Story Behind the Shot

Stories behind the shot, including viral underwater photos and videos, impressive contest winners and more.
Take an inside look at photographer Sarah Alice Lee's creative process while pursuing this beautiful image
By Sarah Alice Lee

Story Behind the Shot: Swallows Cave

Sarah Alice Lee
Take an inside look at photographer Sarah Alice Lee's creative process while pursuing this beautiful image

Swallows Cave is located at the northwest tip of Kapa Island in Vava'u, in The Kingdom of Tonga. The cave mouth is about 15’ deep and about 20’ wide. We arrived on a dingy and as soon as we entered the cave I could see the shards of light dancing into the depths of the water and I couldn’t wait to jump in. We had no scuba gear so would be only snorkeling and freediving. My favourite work is created when using breath hold only - I find it less disruptive to the wildlife and I love the freedom of movement it provides.

As we dived into the water, a cathedral of cascading light and shadow greeted us and visually played with the realms of reality. Your imagination can be free here and the thought of what was lurking in the darkness intrigued me. That familiar hand of the blue reaching up and willing you to dive down and explore, my camera in hand ready for some action. The cave was barren of life on the walls of rock which, was a contrast to the abundant coral reef that adorned the mouth of the cave entrance. It was, however, brimming with bait fish that to look at was like observing a constantly moving sculpture reflecting flashes of light as the late afternoon sun hit their scales. Bait fish at depth are tricky to expose properly when using underwater strobes because of how reflective they are, but their movement was mesmerizing and when my freediver friend entered the water, diving right into the school, I knew there had to be a shot there.


The Shot

The Shot - a diver swims through Swallows Cave.
Nikon D300, Tokina 10-17mm fisheye, Sea & Sea D300 housing, dual Ikelite DS125 strobes.
ISO 800, f/4, 1/125. Photo: Sarah Alice Lee

 

Our first visit was during a busy time and a few boats had entered into the space. With snorkelers everywhere I knew that we would have to come back to shoot at a quieter time, and that the image I wanted to create would need a little setting up. Luckily Cath (who agreed to model for me) and another photographer were able to visit the cave at such a time and I had the opportunity to play with the strobe positioning in correlation to the sun entering the caves entrance and decided how best to direct the subject. With the unpredictability of the bait fishes movements we were required to make dives over a period of approximately forty minutes but we knew we had the shot.

Related: Moments with Humpback Mother & Calf in Tonga

 

Behind the Scenes

 

The model first enters the water and swims through the bait fish. Photo: Sarah Alice Lee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working with the angle of light, sun rays, fish and dive model until all the elements came together. Photo: Sarah Alice Lee

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Alice Lee learnt to dive in the warm waters of the Red Sea at fourteen and has been in the water ever since. A qualified Padi instructor Sarah attended Falmouth University College Falmouth where she specilised in underwater photography for her BA HONS degree. She worked commercially in London upon graduating and then went to explore the world with her camera. Sarah chose Australia as her home followed by New Zealand and established her underwater photography business working both with wildlife under the waves and capturing images of babies underwater in pools all over Australasia.  After ten years away Sarah returned to the UK in 2017 and can be found in pools all over the South East.

Website:  www.sarahalicephotography.com     |     Instagram: @sarahalicephotography

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.

 


An interview with William Drumm about shooting the Yucatán Dive Trek web series above and below the water
By UWPG News

The Yucatán Dive Trek: Behind the Scenes

UWPG News
An interview with William Drumm about shooting the Yucatán Dive Trek web series above and below the water

We recently caught up with wildlife videographer William Drumm about a web series he put together with fellow lensman Andy Trace: The Yucatán Dive Trek.

The diving tour took place across (you guessed it) Mexico's famed Riviera Maya; diving reefs and cenotes and snorkeling with some big exciting animals. The adventure was organized by sponsor Yucatán Dive Trek, who did an excellent job showing these two videographers the local diving opportunties.

The video series takes us along for the ride, with beautiful underwater footage mixed with the usual topside culture, food, shenanigans and inside jokes that come so natural on dive trips. We watched all 5 episodes and now can't wait to get back to dive the Yucatan!

- The Editors

 

 

UWPG:  How did you plan this trip and web series idea?

William Drumm:  What’s great about Yucatán Dive Trek is they take all the hassle out of planning the trip. You basally tell them what kinds of diving you want to do (Cozumelcenotes, bull sharks, sail fish, whale sharks, tech diving, crocodiles, giant tarpon, etc.) and they help you plan it all. The trip we went on was a bit of all the best stuff that was offered during the time of year we went, which was May 2016.

 

What was your favorite part of the trip?

