Migration from Stills to Video: DSLR to RED

Migration from Stills to Video: DSLR to RED

A few years back the appearance of DSLR´s capable of capturing high quality video made a lot of underwater photographers as myself explore the world of motion picture. For me this journey started with a Canon Eos 7D and exploring its video capabilities in between photo shoots using available light. From the beginning I was hooked by the prospect of being able to switch from stills to video on the push of a button… as where most underwater photographers out there.

Text by Nuno Sa

On the next year I started taking video seriously and stopped constantly switching from stills to video during a dive and rather chose what I was going for and preparing the equipment and settings accordingly. I changed to a Full frame 5DMKIII and added a couple of lights and an external monitor as well as starting to use low compression picture styles such as the cinestlye. Trying to get stabile shoots and neutral buoyancy on a underwater housing created for capturing stills was probably the biggest challenge for me and most UW DSLR video shooters out there. As many others I would search on forums looking for solutions and do a lot of experiences such as attaching buoys and adding side wings on the housing with some moderate success.

And then a new revolution started with RED introducing the RED Scarlet and a Canon lens mount as well as dropping prices on the Epic. Suddenly all forums where talking about these high end 4K cinema cameras and how they where now only a small fortune instead of a big one. The problem was there seamed to be no information out there of DSLR UW shooters making the change to RED. But when you watch footage of videographers such as Howard Hall shooting amazing footage with these cameras one could start dreaming on taking the next big step.

In my case the decision to go for RED came from meeting two well known videographers in a summer in the Azores, curiously they had pretty different feelings about working with cinema cameras. I first met Rafa Herrero, a well-known Spanish videographer in Santa Maria Island and he was nice enough to show me the inside of the beast and the results and logistics using it involved. As a many year user of Run n Gun cameras producing documentaries Rafa did warn me a lot about the logistics backing up huge RAW files involved as well as the whole post production of getting nice imagery out of RAW flat images. But I must say I was immediately drawn to this camera and its potential.

The final choice came when a couple of months latter a close friend of mine, Mauricio Handler, came to shoot sperm whales with me in the Azores. I then had a chance to try his camera UW and hear the opinion of someone that was coming from the same place as me… from DSLR to RED. Meanwhile I have bought two Run n Gun cameras for top shoots and to use as B cameras (Canon XA20 and Sony FS7) and I must say that for someone coming from the world of DSLR the RED is actually easier to use than smaller handheld cameras. In essence the RED is pretty much a DSLR on steroids as you will be doing basically the same adjustment UW using manual exposure and focus, as well as choosing basic parameters as aperture, shutter speed, frame rate and ISO as well as a low depth of field to work with (especially in macro shoots). Perhaps the biggest differences will be logistics wise, as you will be carrying a substantially heavier system as well as accumulating very large files (a good day of shooting in 5K RAW with a 7:1 compression and 50 fps can easily bring home 1 TB of footage and that is for little over 60 min of footage).

Perhaps one of the most significant aspects that one has to seriously look into before making the decision to chance systems would be exactly how much it will cost you. So far RED has kept the “modular camera” concept witch was one of the main reasons that made me go for this camera. In short this means you buy a brain and then attach several accessories needed to make the camera work (Side SSD for media, lens mount to attach lens, LCD for live view etc.…). So far the brain is “upgradable” so this means if you want to upgrade from Epic X to Epic Dragon you just send in the brain and now have a different camera but the same accessories and above all… the same housing. So of course for UW works this brings a big advantage as for example Gates has the same housing for the Scarlet, Epic X and Dragon. The downside is many people think the price of the camera is the price of the brain, however you can expect to about double the price (or at least add another 10 000$) just for a basic package. Another aspect to keep in mind regarding upgrades is that if you miss one you may be left out of the loop indefinitely (for instance if you don´t upgrade from Epic X to Dragon until a certain date you will then not be able to make the next upgrade, in this case the Dragon to Weapon upgrade).

