Featured Artist

Videographer Stephen Martin's insights, tips, and stunning video with the Panasonic GH5
By Stephen Martin

Video with the Panasonic GH5

Stephen Martin
Videographer Stephen Martin's insights, tips, and stunning video with the Panasonic GH5

About a year and a half ago I upgraded from a Light and Motion Bluefin housing and Sony video camera to the Panasonic GH5 and Nauticam housing. In that time I’ve put the GH5 through its paces on approximately 250 dives in Puget Sound and elsewhere around the globe. As a video shooter I really appreciate being able to shoot at 4k60p. The greater resolution allows for subtle zooming effects without loss of image quality as I output video at 1080p. 4k also helps with image stabilization which I find critical. Youtube is filled with jumpy videos and I’d never want to be in that category! The higher frame rate can also be reduced in half to provide dramatic slow motion effects.

In my video “Exploring the Salish Sea 2018” I began experimenting with snoot techniques to isolate macro subjects. Puget Sound is mostly muck diving and a mucky background isn’t the best thing to emphasize, especially when so many colorful creatures inhabit the area. While the snoot adds an extra frustrating complication to the process, the results are worth the struggle when stubby squid, grunt sculpins, nudibranchs, sea spiders and wolf eels are seen in intricate detail. 

One additional piece of equipment I added to my setup is the SmallHD 501 monitor in a Nauticam housing. I quickly found out trying to view the screen on the back of the GH5 was mostly impossible as the angle was too great in most cases to view properly. The monitor, on a ball mount with extended clamp, allows me to move it around for the perfect angle to frame subjects. In addition, I’ve enabled focus peaking, exposure peaking and a histogram to really help with focus and exposure.

The winter months provide the best visibility in Puget Sound and I collect video clips from dives during this time with a goal to get at least one good scene per dive. After each dive I import clips into Final Cut Pro on an iMac to build a library of scenes. Final Cut Pro allows you to keyword clips and I go through this process to help organize clips into logical groups. When it comes time to put clips on the timeline I search by keyword, say stubby squid, and Final Cut Pro will list all the stubby squid clips. From here I can determine the best scene and favorite them. Having the editor show me all clips I have favorited becomes the basis for the initial rough cut. Then it’s just a matter of finessing the timing, and applying the polish of color correction and other effects to produce the final cut.

Equipment Used:

Editor: Final Cut Pro X

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephen Martin lives in Seattle, WA and began diving the cold dark waters of Puget Sound in 2003. He began shooting video shortly thereafter but found the editing process to be too time consuming and tedious, so he switched to a DSLR setup. However, due to flooding the DSLR housing and killing the camera he went crawling back to video where he has remained ever since. You can view his underwater videos on his Youtube channel.

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Interview with a fantastic Italian underwater photographer about dive spots, techniques, favorite shots and gear

Diving in Italy: Interview with Pietro Formis

Interview with a fantastic Italian underwater photographer about dive spots, techniques, favorite shots and gear

Pietro Formis is an Italian underwater photographer with an amazing portfolio of images. We caught up with him to talk about diving in Italy and get some of the story behind some of his best shots. We really enjoy everything he shared and hope you do too! - UWPG Editors

 

UWPG: What inspired you to start diving and taking photos underwater?

Pietro: I started diving thanks to my father. He invited me to take an open water diving course with him, and from that day my life truly changed. I started taking pictures underwater almost immediately with a small compact camera, and then things came along naturally from there. 

 

UWPG: Are you a full-time professional photographer, hobbyist, or both?

Pietro: I’m a free-lance photographer. Last year I quit my old job and now I’m focusing mainly on photography, especially underwater photography, leading photographic trips and workshops in Italy, the Philippines, the Red Sea, and Indonesia. 

 

UWPG: Where is your favorite place to dive in the world?

Pietro: This is difficult to answer… probably the Italian village of Noli, in Liguria, in the Mediterranean Sea. It isn’t known as the best spot in the world, but it is where I took some of my best photos. I dive there anytime I can, almost weekly during the year.


UWPG: What about the diving in Italy makes it special?

Pietro: Italy is a very diverse country; we have thousands of kilometers of coasts, snowy mountains, wetlands, dry lands, forests, lowlands, rivers, caves, volcanoes, history, culture, modernity and tradition.  

Even under the surface of the sea we have this kind of variety: from North to South we can find murky waters suitable for "muck dives", as in the Adriatic Sea; crystal waters and spectacular caves in Sardinia; colored walls of gorgonians stretching from the Ligurian Sea to Sicily; and historical wrecks and submerged ruins such as the city of Baia, near Naples, just to name few. The marine ecosystems are influenced by the Mediterranean temperate climate, with a strong seasonality and variability from cold winters to hot summers.

 

UWPG: What is your favorite freshwater location in Italy to dive? What is there to see there? 

Pietro: Usually I dive in different fresh water spots to search for a specific subject, such as newts in small ponds,freshwater crab and snakes in rivers and streams, or some special and elusive species such as the Sea Lamprey. These picture are usually taken in a few inches of water.

 

 

Alternatively, a very special place to dive with scuba gear, for the evocative scenery, is the Orrido di S. Anna (Piedmont), a submerged canyon characterized by green waters and beautiful lighting. 


UWPG: What sets you apart from other underwater photographers?

Pietro: I cannot tell you exactly what distinguishes me. What I can tell you is that I always try to take images that make the observer dream and that stimulate his or her imagination, curiosity and knowledge about the subjects portrayed. 

 

UWPG: What is your favorite photographic style and/or technique?

Pietro: I love macro, wide angle, split shots, natural light… I love all photographic techniques but the one I enjoy most is definitely the close focus wide angle (CFWA).

 

UWPG: Do you have tips for taking close-focus-wide-angle underwater photos? 

Pietro: First of all: get close! (it seems obvious, but every inch makes the difference). 

Then, pay attention to lighting. Positioning strobes is the biggest challenge, as avoiding backscatter isn’t the only goal. 

Try to enhance the subject by emphasizing its characteristics, accentuating or softening the shadows, think in a three-dimensional way in order not to illuminate unwanted areas (for example in photographs on sandy bottoms) and change the position of the strobes accordingly.

 

UWPG: What is your favorite way to light macro photos?

Pietro: I usually use 2 strobes, but I like strong contrasts and I often set one of the two strobes to have much more power than the other.

For the same reason I like using a snoot, as it emphasizes the shadows and gives a sense of drama to the pictures. It is a must in situations with a white sandy bottom. I like to use it to isolate subjects from the background, but I love less the "white ring" effect which tends to produce very repetitive images.

 

UWPG: What is your favorite image and the story behind it?

Pietro: I think it is one of my latest pictures, “Mediterranean Monster,” showing a large monkfish (longer than a meter) with an open mouth, its sharp teeth in sight. It is an image of a marvelous creature, albeit monstrous; it is truly fascinating, an incredible predator, unfortunately seen more often at the fish market than in its natural habitat. 

