Take Great U/W Photos in Eight Days-or Less!
Enroll in the Cathy Church Super Course

By Geri Murphy

Underwater photography can be an exceptionally gratifying experience or a totally frustrating nightmare. The difference between the two is knowledge and hands-on experience. Cathy Church, the world's best known underwater photo educator, provides both-during a wonderful fun filled week of tropical diving and underwater photo experiences in the Cayman Islands.

If you want to take great underwater photographs, enroll in one of Cathy Church's creative photo courses. You will learn faster and have more fun than you would on your own and you will avoid the aggravation of the inevitable, costly pitfalls of trial and error. Cathy has been taking pictures underwater for more than 30 years. She is a master teacher who has taught photography to more divers than anyone in the world. She has authored (or co-authored) four books and more than 220 articles on the subject. You will not only get the right answers but Cathy and her husband Herb Rafael will keep you laughing, too, so watch out for surprises.


Cathy's deluxe eight day Super Course at Sunset House (south of George Town on Grand Cayman) is the only course of its kind in the world. She provides structured learning, superb service and lots of fun. Cathy and Herb open the doors at 6:30 am and it still surprises Cathy to see how many students are eagerly waiting to see their film at dawn. Cathy and Herb's terrific assistant, Mark Stephenson, arrives even earlier to prepare the complimentary coffee, tea, pastries and fruit. These people think of everything-you get a free coffee mug for the week and they even wash it for you every night. Each morning, Herb and Mark help set up the equipment while Cathy critiques film taken the day before. She adjusts to each individual-an easy critique for beginners (who are just glad to have brought the camera back) and more meticulous suggestions for improvement for advanced students who aspire to take the world's greatest pictures. Everyone gets plenty of praise and encouragement. Cathy doesn't just relay the facts, she leaves you feeling good.

Nowhere else in the world can you get this much personal service. During the shallow, three hour dive, just return to the stern of the boat and (yes, you read this right, a three hour dive) Herb or Mark will change your film, batteries or lenses. A divemaster provides you with a fresh tank and a third crew member serves a tasty snack of fruit, carrot sticks, candy, cookies, soda, juice, etc. In the water, Cathy will show you her famous "Light Beam in the Grotto" setup, tell you what camera settings to use and help you take the picture. Herb will bring a tame angelfish into your close-up framer or Mark will show you a rare crab or pose in the hull of a shipwreck. There's so much attention, all you have to do is breathe and click the shutter. The water is warm and calm, so you can relax and create with your camera and subject. You can't help but become a better photographer.

The afternoon lecture for beginners starts with Cathy's famous introduction, "This is the front of the camera and this.." Lessons become more advanced through the week as she covers everything from maintenance and composition to natural light, wide angle, balanced flash, close-ups and multiple strobes. Cathy teaches use of the Nikonos (including RS) systems, as well as all housed and Sea & Sea cameras. She has considerable experience with her Nikon F4 in an Aquatica housing. She has also used Ikelite housings extensively and has taught students with almost every commonly housed camera system.

Whether you are a beginner or advanced, traveling alone or with a photo buddy, this multi-level course is for you. Students set their own goals; some start with an emphasis on improving buoyancy control and diving skills, some want proper exposures more consistently, while others want to learn how to use multiple strobes.

The comfortable, air-conditioned classroom has work areas assigned for each student, a large light table for viewing film, a table for group instruction and a four projector audio/visual system for slide shows.


Many students have heard the lectures several times but still want the service and personal attention of a Super Course. For them, Cathy has designed a new course. There will be fewer structured lectures. They will be replaced with slide shows, critter talks and more free afternoons for individual help. There will also be two more wall dives with a 90 minute shallow dive instead of the three hour dive.

Past students spiritedly describe Cathy as enthusiastic, inspiring and caring. Her animated lectures are clear and well structured. Past students will also attest to the tireless effort Cathy and her staff devote to their students. Many people repeat her courses over and over, each time absorbing more information.


You set your own pace and choose your own topics during private classes with Cathy. You can work together by the hour, both above water and underwater, on shore dives or on your own chartered boat. If you want to stop and write down every word, she will wait and if you want her to speed up she can do that, too!


On Grand Cayman you can visit Cathy at her photo center at Sunset House or you may find her at her new gallery at Coconut Place on Seven Mile Beach, just south of the Holiday Inn.

If you want to try underwater photography, this is the place to start! You can enjoy an afternoon photo class with her wonderful staff. These classes begin with an hour and a half of hands-on instruction on using the Nikonos V or Sea & Sea cameras to get great photos of small creatures. A shore dive follows, with an instructor to guide you to photogenic critters and help you get great photographs. The second course covers standard and wide angle lenses with strobe. The third class covers advanced wide angle techniques with balanced strobe. The fourth one is booked as a private class with Cathy and covers multiple strobe lighting. Any two courses earn you a PADI or SSI specialty rating.

Of course, some vacationing divers don't wish to learn everything. They simply want an underwater camera setup so they can snap the picture. For this super easy task, customers can rent (at the lowest prices anywhere) a complete Nikonos system (with wide angle lens) preloaded with film, plus an opportunity to view an easy to understand video mini lesson. The wide angle lens assures wonderful reef and dive buddy photographs.


It seems as if the fun never ends. You will love Cathy's special trips to the world's finest photo destinations. In the Solomon Islands, on the MV Bilikiki, she offers a free five day photo class with informal hands-on sessions covering camera maintenance, extension tubes, wide angle lenses, balanced flash, etc. and evening slide shows on composition and lighting.

Cathy also takes time out from her own picture taking to get you started underwater. When special creatures are discovered, rather than keep them to herself, she makes sure everyone in the group has an opportunity to get the best possible photograph, video or just a good look (not everyone has to be a photographer).

The Bilikiki is a wonderful live-aboard dive boat. It is large, comfortable, has a friendly staff, great food and marvelous service. Cathy and Herb have enjoyed more than eight perfect trips on this vessel and will make sure you come home with good photos of plenty of strange and new creatures.

Cathy has been to Chuuk (Truk Lagoon) seven times and still raves about the soft corals, the enormous wrecks and the fascinating artifacts. You will love the convenience of the Truk Aggressor II, moored safely over each wreck. When the dive is deep and the points of interest are limited, she divides the group so that only a few divers at a time are in the water. Since there is no travel time, everyone still gets maximum bottom time for the day.

The Palau trip, aboard the spacious, stable, luxurious, multi-hulled Palau Aggressor II, is an incredible tour with plenty of sharks, manta rays and fast drift dives.

On all of these tours, Cathy is available to answer photo questions, critique film and trouble shoot problems. She brings her camera repair tools and just in case she can't repair broken equipment, she has back up camera systems available for her guests.

If you want to find out what everyone is raving about, join Cathy for your next underwater excursion. The best testimonial to how super her courses and tours are is in the bookings-they always fill!