As for Pros and Cons I would point out:

Pros:

  • The housing – Oh the housing!!!… Perhaps more than everything else having a perfectly balanced video housing that just floats horizontally in front of you with a nice 5” or 7” screen is going to bring beautifully stable imagery, with perfect pans, even when swimming like crazy after a whale.
  • Future proof concept – The RED is pretty much as future proof as it gets (shooting in 5K or 6k for Epic X and epic Dragon) but if you add the fact that is upgradable to the equation you have a camera and housing for the next decade (at least).
  • Frame rates – Choosing anything from 1 fps to 180 fps in 5K (in the Epic X) and even more than this if you upgrade brings you the chance to capture pretty much anything from time-lapse to verrrry slow-motion.
  • Shooting RAW – The amount of information you get in a clip for post production is simply amazing, but of course backing this up is a challenge and post-production is demanding. Also keep in mind RED cameras use RED media period.
  • From web to BBC – Going for a cinema camera does, of course, make you equipped to pretty much work for any kind of client from web based to full broadcast and cinema.
  • UW OLPF – Red has just developed an interchangeable OLPF (Optical Low Pass-Filter) system for specific uses such as low light or skin tone-highlight. The good news is they have just developed a H2O OLPF for underwater use that should deliver new color science in the blue channel.

The cons:

  • The price – This is the big one and does make the other cons pretty irrelevant. A good housing, nice pro lights (15 000 lumens each or so) and a fully functional camera should go for around 50 000$ – 60 000$. Keep in mind this is for UW use only without a nice tripod, grips, cage etc.… for surface work.
  • Upgrades – This is pretty much the same as above. Upgradable cameras make them future proof but they are, unfortunately, expensive. At around 10 000$ per upgrade and you might need to make an upgrade until a certain date to keep your camera eligible for the next upgrade.
  • File size – Just like the upgrades one of the Red’s main advantages is also a bit of a downfall as you will, of course, spend a lot of time and money backing up your files. Fortunately the price per TB is dropping by the day and working in favor of RED owners. You can check online what a card will go for at http://www.red.com/tools/recording-time, but each of my 512 GB cards will go for around 30 min with my most common settings.
  • Post production – You can forget about using Red files without considerable post production work. That is what shooting in RAW is all about, taking a flat image with no contrast, sharpening, saturation etc.… and having the freedom to deliver the final image just like you want it.

In conclusion I would say that DSLR´s do make beautiful imagery and are good enough for many clients and uses. They are very light weight, handle low light conditions very well and can deliver amazing – ready to use – images with the right color profiles. I must say however that since I started with the RED system my 7D´s and 5D´s have been on the shelf.

Bellow you can check a couple of links and compare for yourself, the top one is the first production I made with the 7D and the second my first reel with Red Epic.

Using Canon 7D

Using RED

Ivan van Heerden

Ivan van Heerden

I have always been drawn to the sea. A year in Australia in 1988 opened the underwater world to me and I have never looked back. I graduated from the University of Natal with an Honours degree in Aquatic Entomology in 1993. Thereafter I restored a classic wooden yacht and sailed her over to the Caribbean in 1995. For the next 15 years I was fortunate enough to dive and photograph the Virgin Islands, the Bahamas as well as places like Fiji, Hawaii and Guadalupe Island in Mexico. My family and I returned to South Africa in 2009 and I rediscovered Aliwal Shoal.

My photography really started in early 2001 when I bought a Sony 3.2 megapixel point and shoot camera with an underwater housing. While I sometimes wanted to yell, in frustration, due to the shutter lag it taught me invaluable lessons in composition, patience and how to approach the subject. Eventually I reached the limitations of the camera and made the move to a housed DSLR, a Nikon D100 subsequently replaced by a D200.