These fish reach sexual maturity after several years and reach a considerable size (up to 2 meters), that is if they are not caught before! It is a fish that is usually found in the depths, but during spring (thanks to the colder water temperatures) it can also be found in shallow waters.

I love to photograph these types of subjects – fantastic creatures, monstrous yet fascinating, inspiring fear and, for once, appreciation for what they are: an evolutionary miracle and not just a fish recipe. 

 

UWPG: What has been your favorite underwater experience?

Pietro: I think photographing Humpback Whales in the waters of Reunion Island. It was amazing to see these gentle giants appearing from the deep. It is something I would definitely do again.


UWPG: What is your chosen underwater photography equipment?

Pietro: I use a Canon 5DMKIII in a Nauticam Housing. I use Nauticam housings because of their solidity. I often dive in difficult conditions: muddy waters and sand. I'm sure that in every scenario I can trust my housing. I also love the port locking system and housing locking system, as they are easy, fast and reliable. 

Of course I love the ergonomics as well: you have all the controls at your fingertips, and you can change settings while you're looking through the viewfinder. 

I use Inon and Sea & Sea strobes and a FIX Neo 2200 video light (for continuous lighting). 

*Editors note: While the Canon 5DKIII remains an excellent DSLR camera, be sure to check out our underwater review for the next in the lineup, the Canon 5D Mark IV

 

 

UWPG: Do you have any tips for our readers?

Pietro: Enjoy underwater photography, share experiences with other photographers, and participate in competitions…but give competitions their right value (it’s only a game). Don’t think too much, shoot as much as you can, and don’t look back, as the best shot will be the next one. 

Don’t change your gear too often - the best shots will come when you have a good feel for your camera, housing and strobes.

  

 

Gear Links:


Additional Reading

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pietro Formis has won many awards in national and international competitions like GDT – European photographer of the year, Asferico, Ocean art Competition, Our World Underwater, Ocean Geographic Competition, NCUPS and many others.

His work has been published in european magazines (Scuba Zone, Sub, Unterwasser, La rivista della Natura, Naturphoto, RollingStone Italia).

Next Diving Trips and Workshops:

In 2019 the 4th edition of Macromania is confirmed for early May (workshop and photo competition in Puerto Galera - Philippines) http://www.macromania.com.ph   

Then in the summer 2 weeks of liveabord in the Red Sea in the second half of July - Photography and marine biology workshops in collaboration with Istituto per gli studi sul Mare Milano, WWF Travel and Compagnia del Mar Rosso. 

More events are going to be scheduled during the season, please follow me on : www.pietroformis.com     www.facebook.com/pietroformis 

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Interview with a renowned underwater and wildlife photographer on photographing sperm whales in Dominica.
By Franco Banfi

Sperm Whale Photography with Franco Banfi

Franco Banfi
Interview with a renowned underwater and wildlife photographer on photographing sperm whales in Dominica.

A note from the Editor: I met Franco Banfi on an iceberg diving trip in East Greenland. It’s not often I get to sit down and talk with a professional underwater photographer, and it was a lot of fun. Franco was really open about sharing his experiences and amazing photos from freediving with sperm whales, so I pulled out my smartphone and recorded our kitchen table conversation. I really enjoyed everything he shared, especially about sperm whale behaviors, and I hope you do too! – Bryan Chu (Associate Editor)

Sperm whales, Dominica, Caribbean (taken with government permit).
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye lens @ 15mm. 1/320 sec, f/8.0, ISO 1250.

 

Bryan: How long have you been diving for?

Franco: A long time…thirty, maybe thirty five years.

Bryan: What got you into underwater photography?

Franco: The first place I went diving was the Maldives, and I started taking photos there with a Nikonos.

Bryan: How long have you been doing whale photography for?

Franco: Let’s say for the last 5-6 years (more intensely)

Bryan: Do you have a favourite whale to photograph?

Franco: I have photographed sperm whales, blue whales, killer whales, bryde whales, humpbacks. I don’t have a favorite. I like all whales!

Bryan: You have done a lot of sperm whale photography. What do you like about photographing them in particular?

Franco: I mostly like big animals. When I started doing underwater photography everything was good, but now I am more focused on big things, including whales. I like to photograph and see things that not everybody sees. It’s also interesting because with whales you’re not diving, but swimming or free-diving. So along with photography skills, you also need to have free-diving and swimming skills. It’s very nice…once you start doing it you can understand. If you swim close to an animal like this, you have a chance the look them in the eyes, to see this animal that looks at you. You start to appreciate and want to do more.

 

Sperm whale, Dominica, Caribbean (taken with government permit).
Canon EOS 5DSR, EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens. 1/640 sec, f/5.0, ISO 320.

 

Bryan: What are your favourite behaviours to observe with sperm whales?

Franco: Every time you have an encounter with sperm whales or other whales, if you observe carefully, then sometimes you’ll understand what the whale is doing. You can see that the whale is looking at you, and the whale’s behavior in some ways is according to what you are doing.

I can share an example. One time I jumped in the water and there were two whales together. When I jumped in the water the two separated. One went right, one went left. So I decided to follow the one on the left. As a photographer you always want to be in front of the whale, because if not you just photograph the tail. So I tried to go beside the whale and was able to get alongside. This doesn’t mean that I was a good swimmer – it means that the whale went slow enough to allow me to come up alongside of it. The whale was watching me. When she saw me, she started to swim a little bit faster. I sped up some more and got alongside the whale again. The whale watched me, and started to go faster again.

I think this whale was almost thinking that I was the other whale, that we were together and she was in some way waiting for me. It’s like she was saying “come on, go faster.” Because she was not escaping, but just staying a little bit ahead. This is something that you can experience when you watch and pay attention to what happens. Sperm whales are mammals with a brain…a really big brain. 

 

Free diver swimming with sperm whale, Dominica, Caribbean (taken with government permit).
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye lens @ 15mm. 1/400 sec, f/9.0, ISO 640.

 

Bryan: Where do you go for encountering sperm whales?

Franco: I go to the island of Dominica in the Caribbean, because there are some resident sperm whales there. So you have excellent possibilities to encounter them. Other locations you can see sperm whales include the Azores in the Atlantic, and in the North of Sri Lanka, as well as in other places. But the ones in Dominica are probably the best to approach because they stay in the area and they have seen divers. Of course to go in the water with the whales you need special permission. It’s not something that everyone can do as they don’t give permission to everybody. What I have heard is that they give 8 permits per year. These permits do not overlap, so if you have your permit you have your time, and the next group will go after. There are never several boats following one whale, like in other places.

Bryan: Have you ever felt nervous or had any close encounters?

