Thursday, 24 June 2010

Basking Sharks

As soon as I landed at Heathrow from Milan on Monday I received an email from Dr Alex Tattersall who had space on a Charles Hood's boat "Logan." on Wednesday for a Basking Shark trip. The sharks, the second largest fish in the sea, are something that I have wanted to see since I was very small. Even though it called for an early start (4:00 a.m.) and a four hour drive before we even got on the rib, I jumped at the chance. We were pretty lucky with the traffic to Penzance, and met Charles at the quay. A quick wait for the tide to come in and we donned out kit and jumped into the 7.5m RIB and made the 20 minute journey to the first bay where the sharks had been spotted the day before. It was not long until the first fin was spotted. The shark however had no intention of hanging around and was determinedly swimming out to sea. For the next couple of hours we scoured the coastline and sea for signs of the triangular fin sticking out of the water but to no avail. We rounded Land's End and into Sennen Cove when we heard a shout from the bow. A basking shark had breached just 100m from the front of the boat, the resulting splash was enormous. within a few minutes we were in the water with the cameras waiting for the first shots, the shark did a quick fly by then disappeared. Sadly no one managed any shots but at least we had seen another one.
The searching continued, there were some pleasant distractions along the way as we spotted a Sunfish and some seals but what we really wanted were some baskers. Finally we found a fin and then another one, and then another. Charles positioned Logan about 100 yards ahead of he sharks and we all slid quietly into the water and waited. Soon enough the sharks appeared out of the green murk and disappeared as quickly as they came and kept circling us for several minutes.
Charles advised us that the trick with the sharks is to keep fairly still on the surface and let them pass you, if you make too much noise or move too quickly they are off. It is a balance of sticking your head out of the water to locate the dorsal fin and then getting your head down back under water and waiting for the shark to appear.
There were a couple of occasions, just when you think the sharks have gone, one suddenly appears from behind or the side, the first time it happens it is a little unnerving but a great experience.
We spent about 2 -3 hours in the water with sharks towards the end of the day, they weren't always cooperative and we were jumping in and out of the RIB to reposition ourselves as the sharks moved along the coast, which in itself is pretty tiring, especially if you have too much weight on your weight belt!!
I was using my 5D in an Aquatica housing with a Canon 15mm f2.8 fish eye lens and an 8.5" dome port. This was great for getting the whole shark in view but i found myself wanting a bit more zoom. I switched half way through the day to the 17-40mm f4 L and had was able to zoom in a bit but the murky water meant that the only way to get really clear shots is the old underwater adage, get close then get closer!
We drove home via McDonalds and eventually walked through my front door at 12:00 so it was a pretty long day, but it was certainly worth it. I am looking forward to repeating the trip next year.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Landscape Photography

Having spent all day today traveling back from Switzerland, I think the 4am UK time start makes it feel longer than it has been, I needed to get out and stretch the legs so took the camera and tripod to the beach to take a couple of shots. I wanted to smooth out the water on the shore line so used two ND filters and set the camera so that I could get 30 second exposures. I also used a polariser to saturate the colours and reduce the glare on the sea. The above shot is one of the few that I took. I would have liked to stay out longer and get some better colours after the sun set but the early start and busy week abroad has take its toll. :)
Ideally I would like a little more cloud formation in the sky to break it up some more and add interest. In this, web sized, shot it is difficult to see the Needles on the Isle Of Wight in the distance but, trust me, they are there. :)

Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open

Last week took me to Losone in Switzerland. Sadly the Swiss Alps did their worst and the first day of play was cancelled due to a waterlogged course. Day 2 however was very different with sunshine and blue skies, so I managed to get out with the polariser again to capture some of the skies. I also wanted to show the general area with the mountains and scenery. I decided that a stitched panoramic shot would be the best way to do this as it offers more width than a standard landscape shot. I took 5 photographs for the above image, all of which were in shot in portrait rather than landscape. I then did a quick edit in Adobe Lightroom and then stitched them together in Photoshop. The original stitched photo come out at just over 1.2 meters in length and is a whopping 560Mb, so plenty big enough for large printing :)

The tournament itself was won by South African, Lee-Anne Pace, another first time winner on the Ladies European Tour, she took home a watch from Omega, the trophy and a €78,750 cheque.

The next golf tournament for em is Tenerife in a couple of weeks but until then I will be concentrating on some landscape and underwater shots as I have a couple of trips coming up.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Underwater Snoot, Selsey Pier

My first dive at Selsey Pier and I decided to make life hard for myself by trying to use a snoot that I have just obtained. The snoot work was tricky to say the least as the tide was on the flood and the tiny movements made getting the light in the correct spot hard. I think that next time I will use an off camera strobe in a fixed position and shoot form there. The shot on the left is of a small scorpion fish that was lying on the bottom. The viz was about 2 meters so the snoot is an effective way of reducing backscatter in murky waters. It also creates a pleasing black background and really isolates the subject in a beam of light.
I am looking forward to my next underwater trip, hopefully I will be able to see some nudibranchs and try out the micro snoot.

Underwater In Swanage

I have been lucky enough to get a couple of days diving in Swanage and get some good visibility as well. I found my first UK Sea Slug, which doesn't sound that glamourous but I love them :) The one on the left is Flabellina pedata and was about 1.5cm long so I was using a 100mm Macro lens with a canon 500D diopter, 2 Sea & Sea YS110 aplha strobes: 1/200 f16 ISO 200 on a 5D camera.
I managed to meet up with some other keen underwater photographers so a good weekend was had by all. I also managed some deeper dives down to 22m looking for larger aquatic life, sadly the viz was not great so no pics there.

Slovakian Adventure

This was the second event of the year that took me to a country that I hadn't previously visited. The event was about a 4 hour drive from Bratislava and the surrounding area was absolutely stunning. We were up in the mountains and at a golf and ski resort called Tale, (pronounced tali).
We were warned about the danger of the bears and wolves that roam the area, and to be honest, despite the occasional attacks on local people, I was rather hoping to come across some of the animals as one of my passions is wildlife photography.
That aside being in the mountains presented some weather challenges with 3 of the 4 days being disrupted by electrical storms, with one being right overhead. There was intermittent sunshine but Tale is definitely somewhere I would love to return to.