Tuesday, April 28, 2015

New Handbook: Basics of Underwater Macro Photography

Underwater, the closer we look, the more we see. Slow down, go small and look into the plants and growth. You’ll find surprisingly beautiful and fascinating subjects.

Macro photography allows photographers to get in close, reducing the amount of water between the camera and subject; bringing out color, sharpness and details in photos.

To help you get better shots and an understanding of macro photography, I've created a new Handbook in the Resource Center "Basics of Underwater Macro Photography. It contains basic information, starting settings,lighting, equipment and techniques to help you get some great shots! http://bit.ly/UW-Macro-Handbook

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Beyond Here There Be Dragons: Komodo Island Photo Expedition, Jan. 28-Feb. 8, 2017

Komodo National Park, located in the center of the Indonesian archipelago, between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores, is composed of three major islands and numerous smaller ones, all of them of volcanic origin. Located at the meeting of two continental plates, this national park constitutes the “shatter belt”, between the Australian and Sunda ecosystems. The park is identified as a global conservation priority area, comprising unparalleled terrestrial and marine ecosystems. The rugged hillsides and dry vegetation highly contrast with the sandy beaches and the blue coral-rich waters. The park is best known for the Komodo “dragon” monitor, the world’s largest living lizard, measuring up to 8’ long!

Upwelling of nutrient-rich water from deeper areas of the archipelago is responsible for the rich reef ecosystem.  The variety of marine life that you can see in Komodo rivals any of the world’s best dive destinations.

From sunfish, mantas, dolphins, sharks and eagle rays to pygmy seahorses, ornate ghost pipefish, clown frogfish, nudibranchs and blue-ringed octopus, all are at home amongst a spectacular range of colorful sponges, sea squirts, tunicates and corals; Komodo is an underwater photographer’s heaven!

In Jan/February, there are generally less than ideal conditions up north, but good conditions in the south. Horseshoe Bay, a favorite spot, is cold in the summer - in the 60’s at times. But in the winter, it’s bluer, clearer, and warmer - getting into the 80’s. Other liveaboards have moved east to Raja Ampat, so it tends to be less crowded. This charter is a repositioning cruise, as the boat leaves the Komodo area and goes to Flores Island. Although 11 days in length, we are only being charged for 10! Access is good from both ports; easy non-stop flights from Bali.

MV Damai I
This beautifully designed wooden boat been designed to offer a personal luxury service that only a vessel of this size that is dedicated to small groups can provide.

With an overall length of 40 meters (130 feet) and a beam of over 8 meters (26 feet) the vessel has large single or twin share cabins are furnished with queen beds, and ensuite heads. The vessel has been designed with three large deck areas for relaxing in both the sun or shade and for enjoying relaxing massage and spa treatments.

Specifically designed for divers, the vessel offers large dive stations with individual rinse tanks and a camera room with separate camera work stations with integrated charging stations for each photographer. The vessel offers a divemaster/guide to customer ratio of 4 to 1, ensuring the best service underwater as well as onboard.

Your trip leader Jack Connick from Optical Ocean Sales will be available to help you with presentations on subjects ranging from strobe positioning to Photoshop Lightroom.

Prices: Single Cabins (1-2 spaces available): $7350 — Twin Share Cabins (3-4 spaces available): $5600

Note: The boat is more than half full and cabins (5, 6, 7) are booked.

Included in the Package:

  • 12 Days/11 Nights on board the Damai I Liveaboard
  • 4 dives a day offered
  • Photo presentations & assistance
  • All meals served in a fine dining environment
  • Beer, drinks and 1 glass of wine each night onboard
  • Airport transfers to/from boat
Not Included: Airfare, $110 for Nitrox, Equipment rentals, Park & Port Fees. $42/day all-inclusive rate available.

For more information please see our website listing or call us.

More on the Damai 1 Liveaboard Here.
Take a 360° Photo Tour Here.

Download a trip flyer Here.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Review: Saga Dive Fiber Optic Ring Flash Adapter for Underwater DSLR Cameras

Ring lights have long been a popular way for macro photographers to get bright, even light directly onto small subjects.

Due to the magnification involved, macro photos can consume a lot of light. Underwater photographers have long struggled to get their camera housings with two strobes into tight spaces, or get the lights positioned close enough to the front of the lens without creating lens flare or shadows from the port.

