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Full Article: Beginner's Guide to GoPro for Underwater Video (Updated)

GoPro video cameras have become incredibly popular with divers over the last couple years, set up in a variety of ways to capture fleeting moments underwater. Pole cams, selfie poles, housing mounts, handles, trigger grips, dome ports, tray/arm setups, mask mounts, spear gun mounts and all sorts of other accessories are allowing divers to capture their underwater visions and share them online.

Let’s take a look at the basic functions of the GoPro Hero cameras and how to capture beautiful underwater video. 

Note:  I've revised this article for the HERO6 Black, but it still applies to all GoPro models 3 and above.

Read our GoPro HERO6 Review or view all of our GoPro Tutorials & Articles.

 

How do I Start Shooting Underwater Video?


Preparing the Camera

 You can shoot video with your GoPro almost right out of the box. Step one is to charge the battery. This is done by inserting the battery into the camera and then connecting the camera to a USB plug via the supplied cable. You can also buy a GoPro dual battery charger for a more convenient method of charging batteries.

 

Batteries

You should use a fully charged battery for every dive. You can plug the USB cord in between dives. Or it’s easier to purchase spare batteries, and swap out a full battery after each dive. You can probably stretch out one battery over 2 dives, but it's not worth worrying if the battery is going to die. Having a battery die on you underwater and missing out on a video of a lifetime is not worth trying to stretch out the life of a battery. With a fully charged battery, you can keep the screen at 100% brightness and set the "Auto Off" to "Never," and the "Screensaver" to "Never." This way the LCD screen will always be on and you can see what you are shooting. If you do not set this to Never, the default setting is 1 minute. After 1 minute, your GoPro LCD screen will go black and you will not be able to see what you are shooting.

 

Charge your batteries the night before your dive and make sure you create a system of where the fully charged battery and the used battery is located so you do not mistakenly put in the used battery between dives. It's always a good habit to power up your GoPro and check the battery before each dive.

 

What Micro SD memory card should I use?

Not all Micro SD cards will work in your GoPro, and every GoPro model is a little different. I have tried the wrong memory card before on dives and the camera will lock up in "saving mode." You don't want this to happen in the middle of your dive when there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Check this link for the official Micro SD card recommendation for the version of your GoPro.

https://gopro.com/help/articles/Block/microSD-Card-Considerations

The higher your resolution and frame rate, the faster your memory card will fill up. I recommend at least a 32gb to 64gb memory card. Anything less will fill up fast. You should be able to make 3 or 4 dives on one memory card.  If you are on longer dive trips with several days of diving, I recommend downloading your files each day to a laptop or external hard drive.

 

Download latest GoPro firmware.

While your battery is charging on your new GoPro, take this time to download the GoPro App on your portable device. The app has a lot of great functions you will find very useful. The app connects your device with your GoPro and allows your GoPro to update the latest firmware.  Updating to the latest firmware will insure your GoPro camera is running at its peak potential.

 

Underwater Dive Housing

The Hero5 and Hero6 are waterproof up to 33ft. Anything past 33ft, you will need a dive housing. If you are using the GoPro Super Suit dive housing, you will need to remove the lens cover before putting the camera inside. The lens cover can be removed by twisting it to the left.  There are 3rd party dive housing where the removal of the lens cap is not needed.

GoPro Hero4 or Hero3 are not waterproof at all. You will need a dive housing to protect your camera from any source of water.

I recommend keeping your camera in a dive housing whenever possible to protect your GoPro from accidents that can easily happen on a dive boat.  

Also pay special attention to the white rubber O-ring on the back cover of the housing. Make sure it is free of hair, lint, dust, sand, or any other debris. A clean O-ring will prevent the chance of water leaking inside and flooding your camera. 

 

Start Recording Underwater Video

To turn on the GoPro Hero5 or Hero6 camera, hold the side mode button down for 2 seconds and release. Push the top button to start recording. Push the top button again to stop the recording. Small red LED lights will flash on front and back of the housing while actively recording video.

 

 

What Video Resolution do I use?

If you are just starting off and don't want to get into intense editing, stick with the default settings of 1080 resolution, 60 frames per second (fps), and Wide field of view. 1080 resolution is what you see on your TV at home and is also referred to as HD. The actual resolution is 1920x1080. 1080 resolution is easier to edit, and is also what you want to post on social media networks to share with your friends and followers.  

If you want to explore higher resolutions, I would recommend 2.7k or 4k. Keep in mind that 4K is difficult to edit. Higher resolutions like 4k require a powerful computer and powerful graphics card to review and edit. The file size can be 4-8x greater (depending on your frame rate) than shooting 1080. There are not many social media platforms where you can share 4K video. If you have no use for 4k, I would recommend staying at 1080 resolution. You can post your 1080 file on social media for your friends and followers.

 

What Frames Per Second should I use?

Frames Per Second (FPS) is the number of frames (pictures) the camera will be creating during every second of video. The more frames that are being shown per second, the smoother the video will be. Hollywood sometimes uses 24 fps in TV and Film to create a more cinematic and dramatic look. This does not work well in the underwater world. Higher frame rates produce better results.

60 frames per second (FPS) is what you should be using underwater.  30 fps is too slow and will result in a more blurred movement. 60 fps is the sweet spot. You can also slow 60 fps down in your editing process and get a slow-motion look.

You can experiment with higher frame rates like 120 and 240. This fps rate is best used in fast action events like a great white eating a tuna head off the side of a boat. Or it is nice to use when filming someone jumping into the water and seeing the splash in slow motion. When you slow down the playback in your post editing software, it creates a nice slow-motion video. Keep in mind that these higher frame rates also mean larger file sizes. This could really fill up your memory card, and could be difficult to play back on your computer. Most of the time anything over 60 fps is an overkill setting for underwater use.

 

Best GoPro Settings for Underwater

If you want to keep things simple I would start off using these settings.

Resolution 1080, 60fps, wide

Auto Exposure, Auto White Balance, Auto Shutter, Set your ISO to 400, Sharpness to High, Color to GoPro.  Turn Screensaver and Auto Off to Never.

If you want more control over color correction in post-production editing software, experiment with the ProTune options. Change the color to "Flat." This will give you more of a raw file that you can adjust in a more complex editing process. 

 

HERO5:  Be sure to check out our GoPro HERO5 Review and Best Settings for Underwater.

Hero4:  Be sure to read our GoPro HERO4 Review and Settings.

 

GoPro Studio for Underwater Video

Tutorial:  Editing underwater video with GoPro Studio 2.0.

 

When do I use a Red or Magenta Filter?

Note: No filters are needed on the GoPro Hero6 Black

Filters are used in underwater video to bring red light back into the picture, providing more color and contrast for the scene. Red filters bring the red color back into blue water while magenta filters are for green water. You can even use different filters at different depths, we recommend the Flip5 filter pro pack.

We do not recommend using filters with underwater lights or in shallow water with plenty of natural sunlight.  Your video will result in a pinkish tone and will not look natural.

To learn the specifics of using filters on the GoPro HERO5, HERO4, Hero 3+ and Hero 3, check out:

Guide to GoPro Underwater Filters

Video:  When to Use GoPro Filters Underwater

 

Should I use video lights?

Video lights are highly recommended when creating underwater videos. The white light from a video light adds missing wavelengths of light that are absorbed in the depths of the water. This will bring out the best possible colors and contrasts in underwater environments. Any light is better than no light. With a wide range of options and costs for underwater lights, the choice can be overwhelming. Use what you can and practice as much as possible.

Underwater lights are good up to about 5 or 6 feet away, depending on the number of Lumens of the light and the visibility of the water. The higher the Lumens on the light, the better. After 5 or 6 feet, the light is absorbed by the water and is overpowered by the blue ambient light that exists underwater. Subjects closer to your lights will have better results than those further away. The direction you point your lights will result in different outcomes (e.g., more or less shadow, softer or harder light, etc.). Experiment around with different angles, adjustments, and power settings until you create your own look and style.  

 

Learn more about lights for underwater video.

View more GoPro Underwater Mounts.

 

How do I Create a Time-lapse for my Dive Video?

Time-Lapse video is really simple with the GoPro Hero4, Hero5, and Hero6. There is a time-lapse setting. Push the mode button to time-lapse or navigate on the LCD touch screen to time-lapse options and select video. You will have an option for how often you want your GoPro to take a shot for the video. The options are in seconds and include .5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30, and 60 seconds. The faster your scene is moving, the lower the number you want to use. The slower your scene is moving the higher the number you want to use. For example, use a .5s interval for a packing timelapse but a 5 or 10s interval for a sunset with moving clouds. I would recommend staying closer to a lower number on the seconds interval. It's better to have more frames and not need them. You can always speed up the video in editing software if the results are too slow.

Keep in mind that your camera needs to be very steady for a long period of time. Make sure your GoPro is secured tightly and is in a place where nothing can move or bump into your camera.

 

Quick Shooting Tips

1)  Wipe the lens cover on the GoPro and the lens inside the dive housing before every use to make sure no smears, dirt, lint or anything else is on the lens. Even a quick finger touch with sunscreen on your hand will leave a smear on your lens and ruin all of your shots. I wish someone had told me that when I started underwater video. Carry a dedicated small clean towel to clean the lens, and maybe even a can of compressed air is nice to have to blow out any unwanted debris like a small cotton fiber from a towel.  

2)   We all love macro, however your GoPro will only deliver a sharp image if 12 inches or further from the subject. To get closer, check out the PolarPro Macro & Red Switchblade Filter.

3)   Try to hold the camera as steady as possible. Sharp movement, shaking and vibration in your video will make even hearty sailors seasick. Make sure to be slow and smooth when panning the camera.

