Mike Veitch Show Reel

I have finally gotten around to creating a short Show Reel of some of my more memorable video encounters from over the years. This showcase features imagery from Yap, Lembeh Strait, Bali, Komodo, and Raja Ampat among others. This film is edited to show just a few highlights of interesting behaviour but no long or intensive coverage of any one animal.

Enjoy the video and feel free to share with your friends but please don’t edit or use the footage in any commercial venture without prior permission.

How To?? Limited Depth of Field Macro Underwater Photography

Over on our Bali Academy of Underwater Photography website, we have a series of articles called “How To??” which are very short posts discuss “How To” shoot a certain type of photo or photography style or even post processing techniques. If you haven’t had a look at the site before there are several of these short posts on the site as well as a few full articles, check them out on the Tutorials page.

I have copied the latest “How To??” article here, entitled “How To?? Limited Depth of Field Macro Underwater Photography

Depth of FieldLimited Depth of Field composition is a very effective and stunning form of photography when it’s done well. Although it does look complicated, it’s actually a very easy technique to setup. Here are a few steps to follow to learn “How To” take macro underwater photos with great bokeh.


  1. Choose an fstop between 1.8 and 8, the more open the f-stop the less DOF there is
  2. Strobe strength has to be at a very low power or else utilize TTL
  3. Choose subject accordingly, a flat subject will not “show off” the bokeh properly, therefore subject selection is key
  4. Don’t forget the background, a colourful background will enhance the “out of focus” aspect of the background itself. Bright colours work well
  5. Use a fast shutter speed: the DOF is very narrow so any little movements from the camera will be multiplied in the photo, using a fast shutter speed helps
  6. Use manual focus or focus lock, keeping a very narrow area of a macro image is hard to do, using manual focus helps so that the lens does not “hunt” while focusing


That’s it, very simple yet effective hints for trying this fun form of underwater photography

Story Behind the Shot – The Batfish

Schooling batfish in Raja Ampat

This shot is from my first ever trip to Raja Ampat and was taken at the iconic site of Citrus Ridge. Although this site would quickly become my favourite site in the northern R4 area after working on liveaboards there for several seasons, my first experience was certainly a memorable one. We jumped into the blue at the mouth of this channel dive and started descending toward the wonderful coral cover when I spotted this large school of batfish in the water column. Being a fan of big schools of fish, I never did actually make it to the reef on this hour plus long dive! With very minimal current, I was able to stay in the same area throughout and spent the full 70 minutes photographing this curious school of batfish as well as the thousands of fusiliers and baitfish that were swarming in the water column. Not to be outdone by the batfish, I was also visited by a large school of horse eye jacks and buzzed by a school of chevron barracuda. This image is my personal favourite of this memorable dive as the single batfish in the foreground seems to be curiously looking straight at me while the rest of the school swims away into the blue.

Nikon D90, Aquatica Housing, 10-17mm lens at 17mm, f10, 1/200 ISO 200

View more Raja Ampat images at my Raja Ampat Gallery

Black and White – Touch of Grey

With the sudden surge in popularity of Black and White images on Facebook and other social media, it’s time to post this article that Mike wrote for Scuba Diver Australasia magazine in 2008 for the “In Focus” column.  The format and photos are not necessarily the same as the magazine layout.  Enjoy!

Manta Ray silhouetteIf I’m presented with a series of art prints it’s always the classic black and white photo that stands out. Check the Web or flip through some diving magazines and you’ll notice a lack of underwater black and whites though. Why is that?

Several reasons: Cameras are set up to shoot colour images; folks don’t want to spend time converting to black and white in post production; and of course the underwater world is so full of rich colours, it may seem a waste to photograph marine life in monotone. Seeing the underwater world solely in colour, though, is like going to Starbucks and ordering plain black coffee! Which means there’s a treasure of photographic opportunities awaiting the shooter willing to conceptualise outside the box.

While Doug Sloss has already written about converting a colour image into black and white using Photoshop, I want to take a different tack. Let’s look at the “why, when, and where” of thinking in black and white.

Charismatic Megafauna

SharksNot every subject in the water lends itself to shades of grey. Obviously, a bright red sea fan with numerous colourful crinoids and soft corals attached to it won’t be nicer if you capture it in black and white. Instead, subjects with strong lines, contours, and shapes work well in black and white; examples include wrecks, wharf pillars, whales, and manta rays. But are these types of wide-angle subjects the only suitable subjects? Not by a long shot.

