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Alex_Mustard

Wetpixel Shark trip - any tips

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In not long now I am off to join the Wetpixel shark trip. And I am jolly excited by the prospect.

 

I am starting to get my stuff together. And wondered if anyone had any advice. It seems everyone else has already done this trip so there should be lots of good advice out there.

 

The first thing that everyone I have spoken too warns me about is the boat!! But I think the average underwater photographer is rather more used to luxury than me.

 

My main interests are in photography and kit choices.

 

I have looked through lots of people's pix and seems that the best UW lens is probably not too wide. So the obvious choice for me the is the 17-35mm - which in a lots of people's opinion is Nikon's best lens ever - as long as you don't get a second hand one that has been hammered by a PJ. It is sharper than most primes and gives excellent colour.

 

And for wrangling stuff the 10.5mm is the way i wanna go. For normal reef sharks I may either go a bit wider (12-24mm) or a bit tighter (28-70mm) depending on the atmospheric conditions.

 

Obviously I have several other ideas to try - because if I just do what everyone else has done I will just get the same pix as have already been taken. And what's the point in that. But I'll share my ideas after the trip - once I have seen if they work or not! I have a couple of secret weapons that I have hi hopes for.

 

Lighting seems pretty easy at the tiger spot. It looks just like stingray city - so I am not too worried about that. Lots of ways to solve that one.

 

A major concern for me is top side on the boat. I think I'll take a land flash and probably a longish lens like 150mm - (240mm equiv on FF).

 

So does my thinking seem OK? Plus if anyone has any general advice for what to take I'd appreciate it.

 

Alex

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Hi Alex,

 

Most of my full shark shots were taken at 19mm on a 1.3x crop camera - if that helps you.

 

Topsides, a 70-200 and a 28-70 will have you covered I think and yes, definitely bring a topsides flashgun.

 

Let's now all get together and have a chant to the weather gods - "No wind no wind!" Repeat after me. :-)

 

Cheers

James

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I've had bad luck with fisheye tiger sharks, and shot most of my favorite images at 20, 24, or 35mm.

 

The wrangling lens of choice is definitely a full-frame fisheye. You will risk salt-water splash on the camera, but your D2X should handle it just fine. :) I also use a 70-200 on the surface, and sometimes wish I had just a bit more... but since you're cropped sensor, it should be perfect! You'll need something that can focus-track quickly...

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I only used the Sigma 15 and the 10.5 and didn't feel the need for any more reach. The sharks will be close - closer than you might like sometimes - but you might want to try a different focal lenght just to get a different look.

 

One problem I had was focusing on the shark wrangling shots were I'd be holding the camera below the surface off the swim platform. I couldn't tell if I was locking focus or even if the shutter was firing. I just kept pressing the shutter release and hoping for the best but I did get some OOF and misframed images. If I was to do it over I'd preset my hyperfocal distance and just set it to manual focus.

 

Good luck with the weather, I wish I was going.

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I used the 12-24mm a lot on this trip....the extra reach was very handy and the water is so clear and bright at Tiger Beach you don't have to worry much about out zooming your strobes....even better with the magic filter. I've got a 17-35 now and would consider it also.....i

 

I was signed up on this trip but I had to cancel when other plans changed. Enjoy!

 

Karl

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Alex,

 

Everyone has their favorite lenses, and you sound like you have made good choices.

 

UW the trick I think is to be patient as a hunter and let the sharks come to you. Holding your breath a bit now and then (obviously without rising) and not thrashing around seems to be something many divers never figure out. Wild animals won't generally approach something they think might be threatening.

 

For topside I have done most of my shooting up top on the fly bridge with a 70-200mm lens. But many have gotten right down in the "splash zone" and made great images. One example (see attached) I actually shot with my Sigma 15mm Fisheye and flash still in the housing kneeling right at the swim step's "cut out". In bright light on multi-shot my DS125 kept flashing fast enough!

 

Enjoy, think out of the box and I'm sure we'll all be interested in seeing what ideas you have up your wet suit sleeve :)

 

David Haas

 

 

 

post-244-1141412199_thumb.jpg

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How about a Nik V and a 15mm set on min focus for those shots off the back deck.....much easier to hold than your beast.....

 

:)

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How about a Nik V and a 15mm set on min focus for those shots off the back deck.....much easier to hold than your beast.....

