An introduction into documenting the underwater world
It’s almost time for an underwater stills photography course that I am running together with expert assistance from professional photographer Louis Pieterse. We’ll be hosted by the awesome Garden Route Scuba, a PADI dive centre with the best views, in the quaint and quiet town of Mossel Bay. I’m always excited to train people at my home reefs, the diverse macro-laden reefs of Mossel Bay. There are many treasures to be found here.
Here’s some info to help you decide if this course is for you. We try to run this mainly over a weekend, but you would need to take just the Friday off work. We will do a total of three dives.
Pre Course Meet&Greet:
On Thursday evening we will meet at the centre and go through the three days ahead and what to bring and prepare for each day.
We like to fit in a short lecture during this evening, but much depends on what time people will arrive in Mossel Bay. If you are booking a flight please try to land in George by 2 pm giving you time to get through to your accommodation, and to relax for an hour before heading down to the dive centre.
Day one- Friday:
We meet for a coffee and delve into your underwater camera/housing and its buttons and settings; we take a look at possible upgrades and why you could, and even if you should? After that, we move into the basics of shooting in all the modes your camera will allow, including the ultimate full manual mode. We talk about maintenance and preparation of your equipment and by then you’ve had enough of listening. After a lunch break, we will spend the afternoon in the pool practising and you can ask all your questions. We’ll prepare the cameras for the next day. Later, there’s an introduction to Adobe Lightroom, the post-processing program of choice. You’ll receive an overview of the interface and we will delve in deeper over the weekend.
We do a pre-dive briefing on the photographic skills to be practised on that day and then we hit the water to seek out the macro treasures waiting for us. We do two dives and they are usually both macro dives on this day, conditions permitting. After a well-deserved lunch, it’s back to some theory. We’ll be looking at your shots from the morning and learning more about Lightroom at the same time. After the crit. session and a coffee we will get back into some more theory and cover such topics as wide-angle shooting; perfect strobe placement; use of ambient light; reading the ‘peak of the moment’. The Lightroom work for the day includes a look at its library and develop modules. We will set up our cameras for the next morning and then it’s time to relax. Garden Route Scuba is in the Mossel Bay Yacht Club and so a sundowner could fit in here.
Day three- Sunday:
As usual, there’s a pre-dive briefing on the photographic skills we will practise and today it’s wide-angle we are concentrating on. We whip around the reefs seeking out the gorgeously coloured corals and schools of fish that the area is known for. On occasions, we get a Raggie, which is always a bonus. Same as the previous day, we do a crit session and then it’s time to choose some photos that really worked and some that really didn’t and to do a group discussion- helping each other to find out why- based on what you’ve learned. Now, it’s time to really apply the knowledge you’ve acquired over the past 2 days. The Lightroom work for the day includes a look at the remaining modules, esp. the slideshow module and how to watermark and export correctly.
As a bonus, and only if you tag my courses ( wink, wink, nudge, nudge! ) I’ll also show you how to quickly get your best shots out onto social media, appropriately watermarked and resized so they can’t be stolen. For those who aren’t rushing off back to work, on this final evening, we will present a combined slideshow and presentation of certificates whilst enjoying a braai or meal at the yacht club.
Full gear Scuba rental is available @R450 per dive
Full DSLR camera rental with strobes is @R1800 for the full course
If you need assistance to find suitable accommodation please let us know
My underwater camera kit used to change regularly but I think I have honed it down now to items that I love and it’s going to be a while until I part with them, I hope. I am often asked what I use underwater so here it is….
Over the years I have used various Nikon camera bodies as they became available — from the Nikonos V to the Nikon F100 to the D100 to the D200 and D300 to my current favorite, the D800 full-frame body. I ventured over to Canon for a while as I teach and I needed to know how to use them. I used a 5 D Mark2 for a few years. I am firmly back with Nikon for now. The menu system of the Nikon makes more sense to me and I love the focus system too. I still own and use the cropped-sensor cameras like the D200, too, because there are lots of things they do better and many lenses they work better with.Lately I have also been experimenting mirror less cameras and specifically the Olympus’ two-times crop. The small size is helpful when diving with fast moving pelagics and when trying to get a macro shot in a small hole. The Olympus OM-D has such high image quality that I feel I’m not compromising on the final photograph. There has been a remarkable enhancement in high-ISO performance in recent years, which has transformed what we can do in deep, dark places.
What should I buy?
Get the best you can afford but first decide if you want to go for a smaller portable kit or whether you want to continue with the sturdy and incredible dSLR’s such as the D4 or D800 or similar. If you travel a lot and portability is essential for you then mirror less makes a lot of sense.
If you decide to go mirror less then you could also try to find a good old second hand dSLR such as the Nikon D200 or the canon 5D mark 2. Use this in your home country when travelling in your car and weight doesn’t matter, or as your back up.
Hi, I’m Fiona. I love cats, sharks, reading, writing and being underwater.
