Berkley White:More great diving! Craig, the video pro for Reef Divers, made a sacrifice today. He was acting as dive guide and left his camera on the boat. Cue the free swimming octopus and why not a turtle and grouper to join in the same shot! Most people interpreted Craig's underwater screams as the sounds of joy, but I know very well the agonizing screams of a man without his camera. Thanks for taking one for the team today Craig!
We dedicated the afternoon as a work session for the contest. Erin, Doug, and I helped people with Lightroom questions in the photo room and supported them on the difficult processing of selecting images for a contest. The session ran well into the evening and finally migrated the to the bar where it transitioned into a full swing pool party. A very fun evening... from what we remember.
Tomorrow will be a difficult day of judging the top picks from well over 250 images and many videos. As with all contests, the winning images are up to the subjectivity of the judges. Here at the Shootout, we ask the judges to select their favorite images by asking the question, "Would I put this print on my wall?" This criteria tends to level the playing field between simple artistic beauty and the more difficult or rare subjects. Images that go on the wall will need to stand up to the test of time. It's going to be a long tough day tomorrow.
Doug Sloss: Noooooo! High wind and surf once again denied us safe passage to Cayman Brac and our final chance to explore the M.V. Keith Tibbetts. Think the boat is bummed? Think again! With choices like Mixing Bowl as a backup plan, everyone instantly cheered and turned their attention to one more morning of crafting out the winning image. I was initially concerned about visibility thinking I should have switched to shooting macro, but once underwater I was pleasantly surprised. It is amazing how clear the water is around here even when things get a little rough topside. Coconut Wall wrapped up the week's diving for me and what a great way to end my diving adventure here at Little Cayman! Like every site we dove throughout the week, this one had it all. Awesome wide angle opportunities and the perfect mix of macro to keep us all happy. Tim, a participant in the Shootout this year, surfaced and told me on the ride back to the resort he shot the best macro of the trip at Coconut Wall. While I didn't see his images until later that evening, his smile seemed to tell me he was right!
This afternoon the seminar room filled with shooters deciding on final submissions and by 9 o'clock everyone decided they had their winners and headed to the bar confident in their selections. As the evening wore on, so did excitement at the bar until just a small core of staff and participants were left standing. Fueled by "local rum" and a giant bottle of Jaegermeister, things got a little crazy and the madness lasted well into the night.
Sadly, this was my last day of diving in Little Cayman but I'll be back for sure. I've learned a lot as well this week, and having the opportunity to test out some demo gear myself, I am already in the market for a DSLR that shoots HD video! The biggest decisionů stick with Nikon or get a new Canon!
Jennifer Penner: Before we left for Little Cayman, my goal was to shoot the 24-70 lens underwater. Since I usually just shoot 15mm fisheye and 100mm macro, I wanted more versatility, and to shoot something "more in the middle". After a couple modifications to the lens to make it work properly while in the housing, and 3 separate pool testing sessions to determine which diopter to use and to dial-in the amount of floats needed to make my now very-heavy-rig manageably buoyant, I thought I was ready for Little Cayman. After reviewing my shots from the first dives with that lens, I was disappointed. Anything in the 24-50mm range was decent, but it was so much more difficult to achieve sharp focus (around here, you hear "you want the eyes to be tack sharp" alot). Anything past 50mm was out of focus. Hmm, during the pool tests, we determined the +2 diopter was not sufficient, and jumped ahead and ordered the +4. In the pool, it tested fine, but not so in the ocean. I guess I'll be buying a +3 when we get back home! Lighting was challenging too! I just couldn't get enough light on the subjects. For the remainder of the trip, I've decided to shoot 15mm fisheye, where I'm comfortable and can get decent shots. I'll challenge myself by shooting the 100mm macro (not my cup of tea and I struggle!), and hunting for the small critters, which for some reason, I just never see. I'm not giving up on the 24-70 because right now it's my only option for a mid-range lens. I'll put it aside for now, but it won't be too long before I try it again with changes in mind from reviewing those first shots.
Jim Decker: Well we tried to go to the wreck again, but alas the weather would not cooperate. It got really rough and we had to turn around after about half an hour. However if we did go to the wreck we would have missed the reef shark at the Mixing Bowl dive site. The diving this week has been spectacular. Lots of marine life on every dive, plenty of stuff to shoot.
