PhotoFriday – ‘Lucky Shot’

This week’s Photo Friday entry: ’The Lucky Shot’

For this weeks photofriday theme I’d like to talk about photographing clownfish (nemo)! The shot above was most definitely ‘the lucky shot’ because it won me a trip :) However in general photographing clownfish is a matter of patience. You find a nice anemone with pretty clownfish and every time the fish looks look in the viewfinder you click the button. They swim around and around and in and out so its mostly patience & luck when you get a good one.

If you want to see more of my underwater photos from various places then check out the galleries in my Reef Beasties Gallery.

See all the other photo Friday entries (and submit your own) for ‘The Lucky Shot’ here.

North Red Sea 2009

I wanted to tell you a little about our recent trip to Egypt (as promised).

As usual, click on the images to see them at a larger size.

This is our second trip with Alex Mustard this year (our 1st was Raja Ampat in Feb) but this one was a full on photo-workshop.

We Flew to Egypt on Monarch (groan) into Sharm El Sheikh, luckily we didnt have to stay there, our liveaboard was waiting for us at the Military port. MV Whirlwind of the Tony Backhurst fleet was a very comfortable boat.

Alex runs this workshop trip ever year at this time to try and see the huge schools of snapper (& other large fish) that come to spawn in the area on these weeks. It was a little daunting as these fish are HUGE and because of the properties of the fisheye lens I was using I had to get very close to them! Also, strangely for this time of year the visibility wasn’t that great. Usually in the Red Sea the water is gin clear and you feel like you can see for miles. In amongst these snappers I feel like I was in a snow flurry so I am surprised I actually got any good photos of them.

We also head over to Tiran Island for a bit (since we weren’t having as much luck as usual with the Snapper). This trip was primarily a wide-angle trip but those who know me know I don’t go on any underwater jaunt without my trust 60mm macro lens. I tried to “go-wide” with that too this time to shoot some fish portraits but I couldn’t resist the odd tiny macro fish or occasional abstract.

We also saw a rather large amount of shipwrecks (this is the North Red Sea after all) including the Ghiannis D, Thistlegorm & Yolanda.

This was actually a treat (even though I’m not fussed about wrecks usually) because Mike has never seen the Thistlegorm & I’ve not been back since I first learnt to dive. I enjoyed seeing all the Motorbikes, trucks & things but I was still really spooked by the wellies. It was nice on the Ghiannis D too since we had Mr Alex (Magic Filters) Mustard himself with us to give us guidance on how to use them effectively. I still dont think I got the hang of it properly but it was good fun to try something new.

One of the things I really like about going on photo workshops in a group is you tend to meet really nice people. Everyone helps everyone else out. Julian ended up giving a load of us a Lightroom tutorial or two (and also taking me under his wing for my 1st snapper experience) so many thanks to him. Also, I’d like to thank Robin for being an excellent model & stand in buddy. And many thanks of course go to Alex for giving us such a great trip.

The only thing I was disappointed in (apart from getting really sick on the last day when we stayed in Sharm) was the poor moray eel I found who had a giant hook in his mouth :( C’mon people this is supposed to be a protected marine area! I guess the usually vigilant Egyptian authorities must have missed this one (or else he swam into the area from outside).

my full underwater gallery can be found here. Mikes above water gallery can be found here.

Ultimate Indonesia – Raja Ampat

Well, what can I say but what a holiday! There was laughter, there were tears, there was awe, there were men with guns and there are photos. We stayed on the seven seas liveaboard with Alex Mustard and Graham Abbot for 12 days and nights of fantastic diving in Raja Ampat. Raja Ampat is a marine protected area in Indonesia west of Papa New Guinea.

Alex Mustard

Most people in underwater photography circles have heard of him, author of a couple of books (I really liked reefs revealed), numerous articles and judge on some major underwater photographic competitions.  In person, Alex was friendly and relaxed. This was a group-lead photo tour rather than one of his specific photo workshops but he was still happy to give advice when asked (which I think we all took great advantage of) and he seemed to genuinely like sitting going through peoples photos with them. I found that it was fascinating to watch a professional photographer at work, from ideas, to subject selection, to shooting technique and finally image selection and rejection. It was good fun to dive with him, he and I almost missed lunch because we were mucking about for too long in the mangroves! As a tour lead he did a great job, especially in the airport to and from Sarong to Manado (the only place where we checked in en masse).