Franco: With whales? No. I must tell you, my feeling, my idea is if I am afraid of something I don’t do it. If I want to do something, I don’t care, I do it. If not, I stay out of the water.

Bryan: How can I tell when I see a sperm whale in the distance?

Franco: For people that don’t know sperm whales, there’s only one blowhole on the left, and it goes at 45 degree.

Bryan: How big are these animals you are diving with?

Franco: The larger ones are an average of 10-12 meters long. Big males can be 18 m but I have never seen one that large. The ones I see mostly are around 10-12. The babies are maybe 4 m. For comparison, humpbacks are around 14-15 m long. 

 

Sperm whale, Dominica, Caribbean (taken with government permit).
Canon EOS 5DSR, EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens. 1/640 sec, f/7.1, ISO 640.

 

Bryan: Do you get to observe them using their sonar? Is it loud?

Franco: Yes. Sometimes they look at you and open their mouth; that’s because they are scanning you. They open their mouth because they use their jaw as an amplifier for sonar. Even if you don’t hear it, they are scanning you.

Their sonar goes out at 45 degrees from the top of their head. If they want to use sonar at the surface, it would just go up and out of the water. So, sometimes they will swim upside down at the surface, which lets them use their sonar there.

They can be very loud. There’s a buoy a few km from the island where they have a piece of net connected, for fishing. Sometimes we stop there to have a swim. One time I found a sperm whale there; we jumped in the water and could hear the sonar. It was funny because this guy was trying to find out what this was. You could see he was doing a lot of clicking and scanning. Probably he was wondering what this thing in the middle of the ocean was. He was a young guy.

 

Sperm whale opening mouth, Dominica, Caribbean (taken with government permit).
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM lens. 1/640 sec, f/5.0, ISO 320.

 

Bryan: What kind of gear and settings do you use to photograph sperm whales? And how about lighting?

Franco: I use a Canon 5D Mark IV in an Isotta housing, with an 8-15mm fisheye lens. Normally I use Seacam strobes, but for sperm whales I use ambient light. (Editor’s note: check out our review of the Canon 5D Mark IV).

For settings I tend to use between 300 and 600 ISO, and around f/8 or f/11. I try to keep the shutter speed around 1/250 sec and focus on maintaining this rather than the f-stop. If I am shooting down then I sometimes need to go up to about ISO 1250.

I use autofocus, which picks up on the skin so I don’t tend to have focus issue. Shooting without a strobe you try to be in there with the sun at your back. Of course, sometimes you jump in the water and everything is perfect, but the sun is behind the whale. Well, you still have to shoot!

Bryan: How many people do you take on your tours? And do you use any specialized gear?

Franco: Small groups; 4-5, maximum of 6 people on the boat. We use long freediver fins. We also tried using a monofin, but it was no good with the whales. (Editor’s note: monofins are the most efficient freediving fin but greatly reduce your maneuverability when compared to dual fins).

 

Free diver swimming with sperm whale, Dominica, Caribbean (taken with government permit).
Canon EOS 5DSR, EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens. 1/200 sec, f/6.3, ISO 640.

 

Bryan: How do things work with getting in the water with the whales?

The boat captain tries to get you in the water in front, so they swim by and you are in the middle of them. Sometimes they stop and socialize. For us as photographers, this is the best! Here, when they socialize, you get many in the picture. They grab each other and play around.

Bryan: How long will they do that for?

Franco: It depends. They can do it for 10 seconds or a few minutes. It also depends what you do yourself. If you see something like this you try not to disturb it too much, because if you go in the middle then it will go away.

 

Pod of sperm whales, Dominica, Caribbean (taken with government permit).
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye lens @ 15mm. 1/125 sec, f/8.0, ISO 640.

 

Bryan: Do you ever see sperm whales in a vertical position?

Franco: Yes. They just found out not many years ago that sperm whales stop, go into vertical position and sleep for 10-15 minutes. They sleep for short stretches many times a day, but they are not sleeping for 2 hours at a time or anything like that.  

 

Pod of sleeping sperm whales, Dominica, Caribbean (taken with government permit).
Canon EOS 5DSR, EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens. 1/500 sec, f/5.0, ISO 320.

 

Franco: This is when they are sleeping. These are the adults, and these are the young. They keep the young in the middle for protection. This was last year and we saw it two times. But in the past 5 years we probably saw it another two times. It probably depends how much we press them. The more you leave them quiet, the more they probably go to sleep.

Bryan: How about when the calves are feeding? Are they stationary?

Franco: When the calf is eating, they don’t stop. When the calf wants to eat he goes across to his mother and tries to get some milk. But they don’t stop. Pods of sperm whales are made up mostly of females. Males don’t live with the group. They are adults after 10-12 years, at which point they leave the group and only come back when they want to mate.  

You see the mother has a bump on her underside. The calf puts his head by that bump when they’re swimming. Because doing this, it has less effort. This calf is maybe a few months old. So if it’s doing this, it can go faster. Now it’s not exactly in the right position


Sperm whale calf with mother, Dominica, Caribbean (taken with government permit).
Canon EOS 5DSR, EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens. 1/320 sec, f/6.3, ISO 640. 

 

Bryan: Cool, that’s a lot of neat information about sperm whales. Thank you so much for sharing your awesome photos and great stories! How can people find out more about sperm whale photography?

Franco: No problem. They can email me at tour@banfi.ch. I also have a webpage which will soon be ready: www.wildlifephototours.ch.

 

Join us for an Upcoming Whale-focused UWPG Photo Workshop

 

Additional Reading

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Franco Banfi is a professional wildlife photographer who is well known for his expertise and accuracy in underwater imaging. Recently, he has specialized in leading photo expeditions and in giving workshops and seminars about photography in different locations.

Over the years he has become known around the world for his versatility. He has meticulously documented a lot of uncommon animals and locations, as well as wildlife and human relationships with nature, in environments from the Equator to the Poles. His photos and reports have been published in countless publications and renowned magazines around the world (to named a few : GEO, National Geographic, Animan, Focus, Red Bull magazine, Terre Sauvage)

Franco is an award-winning photographer (World Champion in underwater photography in Cuba) and he regularly gets top honours from the more prestigious international photo-competitions such as Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Travel Photographer of the Year (TPOTY), Nature’s Best, and International Conservation Photography Awards (ICP Awards).

Franco has a website at www.wildlifephototours.ch and you can reach him by email at tour@banfi.ch

You can follow him on Facebook (www.facebook.com/banfi.ch) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/francobanfi/) as well.

 

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An underwater photographer's journey through the Olympus Tough series, from the TG-1 to the TG-5
By Tom Caruso

The Olympus TG-5: Riding the Wave of Technology

Tom Caruso
An underwater photographer's journey through the Olympus Tough series, from the TG-1 to the TG-5

A Note From the Editor

The Olympus Tough TG-5 is an award-winning camera known for its versatility, ruggedness, fantastic macro capabilities and extremely high performance-to-cost ratio. After we reached out to our dedicated readers and customers, photography instructor Tom Caruso shared some of the amazing photos he's taken on his journey through using every TG camera, from the TG-1 to the TG-5.  – Bryan Chu (Associate Editor)

Check out our full review of the TG-5 here!