WD:  By far my favorite part of the trip was in Chinchorro, diving with huge American crocodiles. It was the best single ocean adventure I have ever been on. Banco Chinchorro is an offshore atoll reef lying off the southeast coast of Quintana Roo, Mexico, near Belize. Around the diving is amazing diving, with most of the reefs still unchartered and never before dived. On the way out, you dive at some of these little seen reefs, and spearfish for invasive lion fish, used to lure in the crocodiles, and served as dinner for the guests once you arrive. While in Banco Chinchorro you stay in a small fisherman’s hut (shared between XTC dive center and a very friendly local fisherman). Almost right away, the crocodiles began to pop up around the fishing hut. The American Crocodile is a relatively large species, with males reaching a length of 5-6 meters, and females generally measure 3-3.5m in total length. Although the American Crocodile is similar in size to the salt water crocodile (Cocodrylus Porous) and the Nile Crocodile (Cocodrylus Niloticus), it is not as aggressive and does not include human beings as part of its diet, as the other two species do. Nevertheless, being in the water with these dinosaurs is definitely a rush! The entire experience, from the amazing coral reef diving around the atoll, to sleeping in the small fisherman’s hut, to interacting with the crocodiles themselves, was incredible.

 

Were there any challenges to getting the right shots for the series?

WD:  The series was a run and gun operation. I found out that I was going a few days before the trip, and we showed up eager but not knowing what to expect. What followed was 15 day dash up and down the Yucatan, all over Quintana Roo, and ending up in a lagoon near XTC Dive Center with Mexico on one side and Brazil on the other. We had lots more adventures that didn’t make it into the series, including going to Cozumel for quick half day trip, and going to Calakmul Mayan ruins. There were absolutely challenges, mostly involved with the logistics of hitting so many spots in a relatively short amount of time. When you plan your trip, don’t rush things. There is so much to see, but best to only hit a few of the amazing dive sites and activites on each trip.  

 

What camera gear were you using underwater?

WD:  I was using my Lumix GH4 and Nauticam GH4 housing, primarily with my 8mm Lumix fisheye. I also used the 12-50mm medium angle - macro zoom lens, and 60mm macro that I rented from Bluewater Photo. My lights were 2x Light & Motion SOLA 2500’s, and 2x I-Torch Venom 50’s, also from Bluewater Photo. I ended up shooting almost all wide angle, (crocodiles, cenotes, whale sharks), but loved the 12-50mm for its versatility. I also liked the I-Torch Venom 50’s.  They were nice and bright, however they seemed a bit cooler temperature than I am used to and I had an unattractive oval where the two lights met, at least while diving cenotes.

Andy Trace, who filmed all the shots of me and some of the wildlife and other dive footage, was using his Sony A7RII, with a cheap ($260) Meikon plastic housing. For the price, we were both surprised that the Meikon worked as well as it did, although it probably works fine until it doesn’t and it floods. 

 

Watch The Yucatán Dive Trek

 

Episode 1:  Swimming with Giant Crocodiles

 

Episode 2: The Yucatán Culture Vulture

 

Episode 3: Cenote Tajma-Ha and Casa

 

Episode 4: Cenote Car Wash and The Pit

 

Episode 5: Insane Whale Shark Aggregation

 

 

View more of William Drumm's work at WilliamDrumm.com and follow him on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

 

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!

 


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Photographer Ben Thouard captures a unique underwater perspective of surfer Anthony Walsh at Teahupoo
By Ben Thouard

Story Behind the Wave

Ben Thouard
Photographer Ben Thouard captures a unique underwater perspective of surfer Anthony Walsh at Teahupoo

Teahupoo is know for its surf break - a glassy and heavy wave with a lip that detonates across a shallow reef. Some of the best surfers in the world travel to Teahupoo (located on Tahiti in French Polynesia) to prove their big wave skills in the clear water, and naturally, surf photographers follow them there.

Shooting photos of surfers from the water at Teahupoo can be a challenge, as you want to be close to the action while remaining safe in ever-changing conditions, since finding yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time can have serious repercussions. Photographers who also surf have the advantage, as it allows them to swim into the best spot to shoot, using long-time experience with waves to capture perspectives that look great from the water. Shooting surfers and waves underwater goes beyond this.

We are very lucky to have some crystal clear water in Tahiti, and I took advantage of this many times to create some amazing images of surfers at Teahupoo... shot from below.

 

 

For this shot of Anthony Walsh at Teahupoo I used a Canon EOS 1DX with a 8-15mm fisheye lens inside an Aquatech 1D Delphin Housing with a medium fish eye dome. Aquatech housings are the best for surf and wave photography as they are light, functional and allow you to move fast compared to dive housings. They also have a trigger grip that allows you to shoot with one arm extended.