4) Swap out a fully charged battery before every dive so you won't have to worry about your GoPro dying in the middle of your dive.

5) Use the GoPro App to easily change your camera settings, control your camera, download latest firmware, and instantly review your video shots!

6)  Keep your GoPro at the same temperature as the outside. Bringing a cold GoPro from an air-conditioned hotel room or dive boat to the warm humid outdoors will fog up your dive housing. Keep moister out of your dive housing too. One small drop of water will heat up in your housing and cause it to fog up. 

7)   If you’re not using a tray and handles, make sure your knuckle isn’t visible in the image! Yes, I know this from personal experience.

Want more tips? Read our 3 Tips for GoPro Underwater Video.

 

What’s Next?

All photographers and videographers develop their own personal styles over time. These will lead divers to some of the best underwater photo destinations while also requiring different accessories. Bluewater Photo has listed some of these GoPro underwater video accessories to help you take it to the next level, and check out their amazing holiday specials on video lights.

 

Most of all, stay aware while diving and have fun!

 

 

Manatees at Crystal River by Brent Durand. Filmed with GoPro Hero 3

 

Underwater Videos with the GoPro HERO4 Silver

Anilao, Philippines

 

La Paz, Mexico

 

View all of our GoPro Tutorials & Articles.

 

GoPro Camera Reviews

 

GoPro Tutorials

 

Full Article: A Photographer's Journey with the Sony RX100 V

A Note From the Editor

The Sony RX100 V has established itself as one of the best compact camera systems currently on the market. Its excellent dynamic range, auto-focus, and overall image quality makes it a promising tool when put into the right hands. After reaching out to our dedicated readers and customers, we managed to find an individual who's hands certainly put this camera to good use. Jin Woo Lee, a college student from Florida, astounded us with the results he has managed to obtain from his first underwater camera - the RX100 V. In this article he talks about his journey to becoming the photographer he is today and his mindset through the learning process. - Nirupam Nigam (Managing Editor)

Check out our full review of the Sony RX100 V here!

The Journey Begins

My dream to become a marine biologist began with childhood trips to the aquarium in the heart of Seoul, Korea. My parents were very supportive of my passion, and bought me a fish tank while in elementary school where I would watch clownfish, blue tangs, blennies, etc., - an ocean in our living room. By middle school, I got my scuba diving certification in South Korea in the cold, 50 °F (10 °C) water.

My first significant dive experience was in Key Largo, Florida, at the start of college. All I could say was “wow!” Afterwards I made the decision to go to Jardines de la Reina, or the Gardens of the Queen, in Cuba rather than going back to Korea for spring break – the greatest decision of my life. I had not seen so many sharks underwater before. Not to mention a crocodile!  After a subsequent trip to Komodo National Park in Indonesia, I realized the GoPro’s limitations for capturing macro life and began to think about getting an underwater camera. 

Choosing the Right Camera

I spent a long time in choosing my camera. Due to my limited budget and knowledge of underwater photography, I decided to look into compact cameras rather than a fancy or huge DSLR or mirroless. Initially I rented an Olympus TG-5 and loved its macro capability. The first time I took underwater photos, I won 3rd place in a small underwater photography competition by Olympus in South Korea with the award being a brand-new TG-5. However, my preferences changed when one day I saw an underwater video from Mexico taken with the Sony RX100 V. It was clear from the video that the performance of the TG-5 was no match for the RX100 V. To this date, I am an RX100 V user and satisfied with its ability.

Learning the Basics

Since I got my camera, I have gone on multiple scuba trips. From Blue Springs to Revillagigedo, I have taken my camera on every dive since last September. My photography has primarily been of large creatures. Underwater photography was a challenge at first. I started by copying setting from online that resulted in dark photos. I had no idea what ISO, F-stop, and shutter speed was. I spent months taking photos, changing my settings until I realized the interaction between each of these elements. Sometime a change of settings resulted in a nice photo that I never expected; sometimes a failed photo is a lesson for the next dive trip! Through this method of trial and error, I could feel my skills getting better and better with each dive. 

Lighting and Lenses

Underwater lighting is critical in underwater photography. When I started I only used one strobe, which was not enough light. I had to position my strobe inward which created a lot of backscatter. After I got another strobe, I could finally get nice color in my shot and reduce the backscatter by positioning the strobes outward. Sometimes I even find that strobes are not necessary – especially in shallow water or while blue water diving when the subject is too far away.

I currently use the UWL-H100 lens (land and underwater wide conversion lens) from Inon. Although I don’t have experience with other lenses, I think the UWL-H100 works fine with the RX100 V. The center of the frame is sharp, however the corners can get a bit blurry. Also, you can’t zoom out with the RX100 V below a 29mm focal point as vignetting occurs between 24mm and 29mm. 

Post-Processing

Post-processing is also a necessary step of underwater photography. For me, it was a huge struggle to use Lightroom for the first time. However, after watching numerous videos and reading articles, I gradually improved my post-processing skills. I focus on correcting color and giving my images more depth. 

The Learning Curve

Not every dive has been perfect with my camera – sometimes I can make some pretty big mistakes. It’s part of the learning process. During my last trip in Jupiter, Florida, I forgot to dry the lens before putting it into the housing after cleaning it with cleaning spray. As soon as I went down and turned on my camera, I realized my lens was covered with vapor! I missed a couple of perfect opportunities… One time in Revillagigedo, I removed my lens cap and realized my housing was empty. Or course, there were plenty of playful mantas on that dive and they were gone by the next dive when I had my camera in the housing. 

Overall, I truly enjoying my hobby of underwater photography. It connects me to nature that I had only seen in documentaries. Even though I never had a passion for photography before, underwater photography has changed my life. I’m always thinking about what pictures I should take and where I should go. My next trip will be to the Ogasawara Islands, Japan will be to photograph sand tiger sharks, dolphin, and tuna. I already know what I’m going to bring with me: passion, gear, and a bit of luck.  

 


The Sony RX100 V is available now at Bluewater Photo!




Full Article: GoPro Hero 6 Review

GoPro cameras are among the quickest, easiest, ergonomic, and powerful tools for capturing underwater memories of your underwater experiences.  The small profile and technological capabilities of the GoPro line make them a great series of cameras for all levels and forms of use. Often underestimated, GoPros can create broadcast quality video, and are even used in Hollywood for certain shots in TV and Film.  Used correctly you can produce astonishing results.  But which GoPro should you invest in and why?  What GoPro should you take with you on your next underwater vacation or dive adventure?  Many divers these days own the Hero4 or Hero5.

The recent release of the GoPro Hero6 Black is making strides in underwater videography, so is it really worth the upgrade for your underwater use?  

The GoPro Hero6 Black boasts significant improvement over previous versions of the GoPro.  Improvements that specifically benefit underwater use.  This is good news for scuba divers! Our team is conducting underwater video tests on the Hero6 Black, and making direct comparisons to the Hero5 Black.  So far in what we have discovered, there is no reason for any diver to jump in the water with any version of the GoPro less than the Hero6!  The improvements in 4K, Stabilization, Auto Exposure, Auto White Balance, Global Tone Mapping, and Color Accuracy are all giant steps ahead of all previous versions of the GoPro.  Upgrading to the Hero6 for underwater use is strongly recommended. 

Below are descriptions of the new advancements in the Hero6, along with videos showing side-by-side comparisons between the GoPro Hero5 Black and the GoPro Hero6 Black using the exact same settings.  You be the judge and let us know which camera you think is better.  For me, it's clearly the Hero6.  The Hero6 may look exactly like the Hero5, but without a doubt, what's inside the Hero6 clearly makes it the best GoPro camera to date for underwater use.

Purchase: GoPro HERO6 Black

Availability: Now

U.S. MSRP: $399.99

 


Shop GoPro on Bluewater Photo for all the housing, accessory and shooting tips you need to bring home excellent underwater video.


 

Jump to section:

Specs   |   Features Overview   |   Technological Improvements

4K   |   Stabilization   |  Auto Exposure

Auto White Balance   |   Color Accuracy and Global Tone Mapping   

GoPro HERO6 Accessories   |   Conclusion

Full GoPro Tutorial Series

GoPro HERO6 Specifications

  • Waterproof camera with a depth rating of 33ft (10 M) *without housing sold seperately
  • Simple 1 button control
  • Wifi + Bluetooth
  • Advanced wind noise reduction
  • Voice Command
  • Video stabilization
  • Touchscreen Display
  • Auto Upload to Cloud
  • GPS - Location Capture
  • Great low-light performance
  • Raw + WDR Photos
  • Wide-Angle Glass Lens
  • 30 fps burst with a new Auto Burst mode!
  • Video Resolution: 
    • 4K Video @ 60fps
    • 2.7K Video @ 120fps
    • 1440p Video @ 60fps
    • 1080p Video @ 240fps
    • 720p Video @ 60fps

Features Overview

  • Twice the Performance - The all-new GP1 chip delivers the best image quality in a GoPro yet with twice the overall performance
  • 2-Inch Touch Display - Controlling the settings, preview and playing back your shots taken will all be done through the 2 inch touchscreen display
  • Touch Screen Zoom - Get closer to the action simply by touching the screen (note will not work inside the Super Suit)
  • Rugged + Waterproof - The GoPro Hero6 Black is designed to be durable.  It is also waterproof up to 33ft or 10 meters without using a housing. 
  • Improved Low-light Performance
  • Hands Free Operation - new hands free control with simple voice commands (will not work underwater)
  • Advanced Video Stabilization - It can capture awesome smooth video even it is handheld, mounted to your gear or using different mounting accessories
  • GoPro QuickStories - let your devices do the work, GoPro Hero6 can automatically transfer your footage to your phone via the GoPro App, then edit and add music and effects so you can share immediately!
  • Wear it. Mount it. Love it. - Capture amazing moments in a new way using multiple options of GoPro mounts and accessories.