Rusty Sanoian: Our first dive today was at a dive site called Mixing Bowl. I had heard a guest talking about how great this site was for critters and was excited to get in the water. I was shooting with magic filters today and our new Xit 404 tripod and wanted to get some static wide angle shots of the reef. There was a bunch of incredible swim-throughs that played with the sunlight so I set up my tripod, slowed my shutter speed and let the sunlight do its magic.
I had large a Barracuda swim up to a cleaning station in front of me, after a while I was able to approach him and set the dome inches from his razor sharp teeth while cleaner fish picked the parasites off him. With the tripod legs extended from the rear of the housing, I use them as handles and do smooth pans and can get in closer to my subjects without scaring them away.
Be sure to check out my videos!
Dan Baldocchi: Today was the last day to shoot video for the contest, so now it's time to hit the editing room and get to work on the final piece. A lot of people here are editing video for the first time and it takes a lot of effort to create a 3 minute movie that's going to be judged and shown to the whole group. Mary Lynn and I are impressed with the effort and dedication of the group and we cant wait to see the results. We've got some great prizes from our sponsors like Light & Motion lights, a Sony camcorder, and an Aquatica video housing so the stakes are high to make the best video they can.
Erin Quigley: The tension mounts! Even though there were no seminars today, the classroom was full of participants preparing the images they planned on entering into the contest. Seems like the single hardest decision was simply which pictures to enter. Even as the dinner bell rang, some folks were loathe to stop working. At 9PM, Berkley cut the staff loose and shooed us out of the room, 12 hours before the deadline of 9AM. A long night loomed for many who slaved on.
In stark contrast to the serious intensity of the classroom, all hell was breaking loose at the bar. Anyone for Flippy Cup? How 'bout a very late night round of water polo? No rules, no teams, no goals - except for one - try to drown whoever has the ball. Not for the faint of heart, but truly fun. I hurt from laughing (and an elbow to the eye).
Jean Bruneau:Day 6 : The curse of the Russian Frigate. Twice this week we got blown-out of this dive on Cayman Brac. So where do you think we ended up? Mixing Bowl! Gee, the fish are starting to know me over there! Well, I did not mind... it's such a terrific dive site, if I had my way the boat would be moored over this spot for the week. In the morning we also did the Eagle Ray Roundup site, so aside from not seeing a single ray, (which we knew would happen before hand) I ended with the most unusual dive buddy, this Nassau Grouper just hung out with me for a good part of the dive. Then I bumped into a kinky episode between two hefty green moray eels. Sadly, they stirred up so much sand in the process that it was impossible to get a decent shot. After getting the ''you pervert'' look from them, I decided to concentrate on the laid back turtle crossing over the coral head. All in all, the boat staff managed to make us forget the wreck like it never existed. Good job!
On the gear side, pretty much everyone has their pace now and they better, because tomorrow is crunch day for the contest. I see a lot concentrated looks around and I can tell you that every breath of Nitrox is sucked to the limit on the various boats allocated to us.
Tomorrow is the last day of diving, one boat is scheduled to go to the frigate wreck. Given my luck so far I guess if I want to go to the Mixing Bowl dive site again I better hop on this one. :-)
THE ED AND CHUCKIE SHOW!
Wow, it's Thursday...all day. Even if it rains, which it did off & on, but it was a nice rain.
Took a wander off to the Cayman Museum and was greeted by two fairly large iguanas that came running up to me like little puppies greeting a visitor. Dang, my mind must have been in outer space cause I forgot to stuff some iguana biscuits in my pocket before I left.
Yep, I met the same two lizards yesterday and paid them off to attack the big guy in the SUPER OVER BRIGHT Hawaiian shirt. WOW a blind man would need sun glasses. Don't tell anyone, but the real reason Ed did not dive was that he was OUT GASSING, to much nitrogen in his system, and I don't mean the kind that helps the car go faster.
Me outgassing??..try to be YOUR roommate! Besides, you're just jealous about the shirt!
Things seem to be winding down a little bit with most of the printing finished up. The walls of the meeting room are looking pretty nice with all sorts of great images on the walls. In fact a couple of the locals were in doing some maintenance and couldn't help but stop and glance at all the great images taken.
Hey Ed, can I borrow five bucks? I need to buy another file so I can get another picture on the wall.
As much as I hate to admit it, Chuckie has some fantastic shots! (Shhhh...Don't tell him..)
Already chatting about future shows and brainstorming some cool ideas for future events. If the tropical depression takes some anti-depressants, perhaps we'll be able to depart roughly on time for the next adventure..