 

:)

A nice big housing with strobe arms between you and harm is desirable. I ended up with some pretty serious scratches on my dome from the business end of a tiger.

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Alex,

 

You'll get a 2' long 1" diameter PVC "tube" with wrist strap onpost-244-1141481857_thumb.jpg it issued to each diver whether you have a camera or not. Not to poke the sharks with, but to put straight in front of you in the sand like Excalibur. The Tigers even when doing a "swim by" right at you will bump into these and veer off. Of course the first time you do this is when you'll be wearing the first of two wet suits you might want to bring to have a clean one for the rest of the trip :)

 

By dive two last year most photographers with decent sized systems laid their PVC tubes in the sand and picked them up on the way back to the boat at the end of each dive. We didn't have any Tiger sharks "grabbing" camera systems as Jimmy will warn you about (his hint: LET THE SHARK HAVE YOUR CAMERA! We will get it back for you :(

 

Finally, just bring extra toothpaste in case you have to polish out a dome port from scratches. The shark's hides, nose, etc. are unbelievably rough.....We know this as we all were also touching them gently by Day two as they glided by. Pec and tail fins are so powerful it's a real rush to actually feel these animals! We puny humans are simply a fly in the ointment of the sea to them....

 

Just keep you eye on the business end (that would be the end with the sharp pointy things :D

 

dhaas

post-244-1141481901_thumb.jpg

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Thanks for all the tips, both here and in PMs! Most appreciated.

 

To ask a less exciting question. What wetsuit thickness is required for this trip. How cold is the water, how long are the dives?

 

Alex

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1 mil was fine for me. (but I've got a little more natural insulation than some :) )

 

Rand

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Alex,

 

It's WINTER in the Bahamas.....You can likely search water temps worldwide, but I'd bet it's barely low 70s F! For me that means a 5mm minimally, plus hooded vest, etc. Plus you won't be doing a ton of swimming around at Tiger Beach....

 

Water temp is the main reason I go in the summer :) 82-84 F........Usually calmer water except it is hurricane season....But never been blown out...

 

Like winter conditions are any calmer, yeah right. :(

 

dhaas

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You'll get a 2' long 1" diameter PVC "tube" with wrist strap on it issued to each diver whether you have a camera or not. Not to poke the sharks with, but to put straight in front of you in the sand like Excalibur. The Tigers even when doing a "swim by" right at you will bump into these and veer off. Of course the first time you do this is when you'll be wearing the first of two wet suits you might want to bring to have a clean one for the rest of the trip :)

 

As David said, you get a nice little plastic monopod (I actually used mine a lot like that - just setting the tripod hole of my housing on the top of the pole for support). :(

 

The only "adrenaline-pumping" moment I had with the tigers getting too close was because I was so bored with the lemon sharks (they're everywhere...like scavenging dogs), and was used to them swimming by me in every direction. Well, as one swam from behind me over my left shoulder, I glanced over at it...and it was a big tiger -- only a few inches from my ear! Fortunately, she was more interested in the bait crate than my ear, so no harm done... Jimmy makes a point of telling you to keep looking all around you in every direction so as to keep an eye on the tigers, and that was my one (and ONLY) failure to notice where one was. But I only used my pole like Dave describes (letting the shark bump it so she'd veer off) once.

 

As for wetsuit, Eric told me that this time of year the water is mid-to-high 70s F, and that he wears a full 5mm suit with hood. On this trip, I'll probably wear my full Microprene or Polartec suit with 5mm Henderson Hyperstretch core warmer on top of it, and a 3mm hood most of the time. I think the water's a little colder now than when David's group (including me) was there. And bear in mind that you spend a LOT of time just kneeling on the sand waiting for the lovelies to swim by, so you might get a little more chilled than if you were actively swimming around...

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Here's how Bruce using his PVC "stick" while waiting for the next Tiger Shark fly by.....

 

LOL.....

 

I also just noticed something in this photo. Seacam user will cringe at Bruce's big $$$ viewfinder position in the sand :)

 

But he was there to get images and not polish equipment!!! Yay!!!

 

dhaas post-244-1141499705_thumb.jpg

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I also just noticed something in this photo. Seacam users will cringe...