Loss of underwater "narrow" field of view setting: 

Unfortunately, shooting macro video got a little more difficult with the GoPro Hero6. The "narrow" field of view setting was used in the Hero5 to take macro footage; it is necessary for use with the macro lens. In the Hero6, this setting is replaced by a touch screen slider that is used to adjust how narrow the field of view is. Unfortunately, when the Hero6 is placed in the Super Suit housing, the slider cannot be moved. Essentially, you can't switch between wide and macro underwater. If you wish to shoot macro with the Hero6 then you need to slide the slider to narrow before the dive, place the camera in the housing, and then leave the camera running without making any changes the whole dive. We are hoping that a future firmware update will be made to fix this problem. 

New Technological Strides 

4K

4K is a buzz word these days – everyone wants to shoot 4K resolution.  The Hero6 offers large improvements in 4K technology since the Hero5.  These improvements are significant for those serious about their 4k.  The Hero6 can shoot 4K at 60 frames per second resolution with no stabilization, and at 30 frames per second WITH stabilization.  The Hero5 is limited to only 30 fps at 4K resolution and DOES NOT have stabilization.   Winner in the 4K category clearly goes to the Hero6!

 

4K Comparison Test GoPro Hero5 vs Hero6 from Todd Kortte on Vimeo.

Recommended Resolution

Keep in mind that 4K is also more difficult to edit.  The file size can be 4-8x larger (depending on your frame rate) than shooting 2.7k or 1080.  4K resolution is 3840x2160. 2.7K resolution is 2704x1520. 1080, also known as HD, has the resolution of 1920x1080.  You need a powerful computer and powerful graphics card to edit 4K.  Most social media sites play your videos back at 720p or 1080p.  If you have no use for 4K resolution, I would recommend shooting at 2.7k and editing your files down to 1080 in your post production editing software.   You can post your 1080 file on social media for your friends and followers.

 

Stabilization

The Hero6 claims improvement in video stabilization over the Hero5.  Surprisingly, the Hero5 was the first GoPro to even have video stabilization!  The Hero4, Hero3, and any previous versions of the GoPro have no option for video stabilization and resulted in very shaky and difficult to watch underwater videos.  Most editing software programs have a stabilization option you can use with your videos from older versions of the GoPro. Often the results are not very appealing.  They end up looking warped and distorted.  Adding stabilization to the Hero5 was a much-welcomed improvement to the GoPro.  For us divers, having stabilization greatly helped reduce the shakiness that is an inherent problem of our underwater hobby.  The Hero6 has shown more stability over the Hero5 making this category a bonus for topside and underwater videos.  Another reason to jump into the Hero6.  Winner in this category goes to the Hero6.  

 

Stabiliaztion Comparison Test GoPro Hero5 vs Hero6 from Todd Kortte on Vimeo.

Stabilization Tips

While there is stabilization built into the camera, I would not recommend attaching your GoPro to your wrists, mask, or holding it in your hand.  Get a selfie stick and add a float so your setup is neutrally buoyant to the point where it can stay in one place if you let go of it underwater.  You want to do everything possible to keep the camera from moving too much.  Current, surge, swimming... this all creates shaky underwater videos that are difficult to watch later.  Do anything you can to keep the camera steady underwater.

 

Auto Exposure

Not only does the auto exposure on the Hero6 have more control than the Hero5, but thanks to the increased frame rate of the image processing, the Hero6 is able to shift from dark to bright regions significantly faster.  How does this benefit the underwater user?  Things happen quickly underwater and you need a camera that can quickly adjust from light to dark in the constantly moving underwater world.  A bright fish swimming close to your underwater lights can throw off your exposure.  Shooting up into the sunlight while following your subject can do the same.  A fish swimming from the sunlit part of a reef into the darker area of a reef forces your camera to think quickly and adjust for best results in colors.  The ability of the GoPro to adjust quicker and smarter to the constantly changing and unpredictable underwater world is another big plus for the Hero6!

 

Auto Exposure Comparison Test GoPro Hero5 vs Hero6 from Todd Kortte on Vimeo.

 

Auto White Balance 

The GoPro Hero6 introduces an incredible and much needed improvement in automatic white balance!  The difference from previous models alone is every reason to ditch your old GoPro and upgrade to a Hero6.  No other version of the GoPro can do what the Hero6 does… NO FILTERS NEEDED!  That's right!  The creators of the GoPro Hero6 greatly enhanced the auto white balance to do scene detection with much more accurate color detection across a broad range of environments and lighting conditions. This has resulted in a camera that can capture the natural colors of underwater shots without the need for ANY UNDERWATER FILTERS!!!  This improvement makes the Hero6, without any doubt, the GoPro you should be using in the water.

 

Auto White Balance Comparison Test GoPro Hero5 vs Hero6 from Todd Kortte on Vimeo.

Every GoPro before the Hero6 had a hurdle to jump when shooting underwater video – the auto white balance had difficulty compensating underwater, resulting in blue and green tinted videos. You were either forced to use a filter, or when using underwater video lights, just deal with the white balance shifting the colors in your video to shades of green and blue in the middle of your shot.

While every new version of the GoPro has produced better white balance results, the jump the Hero6 has made is a huge improvement.  This is great news for the world of underwater GoPro users!  For this reason alone, you should upgrade immediately. Hands down, the Hero6 wins this category by a landslide.

 

Color Accuracy and Global Tone Mapping

Other than the auto white balance being the biggest reason to upgrade, improvements in color accuracy and detail from global tone mapping make the Hero6 stand out as the ONLY GoPro you should be taking underwater!  The global tone mapping in video mode allows high-contrast shots with bright and dark regions to have improved exposure and retain details across the entire scene.  The level of detail of underwater video has drastically improved over the Hero5.  Colors are more accurate to how we see the real world.  You can instantly see in the side-by-side video comparisons the richer and more vibrant colors with the Hero6.  Again, the Hero6 wins.

Global Tone Mapping Comparison Test GoPro Hero5 vs Hero6 from Todd Kortte on Vimeo.

 

GoPro HERO6 Accessories

 

Super Suit Housing

*A must-have to venture below 33 ft (10m)

The GoPro Hero6 is waterproof down the 33ft (10m) without the housing, due to a more robust build than previous GoPro models. New waterproof features include a new removable lens cover and rubber seals to protect the battery / Micro SD card compartment and the HDMI / USB compartment.

This is great for snorkeling, but for scuba divers and freedivers it is necessary to use the Super Suit housing, which is rated down to 197ft (60m).

To insert the Hero6 into the Super Suit dive housing, you need to first remove the waterproof lens cover by twisting to the left and popping off. Then just drop the camera in and lock the latch.

GoPro Hero6 Super Suit Housing

 


Micro SD Card

GoPro recommends using a Class 10 memory card. For underwater video, we recommend a card with 64GB memory so that you can record video all day without changing cards. The Max-Flash Hyperspeed Micro SD cards are fast enough to capture 4K at fast framerates and a great companion to your HERO5. They come with a SD Card mount so that you can insert the card into your computer or card reader.

Max-Flash Hyperspeed 64GB Micro SD Card

Max-Flash Hyperspeed 32GB Micro SD Card

 

 

Spare Battery

GoPro Hero4 Battery

The battery in your GoPro Hero6 will last one to two dives, depending how much you're shooting. Buying one or two extra batteries allows to you change it out during your surface intervals. GoPro Hero5 batteries are compatible with the GoPro Hero6.

 GoPro Hero6 Spare Battery

 

 

Dual Battery Charger

GoPro Hero4 Dual Battery Charger

If you're shooting a lot on dive trips, don't hesitate on this. The alternative is to charge the batteries one at a time through the GoPro, which isn't always ideal or easy on tight schedules packed full of diving. 

GoPro Hero6 Dual Battery Charger

 

 

SeaLife Aquapod

SeaLife Aquapod

Capture your best selfie yet with the extendable Aquapod. Made by SeaLife, the Aquapod is designed for underwater use. Not only can you capture that selfie, but you can get the camera closer to your subject, whether it is something small or something skittish that you can't approach.

SeaLife Aquapod

 

 

GoPro Multigrip Handle

GoPro Multigrip Handle

Adding a handle like the Beneath the Surface Multigrip handle adds stability and is an easy way to hold your GoPro while diving, or any other activity. Often, if handholding your GoPro, you'll see your fingers wrap around into the picture. This problem is solved with the handle.

GoPro Multigrip Handle

 

 

GoPro Tray and Handles

GoPro Handles and Tray

Attaching your GoPro Hero6 to a tray and handles will make the camera easier to hold on to and much, much more stable underwater. In addition, the handles serve as a mounting point for video lights. Below are a few of our favorities:

Ultralight Tray & Handles for GoPro

R Innovations Tray & Handles for GoPro

Beneath the Surface Angled Double GoPro Tray

 


Video Lights

i-torch fishlite video light

Bring color back into the picture with use of video lights. Even a high-powered light will only illuminate a subject a few feet in front of you, so these are most useful for macro and close focus wide-angle video. Adding a video light to your GoPro setup will allow you to shoot professional-quality video on your next dive! Below are a few of our favorites: 

Kracken Sports Hydra 3500

Dual Light Value Package

Be sure to visit Bluewater Photo to learn about more video lights, whether professional high-lumen or small and affordable.

 

Conclusion

The GoPro Hero6 is a must-have upgrade from the Hero5. If you are torn about upgrading or wondering if the $100 increase from the HERO5 is worth it – watch our side by side comparisons and you be the judge. In these comparisons, the GoPro Hero5 and the GoPro Hero 6 were filmed with the exact same settings. They reveal the true quality of technological improvement. 