I was fortunate to be taught by Mauricio Handler, principle assistant to David Doubilet for many years as well as a Nat Geo photographer in his own right. Mauricio’s time and patience were invaluable and I learnt more each time we travelled together: from shooting Great Whites in the crystal clear but cold waters of Guadalupe to the tropical splendour of Fiji. Mauricio likes to push the limits with light, shutter speed and storytelling and I learned a great deal from him.

With Aliwal shoal in my backyard I am now focussing on bringing all that this amazing reef system has to offer to my picture taking. The shoal rightly deserves its place in the top dive sites of the world despite its reputation for current, bad viz and rough launches. Very few places on the planet have the mix of cold and warm water and the resulting unique ecosystem. Every time you dive the Shoal there is something new and exciting to see.

In telling Aliwal’s story through the camera lens, my hope is to try to bring the importance of conserving this unique ecosystem to the fore. Despite being part of one of the first MPA’s in South Africa it is under daily threat from pollution from Sappi Saicor and the fact that KZN Sharks Board has indiscriminate gill nets and drum lines within the MPA is equally worrying. Educating the public is easiest done through a visual medium.

The next chapter in my photography journey is to become bubble-less. Re-breathers, in my opinion, are going to open up a whole new range of sites and photographic opportunities in South Africa. I can’t wait to do my first 3 hour dive on Umzimayi Wall!

All the images from the DUC Shootout 2016

All the images from the DUC Shootout 2016

The 6th DUC Shootout took place between 1 February and 3 May and for the first time permitted images from inland diving venues. The DUC Shootout is one of three fantastic underwater photography competitions held during the year in South Africa. The theme of the competition is to provide a platform for underwater photographers to showcase their favourite dive sites throughout Southern Africa.

This year, the judging was convened by Allen Walker, a highly skilled and award winning SA shooter. In a first for the DUC Shootout, Allen arranged to have 5 international judges on his panel for the 2016 event. All 5 of the judges are highly acclaimed awarding winning photographers.

The judges are:

  • LIA BARRETT
  • ADAM HANLON
  • ELLEN CUYLAERTS
  • PAUL COLLEY
  • SUZAN MELDONIAN
  • MICHEL LONFAT

From the East Coast to the West Coast, to deep wrecks, to shallow rock pools, Coelacanths, shark diving, whales, pristine coral reefs and their inhabitants and (for 2016) the inland waters of Southern Africa. Here are the winning images arranged by category: advanced, intermediate and novice.

Overall winner:

Overall winner. Kate Jonker.
Overall winner. Kate Jonker.

Advanced:

Advanced 1st place. Jean Tresfon
Advanced 1st place. Jean Tresfon
Advanced 2nd place. Kate Jonker
Advanced 2nd place. Kate Jonker
Advanced 3rd place. Jenny Stromvoll
Advanced 3rd place. Jenny Stromvoll
Advanced 4th place. Arne Gething
Advanced 4th place. Arne Gething
Advanced 5th place. Jean Tresfon
Advanced 5th place. Jean Tresfon

Intermediate:

Intermediate 1st place. David Welch
Intermediate 1st place. David Welch
Intermediate 2nd place. Tracey-Lee Featherstone
Intermediate 2nd place. Tracey-Lee Featherstone
Intermediate 3rd place. Kerry van den Berg
Intermediate 3rd place. Kerry van den Berg
Intermediate 4th place. Gemma Dry
Intermediate 4th place. Gemma Dry
Intermediate 5th place. Raoul Cosica
Intermediate 5th place. Raoul Cosica

Novice:

Novice 1st place. Craig Hurn
Novice 1st place. Craig Hurn
Novice 2nd place. Alexander Kock
Novice 2nd place. Alexander Kock
Novice 3rd place. Craig Hurn
Novice 3rd place. Craig Hurn
Novice 4th place. Franco Cremona
Novice 4th place. Franco Cremona
Novice 5th place. Fred Fourie
Novice 5th place. Fred Fourie

Copyright notice:

Please note that the images displayed on this page are the property of the authors and copyright vests with the author. The authors have given permission to use the images in promoting the DUC Shootout only. This permission has been granted only to the Durban Undersea Club and its media partners. You may not use the images for your own purpose or any other purpose. Please respect the authors’ right to ownership.