By thinking outside the box, you’ll be surprised how many different subjects look great in black and white. Anemone bulbs, nudibranchs, schooling fish, fish portraits, and even coral reefscapes can be given a whole new look with a simple colour conversion. The key is to look for textures and shapes that are out of the ordinary.

Take the humble anemone for example. Whereas most shooters will concentrate on capturing the antics of a playful anemonefish, look instead at the jewel-like details of the individual polyps. The play of shadows across the bulb tentacles creates a perfect abstract rendition of a relatively common subject.

Diver on Sand in Black and WhiteWhen composing photos of fine detail to convert to black and white it’s not just the composition that counts. In order for the photo to work it must be illuminated properly. A well thought out image will have a good balance of light and shadows throughout. This is very important as it’s these areas that display the subtle layers of grey and black that will make the image “pop.”

When using strobes to illuminate an underwater subject it’s very important to use them wisely. Using two strobes to evenly light the entire subject doesn’t give the opportunity to create hints and textures. Instead, varying the power of the strobes or using only one will create the dramatic light needed to cast fine shadows across the subject.

Other subjects that lend themselves well to monotone are “charismatic megafauna” like sharks, whales, mola mola, and manta rays. Why would this be, you ask. It’s simple. Since all are pelagic in nature, they need to blend in with their environment in order to hunt or hide from predators, and as such utilise basic skin tones: grey, black, or white. However, their lines and shapes make them instantly recognisable to the average diver. Combining the sleek contours of a shark with the mysterious and subtle tones of a black and white image create a sense of mystery and awe. The same is true of mola molas – their grey skin appears bland against a blue background but contrasts sharply with the subtle grey of the open ocean when converted in Photoshop.

Diver and Schooling Horse Eye JacksThe sheer size of a great whale is impossible to light with strobes and photos of them often tend to “wash out” toward the blue spectrum. A black and white conversion allows the strong aura of the whale to stand out better against a light coloured background. This leads us to the next advantage of colour conversion: the ability to save a slightly over or underexposed photograph or one that tends too much toward blue/green natural light photos.

I have a number of photographs in my collection where I was too far from the action and my strobes weren’t able to illuminate colour properly. Shooting in RAW and using the white balance adjustment can often bring colour back to these photos, but I often try a black and white conversion instead.

One of my favourite images is of a large school of sharks in French Polynesia. The original slide is a washed out blue/green because I was too far from the sharks. The subject itself was very appealing but the overwhelming blueness of the image made it an ordinary shot. By scanning it to digital and converting it to black and white I was able to save a once in a lifetime photo, and it now hangs on my wall.

The Soul of a Wreck

USS Liberty WreckSome of the most dramatic underwater subjects aren’t fish but rather man-made objects. Diving on shipwrecks is a haunting experience for any diver. But capturing the essence of a lost ship lying on the bottom of the sea isn’t an easy task.

Using the subdued hues of grey in a monotone image, the emotion and power of the final resting place ship is undeniably more powerful than the use of a bright blue background. The mood of what are often war graves is captured perfectly in black and white, and the subtle shadows create a deep feeling of mystery and emotion.

Other man-made structures that work well in black and white are docks or piers. Shafts of bright light streaming through the wooden planks of a dock, or bursting from behind a series of pilings is an unforgettable image. Many of these objects are home to large schools of fish seeking shelter. This added element of marine life adds a complementary “near and far” subject to the image. Be careful when shooting this style of photograph: The low light of morning or late afternoon works the best as the sun is low on the horizon, and won’t overexpose the whites in the background.

One of the best rewards of a well-planned and executed black and white photograph is the end result of printing. The classic tones of such photos really stand out. We now have at our disposal a fantastic way to display photographs in a different way: on canvas. Many professional print shops offer digital printing on canvas at very reasonable rates. Taking a black and white photograph and having it displayed and framed on stretched canvas can help make that image into a timeless display of art.

Pink AnemonefishThere are also a few exciting tricks that can be done in Photoshop to make your photo one of a kind. Consider leaving a portion of the subject in colour while converting the rest of the image to black and white. A small splash of bright colour against an otherwise grey background makes the composition stand out from the crowd.