The GoPro Hero6 builds on the HERO5’s improvements on sharpness and image quality with superior white balance, color, auto exposure, stabilization, and resolution. Throughout the history of the product, the GoPro has been an extreme sports video camera first with its underwater functions as a bit of an afterthought. The GoPro Hero6’s underwater ability is not an afterthought – it is exceptional. With improvements in white balance, exposure, and color, the major kinks of underwater GoPro videography have now been worked out. You are looking at a diver’s dream GoPro. 

Full Article: Top 10 Reasons to Dive the Sea of Cortez

Intro to Sea of Cortez

With the nickname “The Aquarium of the World”, it’s not surprising that the Sea of Cortez boasts over 900 species of fish, including numerous endemic species found nowhere else on the planet. Dive into schools of jacks, tuna and mobula rays, hunt the reefs searching for macro subjects like well camouflaged frogfish, seahorses, or a variety of personable blennies and colorful nudibranchs.  

The Sea of Cortez is also well known for its larger animals, including gray and humpback whales, whale sharks and of course, the friendly and playful sea lions.  Sharks and manta rays are also a possibility.

With over 2,500 miles of coastline, quaint seaside villages, and over 900 islands, it’s a fantastic destination to explore on a liveaboard or from a resort.

 

Top Ten

1. Whale Sharks

Whether you’re diving from a liveaboard or a resort, whale sharks are frequent residents in the Sea of Cortez. With whale sharks reaching lengths of up to 40 ft, an encounter with the largest fish in the sea will be sure to leave you speechless. Perhaps one of the best locations to see these creatures is La Paz, a small town towards the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. Whale sharks frequent the La Paz Bay from September through November and March through May in order to feed on the abundant plankton. Although the presence of plankton can lower visibility, snorkelers can often approach these huge sharks fairly close – a very humbling experience. When photographing these animals, it can become apparent that even though the sharks move slowly, their large size yields a lot of speed. Be prepared to swim!

 

2. Sea Lions

A trip to the Sea of Cortez wouldn’t be complete without visiting some of the local sea lions. The infinite energy and curiosity of these sea lions make an encounter entertaining and fun to photograph. It is easy to spend hours watching them speed through the water, zipping around divers, swimming loops, blowing bubbles, and causing an endless ruckus. Though sea lion dives yield endless fun, be wary of the large, territorial bulls! Perhaps the best locations to see these animals are the rookeries in the Midriff Islands and the Baja Peninsula. 

 

3. Humboldt Squid

Humboldt squid are renowned for their aggressive behavior and relatively large size – with mantle lengths reaching 4-5 ft (not including tentacles). Though they live in deep water during the day, Humboldt squid migrate to shallower depths to feed at night. Some liveaboards will attempt to lure them to the surface for closer view using deep-water jigs and lights. Because of their aggressive behavior, you can’t get in the water to photograph them, but you can lean over the side of the boat or use a pole cam. 

 

4. Nudibranchs

Although known for its large animals, the Sea of Cortez has its fair share of macro subjects – so bring your macro lens! There is a surprisingly wide diversity of nudibranchs. One of the highlights is the Tambja – common but beautiful! 

 

5. Colorful Reef fish

Although the reefs of the Sea of Cortez don’t quite match up to Coral Triangle standards – the reef fish are no less beautiful! Colorful angelfish, hawkfish, damselfish, and blennies are everywhere, waiting to be discovered and photographed. 

 

6. Desert Hikes and Deserted Beaches

The Sea of Cortez is surrounded by Mexico – a country with beautiful and unique terrain. The Baja Peninsula is home to a desert with characteristically large cacti, ranchers with donkeys, and rugged hills. Where the desert descends into the sea, there are beautiful sandy beaches with clear turquoise water – a nice contrast to the arid landscape above. There are many opportunities to hike in search of ocean views and many secluded beaches that can be had all to yourself. 

 

7. Baitfish

Schools of baitfish can be mesmerizing to watch. Their silver shines with the light as they undulate in formation in the blue water. It can be especially entertaining when sea lions swim through attempting to catch a quick afternoon snack. 

 

8. Seahorses 

Many would be surprised to know that sea horses can often be found year-round in the Sea of Cortez. They make great photographic subjects so be sure to keep an eye out!

 

9. Blennies

Blennies are another surprisingly common and diverse macro subject in the Sea of Cortez. Some of the common blennies to look out for are Orangethroated Pikeblennies, Signal Blennies, Barnacle Blennies, and Panamic Fanged Blennies. Look out for exciting behaviors – especially from the Orangethroated Pikeblenny!

 

10. Great Resorts and Liveaboards 

The Sea of Cortez has been made accessible to divers and underwater photographers by a number of excellent dive operations. Diving on a liveaboard is an excellent way to reach remote locations, and handpick an itinerary that suites your photographic desires. Popular liveaboards include the Rocio Del Mar, MV Valentina, and Quino el Gaurdian. The Baja Peninsula also has a number of nice dive resorts – particularly in Loreto, La Paz, and Cabo San Lucas.

 

 


 Sea of Cortez 2018 Underwater Photo Workshops

Join us for Sea Lions, Sperm Whales and Whale Sharks on the Rocio Del Mar. Trip led by Craig Dietrich.

 

July 28 - August 4 & August 4 - 11, 2018

For more information:

Why Join This Trip? - Why Travel with Bluewater?

Dive Information - Itinerary - Trip Leader - Accommodations

How to Get There - Booking & Payment


 Explore Baja Photo Workshops

Join us on a unique 12 night itinerary hitting ALL the Sea of Cortez dive locations. Trip led by Helen Brierley.

 

Oct 6 - 18, 2018

For more information:

Why Join This Trip? - Why Travel with Bluewater?

Dive Information - Itinerary - Trip Leader - Accommodations

How to Get There - Booking & Payment


 

 

Already booked for the year?

There are a few workshops and open boats for 2019 that still have a couple spots left, and who knows, maybe I'll see you there!  

Sea of Cortez Photo Workshop 2019

Sea of Cortez Open Boat Trips 2019

Explore Baja Oct 2019 

Sea of Cortez Photo Workshop 2020

 

 

Full Article: The Gentle Giants of the Pacific Northwest

On a cold, winter night in West Seattle, two young men prepare to go scuba diving. Slipping beneath the dark water, they are in search of something very special. And after a 10-minute swim, at more than 100 feet beneath the surface, they find it. 

Pilings, lashed together, lay along the bottom – remnants of a time when this part of Elliott Bay was a deep-water port. Buried beneath them, in a den carefully sculpted to provide minimal access, lies a female Giant Pacific Octopus, or GPO. Hanging from the top of her den, draped like pale yellow beaded curtains, hangs her nearly 100,000 eggs, each about the size of a grain of rice. Gently caressing them to keep algae-free, using her syphon to aerate them, her only goal in life is to care for her eggs until they hatch. And then she dies.

The Beginning and the End

Typically solitary creatures, the GPO only mates once in its lifetime. The male deposits a sperm sac inside the mantle of the female. The sac has a thick protective coating because she may carry it for months before she is ready to fertilize her eggs. The male will die shortly after mating.

The female finds a suitable den and deposits her eggs in strings that she attaches to the top of the den. Then she spends the rest of her life caring for her eggs. She will not leave the den, will not eat, and slowly wastes away while attending to her offspring. Many females die before their eggs hatch, but if she survives the seven to eight month incubation period she will die almost immediately after the hatching takes place.

Upon hatching, the baby octopuses measure about a quarter-inch – roughly the size of a common house-fly. As they exit the egg casings, their mother uses her syphon to blow them free of the den. The new hatchlings make their way to the surface, where they spend the first few weeks of their lives in a larval state, growing by eating plankton. During this fragile time of their lives, most of them will become prey for fish and sea birds. After a four to six week period, those who survive will settle back to the ocean floor. If they survive predation, they will spend the next two years growing to adulthood. Eventually, of the scores of thousands of hatchlings, only a handful will survive to become adults.

Living Legends

The Giant Pacific Octopus is the stuff of legends in the Pacific Northwest. Despite their short life-span of 3 to 5 years, there have been decades-old tales of “the largest octopus in the world” living underneath the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. But the reality of these creatures is no less amazing than the folklore, and very few experiences thrill a scuba diver more than a chance encounter with one of these gentle giants of the deep. 

An adult GPO can grow to be larger than 20 feet across, weighing more than 150 lbs. With the ability to change skin color to express mood, and skin that enables it to change its texture to mimic its surroundings, the GPO is one of the most peculiar species on the world. It has three hearts, nine brains, blue blood, and carries its stomach where you’d expect its head to be. It has taste receptors in each of its more than 1500 suckers, which it uses to help find and identify prey. Its diet consists primarily of crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp, mollusks such as clams and mussels, and even other species of octopus. It has a prodigious appetite, consuming up to 4% of its bodyweight in food each day. Once captured, the GPO uses its hard beak to inject a toxic saliva to paralyze its prey and aid the digestion of its flesh. Then the octopus settles into its den for a leisurely meal. After eating the flesh it discards the remains into a rubbish pile, called a midden, just outside its den.  Divers often use the midden to identify the location of an octopus den, which could otherwise be so well hidden that it would be difficult to find. 

Much is yet to be learned about the enigmatic GPO. It is thought to be highly intelligent. A GPO displays unique personality traits, can solve problems and puzzles, and can even recognize humans it has had previous contact with. Author Sy Montgomery in his book The Soul of an Octopus said, “There’s not a creature more unlikely on this Earth it seems, and yet here’s somebody who can look you in the eye and recognize you.” 