Paul Hunter

Paul Hunter

Besides being a solutions architect by day, Paul Hunter is co-founder of African Diver Magazine and a very enthusiastic underwater photographer. In fact, Paul’s love of underwater photography was his inspiration for co-founding African Diver Magazine – in his own words “the three African destinations that I really enjoy diving and photographing – Mozambique where Inhambane Province is great for awesome reefs and shooting mantas and whale sharks, the Red Sea because of the clean water and abundance of photographic material and lastly South Africa which, I believe offers everything from sharks, mantas, whales sharks, wrecks and abundance of reef and fish life”.

Paul began shooting underwater in 2001 with a Sony Cyber Shot. Since then he has worked with many camera systems and has now settled on a Nikon DSLR/Sea & Sea package. His passion for underwater photography has seen him take on various leadership positions, all aimed at building the community of southern African underwater photographers.

The two main leadership positions worth noting are, as chairman of GUPS (a community of underwater photographers based in Johannesburg) and as lead organiser of the annual Sodwana Shootout underwater photography competition.

Like most underwater photographers, Paul was drawn to the art by a need to share his underwater experiences with non-diving family and friends. And like most underwater photographers this developed into a deep passion for photographing the ever-changing underwater flora and fauna at his local (and favourite) dive spots.

These days the responsibility of fatherhood restricts Paul’s underwater shooting expeditions yet he manages to make at least one diving trip per year count and he’s hoping that as his children get older his diving trips will increase in frequency.

Paul’s worked through all the genres of underwater photography; macro, super-macro and wide-angle. But his favourite genre is wide-angle underwater photography, mainly because it’s the most challenging.

While southern Africa and the Red Sea inspire Paul’s underwater photography he lists Wakatobi, Indonesia and Sipadan, Malaysia as his favourite non-African destinations. And he’d really like to go to the Galapagos islands, Papua New Guinea, the Azores and Micronesia sometime in the future.  On his bucket-list though is to photograph humpback whales in Tonga and sperm whales in the Azores.

Paul’s images reflect his passion for Megafauna but also for wide-angle reef scenes and marine animal behaviour and can be seen from this selection.

You can see more of Paul’s images on www.paulhunterphotography.com

Christophe Mason-Parker

Christophe Mason-Parker

As with SCUBA diving, underwater photography came to Chris late in life. In fact it was not until 2008 that he bought his first camera and underwater housing. The 8MP Canon Powershot A720 was a revelation. The Powershot had a full manual mode, and Chris spent hours playing around with the settings, learning how minor adjustments to the ISO or the shutter speed would affect each shot. At the time he was working on a coral reef monitoring programme in Philippines, and underwater photography became a means to photograph and catalogue the amazing diversity of marine life he encountered on the reefs.

When his contract finished in the Philippines Chris moved to Bali and then Mexico, before eventually ending up in Seychelles in 2010. The Powershot accompanied him every step of the way until Canon stopped making the housing and he was forced to switch to a newer model.

In 2013 Chris bought a Canon 7D and soon after purchased an Ikelite housing, hoping to take his photography to the next level. Still living in Seychelles, Chris currently works for Global Vision International (GVI), where he oversees the organisation’s marine and terrestrial conservation expeditions. The projects include coral reef monitoring, turtle nesting surveys and shark-tagging research amongst other programmes. He is also co-founder of the Seychelles Sea Turtle Festival, an annual event aimed at promoting marine turtle conservation within the archipelago.

A passionate advocate of marine conservation with a keen interest in environmental issues, it is no surprise that conservation is a theme that appears regularly in his photography.  Chris firmly believes that photographers have an important role to play in making conservation issues more accessible to the public, and that photographs have the ability to cross language, cultural and social boundaries.