 

Additional Photos Behind the Scenes

 

 

 

 

Be sure to check out the rest of our surf and wave photography tutorials.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I’m Ben Thouard, a watersport photographer based in Tahiti for 8 years. I mostly shoot surfing, however I love spending time in the ocean shooting a bunch of different things. I now dedicate a lot of my time to shooting empty waves because I love it - it’s fascinating. All the waves are different and the light you can capture reflecting on the surface of the ocean is amazing. Check out more of my work here:

Website:  www.benthouard.com

Facebook page:  www.facebook.com/Ben.Thouard.Photography

Instagram:  www.instagram.com/benthouard

SUPPORT THE UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE:

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

 


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Take an inside look at the underwater camera gear used by UWPG editor Brent Durand to lead two upcoming photo workshops in Sri Lanka.
By UWPG News

What's in the Camera Bag: Brent Durand

UWPG News
Take an inside look at the underwater camera gear used by UWPG editor Brent Durand to lead two upcoming photo workshops in Sri Lanka.

Our latest installment of What's in the Camera Bag looks at the gear used by UWPG editor Brent Durand.


I've been fortunate to shoot with quite a few different camera systems over the past few years. 

And after using various compacts, mirrorless and even DSLR cameras, plus leading a workshop last fall with just a GoPro, it has become apparent that the small, inexpensive systems can hold their own against more exensive setups in some situations. Why? Because those of us who aren't working pros shoot to share online - an arena where action cam images and video can collect just as many likes and can go just as viral, or even more viral, than imagery from mid and pro-level camera systems.

The simplicity of use in small cameras allows us to be more aware in the water and to engage more consciously with marine life. Small cameras allow us to pay more attention to dive buddies. They're more streamlined and easy to swim with. They cost far less and are easy to pack. They make prep and cleanup for local diving easy. Their affordability allows more of us to share our experiences underwater with divers all over the world. In short, small cameras are proving their place in the big camera world.

And without further ado, here's a look at my camera bag for leading Bluewater Photo's back-to-back Sri Lanka photo workshops.

 

The Cameras

Redundancy is very important on a dive trip and I always make sure to roll with two cameras. For Sri Lanka underwater photography and video, this will be my mobile phone and a GoPro.

iPhone 6s Plus

I plan to pop my mobile phone into the Kraken Sports smart phone housing, pump the vacuum and be ready to go. The 67mm ring adapter allows use of any 67mm wet lens (optics tests still to come). This housing retails for just $299 USD!

GoPro HERO5

GoPro's image quality is incredible for a $400 camera. If you don't believe me, just check out the still images in our GoPro HERO5 Review for Underwater. I plan to shoot the HERO5 a bit more during our second workshop snorkeling with whales and dolphins.

 

The Kraken Sports smart phone housing paired up with dual Kraken Hydra 5000 video lights, useful for both underwater video and constant lighting still images.

 

Lighting and Accessories

The rest of my camera kit pairs everything down to the essentials: Dual Kraken Hydra 5000 video/constant lights, Ultralight Control Systems tray/arms/clamps, homemade selfie stick (yes, tease away), the new Fantasea / AOI UCL-09 macro diopter, and the new Fantasea UWL-09F wide-angle wet lens.

 

This lightweight kit will deliver Full HD video and amazing images at a fraction of the cost of a camera/housing system and is much easier to travel with.

 

Extra Accessories

I always pack a mini tool kit for international dive travel (the box on the left in the shots below), which can help fix most basic housing problems in the field. The box is super light while the tools are the lightest versions of things found useful during underwater photo trips. Not pictured is the usual trip stuff like duct tape, aquaseal, superglue, microfiber cloths, topside camera rain cover, mini first aid kit, etc.

 

It's essential to be able to make basic gear repairs in the field, especially on dive trips where there likely aren't any other underwater photographers around.

 

Enjoy the rest of our What's in the Camera Bag series:

 Brook Peterson   |   Ken Kiefer   |   Mike Bartick   |   Ron Watkins   |   Serge Abourjeily

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brent Durand is a weekend wanderer and story teller from California.
BrentDurand.com   |  Facebook  |  Instagram

Brent is a writer for the Underwater Photography Guide, an avid diver and adventure photographer, and shoots underwater any time he can get hands on a camera system. He can be reached at brent@uwphotographyguide.com.

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.

 


Take an inside look at the camera and housing gear used by underwater photographer Serge Abourjeily
By UWPG Editors

What's in the Camera Bag: Serge Abourjeily

UWPG Editors
Take an inside look at the camera and housing gear used by underwater photographer Serge Abourjeily

Our latest installment of What's in the Camera Bag looks at the gear used by photo pro Serge Abourjeily.


I switched to Nauticam housings in 2010 because of their spot-on ergonomics. The best example is how the cursor for changing focus points is located right on your fingertips, which is essential to me when shooting macro. Not having to take your eyes off the viewfinder to change settings is priceless, and I would not, at least at the moment, want to switch to another housing brand.