Ring lights take care of many of these difficulties, and while a bit bulkier they are fast and easy to shoot with.

Until now there haven’t been many choices. Athena Industries produced a ring flash for a while, although it’s been pulled off the market now. It had a large ring strobe light unit, power unit, electrical sync cord and needed adapters to fit ports. Thus it was a good, but somewhat heavy, bulky and expensive system. It also would not work with electrically synced cameras, as it used a re-worked Sea & Sea YS-01 strobe as the “power unit” that need a fiber optic cord to fire.

Saga Dive Fiber Optic Ring Flash uses fiber optic technology, this is an add-on to existing strobes that transfers the strobe light output through a parallel series of fiber optic cords held in place around the front of the port. One advantage is that the fiber optics at the front of the port are much smaller in diameter and lighter than other ring lights with dedicated large, round flash units.

The light from the Saga flash adapter is very even. Light was bright and even on the subject and rapidly tapered off in the background, creating nice bokeh, or a black background.  Ring lighting is very even, so if you want more creative lighting solution, you’re better off sticking with standard strobe setups, there's not much you can adjust on the ring flash.

TTL is the preferred shooting method, and my Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobe and D800 Nauticam housing worked very well and easily. Finding the subject at great magnification became the hardest part; I knew the lighting would be perfect, or at best I’d dial the EV up or down on the strobe with one click of the dial.

The Saga Ring Light also has an adjustable collar that allows you to pull or push the ends of the fiber optic cords in and out, thus focusing the light narrower or wider, and allowing for different lengths of diopter lenses. It actually also can be used to give slightly more or less light on a subject as well.

Saga Dive designed the unit to be mounted on a short arm with the strobe upside down and centered over back of the housing. This does allow for the best flexibility of adjustment of the fiber optic cords, but it seemed in the way for me and blocked the use of a focus light mounted on the port.

I flipped the strobe cover over on the fiber optic taking them out plugging them back. Then I mounted the strobe directly onto the left handle ball mount with a clamp. This freed up the focus light holder, and also mounted the unit out of the way of looking over the housing at the subject. The fiber optic cords are at a slight angle, but I was still able to adjust them in and out without difficulty or creating strain on them. One other note was that I found the strobe cap to be very slightly loose on the front of the strobe, but a single wrap of gaffer tape created a little “stiction to hold it firmly in place.

They also sell it with a flip holder for a 67mm macro diopter, and if you want to use a flip holder that is the only answer – the popular Nauticam flip diopter holder doesn’t fit.

I decided to buy my demo unit with no holder, figuring I’d be shooting with my 105VR Nikon lens with a ReefNet SubSee +5 or Nauticam Super Macro Converter all the time. But in practice, flip holders are a nice adaption, and several times I wish I had the choice of taking the diopter off as you can then refocus the ring light wider.

Shooting was very easy, but you are limited to shooting tight macro. Usually with my normal macro setup I can flip up the diopter and shoot fish “portraits”, or larger objects farther away. My dive buddy tried it on his Nauticam 7DMKII, but also mounted a second strobe off to the side; not a bad idea to have more flexibility, at the cost of a larger unit.

Mounting it off to the side, you also loose the ability to add arm floatation. I found the Stix FB-AQ float belt to fit well, and this added quite a bit of flotation to balance the rig nicely.

I found it to be very durable; the fiber optic cords are quite stiff and won’t bend or break in normal use. You do have to be a little careful not to get too close to a sea fan and catch the fiber optic cords on them!

About the only negative to the Saga Ring Flash Adapter is that it is sort of bulky to pack. However, it’s light and fairly unbreakable, so I just wrapped it in a few layers of bubble wrap and t-shirts and stuck it in my dive bag.

Currently, they are shipping the DSLR model and a much smaller compact camera version. They are studying adapting that model for use with mirrorless cameras using the Olympus mz 60mm macro lens as well.

The Saga DSLR Ring Flash Adapter is available custom made to your order; mounting option, strobe (Inon z240, D2000 or Sea & Sea YS-D1), port and housing all have to be allowed for. Longer 100mm ports that have no steps are necessary for it to fit. Turnaround is about 15-20 days and they ship directly to customers world-wide.

Prices are reasonable with the euro down; currently the DSLR model with a flip holder is $774.95, and the model without a holder $624.95. The smaller model for some compacts is $349.95. (These prices are subject to change with currency fluctuations.)