Threats and Conservation

Because Giant Pacific Octopuses are only found in coastal areas along the northern parts of the Pacific Ocean, the biggest threats to the GPO are primarily human-made. They include pollution due to development, changes in water and ocean acidification due to industrialization, the burning of fossil fuels, and low-oxygen (“dead”) zones created by an overabundance of phytoplankton and macroalgae.

 

Scuba divers travel from all over the world hoping for a chance encounter with the Giant Pacific Octopus in its natural environment.  In 2013 the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife designated seven areas as protected for the Giant Pacific Octopus. These areas were recognized as popular nesting grounds, and places for scuba divers to interact with and witness the miraculous life cycle of these amazing animals.  

Full Article: Deepblu Introduces Dive Booking Feature

TAIPEI, March 2018 – Today, Deepblu has announced brand new ways for divers to discover their next destination on Planet Deepblu. With the company’s latest release, divers can now book, manage, and communicate with dive businesses before, during, and after their trip, all in one place.

On Planet Deepblu, virtually all popular global dive locations are placed on a fully interactive interface, allowing users to browse ratings, navigate reviews, and find out more about dive spots than previously available. Now, dive businesses have this tool at their disposal for free.

With tens of thousands of divers already having dive sites at their fingertips, Deepblu has pushed the envelope even further, and will now offer fully interactive dive trip planning and communication between diver and business on the platform. Businesses can now present their services, be seen, and run specials that make them stand out. Trip categories, dive experiences, amenities, and extras can be offered with the click of a button, and potential customers can message each business with the knowledge that they’re on a secure platform designed specifically to cater to the needs of divers. 

 

 

"Planet Deepblu's goal is to help divers simplify their dive trip planning and booking process so they can spend less time planning their dives and have more time on enjoying their dive experiences. The initial roll out of dive experiences is focused on the North American market with service providers concentrated in the Caribbean, Florida Keys, and Mexico which we plan to quickly expand to all dive destinations worldwide"

 James Tsuei, CEO of Deepblu.


The new, expanded Planet Deepblu allows divers to select dates, find pricing, set up, and book all in one place. As it has been from the start, divers can locate their favorite dive countries, regions, and spots through the platform, and now when they see businesses in their chosen area they will have easy access to services offered. If you’re a beginner looking for a certification course, an advanced diver seeking a new cave dive, or anything in-between, you’re sure to find it on Planet Deepblu.

To find more information, please go on Planet Deepblu (https://goo.gl/kXuF1e) 

··· 

About Deepblu, Inc.: Deepblu, Inc. is the company behind the COSMIQ Dive Computer, the Deepblu online community for divers, and Planet Deepblu, where divers can discover, plan, and book their next dive. Deepblu, Inc. is a team of divers and technology enthusiasts whose goal is to use technology and the power of the internet to revolutionize the diving community and lifestyle.

 

About the COSMIQ Dive Computer: The COSMIQ is the trendiest dive computer and the only one in its segment to boast Blue-tooth technology to synchronize digital dive logs with the cloud. Since its launch in April 2016, it has won many awards for its ease of use, clarity and unique design.  

 

Contact:

info@deepblu.com

 

 

 

Full Article: Are You Playing to Win or Playing Not to Lose?

I went to the Galapagos in April of 2017 for a photo workshop with Bluewater Photography and Travel. I’m not the most experienced diver or underwater photographer (I hit dive 150 while on the trip), and I had been on one previous workshop, which had mostly been focused on macro. I was shooting with the Olympus 8mm F1.8 fisheye lens on my Olympus OM-D E-M1 rig, meaning that to get a good shot of a skittish pelagic like a hammerhead or a mola, I would need to get reallllly close. That, or risk just ending up with a bunch of "ID Photos" (ie photos that show that I saw <insert subject here>, but that's about it). 

Playing to Win

But now I was in the Galapagos. This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and there was no way I was going to walk away with only mediocre shots of all the awesome pelagics. So I made a deal with myself at the start of the trip – I would play to win, rather than playing not to lose. Sure, you’re thinking – obviously I should be trying to win. Isn’t everyone always trying to win when they take photos? Actually, it turns out that by my definition, many people are not. So let me define what I mean:

Playing not to lose: when you see something cool, your first thought is “I had better not miss out on this opportunity.” 

 Playing to win: when you see something cool, your first thought is “where can I go and what can I do to have the best chance of getting that amazing contest-winning photo? The one where my subject fills the frame, I get some good eye or face action, the background is perfect and my strobes light everything up evenly?” 

Well, that sounds easy enough, right? Everyone should just be playing to win all the time. But what I saw on this Galapagos trip, with people of varying levels of experience, is that a large portion of the UW photographers seemed to be playing not to lose more often than not. So why is this? 

Well, it turns out that humans are impacted much more by losses than by gains, with some studies finding people were impacted twice as much by a loss as by a gain of the same magnitude. Psychologists call this loss aversion, and what it means is if you finish a dive having missed a great opportunity, it can be quite painful! Playing not to lose is a perfect example of this, as it's driven by people wanting to avoid a loss, to avoid missing out. Playing to win, on the other hand, is based on your vision of the perfect photo, and trying your best to achieve that ideal, even if it means missing out on a significant number of lower-quality opportunities.

The First Test - Eagle Rays

I know what you’re thinking – enough with the psychology already! So let’s get back to underwater photography. We were doing a dive at Wolf. After very poor luck getting close to anything large in 8 dives at Darwin, we were seeing the same thing at Wolf and getting disheartened. So, as we were kicking along, fighting with the current and surge, all of a sudden, a couple of massive eagle rays came around a corner and started heading in our direction! The photographers in our group all rushed towards the first large eagle ray. The guy in the lead was close enough to get in position for a nice shot, and the others getting something, maybe, but nothing really worth showing the group at the end of the day.

I thought about playing to win, which meant I needed to be in front of and below one of these beauties, without other divers in the way, and without getting some kind of rushed, blurry shot against a confusing background of rocks. I looked at the path they were taking and took off to get in front of them and position myself where I thought they would swim by. This was in close to the opposite direction of that taken by the other photographers. I got down in the rocks, checked my settings and waited…and then they changed directions and swam off. Rats! Immediately I started to second-guess my plan, because the other divers all had at least one photo of a large eagle ray, and here I was with nothing at all to show from the encounter. But that’s part of the risk of playing to win, which I had to be willing to accept.

Over the course of this trip, I had quite a few failures; times where playing to win left me with nothing, rather than a mediocre or even a decent photo. And I never did get a good eagle ray photo. But I also had a number of times where this philosophy gave me some of the best photos I have ever taken. 

Hammer Time

Wolf Island, dive 11 of the trip. Scott, our fearless trip leader, had hammered into our heads the perfect setup for a hammerhead shot. Looking up at an angle towards it, so we can expose the white belly and get an eye in the photo. As close as possible...4-5 feet or even less if we could pull it off.

So there we were, creeping towards a school of hammerheads, and trying to balance out bottom time with chances of getting that awesome shot. I had been doing test shots all dive and getting everything prepared, waiting for one good moment...just one good moment, that's all I needed. 11 out of 16 dives at Wolf and Darwin, and I still had zero good hammerhead photos. As Scott guided my movements from rock to rock, I got into position, and finally, I saw a hammerhead coming my direction. I knew that if it got spooked, like if someone behind me fired off a strobe, I would miss my shot. I watched it on my viewfinder as it slowly grew bigger with its approach.

I slowly raised my rig above my head to get the right angle, made sure the exposure looked OK. It continued to get closer, and I felt the urge to take the picture. My playing not to lose voice was screaming at me. "It’s a good photo! It’s a better photo than you’ve ever taken of a shark! And if you don’t take it right now, you might leave the Galapagos, after 16 dives at Wolf and Darwin, with no hammerhead photos!! Do you want to be a failure?" But I waited a bit longer, as it got even closer. 10 ft. I held my breath. Still too far for my strobes. 8 ft. Still too far, and still too small with the fisheye. 6 ft. Still too far, but I had the focus locked in and everything at the ready. 5, and it was at the perfect angle, coming over my head…this was as good as it was going to get…click! It spooked. I had one shot. I checked my viewfinder – success!!

Secret Cave

We dove a location called secret cave, which on first glance was dark and not particularly photogenic. But here’s where a second facet of the playing to win mentality came up, which is not so immediate as when trying to capture a skittish hammerhead, but is still very important. My playing not to lose voice was saying "well just get a couple of photos to show you were in a cave and then you're good." So I fired up my strobes to illuminate some area to show what it looked like, and it was mediocre at best.

I slowed down and started thinking about alternatives. What would playing to win look like? There weren’t any cool cave formations here. The rocks were fairly bland and a bunch of sediment had been kicked up, so strobes were no use. OK, what about divers silhouetted against the ambient light coming in from the opening to the ocean? That could be interesting. So I turned off my strobes, turned out my dive light and positioned myself behind the group as they headed back out of the cave. I imagine they thought I was a weirdo, if anyone even saw me hanging back in the dark, but that was OK with me. I closed my aperture to darken the diver silhouettes, and as I sat back and waited, I saw a very cool image develop on my viewfinder. Bingo.

Mola Mola, Mola Mola

We were diving Punta Vicente Roca, and it was our second dive of the day at a well established mola mola cleaning station. We already had some great mola mola encounters on the first dive. However, in the scrum and mad scramble, with dive computers going off all around as people hit their depth limits, I could not get close enough for a good mola photo. That's another aspect of playing to win, though - know your limits and stay within them. I had about 10 feet deeper to go for a good mola shot when I hit my depth limit, so that was it for me - no mola photo.