Graham Abbott

We were lucky to have Graham from diving4images.com as our dive guide throughout our stay on the Seven seas (I didn’t actually get to dive with the seven seas dive guide, Tommy). Graham planned the route we would take and what dive sites we would go on and in what order to get the best of our photographic time in Raja Ampat. He has a fish & critter Id book inside his head and is an amazing spotter with eyes like an underwater hawk! He showed everyone what they wanted to see and was very patient when everyone took turns to take photos of the same tiny things. He is a very funny guy, I know that Lena was especially impressed with his underwater modeling and eye crossing techniques.

Seven seas

The liveaboard was one of the most luxurious we’ve been on. The rooms were quite large (for a boat) and ours had ample space underneath the tall king-size bed to store the baggage and useful drawers for clothes and gadgets. The food was very nice, they seemed to have no problem catering for peoples dietary requirements (Alex and I dined on chicken when they served up seafood meals for example) and I never went hungry as there was a steady supply of snacks throughout the day. It seemed like there was a lot of space, it never seemed like there were too many of us. There were several spaces for us to spread out and attend to our cameras on without having to take them down to our rooms.

Diving

The diving operation was very slick. All managed by a lovely American guy called Stuart. He took video throughout the trip that we could buy at the end. The were crew great with handling the cameras and the diving gear. We had three dive boats to dive from (two tender boats and one rib). The tender boats were easier to dive from (they had ladders) but the groups on them were large. There was only ever four divers on the rib – maximum, so I was glad to be on that one with Alex, Mike and sometimes either Stuart or Graham.

The crew were very dedicated, sometimes sitting in the boats in their bright yellow rain macs waiting for us for over an hour. They seemed to know where we were at all times and when we ascended they were there on hand to help us up into the boats. Seeing how ludicrously bad I was at getting into the rib they supplied a little ladder for it which I thought was very sweet :-)

Critters

Well, this holiday certainly had critters galore! I’ve never seen so many fish and such lush and amazing coral in one place. The few days in Lembeh were supposed to allow us to get the macro out of our system. Raja Ampat is billed as a largely wide angle paradise, and while that is most definitely true (I took more wide-angle shots in those 12 days that I have in my life) it didn’t stop the macro lenses creeping back on throughout the week when the two words ‘pygmy’ and ‘seahorse’ were mentioned. I didn’t get to see the Denise ones but I’ve never seen weedy pygmy sea horses before so was especially please to see them. It was also a nudibranch hunters dream, with all different varieties on each dive.


Also, it was the first time Mike and I had ever seen manta rays! It was very exciting to see them and they came so close and they are so big! I think I must be the only person in the world to be intimated but such a gentle creature but they are very, very big.

Mangroves
I loved the day we had in the blue water mangroves. It was such a different and special environment (I wish we’d spent a little longer really). I haven’t processed all the photos from the mangroves yet so I will do an additional blog post later on for that.

Men with guns
We travelled overnight sometimes to get to a new area. One particular morning we had arrived at a new spot, the sea was very calm and it was just past dawn. Speeding across the water was a small boat with 3 or 4 men in it, one toting a rather large machine gun. Not something that one usually sees over breakfast so it made me sit up and take notice. They pulled up and boarded, pirates I thought? Apparently not. Stuart told them to leave the gun in the boat (which they did). Apparently we were rather too close to their pearl farm and they’d had some robberies, they thought we were pirates and had come to check us out lol. Satisfied that we were just a bunch of tourists and not stashing a large oyster string on our boat they moved us on.

Tears
Well almost, I got bitten by a large angry trigger fish that snuck up on my while I was photographing soft coral in the shallows of the ‘The windows’ divesite, his shallows apparently. I was very glad I was wearing wetsuit that day! And no I didn’t take his picture, I was too busy trying to smack him with my camera while he menacingly swam at my head – eek! Luckily for me he didn’t break the skin and a got away cleaning with a massive bruise on my knee and the fright of my life.