Seychelles provides the perfect environment for underwater photography, with its dramatic granite formations and abundant marine life. Still getting to know his DSLR setup, Chris tries to get out diving or snorkelling as often as possible. “Finding time to get out there and shoot is not always easy but it is important to force yourself to take a break every now and again”.

These days, aside from his role with GVI, Chris regularly writes articles for dive magazines and is currently working on an Underwater Guide to Seychelles, due to be published next year.

To see more of Chris’ work visit www.archipelagoimages.net

Geo Cloete

Geo Cloete

DSC_4372For some of us walking the planet, the allure of the ocean is so intense that it plays a pivotal role in our lives because we long passionately to spend as much time possible on, or in, it.

We soul-search as to why this undying love for the ocean burns so fiercely in me, took me down numerous paths. Many varied conclusions were reached, but none which singularly captured the essence. For now, I am content to accept that it’s the sum of all those, and more, as to why the ocean forms an inseparable part of my life.

Subconsciously it started years before I even saw the ocean for the first time, but became a reality the day when a friendly surfer spurred me on for an incoming set wave. e thrill and emotions I felt on that day as I sped down the unbroken face of a wave for the first time, is etched into my mind. I knew from that moment on, the ocean had opened its doors to a new child; for a life inside it rather than next to it.

Only much later in my life did I add scuba diving to my repertoire of ocean lifestyle. I went through the mill of completing numerous dive courses, but from the start the desire was there to be able to capture the beautiful world below the surface in an artistic manner. It’s easy to forget when practicing a sport/ hobby/activity which is exclusive to a relatively small number of people on the planet just how fortunate you are. I therefore, consider myself privileged, not only for being able to explore the last “Great Frontier” in person, but also for being able to capture part of its beauty and to share it with a wider audience.

It brought me great joy the other day when somebody commented on a series of photos of mine, saying that they made him feel that he was there when the photos were taken.

It took a few years of saving and building up to my current rig, but it has been worth every bit of effort that went into it. With little over three and a half years shooting my DSLr setup, I am still new on the scene. However, I would like to think that what I lack in years I am making up for with passion, a hunger to learn and the sheer number of hours I spend in the water. Further I am thankful for my design/creative background as I do feel its aiding me in steering towards my goals.

I love shooting macro and wide angle equally and am very glad it turned out like that. Each discipline has such unique challenges and exposes me to such varied facets of ocean life. I can’t imagine shooting only the one or the other. As an added bonus, there is always the possibility of discovering new creatures in the Cape’s waters and shooting both disciplines, I believe, in- creases that possibility.

As a proud Capetonian I try to promote the city as a viable dive destination. Other than spreading the word, I have also created the Facebook group, Cape Town ~Just beyond the Shoreline ~. Its aim being to showcase the rich and beautiful marine life people can get to see by simply swimming out a few meters from our shoreline. There are some further ideas around this concept which I would like to bring to light,

but am still searching to reach that “right” person at Cape Town Tourism.

Travelling and exploring is in my blood. Although I have travelled abroad to some wonderfully exotic destinations, it was done prior to owning my current rig. So the time is ripe to introduce my beloved camera to some foreign far-o destinations. is year I was very fortunate to enjoy a few wonderful dives along Kwazulu Natal’s South Coast and the Wild Coast. Not only was it a pleasure to experiment in those warm, azure blue waters, but great new friends were made along the way. I am looking forward to exploring more of the wonders along that part of our magnificent coastline in the future.