After that first dive, one of the divers in my group, Mikhail told me about how he stuck around after the first mola encounter by himself. He said that, some time after the rest of the group went on, the mola returned and he had it to himself. I thought about the rest of the dive...schools of fish, sea lions and turtles, which are all cool, but certainly not mola equivalent. What does playing to win look like here? A close encounter with molas, at the expense of all else, clearly.

So, back to this second dive. After the initial excitement of a big mola, and getting a couple of decent shots from one who came pretty close, I was feeling good. But I still figured I could do better. The rest of the group headed off, while Mikhail and I waited around. We stayed at a shallower depth to conserve bottom time, and checked back on the cleaning station every now and then. On my third time going down to check, I saw perhaps the most magical moment of my short dive career. Two molas appeared out of the blue ahead of me, decending down to the cleaning station like alien spacecraft. Googly eyes rotating in all directions, they parked themselves vertically, side by side, and waited for their turn being cleaned. I went and grabbed Mikhail, and we went down to the molas by ourselves. They both watched us, eyes spinning crazily, as we approached. Closer, closer, closer...nice and calm, nice and slow, no sudden movements. And then, finally, click. Two molas in one photo, and one of the best diving experiences of my life!

Penguin Safari

After the crazy mola dives at PVR, three of us went on a panga to try snorkeling with penguins. That's another piece of the playing to win mindset - making opportunities when you get a chance. After motoring around the bay for awhile, we finally spotted a penguin darting around near the rocks. Galapagos penguins are notoriously difficult to approach, but we figured it was worth a shot. So, two of us hopped in the water and swam towards the rocks. The penguin swam into a bit of a rocky inlet, which could be accessed by the main entryway to the water, or by reaching over some rocks on the side of it. I was at the part where I could reach over the rocks, and I saw the penguin zipping around in the inlet. The other guy was at the mouth of the inlet.

My playing not to lose voice was screaming at me "reach over the rocks and get a photo of that penguin! You need to get a photo right now before it swims off! This is your only chance to get a photo of a Galapagos penguin!" But then I thought about what playing to win would look like. That would be a photo with the penguin at the surface, and water in the background, not some random snap of it zipping around against a rock background.

So I swam around to the mouth of the inlet, positioned myself, made sure my shutter was fast enough to avoid any motion blur, and then waited. I was worried the penguin would swim below or otherwise evade us, but this was the best chance of getting a winning shot. And the penguin decided to slow down and take a leisurely pass right by the two of us. Yeah!!

Galapagos Penguin

 

Manta Madness

Cabo Marshall, the last of the really good dives for the trip. We were told there was a good chance to see large mantas. As I had only ever seen a couple from a distance, this was very exciting. On our second dive of the day the divemaster took us to a small seamount to hang out for a bit. I was not sure why we were there at first, but all of a sudden a big manta passed by! It was too far away for good photos though. 

A few minutes later, an even larger manta showed up. My dive group all went straight for it in a flurry of kicks and bubbles. My playing not to lose voice was going again. "Big manta, this is your first big manta, you have to go straight for it to get a photo or else you're going to miss it!" By this point it was getting easier to quash, so quash it I did. Thinking about playing to win, I knew I wanted to get right underneath of the manta for that classic shot of the white belly and markings framed in Snell's window. And heading straight for it would not come close to accomplishing that.

As the group headed for the manta, I headed off perpendicular to them, kicking as quickly as I could to get into a position where I thought the manta would pass over me. It swam around a bit, and then left behind the members of my dive group. At this point I realized it was coming right towards me! My heart was pounding, partly from the burst of speed and partly from nervousness for the upcoming moment. It kept coming straight at me as I made my final checks: proper exposure settings for a bright surface background, strobes on at the right power and fiber optics plugged in (you never know what can get bumped during a dive). 

As it passed almost directly over me, I felt a level of breathless awe that went beyond me merely being out of breath. So cool. And fortunately, in the midst of this amazing experience, I remembered the most important part; hit the shutter button! Not perfect and not quite centered in Snell's window, but pretty decent!

Manta Ray

On a subsequent dive at Cabo Marshall we encountered a school of juvenile barracuda. I spotted it first and went right for it, taking a few decent photos, and my dive group followed. As others were lining up their photos, I checked mine; good, but not great. I knew what I needed to do to play to win, especially with the fisheye lens; get as close as possible to the school. No, even closer than that. So after the group finished, I went back to the school and swam straight at it. The barracuda were shy but as they got out of my way, they made some very cool patterns. This is what got the first photo in the article; again, not being satisfied with a decent shot, but looking for and working for that winning one.

Conclusion

The playing to win mindset is risky, and you will miss some shots when doing it; I did not get any eagle ray photos the whole trip. And if I had screwed up that hammerhead photo or that penguin photo, I would not have gotten any of those either. But the point is, I was able to override my "playing not to lose" voice and I took a number of risks while playing to win. As an end result, I missed a decent number of opportunities, but also came home with a number of the best photos of my life.

To recap, here's how to live this mindset:

  • Know what an amazing shot of <insert subject here> looks like and think about what it would take to get it
  • When you see your subject, get yourself into position for the amazing shot in case it happens, even if it means missing the mediocre or even the decent one
  • Don't be satisfied with mediocre shots unless you've at least tried to take something more exciting. Always be thinking about what you could do in a given situation for an award-winning shot
  • If your shot is decent, and you have an opportunity to experiment or improve, then do it! Don't worry if everyone else thinks you're being a weirdo - sometimes it will be worth it!
  • Don't forget to slow down and really check your photos every now and then - check for exposure, composition, focus, background and so on, just to make sure that you're ready for the next opportunity when it presents itself
  • Always stay safe - never compromise your safety for that winning shot

Thanks for reading and I hope this helps you to take some cool photos! If you have any comments or questions I'd love to hear from you at bryan@uwphotographyguide.com.

Gear Links

Shoot me an email (bryan@uwphotographyguide.com) if you plan on trying out any of these items or have any questions about the gear I used. My OM-D E-M1 rig is what I learned underwater photography on and I would love to chat about my experience and what you might be looking for! Same goes if you're looking at a Galapagos trip or you have one planned and want to know a bit more about what to expect.

 

Upcoming Galapagos and Socorro (Big Animal) trips

Additional Reading

Full Article: Deep Visions 2018 by ScubaShooters

Press Release

Scubashooters.net and its team are proud to announce that entries for the contest are open.

The competition will be hosted on the scubashooters.net website 

40 sponsors, each one a worldwide leader in the diving industry, will support an extremely rich prize pane of over $60000 USD total value!

Entries will be accepted from March 1st through April 22nd, and after competition ends, the scubashooters.net international jury will take the charge of the hard decision on the winning photos.

Mr. Henry Jager (head of the jury) from Switzerland, Mrs. Beth Watson from USA, Mrs. Isabella Maffei from Italy, Mrs. Ivana Orlovic from Serbia, Mr. Davide Lopresti from Italy, Mr. Roland Bach from Spain and Mr. Fabio Iardino from Italy are the members of the Jury and they will have the hard task to decide the winning shots. Mr Jager. recommends two very important things: read the rules and avoid uploading watermarked photos.

The judging system is entirely web based and programmed so that the members of the jury will not be able to determine the authors of the photos; it is then of extreme importance to enter the contest with watermark free photos as those not respecting this simple request will be disqualified.

Visit www.scubashooters.net and enter the contest!

 

ScubaShooters Past Winners:

 

Photo by Tanya Houppermans

Photo by Alex Rush

Photo by Yatwaiso


Full Article: Sony RX100 V Review

The Sony RX100 line of cameras is one of the most popular compact camera options for underwater shooters. A large image sensor, great feature list, and variety of underwater housing options have kept the RX100 cameras a top choice in the compact camera field.

There are a number of significant improvements to this camera including 24 fps burst shooting, double the time shooting at 960 frames per second (very slow motion video) and 4K video with 5K oversampling (for even better quality 4K). Are the improvements to this camera significant enough to consider upgrading your compact rig? How does it compare to other compact options? Read on to find out.

We asked some users of the RX100 V in the Underwater Photography Guide community to contribute their best shots and advice for this camera. These photos really show the sensor's dynamic range, crisp and quick auto-focus, and great overall image quality. 

Jump to section:

Sony RX100 V Specs   |  Underwater Photography Features   |   Wide Angle Shooting

Macro Shooting   |   Underwater Videography Features   |   Limitations and Downsides

   Underwater Housing Options  |   To Buy or Not To Buy?   |   Conclusion

 

Specs

Key Upgrades from RX100 IV

  • New 20.1-megapixel 1-inch Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor
  • New BIONZ X image processor and front-end LSi (faster camera operation and image processing speed)
  • 315-point phase detection autofocus system
  • Anti Distortion Shutter dramatically reduces rolling shutter effect when recording video 
  • 24 fps RAW burst with AF tracking for up to 150 photos. Wow!
  • New AF-A mode allows camera to switch between single and continuous AF (usually found on DSLR AF systems)

Sony RX100 V Complete Specs

  • 20.1-megapixel 1-inch Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor
  • 315-point phase detection autofocus system: focuses in 0.05-sec
  • AF-A autofocus mode in addition to AF-S and AF-C
  • New BIONZ X image processor and front-end LSi (faster camera operation and image processing speed)
  • ISO range 125 - 12800
  • 24 fps RAW burst with AF tracking for up to 150 photos. Wow!
  • Anti Distortion Shutter dramatically reduces rolling shutter effect when recording video 
  • ZEISS® Vario-Sonnar® T* 24-70mm, f/1.8 - 2.8 Lens with 10 elements in 9 groups and a 0.17 ft (5 cm) minimum focusing distance
  • Adjustable LCD screen - 2.95 inches (3.0type) (4:3) / 1,228,800 dots
  • 100% coverage viewfinder
  • WiFI and NFC connectivity
  • Dimensions: 4 x 2 3/8 × 1 5/8 inch (101.6 x 58.1 x 41.0 mm)
  • Weight: Approx. 10.5 oz (299 g) (Battery and Memory Stick Duo are included) / Approx. 9.6 oz (272 g) (Body Only)

It’s clear that Sony’s focus with this camera was adding technical capabilities, and they have made some impressive additions to the spec list. The high-speed shooting mode can now do 24 fps burst shooting in jpeg and RAW, with full autofocus and autoexposure. The autofocus is incredibly quick; 0.05-seconds with 315 AF points. This is a vast improvement over the RX100 IV. And the 4K video quality has been amped up several notches, with oversampling from 5K footage, reduction in rolling shutter, and the option to shoot extended super slow motion at 960 fps for twice as long as with the RX100 IV.

