At the 9th annual MantaFest photography festival we welcome last year’s entire winner’s circle, several first timer’s, Steven Miller and Ikelite as well as Solmar V and Siren Fleet. Presenting this year from left to right; Ray Bullion, Andy Shumacher, Bill Acker, Steven Miller, Frank Schneider and Brad Holland.
MantaFest is a small event with big prizes, a welcoming crowd and many familiar faces.
We welcome back our winners; Returning Best of Show winner Jim Decker and wife Chris, last year’s dSRL winner, at their first MantaFest, with Ann Donahue our returning non-dSLR winner and husband Keith who competes in dSLR as well as Judy Bennett who has never missed a year and has been the Queen of the event several times in dSLR and Anke who was Best of Show dSLR winner three years ago.
The family grows and our winners brought a new winner to the circle, Steve Kopp, who placed first in several dSLR categories.
MantaFest kicked off with a dive briefing by Bill with an introduction of our new photographic dive plans.
This year we ran an updated workshop program that included advanced topics combined with an advanced shooting scenario – “sunset shark splits” were the buzzwords at this year’s event.
Steven Miller presented split images and Frank Schneider presented shooting sharks at vertigo as their advanced photography workshops.
Specific time was built into the dive plans to allow for additional opportunities to shoot shark split images and we made special trips at sunset to get creative during both weeks.
It turns out that split images are Steven Miller’s thing and he likes to push creative boundaries in his photography.
He thought that sharks and splits should be a daily thing here in Yap and loved the opportunity.
The daily workshop schedule led off with a dedicated workshop on shooting split images, or “over unders”.
Steven walked us through the whole checklist on being productive capturing splits – and the next morning we were dome to face with reef sharks.
Vertigo is the most productive dive site in Yap as far as big animal guarantees go, and it’s a ten on the predictability scale, making for a target rich photographic environment.
Vertigo a special place to interact with reef sharks, the way we do it here is as close as you’re comfortable.
The next best thing to holding still, is a subject that comes back around over and over… says any photographer.
Shooting isn’t easy, most of the dSLR camera systems are awkward, heavy and not fun to use half in, and half out, of the water.
The trick is to nail the sky, nail the shark, and get a sharp split… while holding the camera over the side of the boat waiting for the shark to swim close enough.
Everyday photographers had the opportunity to practice this shot in near perfect conditions – it requires calm seas, no wind, clear water and sharks as close as possible.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, the week’s second advanced workshop was Frank Schneider talking about shooting these sharks, literally, these exact sharks.
Frank’s been here many times and has his own style of getting the shot, he studies the animal and works with whatever it’s doing to get the creative angle he’s looking for.
Frank says that shooting reef sharks is a challenge because they’re always moving and are fast. His workshop discusses shark behavior and how to apply it to your photography.
Showing us published photos of sharks at Vertigo, Frank explains how he made it happen.
It was busy days, always something to learn, something to do, something to photograph and someone available for one-on-one training. Afternoon workshops for photo and video, dSLR and compact camera and GoPro headlined with short cultural site tours, afternoon macro dives, mandarinfish dive, night dive or shoot shark splits at sunset were other options.
The hour of most engagement was “Happy Hour with the Presenters”, feel free to bring your camera, laptop, housing, dome or all of the above with your personal questions – that went off well with everyone.
Presenters were busy with housings, cameras, Lightroom and Photoshop questions and giving guests custom advice to help get their photography to the next level.
This is where our photography grew and these moments reflected in our images. For some it was simply learning how to watermark images, for others it was Lightroom filters and advanced Photoshop layers – regardless of the level of photographer everyone walked out with some new game.
MantaFest is a party and Saturday afternoon we all cut lose at a private beach to throw down on the grill and hang out in thatch huts where you can kick it with Bill and toss back beers in one corner, and get some custom shooting input from Frank Schneider, in the other.
The environment is a traditional Yapese village, gold sand beach with coconut trees and a blue lagoon… but it’s still MantaFest and photography is what’s up right now, cameras were out, a drone was flying around and it was photog play time.
The diving went off with conditions fit for a photography contest. The sharks were a hit in the contest photo submissions along with mating octopus, mantas and some fun macro.
Everything flowed smoothly into the awards night where more than $25,000 in prizes was handed out, that included three liveaboard trips with Dive Damai, Solmar V and Siren Fleet.
Check out the winning images on our facebook page or view these albums:
Presenters all gathered on the Mnuw to organize the photo submissions and we got our first look at what we would be judging this year.
Photogs shot it out in ,five categories; big animals, macro, behavior, reef scenic and people, land & culture.
Next year we will be running an all-inclusive program that will include some new workshops, photography challenges and shooting scenarios – August 26th – September 10th.