Topside

While on a trip such as this one you don’t expect there to be much to shoot above the water (well I don’t anyway), however the landscape was so beautiful I just had to get my camera out of that housing once in a while. Stuart gave us a couple of excellent opportunities for tender boat rides around the small islands between diving. The landscape was just so very green and lush. When I looked carefully I saw a fleeting glimpse of a bright green bird and a brilliant pink bird high up in the trees. We stopped for a minute or so on a small beach with a hut, although I don’t think anyone actually lived there. It did give me a change to try my hand at another 360 panorama but when I loaded all 31 NEF files into photoshop to try and stitch it, it unsurprisingly crashed! ;)

With thanks for a great holiday to Alex, Graham, Stuart & the crew of the Seven Seas, Divequest and everyone on the trip.

click on the following to see the full set of images in each galley:
:: Raja Ampat underwater images ::
:: Raja Ampat Mangroves ::
:: Topside ::
:: Mikes Topside photos :: EDIT: Mikes cancelled his pbase so this gallery may no longer work.
:: Lembeh Strait underwater images ::

All images in this post are clickable to see larger versions and all images are copyright Suzy Walker or Michael Toye.

Lembeh Underwater Gallery Complete

I’ve finished uploading some of the weird and wonderful creatures you can see in Lembeh straits, in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Its amazing what the guides find amongst the rubbish in the black volcanic sand! The visibility was not as good as I remember from the previous trip in 2007 but it was certainly great to get back there.

Full gallery here: http://www.pbase.com/suzy_walker/lembeh_strait_indonesia_2009

This was the first few days of the Ultimate Indonesia photo trip with Divequest, lead by Alex Mustard. I’ve started my above water gallery for the whole trip too, although I’ve only loaded the Lembeh photos so far. The topside photos are in this gallery: http://www.pbase.com/suzy_walker/lembeh_strait_and_raja_ampat_indonesia_2009

We stayed in the lovely Lembeh Resort which I managed to snag a few photos of this time…

Its under slightly different management than last time but the food and service are still fantastic.

All photos in this post are clickable but do check out the rest :) Next up Raja Ampat ….

First few Lembeh pics uploaded

Yay, just back from Holidays. We went to Lembeh straits and Raja Ampat in Indonesia.  Just uploaded the first couple of photos from Lembeh Straits, muck diving and macro captial of the world, let me know what you think…

Full gallery here: http://www.pbase.com/suzy_walker/lembeh_strait_indonesia_2009

Trip review and more photos of course to follow :)

Good news and bad news.

Which first? Well the bad news is that I’ve busted my housing already! The good news is I got to go and check out Ocean Optics new store in Basildon.

To all those with ND30s who only use one strobe port. Make sure you grease the Orings and tighten the port cover of the unused side before diving and flooding the port :( Its gone all rusty inside and my strobes were behaving most strangely until I unplug the affected port from the inside electronics.

I’ve taken my baby up to Ocean Optics  so that they can fix it. It’s always worth going to see them in person because they are such great people. Their shop used to be in the Strand (which was great for me since I live in central London) but they’ve expanded out to include the use of the underwater studios at Basildon. They have a great looking deep pool that is heated to almost 30 degrees. Now it’s a tube, a train and a bus to get there but it was worth the trip as I feel my housing is in the best care. Fingers crossed I get it back before our next trip!

My Camera History and Credentials (the boring precursor)

I’ve always loved to take pictures at my own convenience. Light and easy to use were what I looked for in a camera. I started off in film. A nameless brand of point and click was my trusty companion on every holiday up until 2000 (when it broke). I was great, one button to turn on the flash, one button to wind back the film at the end and one button to take the shot. I have scanned in some of my early photos from this camera at these galleries:

The first digital camera I took underwater was my Fuji Finepix F810 which I bought in 2004 and have been using for above and below water until this April when I drowned it. Most of my galleries are with this camera.


etc

In my grief I bought a few others to play with Fuji E900 and Ikelight housing (which will now be my backup underwater but I haven’t used much yet), Cannon G7 (which I couldn’t really get on with) and Olympus sp550 (which I love but wouldn’t be so good underwater due to the massive zoom).

Pics from the oly:

Above water I used auto and below I used manual settings (due to the external flash I kept over exposing the pictures until I switched to manual). With such a simple set-up why on earth would I want to switch to something as heavy, bulky and complicated as an SLR? Well I asked myself the same question. The answer is better growth potential. I spend most of my free money on my holidays and I felt that underwater with my compacts I was running out of the potential to take significantly better pictures. Cue the D300, Nikon because the general consensus was its easier to house a Nikon and it had the lure of live view… what better way to easy myself into an SLR than using the screen like I do on my compacts. Well it didn’t quite work out that way but I’ve bought it now, I’ll just have to learn.