To view more of my work, please visit:

http://www.thebigpicturelibrary.com/FrozenPixels

Joe Daniels

Joe Daniels

AD00004Ever since I can remember I have been fascinated by the underwater world and the creatures that live in it. I can remember looking through photographs that my father had  taken  whilst  diving  in the Maldives and knowing that I wanted to spend as much time    as possible underwater.  As soon as I left school I volunteered for a Marine conservation expedition in the Seychelles. This is where I first started taking photographs underwater with a supposedly ‘waterproof’ digital compact. I spent every free moment snorkeling with my camera just taking snap shots of the myriad tropical fish and corals. So after six months on the expedition I was completely hooked on underwater photography. After the Seychelles I completed my Divemaster course back in the UK then travelled to Australia. The majority of my time I spent working on diving and snorkeling boats on Ningaloo Reef. By this time I had already upgraded to a basic Canon compact with a housing which, I then sold to buy a housing for my father’s old Canon G9. This camera opened up a whole new world for me, photography wise, and is where I really homed my skills as a underwater photographer. I never went out on a boat without my camera and took full advantage of having the Ningaloo Reef as my training ground.

Ningaloo gave me a huge amount of experience not only photographically, but as a diver and deckhand. I now work on the Marine Conservation Expedition I volunteered for back in 2007 and have upgraded to a housed DSLR. I still spend every spare moment snorkeling with my camera in hand. Although I spend my working week diving, I prefer free diving in order to capture the images I am after. This allows me to get closer and spend more time with my subjects. Most of my images are wide angle using a Tokina 10-17mm fish eye lens, although the introduction of a 60mm Macro lens to my kit has opened my eyes to the possibilities of macro photography.

I have spent every available opportunity of the past year free diving and photographing the rich and diverse marine life that can be found within the Marine Parks of North West Mahe, Seychelles.

Christopher Bartlett

Christopher Bartlett

I started my journey into underwater photography with a second-hand 2 MP Canon A40 in 2006. I was a freelance journalist writing for a range of publications, from FHM to the much-read (ahem) International Brewer’s Guardian and Field Guide News, and a technical translator. I wanted to write about my new passion, diving, but needed to supply the images to go with my words. To begin with I specialised in poorly-lit out of focus downward-looking rear-view shots of fish, and stuck to writing a mixture of pieces about people who had died whilst having sex, the merits of dry-hopping, and drive end brackets.

After the A40 had a fatal encounter with the waters of the Indian Ocean, I purchased an 8MP Sea and Sea, started working on macro shots with the internal flash and manual white balance shots and was lucky enough to get my first UW images and dive travel features published.

In 2008 I moved onto a Canon Ixus 960 with my first external strobe, an Inon D2000, and wet mount Inon wide-angle and macro lens. My coffee table creaked under the weight of photo books.  Through many hours experimenting underwater, and much internet trawling I eventually went as far as I could on this simple but effective compact camera. On the way I covered several Red Sea destinations, Zanzibar and Pemba islands, and the Galapagos.

In 2010, I decided I needed to go “full manual” and got an EPL-1 on the recommendation of the excellent Dutch photographer, Karin Brussard, and an S2000 strobe. I read more, experimented with settings, and bugged other photographers with questions. I learnt to take the time to shoot one scene many times with small adjustments to settings and position. I became more adept at deleting too. Anything that requires more than a minute’s editing goes in the bin.

In 2011 I got my first dive mag cover shots, three in total including one for African Diver, and decided to combine my teaching experience from eight years lecturing Business English at university in France with UW photography. I also had to buy a second S2000 after a Bahamian tiger shark had a feel of the D2000. It wasn’t a great trip for equipment; a Caribbean reef shark made off with the Inon wide-angle lens from the Canon.

I have now run four workshops and have more coming up, but keep experimenting as I think there is always more to learn and discover both with equipment and subjects. I think the best way for any photographer to progress, coupled with taking lots of pictures of course, is to show them to as many other photographers as possible and to be open to critique. Pick some favourite images from other photographers and try and emulate them and look to them for inspiration.