Another important important aspect of my camera system – besides housing ergonomics – is trim. I use 6 different float arms and some "normal" arms to achieve the desired buoyancy for each lens/port combination. I also use a carbon arm with quick disconnect for my INON LF-800N torch; I can take it off with one click and use it for lighting or backlighting.

I am currently using Sea&Sea YS-250 strobes and love them for their power, recycle time and reliability. I have used various INON and Sea&Sea models before but really appreciate the speed of battery packs over strobes that take AA batteries. I optically trigger them, which allows me to use rear curtain sync on Canon. It's a shame that Sea&Sea has discontinued these beautiful strobes. I'm now considering a switch to Seacam strobes.

 

 

The Camera Kit

Camera: Canon 7D Mark II

Lenses: EF 100mm 2.8L Macro, EF-S 60 mm Macro, Tokina 35mm Macro, Tokina 10-17mm fisheye

Housing: Nauticam NA-7DMK2

Strobes: Sea&Sea YS-250 Pro (optically triggered so i can use rear curtain sync)

Diopters: Nauticam SMC & Sea Gadget

Focus Light: INON LF-800N on a carbonarm quick disconnect

Arms: 2x INON Megafloats M, 2x INON Floatarms ML, 2x Ultralight Floatarms and various normal arms

 


My Little Field Repair Kit Contains:

  • Spare kit (fiber optic cables, c-clips for housing buttons, o-rings, clamps, ballmount o-rings etc)
  • Nauticam key-set, micro screwdrivers, pliers, cutting blade, duct tape, epoxy glue, super glue, alcohol, toothbrush, battery tester
  • Lens and port cleaning material

 

Serge's Mini Portfolio - Canon 7D Mark II

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo left: A male cardinalfish shows us the eggs he is brooding. Photo: Serge Abourjeily

Photo right: Nudibranchs always make beautiful photo subjects. Photo: Serge Abourjeily

 

 

 

 

Enjoy the rest of our What's in the Camera Bag series:

 Brook Peterson   |   Ken Kiefer   |   Mike Bartick   |   Ron Watkins

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Serge Abourjeily has been a u/w photographer since 2005, living and working in Indonesia. He has spent the last 7 years in the famous Lembeh Strait (recently as Dive Manager at NAD-Lembeh) where he collected a lot of experience with critters and macro Photography. Beginning in 2017, Serge will be working on the Samambaia Liveaboard, cruising the Indonesian seas enjoying wide-angle AND macro. 

www.serge-mondial.com

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.

 


Divers off Baja California experience magic moments with passing orcas in these natural encounters
By Jerónimo Prieto

An Encounter with Orcas in Mexico

Jerónimo Prieto
Divers off Baja California experience magic moments with passing orcas in these natural encounters

We recently caught up with underwater photographer and Pelagic Life board director Jero Prieto after spotting his fantastic photo of two orcas under the surface, bathed in late afternoon light. In-water encounters with orcas (aka killer whales) are fairly rare, and natually, we wanted to share the photos and ask what went on behind the scenes. Below is our brief interview.

 

Where were you diving when you encountered the Orcas?

JP:  In Bahía Magdalena (Magbay) Baja California Sur, Mexico during one of the last Open Ocean Safari of the season led by Pelagic Life. 

 

 

Where you in a boat or already in the water?

We were returning from freediving with baitballs and marlins 50 nautical miles offshore. On the way back we spotted the pod, grabbed our gear and jumped in the water to freedive with them.

 

What was the encounter like?

The orca pod was on a clear path (heading south). To avoid any disturbance or risk the encounter, we would move the boat several meters in front of their trajectory. Once we were in a good location we would turn off the engine and silently jump in the water. Within 30 seconds the orca pod would encounter our divers. They usually looked at us and showed us their belly and remained in the surface; clear signs of a healthy interaction. All of the divers stayed at the surface and did not chase the animals. Once the pod passed we would repeat the exercise. We were fortunate enough to make 8 passes with the pod. On the last pass, the orcas (as soon as they saw us) became more compact as a pod and dived in front of us, passing several meters below the divers. This was when we decided to stop the interaction since we interpreted the behavior as non-inviting. The pod continued moving south.  

 

 

Is there anything that helped you capture these photos? Any tips to share?

I would suggest not forcing the encounter. Use common sense and try to cross path with the animals in the least invasive way possible. This allowed the orcas to swim straight towards us, at the surface and get as close as humanly possible. I would recommend checking your camera settings three times before jumping in the water because once you are in the water your entire attention will probably only focus on the encounter. Just remember to leave your finger pressing the trigger.

