Berkley White: Another great day of diving! The turtles and groupers here in Little Cayman will actually follow you down the reef and stare at their reflection in your domeport. Some of the dive sites have a mini wall in the shallows and a sand channel before the big wall. Sting rays in these sand channels have no fear of humans and allow you to easily fill the frame. Add this to the topography, and you get the best diving in the region.
I asked Doug to give a quick Lightroom review before diving into Photoshop. The participants soaked it up and the new students are becoming proficient. Doug shared some very cool Photoshop tricks for backscatter removal, color correction, and even compositing. New users can feel a little overwhelmed with all this information and thus it's great having Erin on staff this year as our personalized tutor. If participants get stumped, they can "Go ask Erin," for a private help session in her office at the back of the classroom.
We had great images in tonight's critique. Many folks that had rarely shot wide angle are now dialing in background water exposure and moving their strobes into better positions. Some of the macro images had great compositions, but lacked critical focus. We discussed auto focus and focus lock techniques to improve success rate in macro. I'm very impressed with the energy of the group. Many folks are taking the week seriously and pushing themselves on new techniques. The Backscatter and Aquatica demo gear guys have been slammed with requests, and are turning out demo gear and back-up strobes all day long. Nice job guys!
Doug Sloss: Rough chop kept us from making the trip out to the Tibbetts, but that did not take away from the day's diving. Two beautiful dives out on the Bloody Bay Wall provided the perfect backdrop to test out Nauticam's fiber optic technology with a pair of Inon z240s. I rarely shoot TTL using a wide angle lens, but the accuracy of the technology and the spot on exposures surprised me, and I continued to use it on both the morning dives. I also shot the Tokina 10-17mm with a D300 setup and what a lens! The wide angle coverage is perfect for those super friendly grouper we seem to encounter on every dive while the zoom capabilities let you compose freely for all kinds of images. If you don't have this lens in your kit, order it today! As someone who normally uses the 10.5mm quite a bit, I feel the Tokina 10-17mm will be getting a lot more use in the future!
Today, we reviewed most of what we covered inside Lightroom the day before, and once everyone was solid on the fundamentals we switched gears, moved over to Photoshop, and covered the essential techniques to help improve your underwater images. I went through a sort of "Top 10" tips and tricks to help your images stand out. As usual, the bar is filled right after dinner and provides the perfect setting to watch the nightly slideshows which are now starting to produce some absolute winning images and videos as well. Everything looks great up on the big screen!
Jennifer Penner: Encouraged to dive and shoot all week, submitting images for the nightly slide show, something that once scared the living daylights out of me, is something I now look forward to. For me, it's not about seeing my work on the big screen, but getting the critiques that I can put into practice the next day to improve. These days, my biggest hang up seems to be strobe placement and understanding light, especially on vertical images. Do I need longer strobe arms? Should I run the strobes at different powers depending on the set-up? What I do know is that once I have a set-up I want to shoot, I need to shoot more frames with the strobes in many different positions, because I frequently think I've "got it", only to find out once it's been downloaded into Lightroom that it wasn't quite right. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to go diving in the morning and practice, practice, practice!
Jim Decker: I didn't get a chance to shoot the Canon 5D Mark II today in TTL, so I will try again tomorrow.
I think this brings up a good time to talk about how great the diving is here.
The diving is off the hook! The reef is healthy, there's lots of marine life, and the vis is great! There have been turtles, stingrays, and groupers on EVERY dive. I've also seen sharks, eagle rays, and dolphins chasing a bait ball. Barrel sponges that can house a family of four. Barrel sponges that have barrel sponges growing off of them. And these things only grow 1/2 inch per year. And plenty of macro critters too.
We tried to go to the wreck on Cayman Brac today, but unfortunately the sea would not cooperate. We'll try again another day...
Rusty Sanoian: Today I was filming again with the Bluewater scooter camera with the 5D MKII camera inside. Most of the sites here on Little Cayman have cuts and channels that drop off into Bloody Bay Wall, really dramatic topography and I wanted to try and get some footage with the camera showing this.
After blasting around the wall for 30 minutes, I headed up into the shallows and cruised past the divers from my boat and did some modeling for a couple of them. I headed back for the wall and noticed a crack that dropped down about 20 ft, so I let some air out of my wing and hit record. It headed west towards the wall and was completely black inside but appeared to continue. I scootered deeper into the cave and saw some ambient light around the next corner. There was a large Nassau Grouper with its mouth wide open looking like some kind of monster! I slowly moved forward and as the dome of the scooter camera was inches from his mouth he opened it completely and I could see sunlight through his gills! It was a really cool shot and not somewhere I would have normally have had a camera.