Now that you know what subjects to look for, get out there and think in monotone. Flip through some of your old “just missed” photos and you may find a hidden gem amongst the chaff. And don’t be discouraged by the green water at your local wreck dive – thinking in terms of lines and contrast necessary for black and white will allow you to capture that iconic image you’ve been shooting for. sd

Story Behind the Shot, A New Image Series

I am happy to announce a new series of blog posts that I call “Behind the Shot”, basically one photo (or a series of photos) where I will explain what particular technique or idea that I used to get the photo.  Some of the posts will be technical but most will just discuss an interesting photo and what my thoughts were when I was trying to capture it.  These photos will consist of both underwater and land based photographs and will encompass images from my library dating back to the 90s.  Hopefully I will post one or two of these a week and I will also cross post them on the Underwater Tribe Blog as well.


Shark Parade

Grey Reef Sharks

This image is one of my favourites from my time working in French Polynesia back in the early 2000s (I am dying to head back there!)  The lagoon entrance channel where this photo was taken is the epitome of “Pass Flying” dive sites, a narrow channel with a very strong tidal flow that enters the lagoon on a rising tide.  About 3/4s of the way through this channel a large school of grey reefs were resident at around 70ft of depth and would lazily circle the bottom of the channel while us divers “clung” to the sides mesmerized by the constant stream of sharks parading past.  To get this shot I waited until I was low on air and then shot out into the middle of the pass and allowed the current to push me toward the wary pack of sharks while taking a steady stream of photos.  Although many folks falsely believe sharks to be confident and predatory at all times, sharks are actually quite shy and don’t typically allow divers to get too close (unless there is feeding occurring).  Therefore, getting close to this school of sharks was no easy task!  As this shot was taken in the late afternoon, I needed to use a very slow shutter speed in order to separate the sharks from the background which ended up giving a “blurred” sense of motion to the image that I think works quite well in Black and White

Photo taken with Nikonos V and 15mm lens, Provia 100 ISO film, 1/30, f 5.6 depth of around 60ft (18 Metres), French Polynesia circa 2003

Testing Mirrorless Cameras in Lembeh Strait (Part 2)


Can see some issues in the corners

This is the second part of a two part post, part 1 can be found here: Testing Mirrorless Cameras in Lembeh Strait Part 1

The second camera I used was the Olympus EM-1 in a Nauticam housing, which I coupled with two different lenses:  the 8mm fisheye wide angle and the 12-50 zoom lens along with the Nauticam SMC-1 diopter.  The first thing that I noticed about the Olympus system, compared to the Sony/Nikonos system, was that it was much smaller and lighter; it had more of the feel of a compact camera than the Sony system, which was a plus in my books.  Once again I used two Inon S-2000 strobes for the set up and I spent one day shooting wide angle with the 8mm Panasonic lens and two days with the 12-50 mm lens.


8mm, very wide!

On the first day, I used the 8mm lens with the first dive at a true muck dive, Jahir, a black sand slope with good critter potential for shooting CFWA.  The first thing I did was take a few test shots of some still subjects in order to see how wide the fisheye was and how I would need to position my strobes to avoid backscatter.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that this lens is just as wide as the 10.5mm on a Nikon and that scatter and flash flare were going to be an issue just as they are with a 10.5mm.  (I note here that I was not a big fan of these small strobes for wide angle use, as a wider angle strobe like my usual Sea and Seas YS 120s would have been preferable, however, for the 12-50mm lens these strobes were great, lots of power in a small size)  The very small size of the camera and mini dome port allowed me to get as close as I wanted to my subjects (much closer than the 15mm) which gave me better creative control over composition for CFWA.  It was easy to get in close and position the strobes correctly as well, however, I would have preferred wider strobes as mentioned earlier.   Looking at the photos on my computer screen afterwards did reveal that there is certainly some corner distortion with the CFWA shots on a wider aperature such as f6.3 (look at the white eyed moray shot to see this).  It wasn’t as obvious on higher apertures and to be honest, didn’t really bug me too much on the shots that I did take, however, I would need to shoot more to see where I really stand on this.  (This is common with SLR and fisheye as well)


Corners were better at distance with 8mm

On the next dive I found a massive coral head that was covered in baitfish that were being preyed upon by several large lionfish, the perfect opportunity for a more classic wide angle photo.  I was much happier with these shots, taken from further away, but still shot between f5.6 – f8, as the distortion was not nearly as obvious in the corners.  This is not to say that this camera creates more or less distortion than my D7000 and 10.5mm, both have corner problems at less than f11 for close up work, but I would say the D7000 is marginally better in that aspect than the Olympus, but, not by much!  Overall, I was happy with the wide angle from this combination and would most definitely use it again, although with wider angled strobes.