 

 

About the Author

Jerónimo Prieto, Pelagic Life  (pelagiclife.org)

 

 

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

 

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Go behind the scenes as Seaproof.tv explores deep inside a Titan 1 missile silo in this underwater documentary short
By Trisha Stovel and Russell Clark

Video: Diving a Nuclear Missile Silo

Trisha Stovel and Russell Clark
Go behind the scenes as Seaproof.tv explores deep inside a Titan 1 missile silo in this underwater documentary short

Not many dives begin with a site briefing in the middle of the Washington desert. Nor do they include a drive through a field of abandoned cars and trucks before arriving at a hole in the ground, guarded by an ominous looking locked cage. 
3 years ago we were invited out for an unusual dive inside an abandoned and flooded Cold War era nuclear missile silo. 
The place is a videographer's dream. We could have spent an age underwater there, moving behind cables, grids, launch platforms, and old equipment. It’s like a gigantic movie set.

We didn’t really know what to expect, so we kept gear to a minimum: a trusted Canon 60D with Magic Lantern for topside filming and interviews, a Sony RX100 in Nauticam housing paired with Light & Motion Sola 4000s for underwater, and some handheld Sola 800s for additional lighting. If we did it again now, we’d be taking all kinds of camera gear, lights, sliders, tripods, drones, a sherpa… but this was in our early days. In a lot of ways, the video we decided to make helped form the heart of Seaproof.tv - our Minimentaries.

The original RX100 was an excellent choice for good quality and full HD video, with a decent codec and an acceptable bit rate for a compact camera. Unlike the current incarnation, no over heating issues either. We could dive in an unknown location, with lots of hazards, with a small camera capable of good quality results, and be assured it would shoot well when we needed it. 

Our plan was pretty simple. We only had two dives, so just shoot as much as possible, get an interview with the guide, then see what we could edit together.

 

Diving the Missile Silo

The silo makes for an adventurous and fun recreational dive. That’s right, you don’t have to be a tec or cave diver for this one, as it’s not technically in an overhead environment. The silo is about 130 feet or so deep, 100 foot of which is underwater, meaning there is a sizeable area in which to surface, look around and breath air from.  

Other parts of the underground silo complex are also flooded and have overhead environments that can be accessed by divers with adequate training and an okay from the dive company that runs the guided tours there. These sections are smaller office-like parts of the complex that are large enough to swim around in, but not so big that you could get lost or lose site of your entry point. 

The silo complex was not prepared for divers like an artificial reef is. There are a lot of things hanging, protruding, and could prove hazardous. You need to have your eyes open as you carefully step over pipes and cables, waist-deep in water, wading your way through the tunnels on your way to the silo entry point. The guide recommends Advanced Open Water certification and very good buoyancy. Water flow is very slow, so stirring up the silt inside will take a few days to completely clear. If you’re there for photo or video purposes, make sure you’re the first group in that weekend!

The nuclear missile silo is a fun dive and an interesting look into a unique part of U.S. history. The shoot had it’s challenges: no time to plan, only two dives, and of course having to keep one eye on hazardous surroundings, despite being glued to the camera monitor. But it’s a fun, unique and adventurous dive that makes for some great video, and a great dive story when chatting with buddies.

 

Diving in a nuclear missile silo - a Minimentary by Seaproof.tv

 

 

 

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Seaproof.tv is an underwater video company based in British Columbia, Canada, a partnership between Trisha Stovel and Russell Clark. Trisha was originally from Ontario; a dive instructor, underwater videographer, and ocean lover through and through. Russell moved to Canada from England just over 6 years ago, started diving, and never looked back. 3 years ago we formed Seaproof.tv as a way for two video and ocean lovers to combine forces; it’s been non stop videos, endless camera gear, and lots of diving ever since. 

With a focus on underwater video, we produce unique content for small businesses, independent productions, and non-profits. But at the heart of what we do are our Minimentaries - and we’re just getting started. We have at least four more Minimentaries in the can, and an endless stream of ideas for new ones. 

Website     |      Facebook

 

ALSO BY RUSSELL CLARK AND TRISHA STOVEL

SUPPORT THE UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE:

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

 


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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.

 


Take an inside look at the camera and housing gear used by professional underwater photographer Mike Bartick
By UWPG Editors

What's in the Camera Bag: Mike Bartick

UWPG Editors
Take an inside look at the camera and housing gear used by professional underwater photographer Mike Bartick

First off, I need to say that it's all about function and not fashion for me. My gear MUST all be durable and able to withstand the abuse of diving daily. Logging more then 400 dives a year with my camera gear puts everything to the test. My current housing has more than 1200 dives on it without any rebuilds - kudos to Sea&Sea!

My gear configuration changes almost daily depending on what my target subject might be. I've minimized my need to change ports by selecting a port and extension that will accommodate both 60mm and 105mm macro lenses. The port is threaded to accept my diopter adapter.

