FIRST UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE OF THE YEAR
And what a great week it was! Jonathan arrived with an almost brand new Olympus E-PL5 having only had it in the water 4 times before and all of them in either Program or Auto mode. This was a recent upgrade from a simple P&S compact before.
So my task for the week was to move him away from any kind of auto setting and into taking full responsibility for his exposures. I wanted him to understand the benefits of controlling Depth of Field, areas of high and low light within a frame and how to deal with them etc. At the same time I wanted to work with him on composition and to get him telling a story with his photographs.
As luck would have it, the previous week’s weather had been glorious but as soon as Jonathan and Ian (Jonathan’s non-photographer diving buddy) arrived, it headed downhill with a low pressure area moving over our little island giving a few clouds and some strong winds that in turn restricted our choice of dive sites for the entire week. But the boys weren’t worried, our 17ºC to 20ºC sunny weather and 16ºC clear water was a lot better than the weather they’d left behind in the UK.
Monday saw us spending a short while optimising the camera settings for underwater use, some dry land practice with the camera in the housing, getting used to the location of the various buttons and controls and getting away from the Auto settings that Jonathan had been using in the past. We then did a couple of shallow dives with a wide-angle setup. This first day wasn’t so much about getting great shots. The focus was on understanding the use of light and controlling it underwater. After our dives and when all our kit was rinsed and drying we moved to the computer to look at the 1st day’s results. I spent an hour introducing Adobe Lightroom covering the basics of import, library management and editing in the develop module.
Day two saw us off to visit a very photogenic wreck since wide-angle wreck photography is Jonathan’s chief interest. These lovely shots are just a couple of several great shots from the day.
Another Lightroom session saw Jonathan getting the hang of it and confidently editing each shot in under 30 seconds.
By day three Jonathan was pretty comfortable with using all manual controls, we were also working on composition and external lighting using underwater strobes. Sadly a poorly fitted O-ring meant the end of Jonathan’s little strobe on the first dive of the day so we concentrated on ambient light use and composition in the shallows allowing him time to practice controlling depth of field (DOF).
Thursday morning saw the weather getting even windier so we decided to spend the morning trying out some of the lessons learned so far and applying them to landscape photography. Jonathan tried out my lovely Olympus 9-18mm wide-angle lens and got some fabulous results.
For the afternoon dive I lent Jonathan a macro lens, and my housing with macro port plus a more powerful strobe, and we started to learn about strobe position, macro photography and getting closer. Jonathan’s excellent dive skills really came into play here as he hovered just off the sandy bottom composed his shots, adjusted his strobe angle and managed the DOF.
Friday, last day of the holiday and we elected to carry on with the macro setup. All week he’d been keen to finally see an octopus and on the penultimate dive we found two, a large male hiding in a cleft and almost impossible to get a good shot of, and a smaller female who was more willing to be photographed. We went back to her for the second dive and Jonathan got a few lovely shots as the curious little animal emerged from her sanctuary and posed for us.
So to sum up; a great holiday for Jonathan and his non-photographer mate Ian who dived with my partner Sue all week, 9 great dives in 5 days, lovely clear water and quiet dive sites. Gozo is a wonderfully friendly, sunny and photogenic island. Jonathan and Ian are already planning their next visit although they want to do more landscape photography next time!