“As well as learning about the relationships between light and time, fish behaviour, and how to tickle a tiger shark’s tummy, I have also learnt more about humans. If you leave your rig on a coffee table, some curious and technically incompetent soul will fiddle with it, open it, and not close it  properly. And it will flood. Some dive boat crew , despite having been told many times that cameras must not be placed lens down on the deck, can suffer sudden memory loss. This can only be temporarily rectified by a hippo-esque bellow, but only ever happens when you haven’t put the lens / dome cover on. Rude photographers who behave like spoilt children underwater can be effectively side-tracked when you take a macro shot of an empty crinoid, gorgonian, or anemone. Try not to giggle too much as they search fruitlessly for the tiny crustacean they think you have just snapped.”

www.indigosafaris.com for tailor-made dive and safari trips to Africa, Papua New Guinea, and the Caribbean

 

 

 

Camilla Floros

Camilla Floros

AD00002Born and bred in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, Camilla is a marine biologist based at the Oceanographic Research Institute in Durban. Her desire to become a marine biologist was initiated at a very young age on a small Mozambican island where she witnessed the successive decline of the surrounding coral reefs due to over exploitation and the lack of conservation awareness. After numerous years of study, Camilla achieved her goal by attaining a PhD in marine biology. Her research interests are dedicated to assessing the impacts of human activities on coral reef communities and providing reef managers with improved conservation strategies.

Camilla has been an avid underwater photographer since she started diving and her photography has evolved to become an integral part of her profession as a marine researcher. She has dived extensively throughout the East, documenting the way in which different cultures interact with marine habitats. Camilla has also focused much of her attention on South Africa’s coral reefs which are unique because of their high biodiversity and status as one of the southern-most reefs in the world. Camilla uses her underwater images as a communication medium to bridge the gap between scientific research and public awareness. Her purpose is to educate people of all ages and backgrounds about coral reefs (and other marine ecosystems) and the many stressors that threaten their future.

You can read more about Camilla’s research and see her images on her webpage www.wetlens.co.za.

Mike Fraser

Mike Fraser
Mike Fraser

I grew up on the KZN coast and salt water runs in my family’s veins.  Tales of the ones that were landed and the leviathans that got away, echo in my childhood memories. My parents gave me a green Champion mask for my 6th birthday and when I put my head under water I knew for sure that this was my realm.  The allure of the last great wilderness still beckons me and I have planned my life around it ever since.

In my teens I enjoyed spear fishing and first experienced scuba diving when I went to university.  In those days BC’s were a rarity, contents gauges had not prevailed over j-valves and dive computers were a distant dream. Any form of underwater photographic equipment was way beyond my reach and I stuck to spear fishing until the floods of 1988 put a halt to my predation. Friends persuaded Valda and me to join them on a scuba diving course. After the qualifying dives at Sodwana, the hook was set beyond extraction, spear guns gathered dust in the garage and we began to make lasting friends in the deep. Big creatures – potato bass, sharks, morays – are my passion while Valda fancies the macro stuff. This makes dive planning, let’s say, interesting.

Our first venture into underwater photography was in the early ‘90’s, when we managed to buy a 2nd hand Nikonos V and Ikelite strobe. Those were the days of extension tubes and framers for macro and guesswork for wide angle. I moved into video in the days when we were pioneering shark diving on Protea Banks. While the picture quality was not much better than on our current cell phones, it was great to let others share the dive at home on the TV set. I think it’s the instant gratification that does it for me.

My interest in stills photography blossomed with the advent of the digital SLR. We started out with a D70 late in 2004 and the ability to see underwater what I had bagged, appealed to me. I must say, it was quite a steep learning curve in the transition from video, where you have numerous frames to weave a story. Freezing an instant in time so that it makes a clear and appealing statement, can be quite a task. I’ve never been particularly motivated by competitions. As I’ve progressed I’ve become more discerning and demanding of myself. The challenge is like a staircase spiralling upward forever.

We love to explore un-dived reefs and fortunately there are many in our wilderness. We have recently acquired re-breathers and this adds a new dimension to exploration and photography. You get that smug feeling when bubble-blowing buddies head for the surface with a heap of deco, while the re-breather’s computer gives you several hours of additional quiet time. There’s still so much to experience and learn, so it’s time to load the gear and go diving again.

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