For shorter focal lengths I'll change to a shorter port, but I've also been known to break a few rules along the way.

 

Inside Mike's Gear Bag

 

Camera:  Nikon D7100

Lenses:  Nikkor 105mm, Nikkor 60mm, Nikkor 50mm, Nikkor 40mm macro, Tokina 10-17mm fisheye, Sigma 28-80 macro

Diopters:  Nauticam SMC, SMC Multiplier, Subsee +10, Subsee +5, INON +15, etc.

Housing:  Sea&Sea MDX-D7100 housing (more than 1200 dives on the housing in the photo!)

Strobes:  Sea&Sea YS-D1 and YS-D2 strobes, INON Z240 strobes

Accessories:  Retra Light Shaping Device (snoot), Kraken focus and video light

 

 

My favorite setup is currently my Nikkor 105mm with the SMC diopter, with the Nauticam flip adapter. This setup allows me the flexibility to shoot the way I like to shoot the most: capturing behavior.

This setup is heavy underwater as well as on land, so I use float arms to offset the weight. I use Ultralight Control Systems float arms and INON mega float arms with long clamps. I also use long arm clamps supplied by Beneath the Surface for my modeling light.

 

Lighting

Lighting is where I become more picky. I like big, bold macro images as well as contrasty or smoothly-lit snooted images.

For hard targeted shaping, I use the Retra Ultimate Light Shaping Device (LSD). I almost never dive without this snoot. That doesnt mean that I'm always using it, but just that the option is always there. I've also been known to use my Subsee optical snoot. This snoot is a bit tougher to use but offers a different form of light that I like with subjects like hairy frogfish.

Some of the items not seen in the gear image above include a variety of torches used for backlighting, side lighting  and other specific lighting effects. These include video lights from Kraken Sports, Xtar and INON.

I experiment often with my gear and am always adding to the arsenal.

 

 

Editor's note:  Mike Bartick also manages Crystal Blue Resort in Anilao, Philippines, conducting frequent photo workshops to share his knowledge.


Enjoy the rest of our What's in the Camera Bag series:

 Brook Peterson   |   Ken Kiefer   |   Ron Watkins   |   Serge Abourjeily

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Bartick is an avid and experienced scuba diver and Marine Wildlife Photographer. He has an insatiable love for nudibranchs, frogfish and other underwater critters, and is the official critter expert for the Underwater Photography Guide. Mike is also one of the UWPG trip leaders. See more of his work at www.saltwaterphoto.com.

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.

 


Story Behind the Shots of two special experiences swimming with humpback whale mothers and calves in Tonga
By Cassie Jensen

Moments with a Humpback Mother & Calf

Cassie Jensen
Story Behind the Shots of two special experiences swimming with humpback whale mothers and calves in Tonga

I had been dreaming of the day I would see a whale in the wild since I was a child. Something about their massive size, yet gentle nature always intrigued me. Upon arriving in Vava’u, Tonga, I was expecting a great performance from the whales, full of action and fast-paced swimming involved with a heat run (one female whale accompanied by a suitor, followed by several other male whales fighting to challenge him). While we did experience several heat runs on our journey, it was the calm, quiet moments with the mothers and calves that truly touched my soul.

Our skipper Cam received a call on the radio about the location of a mother and calf during our second day swimming with the whales. Traveling through the beautiful islands on the boat to get to their location seemed to take hours instead of the reality of 20 minutes, my pulse a constant reminder of my excitement as the adrenaline coursed through my body. Our boat consisted of six swimmers and our wonderfully talented guide and photographer, Darren Jew. We were separated into 2 groups, men and women for old time’s sake, alternating drops with the whales. Of course, it was the guys’ turn in the water first. Cam brought the boat a few hundred feet away from the whales, as Darren swam out quietly to their location before signaling the guys to get in the water. After an anxious 15 minutes of me sitting precariously on the edge of the boat with my mask, fins, snorkel, and camera at the ready, Darren signaled us to switch groups. 

 

This was one of my favorite moments. The image was taken just as we were about to leave the whales and I crossed in front of the pair. I sunk just a few more inches below the surface and waited for the calf to settle in this position, straight on like its mom, with its tail down. They both watched me as if to say goodbye. 
Camera Settings: ISO 1600, F11, 1/200

 

I quietly slipped into the cool water, heart racing out of my chest. I had to force myself to slow down and take a deep breath, knowing that they would still be there even if I took my time. Finally I saw them; appearing out of the milky blue water were two gigantic silhouettes, shadowed by a tiny speck (Darren) as he motioned for me to come to them. There they were, just resting on the surface together. Relaxed, calm, trusting. I was watching them through my viewfinder, taking as many pictures as I could: checking the settings to make sure they looked satisfactory, changing the aperture for a better shot. Was the shutter speed still at at least 1/200? What about the ISO? After a few minutes of taking pictures and checking settings, I realized I wasn’t in the moment with them yet. I put my camera by my side, and just watched them. I looked at Darren, hoping he would understand the emotion behind my mask. Pure admiration. 

