Tuesday, November 22, 2011


This picks up from Part 1 with some more technical discussion. 

To strobe or not to strobe, that is the question.  On this trip, strobes both enhance and detract.  They enhance because at 40’ they add the natural color when the sharks are closer than 10 feet.  They detract because they pose a logistical decision when the action gets going as you will be slamming the strobes into the cage bars as you whirl around trying to get the right angle and they will slow you down.  You don’t want to be bashing your buddies or more likely, pulling out regulators from other divers.  This will not make you popular. 

When using strobes, you will need to be flexible on position, sometimes setting them above the lens to accommodate the bar positions.  Other times you will need to set them below the bar depending where the shark is.  If you are not skilled at positioning your strobe arms, you will get frustrated.  Two strobes are recommended because on half your shots, a cage bar will be blocking one strobe.

I generally shoot on manual and tend to use 1/60th of a second for shutter speed and  f/8 or 5.6 depending on distance.  ISO 100 whenever possible.  ISO 400 when things get dark-ish.

You might choose to use strobes early in the trip and for the last dive of the day as the sun will be setting.  For the fast action dives, you will most likely want to go without strobes.  JUST REMEMBER TO CAP YOUR BULKHEADS and cords when removing the Strobes to prevent floods and corrosion!

For available light exposures,  I will shoot at 1/60th and switch to Shutter priority (Tv) mode due to differing lighting conditions when shooting fast.

“HAIL MARY” shots
A "Hail Mary" is where you point the camera in the basic direction and hope/pray for the best.  I probably shot 1/3 of my underwater photos by pointing the housing in the general direction of the shark, not using the viewfinder due to the rapidity of the action and anticipating where the cage bars were and where the shark was going to be.   Viewfinder or not, I always pre-focus for a half a second or so, then hit the shutter at the “decisive moment.”  This reduces the shutter delay or time parallax. 

For upward angles, I stuck my hands out of the cage and pointed the camera up.  You always need to be mindful of the shark positions.   “No surprises” awareness is good way to keep your hands and camera.  Situational Awareness.  When a third shark arrived, I did not even consider this maneuver.

There is at least one another way to beat the issues of the cage bars.  Go up top with the divemaster.  Let’s give that a moment to sink in.  The divemasters are very experienced piloting the cages in a semi-exposed part of the cage.  It is not without risk. 

You can get clearer shots, but I declined due to valuing my skin more than the off chance of impressing some editor somewhere.  That is up to you and I especially DON’T recommend using strobes on top.  In the event of a suddenly active shark, you need to get down the cage bottom quickly (tight logistics like a submarine conning tower).  Strobe arms could easily get caught going down, perhaps putting the divemaster’s intact condition in jeopardy trying to follow you down.

VIDEO OPPORTUNITIES – “Camera on a stick.”
The new Go Pro video cameras are a stunning breakthrough in small technology.  Using these cameras on a short three foot monopod stick is ideal for beating the cage bar blues.   On two dives, I used a Canon G-9 and got some nice footage.  Click here to see the YouTube post.

SHOT LIST – here are some suggestions:

·      Shark Head Shot
·      Full portrait
·      Shooting the other cages with the shark
·      Shooting upward / down
·      Distant approach and retreat
·      Cage test bite
·      Cage attack sequence
·      Two or more sharks in one frame
·      Huge schools of the Rainbow runners and the boat
·      Divers in the cage / different angles
·      Cage Geometry
·      Rainbow runners inside the cage
·      Sea Lions – Surface,  Underwaters and Coastal Tour
·      Tuna individuals and Wolf pack hunting
·      LIMITED OVER/UNDER Opportunities - Patience
Coastal tour of the beach life “BEACH” PHOTOS / NO GOING ASHORE ALLOWED  (Bring a long lens, perhaps 400mm) ELEPHANT SEALS  & GUADALUPE FUR SEALS
·      Around the Boat
·     Great SUNRISES / NO SUNSETS due to the height mountains.
·     Ensenada Harbor  - Sea Lion colony on arrival back at port.


I prefer a Black Skirt Photographer's Mask that prevents reflections and distractions.

7mm full wetsuit, boots, gloves and Hood or drysuit.  Mares 2/3mm gloves provided ideal dexterity vs warmth.  Water temp down to 63 F at depth of 40.’  Dives last 40 minutes or so and you will get chilled.  Expect four dives a day with unlimited time available in the surface cages.

Leave the following at home:  BCD, Regulator, FINS,  (optional - SNORKEL could be of limited use in the shallow cage if all hoses are being used).  Snorkels will get tangled in all the other cages – mostly useless and a hazard.  Macro is useless.  If you can use a macro lens on these sharks, you are TOO CLOSE.

Ship supplied Hookah (Surface supplied hoses with SCUBA in cages as backup)

You are supplied 40 lb DUI harnesses.

Click here to see the gallery of the seven individual sharks.

4 Females:
1.     Large, “clean” unscarred shark with cleanly TRIMMED Right Pectoral fin
2.     Ragged Left Pectoral fin (notched)
3.     Dorsal fin flaking in two spots, tagged and distinctive gill slits
4.     Caudal fin has spot roughly looking like Italy

3 Males:
1.     Bump on Nose, caudal fin dot
2.     Dorsal tag at top of fin, shark looks beat up.
3.     Two spots on ventral side

Click here for Part 1 of this article.

Click here for the Trip log

Click here to see the Shark Galleries

 Click here to see the YouTube post.


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