Wetpixel coverage: DEMA 2014

Final Thoughts on DEMA 2014

By Steve Williams

With Adam doing all the hard work to bring you the details of the 2014 DEMA show I was free to wander around, meet old friends, make new ones and just enjoy the show. DEMA exists for manufactures and suppliers to showcase their wares and to get their customers excited about new products. The emphasis is on business as you would expect. Even so, I noticed a healthy undercurrent of environmental awareness and education. I spent a fascinating 30 minutes at the Manta Pacific Research Foundation booth, talking with Dr Csilla Ari. She is the Director and scientific advisor doing research and education centered on the mantas of Hawaii.

Dr Csilla Ari and Michael Henshaw in their Manta Research Foundation booth.

Csilla recently authored a paper that among other things proves for the first time that Mantas can change their coloration and spots. That’s going to change things up a bit. She informed me that mantas have the largest brain of any fish by far and we are just starting to research how this affects their behavior and interaction with each other and us. I had just gotten off the boat after spending a week in the Revilligigedos and having the privilege of being in the water with these astounding creatures. I was emotionally affected by their presence unlike any other fish I have been in the water with.

One of the “friendly” Oceanic Mantas of Isla San Benidicto and Socorro.

They were clearly choosing to interact with us, the feeling was very much like being in the water with dolphins or whales and there is an intelligence that’s very apparent that we are just now beginning to research. This brilliant women’s TED talk is here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCfsweIsqdA&list=PLsRNoUx8w3rOZIU1x1qyIXKA_eHcvVkMR, It’s amazing what one can learn just walking around at DEMA. Dr Ari and the Manta Pacific team have a project called Manta Memories to help fishing communities establish alternative income options instead of manta fishing and trade. They have created a site for us to purchase souvenir items that will help support these communities. Check them out and do some holiday shopping on their website.

The recreational diving industry is continuing to deal with a growing pressure on the local dive shops given the availability of equipment online at the very large internet sites. The general sense of folks I spoke with was that attendance was down slightly for dive shop owners. One obvious growth area for the industry is in the area of underwater photography equipment and lights of all kinds. Only twelve years ago, the 2002 DEMA show was the first with multiple products to support digital photography and marked the point in time when the industry turned the corner from film. This year’s 4K video capture capability is truly impressive and its fun to think about what those who attended the first Wetpixel party would think if they had seen what a Red in a Gates housing could do or what they would make of a GoPro Black with 4K. It’s remarkable to remember that the first Wetpixel DEMA get together was held in a hotel lobby bar just 8 short years ago, and 6 years ago was in a hotel room (although it did overflow just a little according to the police report). This year’s party took over the entire hotel pool area with hundreds of underwater professionals attending.

Eric Cheng’s Photo of the Wetpixel Party.

The extraordinary growth in the industry is matched by the growth in capability and housing functionality. This was brought home when our friends at Nauticam showed me the new 7D MKII housing that was announced at the show. Holding it in my hands the ergonomic improvement from my original 7D housing from just 5 years ago is remarkable and demonstrates how far the community has come together to provide underwater photographers the tools to translate their visions into reality.

Walking around the show it’s also apparent that the resort and liveaboards continue to improve their ability to support photographers. Adam and I had a chance to see the drawings for the new Nautilus boat being built and even got the chance to help out with the camera table design. Captain Mike Lever wants to make sure that photographers are well taken care of. Diving Socorro and the Revillagigedos aboard the new Nautilus Belle Amie will be at a whole new level in that special area of the world. You can see the new boat at Nautilus’s website.

My general impression from the many show exhibits is that the resorts are also improving their ability to support photographers. I was happy to see that our friends and photographers Mike and Jody Elliott of XIT404 fame have opened a new boutique resort in the Philippines that will cater to the special needs of the underwater photographer. They have designed the boat and the entire operation to be photographer and camera friendly. Salaya Beach Houses is just 30 minutes south of Dumagette in the Dauin area famous for its macro subjects and dark volcanic sand. Check out their website

Salaya Beach Houses new dive boat.

I got a chance to meet the new resort’s friendly manager Hilary Healy who along with her resort management experience has a degree in Marine Biology. It’s clear they are doing everything they can think of to support the traveling underwater photographer. The Philippines just made a massive move up my own personal bucket list.

Salaya Beach Houses resort’s Hilary Healy (3rd from left) was busy all week booking new guests

DEMA is fundamentally all about business, and business is ultimately all about relationships. At the end of the day being at DEMA is the one opportunity all year when the world’s far flung diving community gets to see each other and catch up. I’m impressed every time I attend by how open and supportive the entire underwater photographic community is. Where else can you see Berkley White from Backscatter talking to Ryan Canon of Reef Photo and Chris Parsons of Nauticam USA on the show floor while listening to Andy and Allison Sallmon do a presentation giving away all their hard won secrets? Look around and notice Edward Lai the founder of Nauticam, Eric Hanauer and Jean Bruneau of Aquatica in the audience. I can’t think of another industry where this sharing of ideas is so common. This year it was especially rewarding to see the next generation continue to take their rightful place in this special group of very talented people. Christian Dimitrius gave a remarkably beautiful presentation on how to get in the business of professional nature photography while focused on preserving the environment. I’m constantly concerned for the future state of the ocean for our children and grandchildren. With people like Dr Csilla Ari and Christian taking on the challenge I made the long drive home feeling much better about the future.

Booth visits day 1: Backscatter, GoPro, Keldan, Ikelite, Subal.
Booth visits day 2: H20 Tools, 10 Bar, Seacam, PolarPro, Aquatica, Nauticam, Acquapazza.
Day 2: Wetpixel/DivePhotoGuide Underwater Imaging Party.
Booth visits day 3: New World Publications, Sea& Sea, Gates, Light & Motion, Watershot, Inon.
Booth visits day 4: Saga, ULCS, Aquatica, BS Kinetics, Fantasea, Orcalight, XIT404, iDive.
Mark Goyen: A newbie’s impression of DEMA.
Steve Williams: Final thoughts on DEMA 2014.
Adam Hanlon: Finishing thoughts and round up.