Focus was quick and accurate with 12-50mm

Next up was the 12-50mm lens and flat port for some “normal” shots of Lembeh critter diving.  I coupled this flat port with the Nauticam flip arm for the SMC-1 diopter in order to have an added punch of macro goodness for the small subjects that I was hoping to find.  What was really interesting about this lens and port combination was the ability to “turn on” macro mode with a simple twist of a dial.  The 12-50mm lens has a “macro” mode that allows the lens to focus very closely with it set at 43mm and the port has been designed to be able to access this function quickly and seamlessly by twisting a dial on the left side without having to manually tune the lens to that length or having to push a button to turn on the “macro” mode.  I found this to be a very cool feature of both the camera and housing, if I then wanted even more macro, I just had to swing the SMC-1 into place and I was good to go; this was a very simple and effective solution. Typically, I am not a big fan of composing through the screen on the back of a camera, especially for macro, as I find it very hard to see if what I want in focus is actually in focus; this is much easier with the viewfinder on an SLR where you are looking at the actual animal through the lens, as opposed to a screen.  On the Olympus, I was expecting to hate the focusing for macro due to this issue, however, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting.  The camera was able to lock focus very quickly and for the most part I was able to tell if the areas I wanted in focus were the ones that ended up in focus.

Macro mode worked well

Macro mode worked well

As an SLR user, I have always been a bit jealous of compact camera users who were able to zoom in and out at will as well as attach close up diopters or wide angle adaptors during a dive.  Using the EM-1 and 12-50mm with it’s native macro capability was a real eye opener for me, I found it to be a very versatile setup with the ability to shoot the eyeball of a wonderpus and then shoot a wide angle shot of it with the mere twist of a dial.  By adding on the SMC-1 with the handy flip port, this set up quickly became my favourite choice of the lenses I had tried and I didn’t even bother with different lenses after that.  For Lembeh, the 12-50mm was the perfect choice as there are so many different subjects to shoot from big to small!  With an SLR I always concentrated on one lens, but with this set up I could take great photos of every subject that I came upon.  In short, I really liked it!

SMC-1 was easy to use with swing arm

SMC-1 was easy to use with swing arm

Overall, I had a better experience with the Olympus setup than I did with the Sony, however, I am really comparing apples to oranges here as I didn’t actually try any other lenses with the Sony other than the Nikonos 15mm.  I am quite sure if I spent more time with the Sony and used comparable lenses I would have had similar results.  However, of the two cameras I was more favourable to the Olympus and I am quite inclined to buy one for myself in the not too distant future.  Looking at the images on a 27 inch screen shows that they are just as sharp and clear as an SLR and I could sell images from both the Sony and Olympus with no problem as the quality is very good.  The only downside I see of the Olympus is the strange (to me) ratio of the resulting images as I find the 4/3rds size to be squarish looking when compared to the ratio of an SLR camera and it leaves me with the sense that the photos have been cropped without locking in the ratios, but, that could just be me!

Testing Mirrorless Cameras in Lembeh Strait (part 1)

Before our recent Underwater Tribe/NAD Lembeh Photo Workshop, I decided to head to NAD Lembeh Resort in order to try a few new things in my diving life.  After a few days spent learning the ins and outs of Closed Circuit Rebreathers with the Poseidon Mark VI CCR, which is taught exclusively in Lembeh Strait by Simon at NAD, it was time to take some photos.  I decided to take advantage of Simons rental camera selection to try a few “new to me” setups while I had a few days of free time.  In fact, I didn’t even bring one of my own SLR housings, as I wanted to put these systems through a proper test and not give up mid way through and go back to my own trusty gear.  The rental systems that NAD had available for me (and for anyone interested in renting a camera while there) are a couple of the latest and greatest mirrorless cameras:  the  36 mp full frame Sony A7R and the Olympus EM-1, both with Nauticam housings.  I also rented two Inon S-2000 strobes to complete the desired “small” system that I wanted to familiarize myself with.


