Welcome to Wide Angle.

Welcome to the beginning of my week of photo analysis!

We started Sunday morning by working on wide angle. The goal of the first dive was to get used to changing shutter speed in order to get the background properly exposed, then using the flash to light the subject. Flash position was not worked on as much this dive, we just kept in mind to try and keep it as far from the camera as possible to eliminate backscatter. I spent most of my dive with my feet in the air (perhaps time to start wearing my ankle weights), laying on the sand, or even on my back as I tried to get low and shoot up. With the 14-42mm lens on my EPL1, getting a real wide angle shot is difficult, but I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of backgrounds I was able to get. While many of my shots were plagued with backscatter on the first dive, where visibility was only between 10-20ft, I did end up with one photo that I really liked. There was just one problem… no subject. I found a large rock, that had some nice tall strands of kelp in the background and a school of blacksmith cruising mid water. I got down on the ground, twisting to get my camera angled up as much as possible (barely able to see my lcd screen), and tried to wait for the ever present Garibaldi or Sheephead to come swimming through, but alas, none came. It wasn’t until the second dive, when I watched Scott grab a small rock and bang it on the rock next to him, that I learned the ever valuable trick of attracting fish! Incredibly, several Garbaldi came zooming straight towards his camera as he banged away.

So back to dive one, here I sat, with no subject coming to visit me, so eventually I moved on. What I was left with though, was a really nice set up, and for once a properly exposed background! Had I waited a few more moments, hopefully the kelp would moved aside again and would not have been intruding on my foreground, but all in all I’d say a pretty good start to my wide angle adventures!

14mm, F8, 1/60

Sunken Treasure.

Last weekend was the annual Scuba Show down in Long Beach. Like last year my time was spent meeting people, exploring new gear options, drooling over camera equipment I can’t afford and entering trip raffle after trip raffle…none of which I won (again). This year I also tried to pass along some business cards that I had recently had made, in an effort to showcase my little blog project and maybe gain a few more readers.

I enjoyed walking around the Scuba show, its much of the same as years past…tons of travel booths…(seriously, if you plan to do a drive trip, this would be the best spot to try and book, SO many discount options were offered from a variety of groups for travel across the globe). I spent some time hanging out with my friends from Eco Dive Center who had a booth this year and were offering class and gear discounts. I even ran into the Scuba Shack folks from Maui… the shop where I earned my Open Water certification back in 2003!

I picked up a couple items that were planned, like a new set of wetsuit heaters, after one of mine popped a few months ago, and a second handle for my camera tray. In addition, there were the spur of the moment impulse purchases both of which I think are great. The first, is a very small but awesome accessory for my camera gear. On the Inon strobe I own there is a small knob to turn to set the aperature for the strobe’s TTL to fire at the proper power setting. This knob is fine and easy to turn, until you toss on gloves and head down underwater. While over at the Backscatter booth, I picked up the same strobe and flipped it over to see this large, easy to grasp red knob on the back. “Genius! This knob would make it easy to adjust the strobe setting, I must have it!” Went through my head, so of course, I bought one. Its going to be great, I can’t wait to get back under the water just so I can adjust my strobe!

Earlier I had happened by the Miss Scuba Booth as they always have fun jewelry and I do enjoy shiny things. Unfortunately this time one really caught my eye, so after debating the purchase while I toured the rest of the show I returned and picked up a really beautiful little necklace of Egyptian turqoise with a mermaid pendant. I love it.

So thanks again for putting on a fun show, and looking forward to next year!

Exciting Times Ahead.

Around Christmas time I took some of my hard earned scuba instruction cash and bought myself a nice new fancy camera. Finally taking the leap away from basic point and shoot, but not quite ready to plunge into the depths of dSLR, primarily due to costs… I picked up the Olympus EPL-1, the latest (at the time…) of their PEN series camera and the associated Olympus OEM housing. I played around with the camera a bit over the holidays while home, and dry in Phoenix and was quite happy with the results. The results were definitely a step up from my good old point and shoot, noticeably better in resolution and the color settings. The camera handled lower light better than a point and shoot, and all in all it was easy to use, easy to get comfortable with.

I plunged into the ocean for the first time with camera and housing for the January Wreck Weekend with Eco Dive Center. We traveled down to dive off the wreck of the Yukon, and I took the new PEN down with me. I had no strobes yet, and new that headed deep into the California water meant that I was going to run into some problems…low light means difficulty focusing and having to push to a very high ISO resulting in lots of grain in the images. I could not get it to whitebalance at depth because of the lack of light down there, but it worked well around 50 feet. The video I shot in the previous post was with the PEN, and overall I’m happy with it, no video lights or nothing it worked pretty well. I was able to get off several decent shots, especially happy that even with the lack of light, I could shoot wide open and get a high enough f/stop to actually get photos in focus! (Not to mention how excited I am to be able to pick and choose aperture and shutter speed…its been a long time my friends).

Now that some time has passed, I’ve taught a little more, got a small bonus at work and helped out with writing some blurbs for the dive shop’s website I suddenly found myself rolling in the dough. With that burning a hole in my pocket I sprang into action, and after some research at a couple places, and trying to decide if it would be worth it to wait a couple weeks and order overseas to save about $50 (and deciding it would not be) I placed an order with BackScatter.com for the next step to my set up! Hopefully within the next week I’ll find a lovely box in the mail complete with an Ultralight tray and arm set up to attach my new Inon Z240 strobe and the Olympus macro adaptor and a nice new Inon close up lens. The great thing with the design of the Olympus housing, is that this lens will thread onto the adaptor, then I can easily pop the adaptor on and off the housing while diving, creating a very versatile system offering a near wide angle ability (lens starts at 14mm…which is not really that wide, but its still better than my point and shoot!) with a quick switch to macro capabilities.

I’m very excited for this new system, and was impressed with BackScatter’s level of service, Craig my salesperson was very knowledgeable, and helped me make a couple decisions that will allow the extra flexibility and save money (like picking up the macro adapter, vs waiting to buy a newer and more expensive macro lens that Olympus will be releasing later). Of course, he also talked me into getting the next strobe up from what I was originally looking at, going with the Z240 over the D-2000…because purely, it has more power, and I will be happier with it in the long run. Also important, the strobe will allow me to grow, and if I do ever decide to pick up an SLR, that strobe will work well and provide the power I will want with a higher end camera. Craig also included an underwater photography book, valued at $40 for free, because he said it was a good book and that I would probably find it useful. Here’s hoping, and thanks!

I should hopefully receive my gear sometime next week, which will be right in time to be real smart and test it out on a nice advanced, deep dive! I’m off to the oil rigs again on Saturday February 12th and can’t wait to see if I can finally get a few decent pics of some of the rig structure and macro of the amazing abundance of corals and anemones, brittle stars and countless fish that reside on the rigs. Wish me luck, and check back for my results in a few weeks!!