My two friends were still making their way over, and I felt alone with the whales and my mentor by my side. Time stopped for once in my life and I just floated weightless, inches from this enormous creature that was so new to this world, yet so trusting of all around it. I turned parallel to the calf, looking deep into its eye; questioning how such beauty exists in the world. As my two buddies joined us, I backed away to let them see the two without my presence. I looked beyond the calf’s tail, trying to figure out how much bigger the mother was. She was so massive, I could barely make out the end of her tail that seemed to stretch on forever. We remained by their sides in awe for about 15 minutes before we switched groups again. The hardest thing for me to do was to swim away from that beautiful moment. Fortunately, we had several drops with the mother and calf, and occasionally they would swim around us, going down a few meters before coming up for air again. Luckily, the pair trusted us to be around them for almost two hours before we made a group decision to let them continue resting without the presence of humans.


Humpbacks Day 2

The excitement of the next day on the boat was even higher in anticipation of what we were going to encounter, but we did mention that even if we didn’t see a whale that day, we would be happy because of the previous day’s encounter with the gentle giants. Skipper Ali dropped us on several thrilling, heart pumping action moments of heat runs before we got wind of another mother and calf in the area. Without any doubt, we decided to introduce ourselves to this new pair, and anxiously sat on the edge of the boat for the ride over to meet them. When Darren signaled my group to enter the water, I embraced the cool hug as I swam quietly out to where he was. This time, I saw the mother and calf floating in blue water, about 3 meters below the surface. The mother was vertical, with her nose facing straight up, and her calf was rested just underneath her pectoral fin, almost in an embrace. Slowly, I approached and watched as the calf began to dance. It moved so elegantly, up to get a breath of air, swimming out and around to meet us. The mother began to move with the calf, and soon I found myself swimming directly parallel to two of the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen. Time stopped again and I felt one with nature.

 

This calf was very affectionate towards its mother. Oftentimes, it would rub against the mother and also appear to embrace her in a hug. Such beautiful tenderness displayed!
Camera Settings: ISO 1000, F7.1, 1/200.

 

We had several drops with this pair, and each time we got to experience the love they had for one another. It was so obvious, as the mother would swim underneath her calf, raise her up to the surface for a breath, and back down again. Every so often the calf would fold itself around the mother’s face, as if to embrace her in a hug. To witness such adoration and gentle affection from such incredibly large animals was unlike anything I have ever experienced, or will experience, until I am reunited again with them next year. 

Being new to underwater photography, I was a bit nervous that I wouldn’t get the right shot or really capture the emotion from the moment. I realized that I had to go with my gut, keeping my settings around F8, and my go-to fast shutter speed (I hate any movement in my images!). One thing I realized from photographing them was that I really had to relax my mind and focus on the dance of the whales. Watching their behavior and only then picking up the camera… waiting for a good shot to unfold through my lens.

 

 


Inside Cassie's Gear Bag:

Nikon D7200, Nauticam NA-D7200 housing, Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens.


 

 

This calf was resting beneath the mother for ten minutes before waking and coming up for a breath right next to me, making direct eye contact.
Camera Settings: ISO 1600, F11, 1/200

 

I was able to float within inches of this calf, who was very friendly and trusting. Being so close, I could see that it was covered in whale “lice.” In reality, they are parasites that feed on algae on the whale’s skin and are found in skin lesions, skin folds, nostrils, and eyes.
Camera Settings: ISO 1600, F11, 1/200

 

This was by far my favorite moment out of my encounters with the whales. The three of us were swimming side by side for several moments. The mother realized it was time for the calf to breathe, and dipped below her young to raise her up to the surface. It was so beautiful to witness the loving touch a mother can bring to her newborn, even in the wild.
Camera Settings: ISO 900, F7.1, 1/200.

 

The mother and calf were resting several meters below. They went up for a breath of air together and began to swim directly towards me before turning in a beautiful display, as if to ask if I would join them in their dance.
Camera Settings: ISO 900, F7.1, 1/200

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cassie Jensen:  I bought my camera and got it in the water less than a year ago without having any photography experience. It has brought me to many incredible places, and captured countless, priceless encounters. My dream in taking underwater pictures is to raise awareness about the importance of our oceans and saving its inhabitants. Thanks to humans, many species are being destroyed; it is our duty now to preserve what we have left of this beautiful planet. My favorite things to photograph range from the gigantic whales, thrilling sharks, inquisitive turtles, to tiny, beautiful nudibranchs.

