The massive, three-level camera table sits empty. The dive deck
is momentarily quiet. A rare moment of silence and contemplation before
the guests begin to arrive.
Soon the dive table is crowded with underwater camerasboth still
and video. Some of the divers fiddle with their equipment, others mingle
and chat, anxious to weigh anchor and begin the adventureand the
learning. These divers have come halfway around the world to the undersea
nirvana of Palau for an underwater photo course. In the middle of the
group, Stan Waterman, a renowned photographer/videographer who will
be teaching alongside me, has already started telling stories.
Students come with a variety of experience levels. Some have just purchased
their equipment and want to get a good grasp
on the basics. Others arrive ex-pecting to hone their skills with a few secrets from the pros.
Live-aboards, such as the Palau Aggressor, are ideal floating classrooms
for an underwater photography course. Your stateroom, dining room, classroom,
camera table, light boxes and television are just minutes away from
the dive site. Using the schedule of a recent underwater still and video
course taught by Stan Waterman and myself, let me tell you what you
School begins before the first dive of the morning, with brief overviews
and a short (12 to 17 minute) slide show, followed by discussions on
strobes, lenses, metering, close-ups, shooting divers and underwater
photo composition. After the questions are answered, the divers hit
the water to practice.
Later in the day, the instruction becomes more personal. Stan and I
work with individuals and small groups with different interests, while
others use the tables to work on their equipment, or dub and edit videos
at the computer station in the forward lounge.
When Stan is aboard, the evenings are special. A master entertainer,
Stan plays one or more of his video productions. Then, he explains the
story-building techniques that he uses, such as introductions, transitions,
endings and much more. His instruction is humorous and sugar-coated.
For the diving, the aspiring U/W photographers board the 32-foot covered skiff at deck level. The ride to the dive site is usually less than 10 minutes. Two or three local divemasters help students find subjects they are interested in capturing. Some DMs specialize in finding the big stuffrays, sharks and pelagic fish. Others are the eagle eyes who can always find the tiny critters.
Throughout the week, Stan and I observe the students and help correct
errors on the spotunderwater.
By the end of the week, the budding U/W photographers have usually
blossomed in some way. And, more importantly, the groups often develop
close friendships with both the instructors and other students that
extend beyond the end of the trip. I even see students on other charters,
traveling and refining their skills with their newfound shutter-buddies.
While this article focuses on a specific course with two specific instructors on a specific vessel, other quality live-aboard photo/video courses do existaboard Aggressors and other vessels.
For more information about courses featuring Stan and/or Jim, go to www.aggressor.com, and click on celebrity charters.