Manta Fest – Shark Diving

IMG_0107 The weather gods are smiling on Manta Fest, today’s conditions were outstanding.

The contestants have all logged about 6 to 10 dives, depending on who’s up for third and fourth tanks in the afternoon.

Today we shot wide angle in the morning and guests were heading out with diopters on their macro ports for an afternoon session.

Bottom times are long this week. This morning David Fleetham showed us how to get it done at Vertigo and pulled almost 110 minutes out of his first tank, and over a hundred on his second… shooting over a thousand frames before lunch.

The Macro boat that drives five minutes into the lagoon came back two hours after it departed on today’s third tank dive.

We’re getting into it big and small and it’s about time for some contest media leaks – I’m already putting my hand out to see how the contest is shaping up – my USB drive is hanging in the dive shop waiting for some uploads.

The first guests to load up their preview will get a gallery on the blog and you can like it up on Facebook to start some unofficial judging.


IMG_7447These days the boats are carrying more value in camera systems than the boat’s worth.

This morning was more like “Shark Fest” with back to back Manta Ray Bay shark dives.

Manta Fest Pro Insight

Today I got on David ‘s boat and at the dock I asked him for some suggestions on lighting.

Starting out with DSLR photography means learning stops and speeds, then proper lighting. The nightly presentations demonstrate excellent photography fundamentals and that experience is available to you here at Manta Fest.


IMG_7812After attending David and Marty’s class on using natural light and watching the evening presentations, I exercised some Manta Fest privileges and tapped into decades of photography knowledge while waiting to board the dive boat – I asked for some help.

I was given custom advice for my gear setup, and the dive site.

He started out with a couple of questions and then talked about the shooting environment.



At Vertigo, there’s so much action that you move your target a lot and pure manual settings can be a lot to manage.

He suggested I try letting my camera do some of the work and gave me a starting point.

“What are you shooting? What lens do you have?” – Cannon / Tokina 10-17.

David told me that my lens performs it’s best at F11 (and why), to utilize Aperture Priority mode to hold the f-stop, use my ISO setting to raise the shutter speed into the 100’ths of a second then shoot in TTL strobe mode. That was my starting point and during our surface interval he followed up with to make sure I got something out of it.

This is a huge part of Manta Fest, aside from all the poolside beers and good times – getting better at shooting sea life, the goal is to walk away a better shooter and possibly with a deluxe prize or two.


Vertigo hosted us in typical form today. We had about 40 Grey and Black Tip reef sharks circling under the boat and swimming well into our personal space.

Earlier Tim Rock was talking about Vertigo and said it is one of the only places in the world you get this close to this many Black Tip reef sharks – stating that Black Tips are typically shy in nature and more skittish, but here you get almost too close.

IMG_7848That’s what you can expect here, when you’re on a Manta Ray Bay shark dive, you are surrounded by reef sharks that buzz you in their swim pattern

We had good sun and triple digit visibility out there which means deep blue backgrounds in our pictures.

I wasn’t the only one on the reef trying out last night’s natural lighting tips – shooting silhouettes with cleaner lines and freezing the sunlight. So far the instruction and workshops are showing results.

Next up: Histograms and developing RAWs.

More Media and Pro Info

The evening presentation was given by Frank Schneider on shooting models, in and out of the water.

Ray Bullion is up next with some non- DLSR photo information to help point-and-shoot photographers get the most out of their equipment.

Tomorrow Bill and his wife Patricia are hosting a three-tank day on Popou and going to show the guests the southern walls of Yap. There will be both wide angle and macro opportunities throughout the day tour.

Stay tuned for some contestant photography, so far asking around, I got the old, “None of mine are ready yet…” answer, but I’ll stay on it until we get actual Manta Fest media going here.

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