Looking for a break from the Melbourne winter I decided that Bali looked pretty good, and searched for Bali diving and underwater photography courses...the results of that search yielded the obligatory PADI underwater photographer course, but it also threw back a company called The Underwater Tribe....curious I looked further.
The Underwater Tribe was started in March 2012 by Mike Veitch and Luca Vaime, is based in Sanur, Bali, and conducts photography training, diver training and private tours in and around Bali and Indonesia. http://underwatertribe.com/index.html
Reviews and feedback found nothing but complimentary and positive comments about the outfit...and Mike must be a decent photographer as he just won the “World in Our Hands” category with a stunning whale shark photo in this years Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
After a flurry of emails and going over the course descriptions on the website and looking at courses titled “From Zero to Hero”, “The Quick Shot” and “The Brush Up” I booked in for the two day “Taking it to the Next Level” course. The two-day course consisted of four dives and theory/review sessions.
I must say before I even got to Tulamaben I was impressed with the responses from Mike and Luca...quick to respond and more than willing to answer questions and assist in accommodation were all good signs this trip was going to be good...the trip wasn’t good, it was bloody awesome!!!
Transport arranged I was delivered to the Ocean View Tulamben Dive Resort on the beachfront at Tulamben, barely a 50 metre swim to the wreck of the USAT Liberty. The Liberty went down in 1942 after being torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. Attempts at towing the stricken vessel to reach a Dutch port, Singajara, failed as she was taking on to much water. The decision was made to beach the ship to assist in the salvage, and after tremors associated with the eruption of Mt Agung in 1963 she slipped into the water of the beach and lies in 10-30 metres of water....a combination of events has left us magnificent wreck to dive on.
The first theory session consisted of some lighting principles and the use of strobes. You know those people that say they had one of those “aha” moments, or the “light bulb” went off...well I think the “strobe” went off for me about 10 times before we got into the water for the first dive!
Dive 1 consisted of going over Mike’s plan for a shot: aperture, meter, shoot and review, make changes as required and shoot again.
The first review session over lunch, supplied as part of the course fee, was used to show the differences that changes in aperture and shutter speed make and how they affect the shot...another 10 “strobe” like moments!
Dive 2 was more of the same, but the we focussed on getting closer and how that affects the picture were touched on.
When I had a look at the pictures I shot in those two sessions I can honestly say that I was a much better photographer after two sessions...what did the next day hold?...I was very excited.
A quick review of yesterdays shots and some more theory on composition and we were off for dive 3...at this point I need to say I had just purchased a Sea and Sea housing, which I think is awesome, and the plan was to do more strobe work in the wreck....but I forgot to raise the flash on the camera...so the strobe/composition plan was ditched for a natural light/composition session...not only was Mike the Instructor but he also turns out to be a very capable model!
Another review session over lunch and then we were back into it, this time I confirmed the flash was firing before we left the resort!
A strong current on the last dive made things challenging which was used to work on some more composition techniques and how a slight change in angle, shooting up, shooting down, into the sun, with the sun at your back, impacts everything in the picture.
Encouraged to shoot on manual for the whole course I can now say that I have a plan for each and every shot I am going to take, and if the result isn’t what I like or thought it would be I have an idea how to get to what I like!
What impressed me significantly is that you know you are receiving individual attention when the Instructor doesn’t take a camera, Mike took a slate and was 100% focussed on my progression and improvement.
I have a perfect excuse, and amazing opportunity to work on my underwater photography in my day job, but it really has been a bit hit and miss, when I get a good shot I am not exactly sure what I did, and when I get a crappy shot I am not exactly sure how to fix it.
Having been keen on underwater photography for a few years before the course I would have described myself as a “lucky, mostly frustrated, clueless amateur”...after spending two days of personal photography instruction with Mike I would now describe myself as an “excited amateur with a plan and pointed in the right direction”.
I cannot recommend diving with these guys highly enough...in fact I found the whole experience so pleasurable I will book in for one of their safaris next year.
Many thanks to Mike for his time and patience, and also to Luca for his help and coordination of the accommodation....I cannot wait to go back!