We’ve just come back freshly tanned from our trip to Cebu in the Philippines and I thought I’d tell you all about it because we all love to read holiday reviews when its snowing outside at Easter! :)
I must first say many thanks to Martin and Silvia Edge who organised the trip and ran the photo workshop. Its quite obvious to anyone who has read the 3rd edition of his book that he will be a great teacher and I can highly recommend both his trips and one day courses (for more details see Martins website http://www.edgeunderwaterphotography.com/). Poor Martin totally had his work cut out with me I can tell you but right from the word go he was there to help. Before we’d even left the country he was helping to making sure my name was top of the queue for the new Subal ND30 housings so I would have one in time. He even found a fault in the very first few housings off the line (but Subal have now caught this and no more should be affected so we need not dwell on it here). I was also very pleased with Ryan Cannon and his team at ReefPhoto for their 1st class service in getting me kitted out with housing and accessories in time and helping fix the fault.
The Resort & Diving:
The resort (Kasai Village) was nice but with a few things they could do with ironing out (and some which they did during the week). The staff were all very friendly and helpful and I think Silvia Edge did a lot of organising behind the scenes to get things make more convenient to accommodate a big group of photographers with large SLR housings. For example there was one large rinse tank for cameras already available but throughout the trip I noticed a few extra large buckets appear. The same with the camera tables which appeared. The local boat crews were brilliant with us. They remembered whose camera was whose (most of the time) when passing them to us in the water and they were very careful when handling them (including taking off and putting on the lens caps). The diving area was quite spacious with room enough for everyone to hang their kit. And the place was actually quite small which was good because it mean that the rooms were very close to the dive centre!
The food was a buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Very nice food although apparently not much choice for vegetarians. I’m a very fussy eater (don’t eat fish but not veggie) and I managed to find something to eat that I liked most of the time. Unfortunately breakfast was not as early as it could have been for us to make the times of the morning boats so most of the time we ran the boats late.
The diving was all about the photography as expected. Not too currenty (most of the time). You are very much expected to know how to dive and be able to cope with the diving side yourself (after all this is a *photo* workshop). Good buoyancy is essential for good pictures and a healthy regard for the reef is a must. The one finger on a rock technique is encouraged by Martin for stability whilst taking photos. No gloves are allowed (this has been a standard for most places we’ve been thankfully) as it discourages people from touching the reef or handling the marine life. The old adage – “Take only pictures, leave only bubbles” is a good one and employed around the world for a reason. The dives ranged in depth from shallow reef dives at 5 or 6m to deep dives at 30m or more (with the odd deco stop) for dives such as the phantom cave.
I would say the ideal diver considering one of these trips should be confident enough to be able to go off (in a buddy pair of course) and pootle about the reef looking for subjects and taking photos alone. Sometimes we went in a group but it was not really expected that you stay with the group if you saw something you were interested in stopping on. For the boat dives, each buddy pair was expected to have an SMB to deploy so the boat could come and pick them up.
The water was around 28 degrees C most of the time and I was warm enough most of the time in a 3mm full wetsuit (although everyone is different). I was very glad I bought some strong soled booties before we left because it was sometime a long way out to the boats (wading through the water when the tide was out). Shore diving on the house reef was great (after we go over the initial shock of having to trek out so far at low tide) and once we’d got our bearings but finding some interesting areas. The Swedish dive guides were great but it was a shame that they didn’t have any local guides as I think they would have the time to really get to know the house reef and be able to direct guests to the best places.
The Workshop with Martin Edge:
At the beginning of the week I didn’t even know how to open my housing (which is actually more embarrassing than you might think)! Martin instructed me (and others) on how to open/close the housing and gave tips on how the strobe connected and such like. I am planning to write this up soon on my blog here mainly for my own future reference.
The workshop is nice and informal. Both Martin & Silvia are very approachable. His teaching is both one to one (with laptop session opportunities most evenings) and group presentations. The presentations are not pre-set though; they sort of evolve throughout the trip based on the feedback of the group and what people are struggling with. The great thing about this approach is Martin is diving on the same sites at the same time and seeing the same reefs and photo opportunities. You get to see a slice of how he approaches these opportunities and that’s a great learning too in itself. You are encouraged to bring a laptop for downloading and reviewing your pictures as often as possible. I found this very useful as I was able to download the images, see what I’d done wrong and go back to the same site to have another go.
We had a great mix of people there too from complete newbies like me to award winning professional underwater photographers who are still learning new stuff from Martin even after many years. This kind of environment is great because as well as learning from Martin we could learn and be inspired by each other. :)
I would say that there is nothing much to do here if you’re not diving, unless you like sitting around the pool that is. For the divers with no camera Silvia Edge was on hand with handy tips for a photographer’s model ;)
At the end of the week we were asked to submit 3 photos for an end-of-workshop competition in which they try and round up as many people as possible to vote. As well as the group of us there was also dive centre staff, hotel staff and other guests. The winner got a trophy, a Fish ID book and a hotel dive tee-shirt. And with total beginners luck the winner was…. ME!
Here is my winning entry
And other two entries
Click here for the above water pictures (we strolled into the small nearby village so there isn’t many).
Click here for all the under water pictures (we strolled into the small nearby village so there isn’t many).