Manta Fest – Final Week


IMG_0234Welcome to the final week of Manta Fest.

This is how all dive weeks start out at Manta Ray Bay, Bill calls it a “meet the managers meeting”.

Here Bill introduces himself and everyone you need to know during your stay here.

Tonight he started off with the Pro Presenters of Manta Fest and then his managers of the hotel, diving and restaurant.

IMG_0252Each of the presenters took a bit of time to welcome everyone to the party and throw out a few words that help them get the most out of their week.

Most of the time this was encouragement to come up and ask for help with just about anything photography related.

Marty Snyderman, Tim Rock, Frank Schneider, David Fleetham, Ray Bullion and Andy Shumacher all introduced themselves and gave the green light to get one-on-one and improve your photo skills here in Yap.

IMG_0247Workshops and training are available in English as well as German for both photo and video.

These guys really put in the energy to helping you grow your skills. David is a cannon shooter and offered me a lens and dome port for my housing to try out that will get me into my first Macro photography. Marty tells people that they can interrupt him even if he’s eating to ask a question – just don’t try that when his housing is cracked open and he’s at his workbench (you find out why in his workshop on keeping your gear in order).

You will learn things that make you a better underwater photographer that you might not have thought of that have nothing to do with a camera system. David is a naturalist and sea life expert – he knows when an animal or fish might do something that makes a great behavior shot. He’ll encourage you to hit up the dive guides and ask them to show you interesting things at each site. While showing some of his best shots he explains that he asked the guides about the place before getting in the water, do you know where the sharks get cleaned?

IMG_0248Hanging around the Mnuw over dinner can improve your photo game – tonight overhearing Marty and David talking about shooting they were going over speeds, stops, lighting, ISO, subjects and still trying new things.

Anyone can tap into this experience then try it out the next day in the water with the pro of your choice.

Ray Bullion spearheads the non-DSLR workshops, and we’re reminded that all of these guys started out with a point-and-shoot and info is available to any level shooter.

IMG_0263Tim always makes it a point to tell everyone that he’s been coming here since the 80’s, knows this island and the people and is available to grow your topside game shooting on land, or just to take you somewhere cool in a village and show you a nice spot.

He also opens up the welcome parties with a Micronesia media presentation sharing his experiences diving here and with the people and culture.

Yap is a very colorful culture in ceremonial dress.

IMG_0255We’ll see how busy these pro’s are this week with a full house. Each day they will be rotating on a different boat to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to dive and shoot with them.

Last week’s diving was spectacular, including some super interesting manta encounters. We have photos of mantas skimming the white sand lagoon bottom in clear knee-deep water shot from up top that will be in the contest.

IMG_0245Along with the Mantas, things have been hot out at Vertigo – the shots David and Marty were discussing earlier were half-and-half shots of Grey and Black tip reef sharks finning next to the boat after a 90 minute shark dive.

I should add that the pros are updating their media presentations, including “Best of…” galleries with shots from this trip – their new pics are presented in the nightly media and daily workshops.

IMG_0287Jan always reminds everyone that the dive shop policy is “all you have to do is ask” and only one diver is needed to run a boat with captain and guide.

Each night there are Manderfish mating and critters crawling at the macro wall that make for challenging photo ops.

Behavior is a big part of composing a photograph, something we learned in David and Marty’s workshop.

IMG_0277Each night guests have the opportunity to get the winning edge on a third or fourth tank after sunset with the shot of a feeding eel or something that turns a great photo into a winning photo.

Manderinfish aren’t that easy to shoot, getting everything to come together during their brief grand finale is the trick – here you can see and learn how these guys walk away with their best shots… and  possibly add a red focus light add to your hardware wish-list.

IMG_0292Everyone has the opportunity to get off the resort, go to beaches, visit villages, get cultural presentations and check out some war relics around the island – we should see some buses running and some topside shots making it into the blog media leaks soon.

Another highly recommended “just ask” policy exercise is at the restaurant – only a few people have ventured off of the daily specials board and regular menu, however those that did were well-rewarded.

IMG_0282Local crab is a specialty that requires a two-day notice – because someone has to go out and trap it for you.

Highly recommended, ask Detlev what can be done for you in the food and beverage department during your stay.

That’s the ingredient list for the next week.

We’re going to mix 5 boat loads of divers, 5 professional photographers, solid prizes for photo game, a floating restaurant, micro-brew beer, killer dive conditions and see what kind of party we make it.

Over the next day or two all of the new arrivals will be making friends and sharing pictures – as well as the results of what they’re learning from white balance to photoshop layers – with you here and on facebook.

IMG_0286I’ll be asking for more guest media after the second day of diving and posting up. Until then, it’ll be all smiles and sunsets at the resort with people from all over the world.

Five more days of diving, photography, pro training and the nightly party aboard the Mnuw.

I heard today that there is only 1 room key that didn’t get used this week.

Each year the group gets bigger and bigger, if you want to get it on the awards ceremony and contest ending party, make your plans sooner rather than later to make sure you get in on the final week of Manta Fest 2014.

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