Starting Out

Like most underwater photographers I didn’t start out with a $15,000 rig. I started out small and worked my way up.  My underwater photography addiction started with seeing the incredible images in National Geographic and on TV with Jacques Cousteau. When I finally learned to dive, I earned my first specialty in underwater photography. We were using the Nikonos 4 back then. Those were the days when you really had to be brilliant with a camera to take good underwater photos. I wasn’t brilliant. I used disposable film cameras in an Ikelite housing. It even had an attachable metal frame for macro shots.  

Twenty years ago I got my first real underwater camera, the Sea & Sea MX-10. As I learned how to take better photos, I realized it was time for a real camera: the Nikon N80 film camera. I convinced my wife that the Subal housing and Ikelite strobe were worth the $6,000 price tag. Those were the days when suitcase sizes and weights weren’t a big issue. 

When DSLR cameras were introduced they were changing too rapidly to justify making a large investment, since any camera I bought would have become outdated within a year. So, rather than investing in a top-of-the-line full-size DSLR, I upgraded to Nikon’s prosumer D700 DSLR instead. Knowing I was only going to own this camera for a short time, I did not invest in a housing or new strobes (strobes for analog cameras are not compatible with digital cameras). This forced me into a temporary hiatus from progressing into higher quality underwater images. 

Enter the digital point and shoot. I started using the Olympus Tough series of cameras as an inexpensive stop gap between film cameras and the ever changing DSLRs. They were a handy way to take a small camera on vacation. (Smartphones with built in digital cameras hadn’t been invented yet.) I would upgraded models every 16 months and this got me by.

Taking the TG-1 to Raja Ampat

In 2008, my wife and noted marine biologist Nancy Caruso watched a video on the Discovery Channel about the biodiversity of Raja Ampat, in Indonesia.  This immediately became our highest priority dive destination. After a series of life’s funny curves, we finally had a chance to go there 4 years later.  By this time world travel had changed. Luggage weight and size limits were closely monitored. I had even read stories of people whose luggage never got loaded onto their plane because it was too big. We couldn’t let that happen to us.

It was my job to find a camera setup light enough to pack with our dive gear for a trip to the other side of the planet. And I had to buy two: one for each of us. After a month of research I found the new Olympus TG-1 to be the best camera for our constraints. They arrived the week before the trip so we only had time to pool test them. Since we had already owned several other Olympus point and shoots, the learning curve was small. 

That trip to Raja Ampat was magical. We saw everything from pygmy sea horses to giant manta rays. Our TG-1s did a stunning job at capturing every moment of our 46 dives. After I put together the video from that trip, I sent a link to our local Olympus representative. He told me that within hours, nearly every senior executive had seen the video. (In my humble opinion, I don’t think Olympus knew how much of a game changer this camera was going to be until they saw what regular people were doing with it.) The detachable wet lenses and the compatibility with Olympus strobes made underwater photography easy and simple. The product line ushered in a new wave of underwater photographers who didn’t have to spend a fortune on a good camera rig. And it was only going to get better.

Raja Ampat TG-1 video.

(Editor’s note: join us for one of our upcoming Raja Ampat workshops!)

Raja Ampat Photo Workshop 2018
Raja Ampat Photo Workshop 2019
Raja Ampat Photo Workshop 2020

Upgrading to the TG-2 and Beyond

Several months later we were getting ready to go to Maui when I decided to check in with my “new friends” at Olympus. I told them where I was going and asked if they wanted me to test any new equipment for them. I was kidding, but their response was serious. They called me the next day from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where they had just announced the TG-2 camera, with a release date in 3 months, and told me they were going to overnight a prototype model to me so I could take it on my trip. Wahoo!

TG-2 video.

When we got back we eventually purchased one more TG-2 and sold our two TG-1s.  We’ve been upgrading regularly with each new product release ever since then. It’s actually been a wonderful ride. Olympus halts production of each old model several months before the new model comes out.  This makes the supply low and creates a fantastic resale market. Our most expensive upgrade was the move to the TG-5, at a net cost of only $140. The others averaged only $100. The housings have a better resale value: we’ve usually made a couple of dollars reselling them.

 

Equipment Thoughts

There is absolutely no going back (or forward or sideways) to a DSLR/mirrorless in a housing for me. Olympus uses some of the same high-end sensor technology in the TG-5 as they do in their high-end mirrorless micro four thirds cameras (although the TG-5 has a smaller sensor size and lower resolution). And the image processor, the TruePic VIII, is the same as is used in the flagship OM-D E-M1 Mark II, although without the E-M1 Mark II’s dual quad core.  The same high-end CMOS sensors in the Olympus TG series are taken from their high-end mirrorless four-thirds cameras.  The current set of features on the TG-5 rival high-end DSLR/mirrorless cameras at 5 times the price. Did I mention that you can drop this camera 7 feet onto concrete? That always freaks people out when I do that in front of them.

My new favorite piece of equipment is hands hands-down the UWL-04 wet-lens dome port.  As a photographer I use the following mantra: Expose the unseen. Now that everyone seems to have an underwater camera these days, I try to focus on the shots that others aren’t taking. I actually enjoy the complexity of trying to get a good over-under shot (aka split shot). The lighting has to be just right, you need a subject out of the water, AND you need a subject under the water (although it should be very near the surface).  The flexibility to go from super wide to super macro in 10 seconds is the greatest reason in the world to use this lens. Of course, it comes at a cost.

While in Moorea, French Polynesia last year swimming with the Humpback Whales, I had a goal of getting an over-under of a Humpback Whale spy hopping. As luck would have it, our very first encounter had this exact situation happen barely 15 feet from me. Sadly, I was removing the air bubbles from the surface of the wet lens at that moment and only captured the whale as it came back into the water. Later in the day I was told that encounters like this happen maybe once per season. I knew I might have blown my once in a lifetime opportunity because I wasn’t ready. 

(Editor’s note: for more info on taking over-unders, check out this article.)

(Editor’s note: join us for an opportunity to experience snorkeling with humpbacks!)

Humpback Photo Workshops 2018

Videography

Although I missed the shot in Moorea, I’ve been able to capture amazing images and video with this lens.  A good example is a video I shot of a green sea turtle while snorkeling in Kona, Hawaii. I dove down 20 feet to the bottom, left my camera in front of the turtle for a couple of minutes, and watched from the surface. I’m pretty sure this turtle had never seen its reflection before (the curvature of the glass of the UWL-04 dome is like a mirror underwater). The results were incredible. So now my new favorite pastime is capturing just about anything with the UWL-04, although I am really starting to enjoy the over-unders. 