 

Yikes! :( Even I (as a Seacam user) am cringing at that! I'm sure I set the housing down gently right side up, but that damned superdome is quite the "buoyancy device," so your photo shows the "natural" position for an unattended Seacam housing with that dome!

 

BTW, I've gotta believe I was waiting for my "turn" at the shark gauntlet. I look way too bored to actually be out among the sharks.

 

Oh, and David, I take back all the nice things I've said to you about taking photos of other divers. You're really just looking for things that'll embarass them on the internet! <_< :)

 

Speaking of those PVC "sticks," here's how a typical non-photographer (in this case my good friend Edward) used his (to create a makeshift recliner for watching the shark parade)! B)

post-65-1141502092_thumb.jpg

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Low 70ssss????

 

Yikes!

 

Thats drysuit weather for me...

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Bruce,

 

Didn't mean to embarass you :) I saw how lovingly you took care of your Seacam!

 

Ed looks like he's using his fins, tank AND his "Shark Stick". Is this the "Quad-Pod" underwater steadying technique?

 

LOL

 

dhaas

 

P.S.- Mike, Yes, I think water tempertures that cold will certianly require lots of rubber! No matter how cold you get, when these babies come in close you are 100% focussed! (Get it Focussed :(

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A nice big housing with strobe arms between you and harm is desirable. I ended up with some pretty serious scratches on my dome from the business end of a tiger.

yes, a housing is nice to have on the swim platform - and don't be afraid to drop it because you're only in 10-12 feet of water at Tiger Beach. I took the shot below moments before the tiger came up out of the water and landed in my lap. As I jumped back into the boat the next two shots were of bubbles and sky ;-)

 

Definitely something I wont soon forget. But I still want to do another trip, maybe next year.

 

Marty

post-796-1141884430_thumb.jpg

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Ugh. It's colder, now? My 5mm hyperstretch has a hole in it. I may have to do with a 3/2 surf suit (nearly as warm as a 5mm hyperstretch, in my opinion) plus hood and gold-core vest.

 

Hope that's ok. :)

 

Also, I'll do a quick blurb on how to photograph sharks, once we get on the boat. :o

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Examples of how close you get while on the swim step:

 

050330_154727_echeng4932.jpg

 

050328_165654_echeng4758.jpg

 

050403_143523_echeng9071.jpg

 

Marty Steinberg took this shot of me: :)

 

050403_185424_steinberg1.jpg

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And how's this for a fisheye shot? :) A topside flash is absolutely essential to fill in the sharks during dusk shots.

 

050402_182919_echeng5047.jpg

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And the guy sat and waited for the right moment, banged off one shot and got it too. That is how I was told by the crew.

 

Outstanding shot.

 

I tried with the housing and strobes to get an over/under but did not get anything close. Although I had lots of chances...no one seemed keen to get onto the transum. :)

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Eric,

 

I love how one of your shots shows the tiger rolling his eye up (to protect it?) as he closes in. Cool.

 

Chris

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Alex,

 

For shooting sharks underwater I personally like the versatility of the 17-40 on my 20D. For topside I think everyone has covered it well (a good zoom and fisheye). The only other thing not mentioned was a polecam setup. This setup can be a lot of fun to shoot with some great results, plus you can stay out of the bubble zone (and sharp teeth!) on the back deck. Don't forget your macro lens too! You can get some great spawning shots with a huge Tiger shark in the background! No kidding.. Razorfish were spawning like crazy on Tiger Beach two weeks ago. :o

 

Water temperatures are in the low to mid 70's. I'm a cold water wus so I'm wearing a 5mm farmer john and a 2.5mm vest & hood. Most of the time the shark action is so intense you won't even realize you're cold, though. A Warm Winds type jacket is highly recommended.

 

Aside from all this the only two bits of advise I can give is watch out for that Laz character. He's bad news! :D

 

Laz

 

BTW - I second Bruce's comment on your photography, Dave. On top of it all, it looks like you've Photoshopped me shaking fins with a Tiger (and MikeO ready to shoot a self-portrait). That's wrong, you underwater paparazzi!!! :)

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Yeah, I never did get that shot of me with the tiger shark swimming over my shoulder. Harder than I thought to line myself with the shark using the reflection in my dome port. If course with my luck, I'm probably fortunate not to have a shot of my head in the shark's mouth. Hard to believe but I actually got bored after the third day there so I started trying things I probably shouldn't have . . .

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