In my underwater camera kit I have various Nikon and Canon housings from Sea&Sea and Ikelite all of which have been sturdy and worked hard for me with few problems. There are all now being used in my school and internship program. My current housing is definitely my favourite and that is the Nauticam NA-D800 for the Nikon D800. The ergonomics are incredible and the multi-selector mimics the camera’s multi-selector exactly, which is helpful. I also purchased a vacuum system and so I feel far more relaxed when diving with such an expensive camera- I highly recommend going this route if you are thinking of a Nauticam.
What should I buy?
If you can afford to then I suggest Nauticam. If you live in South Africa then the after sales service from Dive Action in Cape Town is amazing and makes a huge difference.If money is an issue there are some great second hand deals on the Internet. You need to get on Google or ask my assistance! I charge a commission but I am prepared to source second hand gear that I will first test before you pay.
Over the years I have used various strobes from Sea&Seas various ranges through to Inon Z240’s.In my underwater camera kit I am currently using the Ikelite Substrobes 161 and 125. I recommend this route due to the fact that the battery packs are rechargeable. I will never go back to charging hundreds of AA batteries again. AA’s also need to be replaced regularly. The charge on these strobes holds very well and I often only have to charge them up every fourth or fifth day even if I am diving 2 or 3 times a day.There is a recent move to continuous LED lighting. I have not yet tried this out but in 2017 I intend to.I run my strobes hard wired with sync cables but I know some photographers who prefer the fiber optic route. There are pros and cons for both that are easy to find on the Internet and so I suggest researching that.
What should I buy?
Strobes are vital but also very expensive. Good second hand strobes are hard to find. This is a bit of a conundrum. I suggest you save to buy the best you can.In my underwater camera kit I love the Ikelite Substrobes as I can turn them down to just a kiss of light or have them on full blast. Also, after care service from agents M-Photo in Cape Town is brilliant. Most importantly to me is the fact that I can recharge the battery pack and don’t need to have separate chargers and AA batteries.
I use mostly fixed focal length lenses underwater and I recommend you do the same. It makes lighting a lot simpler.
What should I buy?
I recommend that you start off with the easier lenses if you are using a dSLR. For wide angle any fish eye lens is easy to work with underwater. If you don’t want a fish eye (which doesn’t have that extreme bulgy look underwater B.T.W) then opt for the older 20 mm lens. For macro the 60 mm is the easiest and most versatile. The 100 or 105mm macro lenses are also wonderful but usually take more experience to use underwater successfully.
I use glass ports for the most clarity in a shot. However, when you start out it is a better idea to use acrylic. The reason for this is threefold:
They are cheaper;
If you scratch them then the water fills in the fine lines;
If you scratch them repeatedly you can eventually ‘rub’ out the scratches using a cleaning kit.
What should I buy?
I subscribe to K.I.S.S (Keep it simple stupid)! In the beginning it takes a lot of time and effort to get used to all your gear so forget about accessories.
What should I buy?
Apart from the usual cleaning stuff the only accessory I use regularly is an air gun that I attach to my HP hose. This is vital to get rid of dust and water droplets where necessary. It’s al lot cheaper than buying compressed air in cans.
Invest in a good padded bag that you can also take on the boat. It must have a thick plastic zip. This will protect your gear while travelling.
You must have a protector for your ports.
Blogger: Fiona Ayerst
Fiona is an award winning professional underwater and environmental photojournalist. Her work is published and portrayed throughout the world in numerous magazines, blogs and sites. Between May and October annual, Fiona manages Africa Media’s environmental and travel journalism internship program.
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Join Fiona and her team underwater in Mozambique for one or both of these short courses to learn as much as you can about photography in water.
Spend time with the team – going over those “hard to understand manuals”. Find out how to care for camera gear properly, to keep it working hard for you, for many years. You don’t have to bring gear to this course. You will be trained on our professional level equipment – this can be really handy if you are trying to make a decision on what camera to buy. Full equipment rental is incl. in the course price. Also, it’s time to enjoy a have a wonderful break -in paradise- at Guinjata Bay, diving with the Guinjata Dive Centre team. Note that if you do both courses you receive a R2000 discount.
Short Courses dates:
Course 1: Arrive on 5 Sept 2016. The beginners course 1 runs 6 Sept to 10 Sept 2016. Leave on 11 Sept (or stay and dive some more if you wish but course 1 will end on the 10th) .
Course 2 : Arrive on 10th Sept 2016. The intermediate/adv course 2 runs from 11 Sept to 15 Sept 2016. Leave on 16 Sept (or stay and dive some more if you wish but course 1 will end on the 15th)
Course 1 covers
A. choosing a camera and preparing the camera to take photographs: practical We do some work on land first and then underwater.
B:memory cards/software: includes lectures on using Adobe Lightroom software and everything you need to know to get to an intermediate level
C:using your gear (incl. strobes) to its full potential: also covers how to get the perfect exposure underwater (in detail)
D:colour loss underwater and its effect on photos; white balance and use of filters with and without strobes;
E:how to get sharp focus in water
E:marketing yourself and entering competitions
F:good composition including lens selection for different subjects
G:camera; strobe and housing Care
H:crit sessions and how to improve
Tuition costs: Includes: full DSLR camera hire with strobes ; tuition with Fiona and her team:
5 x dive package with air:
6 x nights accommodation in private en suite room. (Extra nights can be arranged should you wish to stay)