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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

 

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Behind the scenes of Seaproof.tv's shipwreck minimentary featuring Jill Heinerth in a cold water explorer's paradise
By Russell Clark and Trisha Stovel

Video: The Wrecks of Bell Island

Russell Clark and Trisha Stovel
Behind the scenes of Seaproof.tv's shipwreck minimentary featuring Jill Heinerth in a cold water explorer's paradise

Bell Island is a little known explorer’s paradise, a short distance from the city of St Johns, Newfoundland, Canada. 

Our ‘Exploring Bell Island’ Minimentary came together after a week of diving as part of a group put together by Jill Heinerth on behalf of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, with the aim of documenting the historically significant shipwrecks. 

We were blown away at how incredible the wrecks are, and how unique the area is. We shot underwater video throughout the week, but only towards the end of the trip did we decide to interview Jill and make it a goal to share with others the importance of Bell Island through our Seaproof.tv Minimentary. It’s too much of an amazing place not to! 

Bell Island has everything an underwater explorer could want: historic shipwrecks covered in marine life, an underwater mine for certified cave divers, stunning shore dives, clear water, and a fantastic dive operation with photographer friendly boats - Ocean Quest Adventure Resort. 

 

The Camera Gear

For the shoot, we used a Canon 5D Mark II with Magic Lantern, Aquatica housing, and Light & Motion lights, all packed away in fabulous Nanuk hard cases. Above water, we used a mixture of the same 5D Mark II, GoPro Hero 4s, Sony AX100, and the occasional iPhone snippet. We left the Sony AX100 above water as it’s not wide enough to do these wrecks justice; nothing comes close to a 5D with a 16-35mm lens on. 

Ideally we would have shot this in 4K, but the 5D Mark II is the better tool for this job. Its full frame sensor takes in an enormous amount of light, even at depth, emphasizing the good visibility. The 5D’s video also has a nice cinematic softness to it that we wanted for this specific shoot. We wanted it to feel epic and more cinematic than what we normally shoot - which also lead to our decision to edit this in a 21:9 ratio. These wrecks deserve to be made to look as cool as possible!

 

Diving & Filming at Bell Island

We planned our dives so we could capture the more iconic areas of the wrecks: the bow, the stern guns, torpedo damage, anchor, and so on. We were using open circuit, so bottom time was fairly limiting, though the wrecks are in recreational limits. We always had a rough idea of where we were going, and to what end. Jill would give us a good idea of what to expect on the wrecks, and what could be of interest. One of the wrecks had an intact Marconi room, one had some old vinyl laying on the deck, some had ammunition boxes, one an old shoe. All great visuals for a video. 

An important part of the diving experience for us is what goes on above water; the people, the geography, and the history. It’s also very important for non-divers to see more than just a close up of a nudibranch. Exploration and adventure define us as a species, not just as divers. We want non-divers to watch this video and be amazed at what lies beneath them.

 

Editing & Sharing 'Exploring Bell Island'

We edit using Adobe Premiere Pro CC, on two MacBook Pros. It’s a collaborative process that we enjoy - it’s where the story really comes together. We have a pretty elaborate editing system and set up in an office crammed with hard drives, monitors, and a healthy supply of coffee and biscuits. We share our videos on Vimeo, YouTube, and Facebook - for us it’s all about sharing and getting people to see the cool things we’ve seen. Hopefully, a few people will look twice, and maybe think about exploring our seas for the first time. 

Seaproof.tv is a company that Trisha Stovel and myself, Russell Clark, formed 3 years ago as a way for us to make these Minimentaries to tell the world about all the amazing things out there. Seaproof.tv has now grown into a successful video business, providing content for Canon cameras, Performance Freediving International, Global TV, and a host of others. 

At our core is a love for telling a good story. As Walt Disney used to say, ‘”We don't make pictures just to make money. We make money to make more pictures." 

 

Exploring Bell Island by Seaproof.tv

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Seaproof.tv is an underwater video company based in British Columbia, Canada, a partnership between Trisha Stovel and Russell Clark. Trisha was originally from Ontario; a dive instructor, underwater videographer, and ocean lover through and through. Russell moved to Canada from England just over 6 years ago, started diving, and never looked back. 3 years ago we formed Seaproof.tv as a way for two video and ocean lovers to combine forces; it’s been non stop videos, endless camera gear, and lots of diving ever since. 

With a focus on underwater video, we produce unique content for small businesses, independent productions, and non-profits. But at the heart of what we do are our Minimentaries - and we’re just getting started. We have at least four more Minimentaries in the can, and an endless stream of ideas for new ones. 

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ALSO BY RUSSELL CLARK AND TRISHA STOVEL

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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