Green sea turtle video, from leaving TG-5 on the bottom next to it.

Olympus has also made great progress with the video features of the TG-5. While in Alaska I was able to capture super slow motion video of a bald eagle pulling a fish out of the water at 480 frames per second. It turned a 3 second event into a 38 second video. The 4K video is equally impressive, but takes up lots of memory so I travel with 2 extra chips and a 2 TB hard drive.  

Slow motion video of bald eagle pulling fish out of water in Alaska.

My TG-5 Rigs

As with all aspects of photography, lighting is critical. I’ve seen horrible photos come out of $15,000 rigs because the photographer didn’t understand how to light his or her subject. You can’t just buy an expensive camera and hope to get better photos if you don’t understand lighting and composition. 

(Editor’s note: Be sure to check out these articles on lighting and composition.) 

My underwater “rig” has 2 configurations:

1. Light travel - Olympus TG-5, Olympus PT-058 housing, UWL-04 28mm wet-lens dome port, and i-Torch Pro6+ video light.

2. Full setup - Same as above plus dual Olympus UFL-02 strobes with fiber cords mounted to a 10-inch tray on 16-inch flexible arms. I fabricated an additional mount so my video light is right next to one of the strobes. 

Every few years I anticipate the release of a new camera from Olympus in their TG series. Once the TG-5 was released, with its strikingly long list of high-end features, I couldn’t imagine what they would come up with next. They addressed many of the missing features from the TG-4 like: 4K video, 60fps HD video, sharper picture quality, and underwater HDR. When you add in improved macro focus stacking you can capture nearly anything you encounter underwater. I have been so lucky to have chosen a product line where I could grow with it from its infancy to full adulthood. There might be a few shots that I miss when compared to a DSLR/mirrorless in a housing, but for the $3,000 to $5,000 I saved by not switching, I can take more cool trips around the world and still have stunning photos to prove it.

 

Gear Links

Upcoming Photo Workshops

Additional Reading

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Caruso fell in love with the outdoors as a child. He loved the water most: he was the first one in the pool and the last one out.  While playing in the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, he would dream of being a fish. As he grew up he loved to travel and would share his adventures by way of photographs. A trip to Club Med after college gave him an opportunity to see the beauty of the Caribbean and his career in diving began. He took a liking to photography so he dedicated himself to learning as much as he could. He continues to travel the world taking photographs while trying to “expose the unseen”.

He began teaching photography in 2015 and is a guest Photography Lecturer for Carnival Cruise Lines. As a perpetual student of life, he loves to talk photography with as many people as he can hoping to pick up a nugget or two. “I never want to stop learning”, he says. “I believe you can learn something from anyone if you take the time to ask questions and listen.”  You can follow Tom on Instagram and Facebook with user “photocaruso”.

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Budding photographer, Jin Woo Lee pushes the limits of his new Sony RX 100 V
By Jin Woo Lee

A Photographer's Journey with the Sony RX100 V

Jin Woo Lee
Budding photographer, Jin Woo Lee pushes the limits of his new Sony RX 100 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!




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A Feature on Camera Trap and Remote Trigger Photography
By Jason Ching

Jason Ching: Remote Photography in Remote Alaska

Jason Ching
A Feature on Camera Trap and Remote Trigger Photography

A Note from the Editor

I had the pleasure of meeting Jason Ching (http://www.jasonsching.com/) in Aleknagik, Alaska, while participating in scientific research on salmon. Aleknagik is in Bristol Bay – the heart of wild Alaskan salmon. The summer we were there was a record run, with millions of fish passing by our eyes and lenses. Jason’s photography instantly struck me as being unique – he managed to take striking and professional photos while completely removed from the location of his subjects. Through motion-sensor camera traps and remote triggers, Jason has taken away the “scare factor” that human presence has on wildlife. We are left with spectacular and dreamlike images that are windows into the private life of wild Alaska. – Nirupam Nigam (Editor)

Wild Alaska

Alaska is well deserved in its reputation for being large, remote, and wild. Yet contrary to popular belief, Alaska is not always a theme park with large animals around every corner. Most of the time it is cold, wet, quiet, and expensive. This can introduce many challenges to the wildlife photographer. Animals can be far and few between – accessible only by air, boat, or other eccentric methods of transportation. Budgets can be wiped out in mere days of searching for the right shot. There are two things a photographer can do to remedy the situation – 1. Find the food. 2. Don’t search at all. Wait for the animals to come to you. 

Jason does both. Alaska’s annual salmon run attracts copious amounts of birds and mammals to feed in salmon flooded streams – plenty of photo opportunities. During these runs, Jason finds locations with predictable wildlife and sets ups motion-sensor camera traps to wait for the opportune moment.  

Camera Traps

A Brief History 

I would like to begin by recognizing Jonny Armstrong (jonnyarmstrong.com) as the master of camera trapping, and the person who really introduced me to it. Together we dialed things down, but he was the one who had the original idea and figured everything out.

I started camera trapping in 2012 with Jonny in Bristol Bay, Alaska while I was working as a research technician, and he was a graduate student in the Alaska Salmon Program. It took us another 2 years or so to really figure things out. Even now it seems that our methods can be plagued with issues. 

Go Wide or Go Home

I think what I like most about camera trapping is the ability to use a DSLR and wide angle lens. You get a perspective of wildlife that you just don’t see anywhere else. While the majority of wildlife photos are taken with long telephoto lenses from dozens of yards away, camera traps provide a wide angle, close-up perspective. This to me is more personal and awe-inspiring. Add a couple of external flashes at creative angles, and the shot really crosses into a different territory altogether. Strobes are helpful in balancing exposure throughout the day (and night). But rather than just placing a light behind the camera, I can really get creative and essentially build a glamour studio in the middle of the woods. 

Luck, Patience…

After setting things up, the rest is up to patience and luck. In order to get a semblance of a photo, the animal has to come into the frame and not be spooked away by the camera in a big box and two strobes. If by chance it is bold enough, I still can’t count on the animal composing itself in the right way. 

…..And Equipment 

Everything is dependent on whether or not your gear is actually working. It’s not uncommon for a motion sensor to misfire on leaves or branches blowing in the wind and fill up an entire memory card in a few hours. I’ve also had it go the other way when a pack of wolves came into my set (picked up on a trail camera pointed at my camera trap set), but the motion sensor never tripped my camera’s shutter. 

Size Matters

You also have to be mindful of what size of critter you’re trying to capture. You might set up for a big grizzly bear to come into a frame, only to have a much smaller red fox wander in and look tiny in the wide angle perspective. Alternatively, a moose might trot through and all you get are its ankles. 

Mishaps

Sometimes critters get a little too involved – I’ve now lost two DSLR rigs to brown bears trampling them into streams. I’ve also lost another rig to a flood. 

