruneau, is also joining us again this year, bringing with him the newest housings and accessories from their line of products. Canon is in the house! Camera bodies and lenses galore are here for the demo-ing, with Ed & Chuckie on-site to provide their expertise. Other new sponsors to this year's Shootout are Sony, Olympus, Nauticam and Zen Underwater. A very huge THANK YOU to all of our sponsors for their generous support!

Our nightly slide shows become more content-rich as the week progresses, as our participants, especially the first-timers, become less shy and more willing to submit daily images for critique. Video submissions, one minute in length and set to music are presented film festival style by Mary Lynn Price. Still shooters are encouraged to submit their best three images of the day for comments and suggestions for improvement from both Berkley White and Doug Sloss. While it can be scary to put your work on the big screen for all-to-see, the constructive criticism is invaluable for vastly improving your images in a very short time.

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Berkley White: Today was an epic day! Each of the Shootout pros rotate boats daily. My rotation landed me on the Reef Fantasea headed to the wreck of the Tibbetts. The Tibbetts is a very photogenic wreck and shallow enough to thoroughly explore. I shot video with the Canon 5DmkII mounted to my Dive-X scooter. Not only does the scooter allow for steady running shots, but its size greatly improves the steadiness of hand held pans.

I used a Magic Filter on the Canon 15mm fisheye lens and white balanced on the sand or my hand as I changed depths on the wreck. Unfortunately near the end of the dive I accidentally set white balance on the wrong image and ended up with a few clips that were too blue. Sometimes my still shooter brain forgets this common pitfall of video.

Doug gave us great tips on Lightroom today including Library tips to manage a travel and home catalog of images. He also discussed Develop controls for underwater images. At our outdoor critique session, the HD videos looked great on the Canon SX80 projector. Thank you Canon! The photo participants made great strides with strobe positioning and used the exposure techniques we discussed yesterday in class. Great start to the week!

Doug Sloss: Our boat was all about wide angle this morning. Sunny skies and clear blue water let everyone test out their skills with the big lenses. A handful of divers stuck to shooting the small stuff and you could tell from the handful of participants testing out their super macro skills demo-ing some Macro Mate setups, they were happy they did.

During the afternoon, I gave a Lightroom seminar for the shooters that decided to skip the afternoon dive. For most participants, it was their first time using Lightroom and heads were definitely full by the end of the two hour session. Coming to grips with the concept of the Catalog and how to import your photos seemed a bit difficult for many brand new users of Lightroom, but once they understood how the application worked the rest was easy. Everyone loves the easy workflow capabilities of the Lightroom interface and tomorrow we'll do more inside the Develop module and mix that in with an afternoon of Photoshop magic.

I'm impressed by the Canon Pro 9500 Mark II printer Chuckie and Ed brought down with them to this year's Shootout. It has been running non-stop since being switched on and the seminar walls are starting to fill up with participant images.

The Backscatter crew brought tons of demo gear for participants to try out. Russ and Jim's room morphed into command central as a result. What a great place to walk into and get setup using the latest and greatest goodies. Wide angle seems new for many shooters, but there were more than enough participants ready to leave the safe confines of the macro world to keep these guys busy well into the night. Music blared in the background and the room was filled with housings, strobes and tons of Sola lights. Where do these guys sleep at night?

Jennifer Penner: Two years ago I attended the 2008 Digital Shootout as a participant, using a point & shoot camera. Prior to this event, I had no interest whatsoever in underwater photography, and topside, I was the gal who only knew how to use "full auto" on my compact camera. I just wanted to dive and view the breathtaking scenery of the underwater world. My husband (fiancé at the time) encouraged me to give it a try by attending the Shootout. What better place to learn all about underwater imaging? Well, after a week of very mediocre images (due to my newbie-ness and some limitations of the camera system I was using) and Berkley's constant critiques of "You really need to make sure your frames are in focus." and "You should really be shooting at f8 or higher.", one would think that I'd had enough, and just walk away. Instead, I became hooked! Since then, I've graduated to a different rig, and while there are MANY days that I struggle to even shoot one good keeper in the bunch, I would dive every day if I could with camera in tow! In the short time I've been shooting, one of the most important things I've learned is that you've got to practice, practice, practice. So go diving, and make some art!

Jim Decker: Today I shot the Canon Rebel T2i in the prototype Aquatica housing. I was shooting ambient light with the Sigma 15mm fisheye with a Magic Filter. I shot mostly video. The Rebel behaves quite the same as the 5D2 and the 7D in video mode. Bit rate is high and sharpness is good. I was shooting ISO 800 for most of it and it looked pretty good. I'll reserve further judgment until I see it on my big screen at home. However, the image quality is pretty impressive for an entry level SLR.

Tomorrow is the wreck over on Cayman Brac for my boat. I'm looking forward to this. I really enjoy shooting wrecks, as I am a wide angle junkie. Thanks to everyone who scouted out the wreck today and gave some great feedback. I'll be shooting the Canon 5D2 in the Aquatica housing along with an internal TTL circuit attached to 2 Sea & Sea YS-250s. I've been experimenting with TTL this week with pretty good results.

