Raja Ampat in Indonesia, has always held a lot of fascination for me. Customers on their way there, or just back, were awestruck by the area. “Best in the diving in the world!” they’d say, but having dove for many years, I’ve heard that before…
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Although most divers are acquainted with Raja Ampat, remote outlying areas such as Triton Bay are not so well-traveled. In March of 2019, Optical Ocean Sales led a photo expedition diving in Triton Bay for 5 days, then joining the Damai II liveaboard for diving in Triton Bay, and continuing northwest to dive Raja Ampat, ending in Sorong. Over the course of 16 days, we would have close to 50 dives offered.
Triton Bay is one of three regions in Indonesia’s West Papua province that comprise the Bird’s Head Seascape (the other two are Raja Ampat and Cenderawasih Bay). It is now considered by marine biologists to be the epicenter of the Coral Triangle and contains more fish and coral species than anywhere else on the planet.
Can a single very powerful continuous underwater video light work well for stills of large animals? As the quality and output of video lights have increased, I’ve been asking myself that question.
We know that many continuous lights can work fine for macro and closer up images, although they tend to give a softer look than strobes. Strobes output a single, very high and very short energy burst of light at high intensity, this freezes detail and gives better color saturation. Lights simply can’t to do that as well. But many still photographers find that they do work well, especially when shooting both video and more casual stills.
Kraken’s new Macro Snoot Light is an easy way to get into the use of directed light for underwater macro photography.
Snooting refers to the control of light through a cone, or light shaper, so that it’s used as just a small beam for more dramatic, lighting solutions.
After a few great days of diving at Tulamben on Bali, I joined up with the rest of the Optical Ocean Sales guests up in Ambon, Indonesia. The 12 of us joined the Damai 1 the next morning and settled into our comfortable cabins onboard. We were headed for Maumere on Flores Island - 1,000 nautical miles away, clear across the Banda Sea which lies lies between Raja Ampat in the north and Komodo National Park to the south. Over the next ten days, we would do 35 dives at some of the most remote sites anyone can imagine. Islands, walls, sea mounts, volcanos, reefs and muck - we would dive them all.
Nauticam's innovative new MWL-1 is a game-changing wet mount wide angle lens. Designed to be used in front of a housed macro lens, it allows for an approximate 150° field of view with excellent sharpness and quality. Using a specialized double lens flip holder, you can now switch to three lens lengths; shooting close-up macro with a diopter, shooting standard macro with the 60mm lens or a moderate fish portrait type shots), or a wide angle lens with a 150º field of view. The ability to shoot wide angle and macro on the same dive is now a reality - even for full-frame DSLR systems!
The Olympus TG-6 camera and housing packages have been very popular with a wide variety of divers. The camera shoots great stills as well as 4K video. It has underwater preset modes for snapshot, wide angle and other modes that make life easy.
Having a lighting system that can shoot both stills and video gives the widest possible use of this great little camera. The new Kraken Hydra "S +" lights that now come in a 2500, 3500 and 5000 lumen models, as well as the popular Kraken Macro Ringlight 3000, all support a higher lumen output in a fast "burst" mode that saves power and gives a higher output for still photos.
Nikon’s new D850 full-frame camera is proving to be one of their most popular cameras ever, and what’s not to like? A massive 46MP sensor with resolution that matches or exceeds film, fast autofocus (AF) borrowed from the pro-level D5, low base 64 ISO to better capture bright scenes and a fast 7 fps frame rate with an electronic front curtain shutter, for just a start. Matching that are improved flash electronics, TTL protocols and 4K video. For those D800 and D810 underwater photographers who fell in love with shooting full-frame images, the upgrade is intriguing. As I now have around 60 dives on this new Nikon rig, I can offer a comprehensive review.
Dropping into the warm, crystal clear water we spotted at least 3 or 4 species of sharks all in good numbers. We were on a shark dive on the remote outer reef of the Micronesian island of Yap. Grey reef sharks of moderate size, lots of smaller black tip reef sharks and quite a few larger silvertips were nosing around us looking for their afternoon snack. Good for us it was a small “chumsicle” of frozen fish, which they eagerly attacked on the bottom. For the next 45 minutes we excitedly clicked away and enjoyed the show. While the sharks were definitely curious about us, they kept their distance. Certainly, a great dive.
After many hours of flights on through the night and day, fifteen of us had arrived early in the morning the day before to this small island paradise for the first stop in our 2018 OOS South Pacific Photo Expedition.
I love shooting underwater macro – specifically super macro. One of the challenges of this discipline is deciding on which diopter to bring along on a dive. Inevitably I choose one strength lens and wish I had brought along something different. Enter the Saga Dive Trio. This innovative lens from Spanish optics manufacturer Saga Dive, combines a +5, +10 and +15 diopter in one unit, giving you the ability to shoot anything from a fish portrait to a pygmy seahorse on the same dive.
The latest offering from Kraken Sports is the Kraken WeeFine Ring Light for macro illumination. This innovative light attaches to any threaded port. It features a constant-on 1000 lumen light and is small, lightweight and self-contained.
Underwater photographers have always debated their cameras and there are always questions and continuing debates about the virtues and performance of various formats. We cover all of their pros and cons in our free Handbook: Choosing an Underwater Camera & Housing, but here's my experience.
For my next trip to Cabo Pulmo and the Socorros Islands in Mexicos, I decided to take the new Nauticam E-M1MKII housing. Although there was a strange dearth of large animals, I did get good shots.
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