It’s a major investment to both create a setup and run the camera trap itself. Losing a camera or strobe can be heartbreaking and damaging to your bank account, but the rewards can be mind-blowing. 

The Thrill 

There is a special thrill in hiking out to a spot that has promising signs of wildlife and a good balance of foreground and background elements; envision what critters might come though; and bring what is in my head into the composition. Letting a camera trap soak in a spot for up to a month and returning is like I’m hiking to a treasure chest. Often times I get nothing from either hardware failure or a lack of wildlife. Sometimes I get a critter but maybe it didn’t do exactly what I wanted so I reposition and try again. Occasionally I get that amazing shot where everything just comes together. It’s addicting to get that perspective that really captures people’s attention. I love the reactions I get, especially from folks that think that I was there hand-holding a camera 3ft away from a grizzly bear. Sometimes people joke that I must carry around stuffed animals. That’s how I know it’s working.

Remote Underwater Photography

What to do if your fish has anxiety

Salmon swim upstream for one purpose only – to reproduce. At this particular life history stage, they have no extra desire for curiosity or even food. Moreover, assassinations are constantly attempted by their vast list of predators. These factors result in the some pretty anxious fish. Fish that want nothing to do with you. 

Photographing salmonids in streams can be much harder than taking photos of reef fish on scuba. It is more difficult to move, and there is a constant current. The water can often be too shallow or too deep. But most importantly, the fish will move to the opposite end of the stream if they see a mere body part. Sometimes the only remedy for this is to stick a camera in the water, and use a remote camera trigger to take the photo while you stand on the bank of the stream or float away from the fish.

A Brief History

I bought my first underwater setup in 2010 – a Canon SD960 point and shoot. Later in 2013 I moved to an underwater housing for my Canon 5D Mark II, and I stepped up to a Canon 5D Mark III in 2014. Now I shoot a Sony A7R II in an Ikelite housing. 

My snorkel buddy, Morgan Bond (www.morganhbond.com), and I both use remote triggers (made by Retra) in about 50% of the stream photography we do. Unsurprisingly we have found that fish seem less afraid of the housing by itself than if we were to hand-hold, allowing us to get close shots of our subjects. Remote triggers are also especially useful in certain locations where the stream depth might be too great to snorkel in while hand-holding a housing to the bottom. There might be no other option to us than to use a remote trigger. 

The Struggle

While there are clear advantages to using a remote they aren’t without their set of disadvantages. Obviously once I set up the camera, it is necessary to stick with the angle and position or risk chasing the fish away again to manage the housing.

Just a few weeks ago I was photographing spawning redband trout in the Klamath Basin, and a female seemed to stay just outside of the frame of my camera no matter how many times I adjusted the angle and position of my housing. When she did finally spawn I just barely missed having both the male and the female in the frame. It would have been great to be able to hand-hold. However, in this particular spot the water was about 5 ft deep and it would’ve been too difficult to both hold position in the stream and hold my camera deep enough to get any shot. Sometimes remote triggering might not be the most ideal solution but a necessary one, and sometimes it’s the best solution resulting in amazing keepers.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Ching has worked as a research scientist with the Alaska Salmon Program for close to 10 years. It’s while working for the program and consequently in remote locations in Bristol Bay’s watersheds that he developed a passion for nature photography. In Alaska he has been fortunate to bump into other photographers, notably Jonny Armstrong and Morgan Bond, who have really helped him get on his feet in underwater and wildlife photography – two of his favorite specializations. Within these specializations he likes to use creative techniques to capture captivating and informative visuals to engage people in research, the environment, and our natural resources. http://www.jasonsching.com/

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Interview with a talented wide-angle photographer, plus background on some favorite underwater images
By Matt Draper

4 Photos with Matt Draper

Matt Draper
Interview with a talented wide-angle photographer, plus background on some favorite underwater images

Talented photographers are always the photographers with the most passion. And when Matt and I missed our first call because he was racing to go shoot a Tiger Shark that had been reported close to shore, I could only smile.

Living in Byron Bay, Australia, Matt Draper has been busy building a strong underwater photo portfolio. A life-long surfer and ocean guy, he decided to pick up a camera just two years ago and start shooting the water - and the marine life - around him.  All it takes is a quick look at Matt’s photo stream to immerse yourself in intimate moments with animals photographed exclusively under ambient light - a natural style that makes it feel like you’re right there in the water. A calculated and careful eye for composition is inherent in the photos, and it’s no wonder that Matt’s fine art prints fly off the press.

Below are the highlights of our conversation, followed by a mini-portfolio of Matt’s work.

-Brent Durand

 

Interview with Matt Draper

 

Brent:  Which came first – diving or shooting?

Matt:  I’ve been in the water all my life and have surfed all my life, but I bought my camera and water housing about two years ago now.  Then I got into real freediving about six months after that.

 

What type of camera and housing are you using?

Most of the time I’m using the Canon 5D Mark III with the Canon 15mm f2.8 fisheye as well as a couple of other ‘secret lenses’. Occasionally I use a dive rated housing but mostly use an AquaTech surf housing – it’s just so much smaller and easier to use while free diving. Shooting only natural light means most of my best images are captured around 5-15m deep, and this housing is perfect for that.

 

Why do you like shooting ambient light?

I personally don’t like shooting animals with powerful strobe lights, I’m not sure if they really like it either. I don’t disrespect anyone who shoots strobes. I honestly really love a lot of people’s work that use them. Strobes can get the image a diver wants in nearly any situation, but to me, the animal looks more like a model that is artificially lit up. I think with ambient light you can resonate more emotion and get people to really have a sense of what the animal looks like in its natural environment, and really show how it was behaving when I was interacting with it.

 

What do you think makes a great photo?

I think it’s getting easier to make great photos, and with social media you can get inspiration from anyone. It’s easy to take one great photo, but I think it’s hard to maintain a style. I like to see people keeping a style and trying to create a message or originality. To me, a good photo not just time, effort and patience, but when you start to see 5 or 10 images from the same person that really follow that style they’re working on.

 

Underwater Photos by Matt Draper

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Matt Draper is passionate about capturing his subjects for what they are, allowing people to see the raw beauty behind his images. With an interest in photojournalism and ocean imagery, photography has allowed Matt to travel to some of the most remote areas of the world, documenting subjects for the purpose of education and positive change for the environment, helping foster love for the ocean by replacing fear with fascination.

You can view Matt's work and fine art prints via:

  www.mattdraperphotography.com     |     Instagram

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An Inside Look at Painting Marine Life Murals on Building Walls
By UWPG

Insight into Art: Amok Island

UWPG
An Inside Look at Painting Marine Life Murals on Building Walls

 

Insight into Art: Amok Island


An Inside Look at Painting Marine Life Murals on Building Walls

Interview by Brent Durand, January 12, 2015

 

Amok Island

'Histrio Histrio/Sargassum Frogfish' Leederville, Western Australia 2014

 
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If you drive around Western Australia and have a sharp eye for art, chances are high that you’ve seen one of Amok Island’s incredible marine life wall murals.