Underwater Photography Features

Lens

The 24-70mm F1.8/2.8 lens is the same as used in the RX100 IV. It is faster (F2.8) at 70mm than the lens on the RX100 / RX100 II, which is beneficial for low-light and indoor shooting. However, for underwater photography, I don't normally shoot with a wide open aperture, especially at the longer range of 70mm. Overall I would prefer the 100mm reach of the RX100 and RX100 II over the RX100 V's speed, as that allows for better photos of shy subjects and better macro shooting. 

Autofocus

The completely redesigned, 315-point phase detection autofocus (AF) system is lightning fast. By combining high-speed phase-detection AF with extremely accurate contrast-detection AF, this hybrid system allows the camera to lock onto and capture moving subjects in merely 0.05 seconds. This improvement is most noticeable when shooting in Continuous AF mode. Note that phase detection autofocus systems are typically found on dSLRs and higher-end mirrorless cameras, but not on compacts (until now).

Sensor and Photo Quality

The DxoMark sensor rating of the Sony RX100 V is 70, very good for a compact camera. The sensor is rated the same as the RX100 IV, slightly better than the RX100 II & III (both got 67), and about equal to the Canon G7X (got a 71). The sensor rating takes color depth, dynamic range, and low-light ISO performance into account. The image quality of this camera is rated by DPReview to be almost identical to that of the RX100 IV. That is to say, the images and video are outstanding; professional level photos and video can be taken with this camera.

Strobes, Flash and TTL Capability

Strobes are external flashes for use underwater. They help make your photos sharper, and more importantly, restore true colors to marine life. (When lit only by ambient light, subjects lose color through all the water between them and the surface, and between them and your lens). Check out this article about strobes for more information.

Through-the-lens (TTL) is a strobe setting where your camera controls your strobe power based on its own light metering. The internal flash trigger is transmitted to your strobes via fiber optic cables, and your strobes fire with a corresponding strength. You can get optical TTL when using fiber optic cables with the Sea & Sea YS-03, YS-01, YS-D1, and YS-D2 strobes. You can also use the Inon Z240, Z330, S2000, or D2000 strobes. TTL works in all modes - P, A, Tv, and manual mode.

One notable downside of the RX100V is that if you are using a strobe, you'll have to wait 1 - 4 seconds for the internal flash to recycle, as there is no way to turn down the internal flash power. (Note: the Canon compact cameras have this option). This may limit you in situations where you want to take multiple exposures quickly. One of our users found that they would have internal flash delays at the tail-end of dives after taking almost 200 photos.  

White Balance Capability

Although the Sony RX100 V does not have "1-touch" custom white balance, the custom white balance is like that of the RX100 IV; good and easy to use. The custom white balance function uses a small circle in the center of the photo to evaluate the white balance, instead of using the entire screen, which is very nice. You can store the white balance setting in 3 different banks. You can't set the white balance in video mode, but you can start and stop video in any of the camera modes so that is not really a big deal in our opinion. 

Wide Angle Shooting

As with all compact cameras, the RX100 V's lens covers somewhat wide-to-mid-range focal lengths. The capabilities can be greatly improved for wide angle shooting by using wet lenses, which connect to the outside of the camera housing and increase the angle of view.

RX100 V Wide-Angle Wet Lenses

A wide-angle wet lens increases the field of view, which means that for shooting a given subject at a certain size in your photo, you have to be quite a bit closer to it. Although this can be a hassle with a skittish subject, what it does mean is that you get less water between the camera and your subject. And less water means a clearer subject, as well as better lighting from video light, photo light or strobe, which means much better colors. A wider angle also allows for more dramatic shots, especially with large subjects like oil rigs, kelp forests and wrecks.

Macro Shooting

The 70mm max focal length of the native lens of the RX100 V does not provide as good reach for macro shooting as the 100mm length of the RX100 and RX100 II. A wet macro lens increases the magnification of the camera lens, allowing you to shoot macro images of much smaller subjects than with just the camera alone.

RX100 V Macro Lenses

The RX-100 at 100mm can take a photo 3 inches across, while the RX-100 V at 70mm can take a photo 4 inches across. When using the Bluewater +7 macro lens, you can take a photo 1.37 inches wide at maximum magnification with the RX-100. With the RX-100 V, you can take a photo 1.78 inches across, and you also have a little less working distance with the RX-100 V. So while you can still get good macro shots, you get more magnification with the first two RX-100 versions than with the later versions.

Underwater Videography Features

The RX100V takes extremely high quality video, which rivals that of significantly more expensive cameras (including those dedicated for video). It has SLog2 gamma and focus peaking, and takes very high quality 1080p HD video (without even getting into the even higher resolution 4K option). Here is a great video taken in the Galapagos by Juan Quinteros, with the RX100 V in HD video mode.

4K Video

If you have the right memory card, the RX100 V can shoot in 4K, at a 100Mbps bit rate. It actually collects about 1.7 times as much information as required for basic 4K movie output, and this oversampling effect results in even higher quality 4K video than that of the RX100 IV. Improvements have also been made to drastically reduce the "rolling shutter" effect from that of the RX100 IV.

Photo Capture function lets you select a moment from a 4K movie in playback and save it in the form of a highly detailed still image file of over 8 megapixels. Likewise, you can create a 2-megapixel still image file from a Full HD movie that has been recorded.

Slow Motion

In slow motion mode, the camera can take ~4 seconds of 960fps footage in quality priority mode (which we recommend, or ~7 seconds in regular mode), that will take 64 seconds to replay at 60fps. A neat feature is that there are two recording modes for slow motion: start trigger and end trigger. Say that you have a sea lion swimming around you and blowing bubbles, and you want to capture in slow motion the moment it opens its mouth and starts letting bubbles out. If you use start trigger, you have to anticipate the action, and hit the MOVIE button before the sea lion opens its mouth. But if you use end trigger, you can keep the sea lion in view while the camera writes to the buffer, and then hit the MOVIE button after the sea lion has blown its bubbles. The camera will then record slow motion video of the 4-6 seconds prior to hitting the MOVIE button, thus capturing in slow motion the exact moment the sea lion first opened its mouth!

Here is a sample slow-motion video taken with the RX100 IV. The slow motion video capabilities of the RX100 V are identical to those of the IV, except for the ability to take slow motion videos that are twice as long.

Filmed by Scott Gietler and Tommy Stylski of Bluewater Photo at 960fps.

Limitations and Downsides

Battery Life

The CIPA rating of 220 shots is a significant reduction from the RX-100 IV (280) and from the competition (265 for the Canon G7X mark II). That’s not to say that you can only get 220 shots from one battery in this camera – testing is done with high flash usage and the LCD screen remaining on after each shot. Especially when shooting in burst mode, you can get quite a few more shots on one battery; the point is that this camera will not get as far on one battery as its predecessor or as its competition. What this means from the standpoint of shooting underwater, and as shared by a couple of users from the community, is that you may want to swap out your battery between each dive to make sure you don't run out of juice underwater (or at least once every second dive). And this could have larger ramifications for those who take lots of underwater video.

Limited 4K Video Shooting Length

There is a 5 minute recording limit when shooting in 4K video mode, to prevent overheating (same as with the RX100 IV).

Size

The RX100 V is the same dimensions as the RX-100 IV, but both are 10% larger and 15% heavier than the original RX-100. So although it is still a small camera, it is best classified as "semi-pocketable" instead of slim and truly pocketable.

Cost

The RX100V is more costly than all the other RX100 models, and significantly costlier than the Canon G7X II. 

Shooting Limitations

As mentioned above, the limited reach of the 24-70mm lens makes it more difficult to take photos of macro subjects or shy subjects. The flash recycle time of 1-4 seconds reduces the ability to take multiple shots quickly while using strobes.

Sony RX100 V Underwater Housings

Since the RX100 V has the same dimensions as the RX100 IV, all housings for the RX100 IV except for the Nauticam version fit the RX100 V. There are six underwater housings available for the Sony RX100 V. Each have different pros and cons, most importantly around pricing and ergonomics, and all offer a wide range of accessories available through Bluewater Photo.

Nauticam RX100 V Underwater Housing

The Nauticam RX100 V housing is milled from a block of solid aluminum, then hard anodized. The result is a rugged and reliable piece of gear that will stand up to saltwater and the daily rigors of diving. Since the housing accesses all of the camera controls, including the front control ring, the user can take advantage of the enhanced programmability in the RX100 V. The housing also has a 67mm port and can support multiple wet wide angle lens options, including the Nauticam WWL-1.

Purchase the Nauticam RX100 V Housing

Recsea RX100 IV, V Underwater Housing

As always Recsea housings are made of high quality machined aluminum with excellent controls and full camera functionality. The Recsea housings fit the camera like a glove, offering the smallest housing on the market without losing any functionality. Easy to use, adaptable with many different wet wide angle and macro lenses, and including strobe connections, the Recsea housing is the perfect tool for taking your Sony RX-100 IV or V underwater.

