June 30, 2024

Underwater Photo Workshops, is one in your future?

I have been shooting underwater pictures for at least 20 years now and I own a company, Ultralight Camera Solutions that makes underwater camera accessories but that doesn’t mean I know what I am doing when it comes to underwater photography. I have taken some classes and workshops for underwater photography throughout the years and learned a few things about getting close, shooting upwards, and trying to get good composition of the subject and foreground. Even with this, I still struggle at times with my ability to get better. To top it off, in 2023, I upgraded my camera, housing, and strobes because they were old and outdated years ago. The problem is that this sure didn’t help any. It only made things harder and set me back a few notches.

The last workshop I did was with my Nikonos V, and if you know what that was, you know it was a long time ago. Fast forward to modern times, specifically to 2023, when I updated all my camera equipment. Sometimes, it works to start anew, and sometimes, it does not. For me, there was a learning curve, but I still had camera setting and strobe lighting issues that plagued me up till I participated in my first real photo workshop, Critterhunt, at the Crystal Blue Resort in Anilao, Philippines. This was a 10-day workshop held every May and totally worth it. This year, it was May 20-30, 2024, followed by a Blackwater workshop from May 30 -June 7.  Next year’s Critterhunt will be May 18-28, 2025.

Both were a big success not only for me but the other attendees as well. I have to say Mike Bartick, Bruce Shafer, and Walter Marti did an EXCELLENT job. The workshops were so much more compressive than I ever thought they would be, and I wasn't the only person to think this. From the lectures, photo reviews, diving, eating, and keeping my camera ready for the next dive, it seemed like I was busy from dusk to dawn, but it was all WORTH it. Now I feel confident I am on the path to recovery.

There were fifteen of us for Critterhunt and ten for the Blackwater workshop. Twelve of the participants were in a group organized by Channel Islands Dive Adventures, and the others arrived individually.  Ultralight Camera Solutions sponsored the event and supplied some GREAT swag bags and gift certificates. Ultralight also provided some camera accessories to try out, along with T-sticks and cutout clamps, which were very popular. The other side benefit for Ultralight was the suggestions and ideas for new and existing products we now have. Some of our best new selling products are from other people’s suggestions and ideas, which we are always happy to hear.

The workshop was organized in what I would call three main parts: diving, photo review, and editing. Mike Bartick did an hour of compressive and super helpful photo reviews in the morning, followed by two dives, one hour of detailed Lightroom editing by Bruce Shafer, and topped off with 1-2 more dives. We did this for eight days. It was a super busy schedule, and I went away with a much better foundation for underwater photography than ever before.

There were people with simple point-and-shoot cameras such as Sealife and Olympus TG series to mirrorless and DSLR rigs. For some, they went from not knowing much about their cameras to leaving with BIG smiles because of all they learned. Others had a good review with some positive reinforcement, and for me, I was somewhere in between going home with some excellent skills for me to continue with.

Mike spent plenty of time on each photo we submitted. He provided excellent information on the behavior of each critter, what he liked about each image, and how to photograph it better next time. The next day, the process would repeat all over again.

Bruce is exceptionally at using Lightroom for editing. He was there to share what he thought were the main parts of it that you would need to edit, store, and organize your images. Unfortunately, I have never used Lightroom, so I only sat in on the first lecture and did my own editing using the free windows 11 program. I did take away a few things, and the biggest one was not only that I should shoot in RAW but also why and the advantages of doing so.

If this sounds like something you would like to do, join the fun next year. Critterhunt will be May 18-28, 2025. Channel Islands Dive Adventures has eight rooms reserved, and Ultralight Camera Solutions will again sponsor the event. Read more about the Crystal Blue Resort in my next upcoming blog.

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