15mm Nikonos on Nauticam Housing

First up was the Sony A7R, which we paired with the legendary Nikonos 15mm lens, this system garnered a lot of press when it was first launched as the Nikonos lens is still considered one of the best ever wide angle underwater lenses due to its small form factor and great optics.  As someone who used the Nikonos V and 15mm combination for many years and thousands of dives, I was very intrigued by this new digital 15mm hybrid as I loved the 15mm with film because it was such an effective lens.  My goals were simple really: 1 – to see how the CFWA capabilities of the 15mm would compare to a modern SLR with a fisheye and teleconverter combination.  2 – see if the system was effective by being able to set the focus of the camera to a preset distance and be able to quickly capture sharp images.

Upon first inspection, this combination was certainly larger than a Nikonos V but was also smaller than an SLR, a plus for close focus images.  One of the first benefits of this setup that I noticed right away was the fact I could compose through the lens of the 15mm, whereas this lens only had a parallax viewfinder for use with the film version.  Being able to actually see the frame of what you want to compose is obviously a huge benefit!  One of the issues of this combination that I was expecting is the fact that the 15mm is a manual focus lens, so, there is no real way to tell if it’s actually in focus.  There is a “work around” for it as the Sony has a system of “coloured highlights” that can be activated on the screen to theoretically show what is in focus, however, the effectiveness of this system is not all that accurate and I never did trust it.


Can’t get too close with CFWA

As I was in Lembeh, the close focus opportunities were abundant and varied with subjects such as octopus, common seahorses, snake eels, and other fist sized or larger animals easily found.  What intrigued me about the 15mm and mirrorless camera combination was the small size of the lens itself which would provide an easy way to aim the strobes without a bulky dome port getting in the way, common with an SLR housing.  This did prove to be true, as I was easily able to position my strobes without having any shadows intrude into the photos.  However, what was disappointing was the distance I had to remain from the subjects to get sharp focus.  With the Nikonos V and 15mm combination a working distance of 15cm was about the minimum focus distance, and this was also true of the Sony and 15mm combination so I shouldn’t have been surprised.  However, after working with a fisheye and TC for so many years, with a 2cm to 3cm minimum focus distance, the Sony combination was not satisfactory for smaller subjects such as seahorses. I kept catching myself trying to get closer which of course ended in out of focus results.


Classic Wide Angle shots were perfect

On the second day of using this system, we headed out to the northern end of Lembeh Island to dive at some of the “classic” wide angle dive sites that offer stunning soft corals and seafans.  These photo opportunities were more inline with what I used to shoot with the Nikonos and I hoped taking these types of photos would prove more satisfactory than the CFWA ones did.  The “sweet spot” of the 15mm lens for general wide angle work is to set the focal distance to midway between 2 and 3 feet and the fstop midway between f5.6 and f8, this allows the lens to focus from about 30cm to infinity and is the setting I used for the vast majority of photos of such things as seafans and people shots with a Nikonos, and so I set it the same for the Sony. The Sony offers a wider variety of shutter speeds to work with as the Nikonos only synched between 1/30 and 1/90 with strobes (it can be set at 1/125 or higher but it only fires at 1/90 regardless).  My hopes were higher for this style of wide angle photography with the Sony/Nikonos combination and my hopes proved to be correct, my percentage of keepers were quite high compared to the CFWA photos I was shooting the day before.


Corner sharpness was very good

Everything that I shot between 1 to 4 feet proved to have sharp focus and brilliant colours, I was also very happy with the corner sharpness in these photos.  Corner sharpness can often be terrible when using a DSLR, with both fisheye and rectilinear lenses, especially at fstops less than f11.  The ability of this camera setup to shoot “from the hip”, without waiting for the autofocus to catch or having to “dial in” manual focus, was a definite advantage, especially for larger subjects.  I can certainly see this as a great combination for larger, fast moving situations such as feeding mantas, great white cage diving, whale sharks, whales, or baitball action.


Close up of the bottom left corner of the previous shot, very sharp

Overall, I found the Sony and Nikonos 15mm combination to be an interesting wide angle option but it wasn’t something I was “itching” to try again and again.  Although the sharp corners and quick shooting capabilities were a definite plus, the lack of being able to see exact focus and the 15cm minimum focus distance were negatives that put me off the system.  I would certainly consider it as a great option for fast moving subjects and in situations where smaller cameras are a plus, but the considerable cost of the camera itself means that it would be a very expensive “second camera” for most people.