Purchase the Recsea RX100 IV, V Housing

Recsea RX100 IV, V CW Underwater Housing

Recsea offers a high quality polycarbonate housing for the Sony RX100 IV, which is compatible with the RX100 V. Designed with the same precision engineering as the high quality aluminum RX100 IV Housing the new CW housing comes at a much lower price, great if you are on a budget. The new CW housings come with 67mm threads built in which means you can attach some lenses without an adapter.

Purchase the Recsea RX100 IV, V CW Housing

Acquapazza RX100 IV, V Underwater Housing

Acquapazza is a high quality aluminum housing made in Japan. Small and easy to use, it allows for full access to the camera features, with split out button and dial controls. Built in 67mm threads allow for easy attachment of wet lenses. Acquapazza housings are available in a number of different anodized colors.

Purchase the Acquapazza RX100 IV, V Housing

Fantasea RX100 III, IV, V Underwater Housing

The Fantasea Sony RX100 IV housing is made of tough plastic, creating a lightweight and sturdy housing. Controls are easy to access and very clearly labeled. The housing is also compatible with flash accessories, plus wide-angle and macro wet lenses and other gear. A cold shoe mount makes it easy to attach a focus light, video light, a GoPro or other accessory. If you are looking for a lower priced housing, this is an excellent choice.

Purchase the Fantasea RX100 IV Housing

To Buy or Not To Buy?

The RX100 V is clearly an excellent option for compact shooters, and will allow you to get awesome photos. The question though is whether it's worth the higher price tag than its competitors. Here is a quick breakdown of some of the key comparisons between the RX100V, the RX100IV and the Canon G7X II.

 

RX100 V

 

RX100 IV

G7X II

MSRP

 

$999

$899

$699

Sensor Rating

 

70

70

71

Lens specs

24-70mm

F1.8-2.8

24-70mm

F1.8-2.8

24-100mm

F1.8-2.8

Autofocus

315-point phase detection (much better)

Contrast detection

Contrast detection

Flash recycle time

Slow

Slow

Quicker

Viewfinder

 

Yes

Yes

No

Video modes

4K/30p with 5K oversampling and reduced rolling shutter

1080/120p

4K/30p

1080/120p

1080/60p

Slow motion video

960 fps for 4-7 seconds

960 fps for 2-4 seconds

No

Battery Life (CIPA)

 

220

280

265

Burst Shooting

 

24 fps

16 fps

8 fps

 

The camera you should choose ultimately depends on what you are looking for and how much you have to spend. 

Consider the RX100 V if:

  • You want the faster autofocus
  • You want the highest quality 4K video possible
  • You want to shoot long slow motion clips 
  • You want to shoot extremely fast bursts
  • You are OK with swapping your battery out more often (potentially every one or two dives, especially if taking lots of video)

Consider the RX100 IV if:

  • You want to shoot 4K video and you are OK with some rolling shutter effect and missing the 5K oversampling
  • You want to shoot slow motion clips and 2-4 seconds is enough for you
  • You want to shoot fast bursts
  • You want a bit longer battery life
  • You want to save some money 

Consider the G7X II if:

  • You want to save a significant amount of money
  • You are fine shooting 1080/60p video without 4K or slow motion
  • You want the extra range of the 100mm lens instead of 70mm for macro or shy subjects
  • You want a faster flash recycle time to use your strobes more quickly on consecutive shots
  • You want more battery life than the RX100 V
  • You are good with having a burst shooting mode of 8 fps

If you already have the RX100 IV, then the only reason to spend the money to upgrade is if you are really wanting the very best 4K video, you have problems with autofocus, or you want to take longer slow motion video clips. The good news if you do decide to upgrade is that most housings for the RX100 IV are fully compatible with the RX100 V.

Remember that whichever compact camera you choose, adding strobes and wet lenses will allow you to make significant improvements in your potential for taking high quality images. And if your choice is between upgrading compact camera or adding a strobe or a wet lens, your money may be better spent adding one of those to your current setup.

You can read our full review of the Canon G7X II here and our full review of the RX100 IV here.

Conclusion

The Sony RX100 V boasts fantastic image quality, amazing 4K video quality, and the ability to take phenomenal slow motion video. A wide array of underwater housings and lenses provide a lot of options that cover multiple budgets and intended uses. All of this makes the Sony RX100 V one of the best choices for underwater photographers looking to get the maximum photography and videography options from a compact rig. The specs are so good on this camera that a competent photographer with the right gear can take photos that challenge the quality of those from more expensive and bulkier mirrorless rigs, as can be seen from the sample photos provided from our community throughout this article. The question is not whether this camera is worth the price tag, but whether it is the best way to spend limited money that could potentially be spent elsewhere.

Additional Reading

Additional User Photos

 

 

 

Full Article: Diving with Volcanoes

Volcanoes

Whether active, dormant, or extinct, volcanoes are a fascinating and occasionally volatile feature of nature. One country stands out as having the most active volcanoes on the planet, and coincidently some of the best diving – Indonesia.  Indonesia’s far northern archipelago gives divers opportunities to dive in close proximity to volcanos.

The Sangihe Islands are a rare trifecta of dives; a lucky individual can dive on an active underwater volcano, the base of an active volcano and an extinct volcano with its series of old lava flows that extend down to well below recreational diving depths.

Each dive is different, unique, and a little intimidating. Volcanoes can be a challenge to dive, let alone photograph.  

Mahengetang Active Underwater Volcano

The Mahengetang Active Underwater Volcano is the most difficult of the 3 to dive and photograph – mainly due to its remote location and in-water conditions. Despite being relatively close to a small island which offers some shelter to wind and swell, the currents are strong in the area and the pinnacle must be dived on the slack tide.

It’s interesting to note that a prior scientific expedition had reported that the peak was 5m/16ft below the surface. During our dives there 4 years later, the rocky peak had risen and had broken through the surface.

All around the peak are hundreds of cracks in the rocks allowing the sulphur bubbles to escape and float upwards. The smell of sulphur at the dive site is very strong, and the water temperature around the volcano is an average of around 35°C or 95°F.  

This excess heat is a little uncomfortable even without a wetsuit but a lightweight exposure suit is still recommended. The upside of the excess heat is the incredible, unusually shaped soft corals and sponges.

What makes the dive frustrating to photograph are the extreme thermoclines at depths ranging from the surface down to at least 35m/115ft. In addition to massive temperature differences, the heated layers create swirling bands of haze that make it difficult to see and impossible for the camera to focus. With all of the layers overhead, available light is also greatly reduced to about half that of a standard dive.

This has wide angle photographers constantly adjusting ISO, aperture, and shutter speeds to compensate for the inconsistent and ever-changing lighting. With models wearing black, the exposures were especially difficult. For subsequent dives, brighter colours were used giving some added safety.

During surface intervals, you can walk around and get a glimpse of life on the small island by watching the locals repairing fishing nets or building large timber fishing boats with chainsaws and basic tools. Although they don’t speak English, they are welcoming and the smiling children will happily follow you everywhere you go.

 

Ruang Volcano and Lava Flows

Travelling by boat around the Ruang Volcano is stunning.  It’s a single volcano with all sides running down to the water’s edge creating a near circular island with deep water all around. The caldera can be clearly seen and is partially destroyed from the last eruption.

But what is most fascinating are the two large lava flows that start at the peak and expand down the hillside and into the water. The rock is black, rough and very porous making it ideal for hosting corals when underwater.

Like the nearby Mahengetang Volcano, this area also has strong currents but with the lava flows being so wide, it is perfect for drift diving.  The variety of coral is incredible with equal amounts of hard and soft corals as well as ample sponges, sea whips and fans. It’s some of the most diverse coral gardens we have ever seen.

Interspaced between the lava rocks and coral is black sand making for ideal macro photography as well as wide angle.

 

Karengetang Active Volcano

Karengetang is one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes. From a distance, the constant plume of dense white smoke can be seen rising high into the sky and occasionally, the sight of lava spewing vertically into the air is visible as well.

At night the peak has a constant red glow and is fascinating to watch while anchored in the harbour below during both the day and night.  It does erupt regularly and erupted just 6 months prior and also 9 months after we had visited the area.  The volcano is in the Sitaro Province and the township of Siau is nestled on the water’s edge at the base of this 1870m/6200ft tall volcano.

 

There are many dives all around the volcano’s base from large coral walls, points teeming with fish, coral, and even a wreck – all of which are on the west coast.

But for us, the highlights were the black sand muck dives on the east coast of the island, in the harbour directly below the volcano.  The macro diving here is superb and in our opinion  surpasses the Lembeh Straights, located around 100 miles south of Siau. The big difference from Lembeh being the lack of crowds, and the deep rumblings of the volcano that regularly vibrate right though you whilst underwater.

More detail and images on Siau’s diving can be found in our “Dispatch from Siau” article.

Volcano Hike

The volcano experience can be topped off on the last “no dive” day with a hike up Karengetang.  The 3 am start is at the discretion of the local volcanologist, and is just the first step of a very physical 15 hour climb that requires an experienced guide, very good footwear, and a high level of fitness. After a beautiful sunrise, walking up through the clouds in the middle of the day, and the views overlooking the bay are well worth the effort.

The area can be accessed from Manado by light plane to Siau, fast ferry, or the occasional dive liveaboard with exploratory charters of the area.

For divers travelling from Manado to the Lembeh Straights or the Bunaken Marine Park, it’s a great way to tack an extra few days diving onto the trip and with the right weather, get a little volcanic diversity to your dive holiday.