Amok Island is a critically acclaimed artist creating unique wall paintings as well as a series of hand-printed screen prints. He recently had a solo gallery exhibition in Tokyo and completed a very interesting project documenting marine organism growth on concrete letter sculptures placed underwater over the time span of a year.

We’ve caught up with Amok Island and asked 5 questions to learn a bit more about his painting, inspiration and why he does what he does.

 

Amok Island

'Barracuda' Leederville, Western Australia 2014

 

 

Amok Island Interview

 

BD:  How do you best describe your artwork?

AI:  I paint mostly marine animals on walls and canvas using acrylics, rollers and brushes. I guess my style can be seen as a mix of realism and a stylised image. When I reach the right balance the image comes alive, plus has a modern design quality, and I am happy. I try to use geometric shapes, straight lines and simple compositions, but I want to also show a realistic image of a specific animal. I want people to be able to recognise which exact animal it is. 

 

BD:  About how long does it take you to complete one wall mural?

AI:  It takes up to 5 days depending on size and detail. Most walls take me 3 days. A huge wall does not necessarily have to take a huge amount of time, you just use larger tools - larger rollers. It is more about the detail, the amount of different shapes than the size. For example, the huge Seahorse I recently finished in Fremantle took 3.5 days. A smaller mural with more detail could have taken the same amount of time to paint.

 

Amok Island

'Hippocampus Subelongatus' Fremantle, Western Australia 2014

 

BD:  You were painting walls in Amsterdam before traveling and relocating to Perth. What inspired this big shift?

AI:  I was born in Amsterdam and I lived there until I was 24. About 6 years ago I met my girlfriend, who is from Perth, and after living in Amsterdam for 2 years together we moved to Australia. The plan was to live here for 6 months but Australia was perfect for what I like to do. I live close to the sea, so aside from painting I spend a lot of time at the beach and in the water. I photograph the animals I see in the water and I paint them in my studio at home - it’s perfect!

 

BD:  Do you base your paintings on your experiences scuba diving?

AI:  Yes, often when I encounter a certain animal that makes an impact on me I want to paint it as well. Although Google is excellent in getting reference photos I really like it when I can use my own photos to study my subjects.

 

Amok Island

'Cephalopholis Urodeta' Mt Lawley, Western Australia 2014

 

BD:  What is your dream project – what marine life creature and in what location?

AI:  I can paint any creature that I feel like at this point, but I always love to travel and paint in different places. This is especially true when the place is known for a certain animal and I can paint that animal there. It becomes special. I was in Perth Hedland in the Pilbara in Western Australia, where I painted a Flatback turtle hatchling. To me, that made so much sense because Port Hedlands Cemetery beach is one of the few beaches in the world where that turtle lays its eggs. The mural is located very close to the beach and I love that idea. Plus, I like that the mural has an educational expect to it. I would love to paint some more in exotic places where there are no murals. Wherever I travel, I try to paint at least one wall.

 

Amok Island

'Red Snow Crab' Kinosaki-Onsen, Japan 2014

 

Amok Island

'Mahi Mahi / Dolphin Fish' Perth, Western Australia

 

Amok Island

'Flatback Turtle Hatchling' Port Hedland, Western Australia 2014

 

 

About Amok Island

Amok Island (born Amsterdam, 1983) is an artist based in Perth, Western Australia.

Obsessed with marine life, you can find Amok Island's recognisable stylised sea creatures painted on canvas and walls around the world. Amok Island hand prints his own screen prints, producing the ongoing 'Animals of Australia' series.

Amok Island has exhibited his work extensively in gallery spaces throughout Western Australia, in Amsterdam, and recently in a solo exhibition in Tokyo.

Website: www.amokisland.com

Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/amokisland

Instagram: @amokisland

 

 

Further Reading

 

 

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Mike Bartick interviews Teresa Zubi on her new FREE photo-filled book on Frogfishes
By Mike Bartick

Free Frogfishes Book: Interview with Teresa Zubi

Mike Bartick
Mike Bartick interviews Teresa Zubi on her new FREE photo-filled book on Frogfishes

 

Free Frogfishes Book: Interview with Teresa Zubi


Mike Bartick interviews Teresa on her new Frogfishes PDF book

By Mike Bartick

 

hairy frogfish

 

 
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Teresa Zubi has just released a free PDF book for download, with photographs and details of 25 different frogfish species found in Southeast Asia, the Maldives and Red Sea. This is a must-have book for underwater photographers, but know that even though it's a free download, you commit to talking frogfish over a cold drink if you meet Teresa on a dive trip! Who would say no to that?!

 

Mike B:  In what year did you start working on the Frogfish book?

Teresa Z:  The book grew out of my website about frogfishes (www.frogfish.ch). First, I wrote a small booklet just for myself and a few frogfish enthusiasts. It listed the major species found in Southeast Asia with photos and small illustrations.

My friends liked the booklet and wanted more. Two of my diver friends basically sent me all their frogfish pictures and said, “Use what you need but write that book!” When added to my own pictures I now had a large stock of pictures with interesting frogfish behaviour like luring, mating, camouflage and colour change. At the same time I obtained photos of each of the 25 species I wanted to describe. So in 2010 I started out writing the book, first in German, and later translated into English.

Frogfishes are notoriously difficult to identify, so my book contains a section with an identification key for frogfish species, including photos of the lure and bait and the basic colour range of the six most well known species.

 

What makes Frogfishes so special?

As a diver it is always a challenge to find them. Then, when I actually find them I am always impressed with their excellent camouflage. It’s well worth spending some time observing a frogfish, because it often shows really interesting behaviour – they move the lure or they slowly position themselves over a hole in the sand or a crevice where fish like to swim into. Sometimes they yawn and if you are lucky you might even see them catching their prey or mating.

 

Where is the best place you have dived to find Frogfishes?

Indonesia, the Philippines and Borneo are definitely the best places! My all time favourite dive area is still Lembeh Strait in Northern Sulawesi. This is also the place where back in 1994 I saw my first frogfish, perching on the superstructure of the Malawi wreck in the middle of the strait. Frogfishes are often found on sand and rubble or perching on sponges, but not so often on coral reefs with hard corals. Once you find one in a certain place you have a good chance to find it there again on a later dive.

 

Do you have a favorite Frogfish?

I think that would be the Warty frogfish (A. maculatus) because of its cute face, incredibly good camouflage and interesting colours, or the Hairy frogfish (A. striatus) because of the way it walks around and flips his lure like a fat worm over its head. You find a good example of this behaviour in my book.

 

Why did you decide to release the book on the internet, free of charge?