FAQ About the Underwater Tribe Photo Workshop May 2014

Each year I conduct a couple of major underwater photography workshops in some of the best diving locales on the planet.  Typically I conduct them either on a liveaboard or at a resort that offers stunning photography opportunities, great photo facilities, and a great team of guides.  Every year these are becoming increasingly popular as more and more folks want to learn the art of underwater photography.  When conducting group workshops I often team teach with another photographer, this year is no different as my business partner Luca Vaime will be co-hosting this years Underwater Tribe Photo Extravaganza in North Sulawesi.  Many folks ask us what to expect from our photo workshops so we have written this brief FAQ in order to address some of the more popular questions.  Please read on to learn more about our workshops and what they offer to potential guests.

LEMB2013041906181. Who are the workshops aimed at?

All of our workshops are great learning experiences for both new photographers as well as those who don’t get the chance to shoot very often who are looking to brush up on their skills.  They are also very informative for photographers who have more experience as we often discuss many “advanced techniques” during the course of our workshops.

2.  I am a brand new photographer, are the lessons too advanced for me?

No!  In fact, our workshops always start from the basics and then proceed onto more advanced techniques throughout the week.  If anyone is having trouble with certain ideas we are always willing to sit down one on one to ensure everyone understands the theory involved.

3.  I understand the basics but I would like to know more advanced techniques, what can I learn from the workshop?

Everyone can benefit from an overview of basics about f-stops and shutter speeds from time to time as well as expand their knowledge about composition techniques.  For more advanced shooters, the greatest benefits include one on one time underwater with the instructors, one on one image review, and the chance to discuss images with a group of like minded photographers.  Also, in our “Taking it to the Next Level” workshops we discuss a lot of different techniques such as snooting, blue and black backgrounds, effective modeling, WB and filter photography, Playing with Light, split photos, and a host of other interesting techniques that go beyond the basics.  Having the instructors with you underwater is a huge benefit when it comes to helping learn to aim snoots or taking split photos.

LEMB2013041805904.  I like wide-angle photography more than macro, should I attend the Lembeh workshop?

Yes!  Lembeh has some very under rated wide angle dives such as California Dreaming and Angels Window, also, the close focus wide angle opportunities in the Strait are outstanding with creatures such as frogfish, stargazers, mimic octopus, coconut octopus, and many others almost tailor made for a wider lens.  Also, we will start the workshop discussing f-stops and shutter speeds, which will certainly help learning to light wide-angle photos properly.

5.  I am a bigger fan of macro photography rather than wide angle, should I attend the Bunaken workshop?

Most definitely!  The Bunaken National Park is a very under rated macro photography destination with a wide variety of great critters found on the walls of the islands.  In the afternoons we will be diving a lot of the reefs on the mainland, which feature great macro critters as well as healthy reefs.  Nudibranchs, frogfish, pygmy seahorses of all varieties such as bargibanti, denise, and pontohi are more common here than they are in Lembeh!

BaliMV13-4906.  Will the Bunaken Workshop theory only discuss Wide Angle techniques?

Certainly not, our Bunaken workshop is not a “wide angle” workshop but rather a “Taking it to the Next Level” workshop instead.  We will start with discussion about f-stops, shutter speeds, and strobe positioning for wide angle photography and then continue with discussions about different lighting techniques, working with models, manual white balance and filter photography, and the art of the background.  A lot of these discussions are relevant for both wide angle and macro photography.  Also, the instructors provide one on one time underwater as well as in the classroom so it’s up to each student what they would like to discuss and learn during their personal instruction time.

7.  What is the role of the instructor during the dives?  Will I have any one on one time with the instructors underwater?

Most definitely!  We pride ourselves on spending time with our participants both above and below the surface.  Everyone will have the chance to spend a full dive with each instructor throughout the course of the workshop.   Our instructors carry slates underwater, not cameras.  This way they can communicate effectively with you underwater in order to help with camera settings, strobe positioning, and any other issues that may happen during the dives.

LEMB2013041906028.  I enjoy having my photos critiqued after a day of shooting, will this be available?

Yes, each day of the workshop the instructors make themselves available for one on one critiquing and questions before dinner.

9.  Will there be anything other than classroom talk throughout the week?

Of course, we like to provide a lighthearted yet educational vibe throughout the week.  We will show entertaining slideshows and videos in the evenings as well, and set aside enough time for everyone to work on their cameras and photos as well as have some down time.