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Rusty Sanoian: Today was awesome! Our first dive was on the wreck of the Russian frigate #356 which is now called the M.V. Keith Tibbetts, who was the local politician that purchased the ship. The 356 was a Koni Class II frigate that was built for the Cuban Navy in 1984 and was purchased by the Cayman Islands in 1996, as the cost for Cuba to run her was extreme due to her 2 CODAG diesel engines and a gas turbine that propelled her to a reported 30+ knots.

The ship was scuttled in 90ft of water and after several hurricanes and weather, has come to rest with the stern in 45ft of water and the bow at 90ft. The ship has separated mid-ship with the stern upright and the port side on the bottom.

We had some good wind chop on the way out to the wreck today, some lightning in the distance and showers. The visibility was decent and Berkley and I were on scooters. We quickly headed for the bow to work on some shots with our new Bluewater scooter camera. This is a great wreck! It's shallow enough for recreational divers to spend a fair amount of time on the wreck exploring or taking pictures.

Our second dive was at Sarah's Set which is a nice little sand channel with garden eels, rays, turtles and the occasional nurse shark. I spent some time on the edge of Bloody Bay Wall setting up my tripod and shooting some video with my 5D MKII. I made a common mistake: after I set my white balance, I forgot to set my focus distance. I did not realize my mistake until I got back to my room and downloaded everything. This is a great example of the importance in taking your time and really thinking through your shoot. It is so easy to get caught up in the moment or become complacent after you have used a system for so long. Lesson learned for me today! Expect to see some in-focus video from me tomorrow!


Dan Baldocchi: The video shooters here are a dedicated bunch. We put out a pretty tough challenge to go diving in the morning, come to class in the afternoon, and then start editing a short 1 minute "daily" to show that night. That's a tall order, but totally worth the effort. We've set up a 12' high screen out by the pool and we're having a mini film festival each night with some great videos. And I'm not just talking about a few raw clips. These are 1-2 minute fully edited videos with audio soundtracks and titles. Some real thought and effort went into these videos. They're really fun to watch and our filmmakers should be really proud of themselves.


Mary Lynn Price: Today's video seminar opened with Dan on shooting techniques. Then we kicked off the editing section with the basics of "Shoot to Edit" about how to plan your shooting so you have the footage you need to make the video you want to make. The video folks are now well on their way working with their clips in their editing programs and making "dailies" of their highlights set to music to show at the evening imaging party. I just love seeing videographers getting into making cool short videos to share from their day's footage!


Erin Quigley: Long, wonderful day. A lightning storm in the morning passed quickly, and we had a couple of great dives before anchoring ourselves back in the classroom. At the dive site Mixing Bowl, cut-throughs in the reefs and schooling fish made fantastic photo set-ups. Doug covered an amazing amount of ground in the Lightroom seminar -can't wait for the next installment tomorrow!

Jean Bruneau: Today I went out with a funky, off-the-beaten path lens, the Sigma 4.5mm Circular fisheye. That lens renders a round image on the sensor and is designed for the APS size chips. Well, first impression is that you need your strobe in a different zip code if you don't want to have backscatter. There is just no corners or place to hide them. Second impression is that you have to be careful on where you are in relation to the lens. I have a few shots with my fins, dive computer, BC inflator hose and even part of my hair (and given the fact that I am a fine example of the baldy, mid- fifty male it's quite astonishing)! Hopefully I get to dive this lens again this week, but with longer strobe arms!

Ed 6:35 A.M.: Awoke to the sound of thunder. Wait, that's only roommate Chuckie snoring...
A few drops of rain, but off to a fun day of diving.

Chuckie: SNORING!!!.. I was awaken by the pitter patter of feet as my roommate, Ed opens the door and informs me that The Sun was up and it was time to hit the dock for diving. It was raining. The rain cleared after breakfeast (sic) and we headed to the dock to gather our diving gear and load up for another wonderful day in the water.

Ed: First day for me shooting DSLR underwater and I find that my BC has a blown valve, so it's not taking air. It seems to be doing a pretty good job of collecting sea water though!
Time to surface and bring the camera up to the surface and resume the dive as an observer...blowing bubbles and looking at fish...and a really cool little turtle. What are little turtles called? Puppy turtles?

Chuckie: Ed and his collection of cats, lizards, and now turtles, we will never clear customs to get off the island at this rate. Ed's idea of getting the most out of his equipment is using it forever. The Smithsonian called and said that they were doing a history of diving and were looking for donations, I gave the phone to Ed. I think that his BC is in the running.

Ed: After returning and spotting dive buddy Chuckie shooting photos, I remembered a spiffy dive knife that I purchased at the dive show in California a few weeks ago. I started to wonder what it would be like to be in the James Bond film Thunderball and race along and slice Chuckie's air hose! What fun that would be! .....but alas, I realized that the primary purpose of a dive buddy is to make sure your buddy gets back to the surface without undue stress, which is exactly the way the dive and rest of the day progressed. I sat in on an excellent video presentation by Mary Lynn Price and Dan Baldocchi this afternoon and was blown away!

Chuckie: Wow, you try and help a buddy out, and get him a place in history and this is how he repays you. Speaking of history, what a wonderful place to hold this year's Digital Shootout! The Lightroom session from Doug Sloss, world renowned photographer and educator, was immersive and thorough. The Little Cayman Beach Resort is fantastic, the people warm, the beer cold and the diving is out of this world....I mean UNDER this world!

Ed: Yeah..what Chuckie said!