Over the course of my week at Atlantis Dive Resort Dumaguete in the Philippines (with thanks to Diversion Dive Travel) I did 26 dives plus a day trip to snorkel with the whalesharks. This meant heaps of in-water time to photograph everything that moved and a few things that didn’t (more photo stories to come!). So by day three or four I swapped my strobes for my Archon video lights and jumped in to try something different. I hadn’t attempted video with my 100mm macro lens before and I was fairly sure it was going to be tricky – I was right. But the critters at Dumaguete were fairly obliging and the sandy bottom made it easier to stabilise the camera than it would have been over reef. So what did I learn?
One my first two dives I had the tripod attached to the housing, and found this significantly restricted my choice of subjects. Setting up the tripod on a sloping sandy bottom took me long enough that most creatures would head off to find a more peaceful spot before I even started recording. Hand holding the camera for moving subjects worked, with the difficulty increasing as the depth of focus and fstop decreased. I was definitely thankful for my cave diving experience, as being rock steady in the water was the only way to get close to watchable video.
For creatures that didn’t move too much, resting the base of the housing or the port on the sand worked well. For these creatures I found it best to pre-focus at the estimated distance, start recording, and then move in and settle the camera in the right spot. On the 5DII “recording” is indicated by a small red dot in the top right of the LCD screen – very hard to see when the camera is down on the sand. I changed my LiveView screen to show a grid, not because I used it, but because it disappeared when recording and made it very easy to tell whether the camera was rolling or not.
For the lighting, the Archon lights were great. On night dives I especially appreciated the red option as skittish animals would sit and watch me approach rather than running. It also made a great focus light for the two mandarin fish dives I did. Having a pair provided more lighting options, including leaving one on red and the other on white to add some colour to the subject. And taking two video lights with me in an extremely restricted baggage allowance situation was only possible due to the small size and weight of the W38VR lights. The twin 1400 lumen light output was great, allowing me to close down the aperture and increase depth of field. The batteries coped well with being continuously on for 2 or 3 hour long dives between charges. All in all I was very happy with the lighting performance.
So sit back and I hope you enjoy 26 hours underwater condensed into 6 shorts minutes of strange underwater creatures doing their thing.