The Bluewater scooter camera rocks!
First night dive tonight was incredible! I had heard about reef octopus and other nocturnal underwater critters in Little Cayman, and I was not disappointed! Shooting my 5D MKII again, I tested some new LED lights from Keldan and a Canon 15mm fisheye lens. Getting close enough to my subjects was the challenge, as the unique perspective of the lens and the very wide beam of the LED lights gave me pleasing results.
Dan Baldocchi: I went diving today with the Light & Motion crew; Paul, Amy, Blaise, Jarod, and Louis. They brought a slew of new lenses with them and I was eager to try them all out. My favorite by far was the 145° ultra wide angle lens for the Sony CX550. As far as underwater imaging goes, the wider the better, and this is the widest lens I'd ever used on a camcorder. A lens this wide lets you get super close to your subject but still see the entire reef around you. The less water between you and the subject means a clearer, sharper, more colorful image. I found the video I shot with this lens was far superior than the shots from the day before. Upgrade!
Mary Lynn Price: What I'm really impressed with here in Little Cayman is how well the reefs and marine life seem to be faring. We've had shark sightings, including Nurse Sharks and Caribbean Reef Sharks, as well as numerous fairly large groupers and turtles. Some of the most enjoyable imaging moments for me have been the interactions with the larger groupers. The evening imaging party had a number of great video and still photo moments depicting these fun encounters. Very cool! And once again, I am totally stoked to see how many short videos--"dailies"--are coming from the video folks! There's so much enjoyment to be had from being able to dive, shoot, and edit a short video piece all in the same day--and have it ready to share during the evening festivities. This is my favorite part of the Digital Shootout!
Erin Quigley: Another fantastic day of diving, even though our trip to the wreck was cancelled midway because of heavy seas. Weird how once outside the Little Cayman lee things can get rough fast. We turned around and moored at Marilyn's Cut - a truly gorgeous site with swim-throughs galore.
Doug gave a great combo Lightroom-Photoshop seminar, teaching some fab Photoshop tips to an eager crowd. So eager that Photoshop After Dark continued at the bar after the slide show. I thought three Mai-Tais might inhibit my ability to teach layer masks, but apparently not. Good to know (I think). Cheers!
Jean Bruneau:Well, yesterday I tried the Sigma 4.5mm Circular fisheye lens,and at the nightly presentation the images got rave reviews. Mary Lynn asked me to do some video footage with this combo, and sure enough, next dive, I slapped the lens on with a Magic Filter behind a dome and went splash and… splat! After chewing through half my mouthpiece and scrolling through the infinite pages of menus on my camera to try to dial in the exposure compensation in video, all I could get was a big disappointment.
In the end, I basically gave up and went back to what I know best, one frame at a time. My safety stop gave me the opportunity to reflect on the skills required for both disciplines. Not that I think of myself as a maestro of underwater photography, but give me a camera in a housing and I'll come up with something half decent on pretty much every dive. Give me the same camera in video mode and wham! I'm all thumbs, don't know what's happening and basically smothered by the puke baby blue color that I produced with the camera in video mode. In short, I felt like a struggling beginner, and that hurt my ego. I'm supposed to be MR. resources, the guy you come to if you don't know. So now in the privacy of my room I have flushed the evidence of my video fracas. I will humbly go and ask for advice from Mary Lynn on how to set up for good video. There is more to it than goodwill I found out!
THE ED AND CHUCKIE SHOW!
Dang, it's Tuesday already! Finally, getting into the swing of the trip! The dive shop made a quick fix to my BC. It's great to have your BC when carrying a camera rig!
Prints have started rolling off the Canon 9500 MkII printer and look very spiffy! Some great work coming out of the machine! Have printed about 40 prints already with pretty full coverage and have only replaced the Gray ink twice...nothing else yet. This is pretty frugal with ink!
Although it would be in my nature to find something to razz Chuckie about, he scored a major find when he spotted a HUGE lobster! Yummmmm...
Actually, we left it alone after it patiently posed for a couple shots.
Yeah, I named the critter, Ed. We had a great day under the water. First dive, hit the water with Ed and we went on the hunt for photos. I had my 5D MK II and a 15mm in an Aquatica housing. By the end of today, I was comfortable with the set up and making pictures and videos. Got tired of practicing on shooting Ed with a camera, still have other ideas.
Uhh Ohh! Chuckie has ideas....