Underwater Photo Workshop – The Brothers liveaboard

Well, after one exhausting week back at work I’ve finally got around to writing a little review of our recent trip. It was off to Hurghada, Egypt for a 1 week summer break (booked with oonas divers) aboard the MY Blue Planet 1. Destination: the Brothers! For those of you who haven’t heard of the brothers, they are two small islands in the middle of the Red Sea. They can only be travelled to by liveaboards (much fewer diving boats is always a good thing).

The real appeal of the trip for us was the photo workshop. We’re total Photo-workshop-junkies now, whenever we book a diving trip we try and make it a photo workshop of some sort. It’s not so much that I want to buy photo teaching (although that always comes in handy), what we are actually aiming to buy is piece of mind that the diving will be specifically photo oriented and tailored to the needs of photographers. Although Mike doesn’t actually take photos underwater he’s just as much (if not more) a fair-weather sort of diver. The groups are usually smaller (to accommodate all the huge camera rigs!) and the diving usually a lot more flexible. More time to do your own thing, several dives on the same divesite and a much more relaxed swimming pace 😉 No more chasing a manic dive master for 45 minutes nonstop for us!

This workshop was run by Mark Webster. We went on Mark’s trip to Indonesia last year and it was amazing! He’s a really nice relaxed and easy to get on with guy. His wife Suzanna wasn’t with us unfortunately on this trip so there was just the crew of the boat, the dive guide Ashraf, Mark and ten of us. The workshop was very informal. If we had questions Mark was on hand to help. Also, Mark gave a daily presentation on various themes such as wide-angle, macro, wrecks and capturing the character of marine life.

Despite having vowed to never fly on Excel airways again (after the last time) on the flight out we got there 10mins before checkin opened and they were unusually nice to us! We didn’t get charged extra baggage, probably because they didn’t feel the weight of our hand luggage or see how much stuff I’d get stuff into my new photographers jacket! The plane was nice, although we knew in advance that they charge you for *everything*, even water, so we’d stocked up on food & drink before we boarded. We met up with Mark (and a few of the others) at the departure gate. We were actually sitting next to Jeff on the flight out – what are the chances of that!? Anyway, 5hrs passed relatively quickly and we were soon stuffing ourselves into a tiny minivan for the 30 minute ride to the dock. We stayed moored at the dock overnight so we could wait for the Egyptian authorities to give us permission to set sail in the morning.

The first dive was a check dive at Sha’ab El Erg (a.k.a Dolphin reef) unfortunately we didn’t see any dolphins so I was forced to take photos of Mike in his new ‘wing’ 😉 !

It was the first time he’d taken it for a spin and he seemed very proud of it.. We originally bought it to save the weight of his stab jacket (BCD) but with all the metal clips and everything on it I think that it was perhaps a rouse to justify the purchase as it only saved perhaps ½ a kilo! Apparently it gives much more freedom of movement around the arms. I think I like to have stuff in my BCD pockets too much to switch though.

The rest of the first two days diving were close to Hurghada at a place called Abu Nuhas. There was no real current and the visibility was quite good. It was all wreck diving though (apart from the night dive which we didn’t do and they saw loads of Spanish dancers – damnit!). I like wrecks but probably not as much as the next man. After two days of wide-angle (shooting with my Tokina 10-17 fisheye in a big dome port) it was quite glad we moved on. Here are some shots I got of the Carnatic and the Ghiannis D:

Having said that I did like the glass fish inside the Carnatic!

We sailed away to the Brothers. As moored up at little brother and I was glad I’d brought my sea sickness pills!

This little guy accosted me as we jumped in the water, two shots and he was off. Just proves it’s a good idea to preset your camera to some sensible settings before jumping in!

I switched to macro but on the promise of possible sharks I switched back again. No sharks though 😦 Suzanna saw some, but she fins like a divemaster and I had no chance catch up with that action. I think this is her and Ethan speeding into the distance!

We stayed at little brother one full day (and night) and an early morning dive the next day. In the brothers they never do night dives so it was pretty much 3 dives per day (or less) for the whole trip. The current was much worse than we are used to dealing with at both islands (but that isn’t hard as we don’t really like currently dives at all). Also, diving from a rib with a huge camera is a bit of a game. There was one lovely dive at big brother by the pier, straight off the back of the boat, just me and Mike (everyone else had sped off in the rib to dive the other side of the island). No current, quite shallow, nice and relaxed. Everyone else soon cottoned on that there was a non-currently, photo friendly opportunity and the rib was then undersubscribed in the afternoon.

The last dive day was spent back closer to Hurghada again at Gifton Island & Gotta Abu Ramada. This is back in range of the dive boats (and where the picture at the top of this post was taken). Lovely macro diving though. I filled a whole gallery of just Christmas tree worms! We also saw a great octopus that sat and posed for me (see below).

Also, something I’ve never seen before, schooling puffer fish! The ‘ride of the valkyries’ music popped into my head as soon as I saw them all coming towards me!

As seems to be tradition on photo workshops there was an informal end of week competition, this time we were all asked to submit two underwater photos which would be judged by the crew. Congratulations one again to Valerie for winning with her shot of a cute little Nemo. Here she is taking her trophy.

Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of Valeries winning shot to display. 😦

I was very pleased to be second AND third! Here are my two submitted shot.

All the photos in this post shot above the water were shot by Chefdude with a Canon EOS 1D Mark IIn & EF 85mm f/1.2L, and all shot below the water (unless otherwise stated) are taken yours truly with a Nikon D300 in Subal housing.

The full underwater gallery for this trip is here: http://www.pbase.com/suzy_walker/the_brothers_liveaboard_2008

All in all we had a great trip with a lovely bunch of people! Hope you enjoyed this review.

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