10.  I don’t have a dive buddy who can accompany me; can I join on my own?

Of course, we will be diving with very small groups and plenty of dive guides so the ratio of people to instructors and guides is very favourable.

BaliMV13-34311.  Do I need a laptop?

A laptop is preferred for each participant; also, a copy of Adobe Lightroom is a very good tool to have during workshops as we discuss this program for editing.

12.  I only have a compact camera, can I still participate? What is the minimum camera equipment needed in order to gain the most from the workshop?

Of course!  We welcome everyone with a camera who is willing to learn more about photography.  Many compact cameras have manual controls such as the Canon G and S series and they work exactly like SLR cameras so the theory we teach works with all cameras.  However, we would suggest that a macro diopter and one strobe are a very good investment to look into before joining a workshop.  A second strobe and a wide-angle adaptor are also great investments but one strobe and the macro diopter are the perfect way to start.

13.  What does the typical day of the workshop entail?

The workshops start with a nice breakfast and two morning dives with snacks and drinks served on the boat.  After the second dive we return to the resort for lunch followed by a theory lesson presented by one of the instructors.  We will then head out on the third dive of the day and when we return the instructors host “open sessions” which is the best time for students to have their images reviewed and ask questions directly of the instructors.  After dinner the instructor will present either an entertaining slide show or else continue with more theory presentations.

14.  Will I receive any course materials?

Yes, everyone who participates will receive a full set of the presentations to keep; PDF is the format for these.

LEMB20130418058715.  Is the photo workshop suitable for open water divers?

Yes, our courses are suitable for all levels of divers.  However, we ask that anyone who is starting on the path of underwater photography to have good buoyancy skills before starting photography.  Carrying a camera underwater and trying to get close to subjects close to fragile corals is not an easy task and good buoyancy skills are a must before using a camera underwater.

16.  Will I have internet access?  I have to follow up with my job back home and stay in touch with family.

Yes, both NAD and Thalassa have internet access.  However, due to their remote locations it’s not as fast as internet in first world nations, therefore, uploading large files and downloading videos and YouTube is not possible.  However, emails, web browsing, and Facebook are all readily available.

17.  How far is Bunaken from Lembeh?

The transfer between NAD and Thalassa will take around 1.5 – 2 hours depending on traffic conditions.







The Art of the Black Background

Its about time for me to write a new newsletter, I try to write them 4 times per year but sometimes I am not that consistent!  If you have never received my newsletter, one of the things that I always put in there is a short “UW Photography Tip”, for example, the following is the photo tip from my November 2012 newsletter about black backgrounds.  If you don’t receive my newsletter, please sign up here on any of my web pages and you will automatically receive it.  Its a great way to keep updated with news, new trips, last minute trips, and of course photo tips!

Anthias with parasitic copepods

One of the most effective macro photography techniques is the use of a black background to make that special critter shine!  A lot of folks believe that a black background can only be achieved by Photoshop manipulation, however, this is far from the truth.  The art of the black background is quite easy actually, and it comes down to just a few simple steps.  First, the subject must be perched upon something that allows the camera to get under it and shoot up; seagrass, a rock, a sponge or a bit of coral or in the water column itself (like the anthias photo above).   A second key ingredient is the depth and available ambient light: the ambient light needs to be relatively low and the photographer should be relatively deep in order to avoid the bright surface water.  Trying to shoot up into bright sun in shallow water will not work as the sunlight will give too bright of a background.  Next, the camera should be on f-11 or higher and set on the highest shutter speed that it can successfully synchronize with. Try using these tips and black backgrounds should be a breeze!  Don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t work at first, simply pull back, think about what went wrong, make a few adjustments and try again!

Lizardfish Pair

Frogfish Portrait

Back to the underwater images for a moment, I led a group of divers to Komodo on the luxurious Dive Damai Dua back in June and we had a great trip with perfect weather. I would say the favourite dive for most of the folks during the week occurred on day 2! This dive was of course the iconic Cannibal Rock located in Nusa Kode (Horseshoe Bay) at the southern end of Rinca Island. We did the dive twice (or was it 3 times?) and everyone had a great time shooting things from schooling fish to ladybug amphipods to any one of 4 different frogfish that we could find. Here is a portrait of this giant bluish-grey individual. I would like to thank the Kilgours and friends for joining me on this trip and of course the crew of the Dive Damai Dua.