Like any writer I would have liked to have my frogfish book printed, but I couldn’t find a publisher. I was really frustrated for a while and put the book aside for two years. My friends had been nagging me a lot during that time and tried to find publishing solutions (some very elaborate ideas, including printing it in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, then shipping to Switzerland, then sending it from there to the buyers around the world – really easy!).

Then I got myself an iPad and put the finished frogfish book on it. It felt great just to flip through the pages. At that point I decided that it was selfish to keep the book for myself and decided to publish it as a PDF for free (actually if you download the book you agree that if you meet me somewhere you invite me for a drink and frogfish-talk!!!)

 

Is there another book in the works?

No – though I have thought of putting together a frogfish book with species from Australia or one with species from the Caribbean.

 

 

DOWNLOAD FROGFISHES BOOK

English download of Frogfishes (Southeast Asia, Maldives, Red Sea)

 

 

About the Author

My name is Teresa Zuberbühler, but everybody in Switzerland calls me Zubi. I am a teacher and manage a day care center for primary school kids and children with special needs. I have always travelled a lot and am interested in foreign cultures and languages and whenever I have holidays I fly to Asia (mostly to Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia).

My passion for the last 20 years is diving and photography. In 1999 I started a website about diving in Southeast Asia (www.starfish.ch) with lots of maps and descriptions of dive sites. My website also has a huge collection of images of fishes and invertebrates and you can mail me for tips about how to identify the different critters.

 

 

Further Reading

 

 

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Dr. Love Shares his Experiences Diving Oil Rigs in Manned Submersibles
By Brent Durand

Diving the Oil Rigs: An Interview with Milton Love

Brent Durand
Dr. Love Shares his Experiences Diving Oil Rigs in Manned Submersibles

Diving the Oil Rigs: An Interview with Dr. Milton Love


Dr. Love Shares his Experiences Diving Oil Rigs in Manned Submersibles

By Brent Durand

 

Oil rig Eureka, located a few miles off the coast of Huntington Beach, CA. Photo: Michael Zeigler

 
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Dr. Milton Love is the authority on fishes of the Pacific Coast.  A research biologist at the Marine Science Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Dr. Love has a long history with the dive community.  He has worked on various underwater films including Coral Reefs from Jean-Michel Cousteau Productions and the IMAX film The Living Sea, among numerous others.  Dr. Love is known to most divers and underwater photographers for his comprehensive (and humorous) book, Certainly More Than You Want to Know About The Fishes of the Pacific Coast.

So what about the oil rigs?  What kind of life do we see there and why are they so popular with scuba divers?  Dr. Love has spent countless hours manning submersibles on deep dives up and down the coast on a 16-year survey, building a vast knowledge of life flourishing in unlikely (and likely) places.  I was able to catch up with Dr. Love recently and get some insight into these experiences.

 

Dr. Milton Love is an expert on fishes of the Pacific Coast.

 

You grew up in Southern California and received your PHD at UCSB - what attracted you to the ocean in your early years?  Well, my dad took me fishing on the Malibu pier when I was about 6.  That was about it… I declared I was going to be a fish biologist soon after.

Did you ever expect to have the knowledge about fish that you do now?  I don’t think so.  If you include grad school, I’ve been in this business almost 40 years.  It just creeps up on you.

 

Vermilion rockfish on platform Gilda, shot from manned submersible. Photo: Donna Schroeder

 

You were surveying California oil rigs and platforms (via manned submersible) on a 16 year survey finishing in 2011.  What fishes do you generally see on the rigs?  Well, we didn’t dive the shallowest ones.  There are a couple that are in 50 feet of water off Huntington Beach, but if you look at all the rest, the majority of the fish are rockfish of various sorts.  In the shallower waters, like at Catalina, there’s garibaldi, sheephead, kelp bass, opaleye and fish like that, but once you get deeper than about 60-80 feet it’s mostly rockfishes.  There are 25 or 30 rockfish species, but you’ll also find lingcod and other fish.

 

The Delta submarine being prepared for a dive. Photo: Donna Schroeder

 

Did you ever see anything in deep water in the submersibles that really surprised you?  We would see big, unexpected things on almost every dive, both at the rigs and natural reefs.  It’s like a fairyland down there.  Just last year we were at a site beyond Anacapa Island in about 1200 feet and found all these Humboldt squid.  They’re about 4-5 feet long and one actually attacked the sub, grabbing it before spraying ink and taking off.  (read our story about a giant pacific octopus stealing a diver’s camera rig).

I guess it didn’t like the lights...  It didn’t like the lights or didn’t like the electromagnetic field of the submersible.  We’ve taken the sub everywhere from Alaska through California, and if you’re down there long enough you’ll see all kinds of trippy stuff.

 

Juvenile bocaccio deep at a southern California oil platform. Photo Donna Schroeder

 

So what makes the rigs such a great destination for fish, and in turn, for underwater photographers?  Well, the rigs are nothing but humongous reefs.  The fish and invertebrates don’t care what they’re made out of.  There’s just a lot of life - life that covers the entire water column.  If you’re a juvenile rockfish and you’re cruising around 10 feet below the surface looking for a place to settle out, you don’t care if you run into a rock or a piece of steal like a platform.  In those areas you’re much more likely to encounter a platform than a reef, so that’s the reason that the platforms tend to be really, really good nursing grounds for young fish.  The fish encounter them easily because they cover the entire water column.

The other thing is that platforms tend to be less fished than natural reefs, so they act a little bit like marine reserves and you tend to find bigger fish around the platforms.

 

California sea lions enjoy the waters around oil platforms. Photo: Ron Watkins

 

In addition to the resident fish population, is it likely to encounter pelagic species?  Oh yea, you can find yellow tail and bonita, sardines, jack mackerel, molas and even sea lions.  In the Gulf of Mexico you’ll see tunas.

Bluewater Photo has some rigs diving trips coming up, so we really appreciate the great info!  Of course.  Besides all the fish life, it’s the easiest wall dive you can make in California!

 

A diver explores oil rig Eureka. Photo: Todd Winner

 

If you’re not familiar with Dr. Milton Love’s book check it out: Certainly More Than You Want to Know About The Fishes of the Pacific Coast.

At time of publishing, spots available for Bluewater Photo’s Oil Rigs trip on April 7, 2013.

 

About the Author

Brent Durand is an avid California beach diver, underwater photographer and editor with the Underwater Photography Guide. You can follow UWPG on Facebook, and also read Brent's article on Top 10 tips for fun beach diving.

 

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

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SUPPORT THE UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE:

The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear

 

Visit Bluewater Photo & Video for all your underwater photography and video gear. Click, or call the team at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!

 


The Best Pricing, Service & Expert Advice to Book your Dive Trips

 

Bluewater Travel is your full-service scuba travel agency. Let our expert advisers plan and book your next dive vacation. Run by divers, for divers.

 


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