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December 16, 2009 ......... Sunset House, Grand Cayman
Story & Photos by Jean Brigham
When traveling I always have a camera in my pocket to capture those memorable moments and unexpected events. Earlier this year I traded my usual Olympus Tough camera for the Flip UltraHD camcorder. I am now able to show my poor non-diving friends and family what it "feels" like to swim inside a shipwreck or watch an eagle ray glide by. I'm no longer sharing frozen moments in time punctuated by a caption in an online photo album. Right now video is my new vacation photo.
The Flip cameras have gained popularity over the past year for their compact size and ease of use. This category of cameras is quickly expanding, and the hottest ticket this season has proven to be our new JVC Picsio housing and camera package. JVC has taken the best features of the Flip and added those just-perfect details. Yes it's even lighter and smaller and has a larger screen. But the important features to me are image stabilization, close focus distance, 1080p resolution and removable media.
Oh and it does take 8 megapixel digital snapshots. Which is useful as very few people recognize such a small device as a video camera at this point! I have a quite a lot of video of dive buddies pretending to be statues.
These little pocket cameras make shooting video as simple as taking a photo with your cell phone. Add a free YouTube account and you're quickly broadcasting your dive memories with either select family and friends or perhaps the entire world. And if you're going to do that I know you want to come back with some really impressive results. Here are my suggestions:
Tip #1. You've heard this before—GET CLOSE. This is important when taking any camera underwater. Light has some difficulty traveling through water, leading to loss of color and clarity. Imagine shooting a portrait in dense fog. The more water you eliminate between your lens and your subject, the more crisp and colorful the resulting images will be.
Tip #2. In general—and particularly with these compact video cameras—avoid zooming. The Picsio and Flip cameras are entirely digital zoom, so you may as well crop the clip in post processing. Work on controlling your buoyancy and your breathing to move in as closely as possible.
Tip #3. Consider a wide angle lens. A wide angle lens increases your angle of coverage at any given distance. So you can fit your subject in the frame from only 2 feet away instead of 6 feet. Remember Tip #1?
Tip #4. Be conscious of your light! If it's a daytime dive, watch the LCD screen as you do a complete 360° rotation. On most days you'll see changes in the color of the background water, from a deep saturated blue (or green) to pale washed out shades. Keep this in mind and consider the relationship of the sun when framing your subject.
Tip #5. Whether day or night, adding a light will have an impact. Beware that artificial light is also quickly absorbed as it travels through water (Ahem... Remember Tip #1?). GET CLOSE to maximize effect!
Our Pro-V8 LED Video Lite is the perfect complement to a Compact Video system. It burns for 10 hours on 8 "C" cell batteries, so one set usually gets me through an entire week long trip. Did you add a wide angle lens? Use two lights for the best coverage. In daylight try your Pro-V8 both with and without the color filter—sometimes the best results come from a combination!
Still stuck on stills? Shopping for a favorite photographer who already has it all? We have just the thing for you. Our brand new DS161 Movie Substrobe is the first of its kind—a combination still flash and video light for underwater use. These days almost every digital system from pocket point-and-shoot to full-frame SLR offers a movie mode. Now you can have the power of our renowned Substrobe DS160 AND a video light without adding a bit of weight or bulk to your system. Choose two for great all-around coverage. Or combine with other video lights for artistic coverage of your super-wide angle lenses.
People respond to video in a very real way, undoubtedly because our lives play out in constant fluid motion. Consider video as a truly fun way to capture—and more importantly share—your next dive vacation.
A quick thanks to Sunset House and the staff of Sunset Divers... Proof that part of a great dive holiday has to be great people! If you can't get away any sooner then be sure to stop by and see them in 2010!
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