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Archive for March, 2017

Ewa Marine U-B100 Underwater Housing

During previous trips to the Caribbean island of Cayman Brac, in the Cayman Islands I used a Sony RX100 in a dedicated underwater housing with very good success. On my most recent trip I decided that it was time to take my Nikon D800 & Nikon D500 into the ocean, however, I could not really justify the expense of a dedicated housing for these cameras at this point in time. Since I would only be using the cameras while snorkeling, I was planning to rely solely on ambient light for underwater photography. After a bit of research I decided that an Ewa Marine underwater housing would be my choice of housing for the recently concluded trip to Cayman Brac. I purchased the Ewa Marine U-B100 housing which is designed for use with professional cameras and for lenses with a filter diameter of 77mm or 82mm. The housing comes with the 77mm adapter (the 82mm adpater is optional) that allows you to firmly position the lens inside the lens port and flush against the optical glass element. The Ewa Marine housing is made from special, multi-layered, laminated PVC to ensure safety and durability and all seams are double welded. Two rails are fastened together by means of three thumb screws to securely close the opening to the housing. There is a sepcailly designed pocket molded into the design for your finger to reach the shutter release button on the camera. All other functions are accessed through the thick laminated PVC – a difficult but not impossible task.

Spotted Stonefish, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 32mm (48mm effective focal length)
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/125 sec

On my first snorkel trip with the Ewa Marine housing I quickly discovered that I had left too much air in the housing and was subsequently very hard to dive down with the housing. I opened the housing and using a straw sucked out as much air as I could and then re-sealed the housing, which worked perfectly.Ewa Marine does sell an optional lead weight that goes inside this housing and after using the housing for a couple of weeks I believe that the weight would be an added benefit to using this housing.

Southern Stingray, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D800
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 23mm
ISO 500
f16 @ 1250 sec

As I researched this particular housing via blogs and You Tube videos there was a common theme. One was that the lens adapter was very difficult to fit against the optical glass port and the other being virtually impossible to operate camera controls and zoom lenses. I had no difficulty whatsoever fitting the lens into the lens port and while camera functions are more difficult to adjust I was able to make exposure adjustments and zoom the lens as required while underwater.

Peacock Flounder, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 32mm (48mm effective focal length)
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/200 sec

I used both my Nikon D800 and Nikon D500 cameras with no issues at all. My lens of choice for use in the housing was the Nikkor AF-S 18-35mm lens which did vignette slightly, at 18mm, on the Nikon D800. When the lens was zoomed to about 20mm the vignetting disappeared. I chose to use the 18-35mm lens as it focuses down to 12 inches throughout it’s focal range. In underwater photography the closer you can get to your subjects the better the image quality will be. You must minimize the amount of water between you and your subject for better clarity.

Octopus, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 34mm
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/160 sec

I am looking forward to using the housing on Horseshoe Lake this summer where I will use it for frog photography and freshwater fish imagery too. If you are curious about trying your hand at underwater photography I would highly recommend an Ewa Marine housing to get you started. I purchased my Ewa Marine U-B100 housing from B&H Photo. Please note that I am in no way affiliated with Ewa Marine or B&H Photo. I simply wanted to provide you with an honest, real-world review after my experience with this housing.

I am often amazed by the ability of ocean fish to superbly camouflage themselves. This is especially evident in the highly venomous Spotted Stonefish, a member of the scorpionfish family. Fortunately Stonefish only use their venom as a means of self-defence, however, accidentally stepping on one does mean a trip to the nearest hospital!

Please do remember to click on each photo to see the larger, sharper version. Which one is your favorite?

Barracuda, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D800
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 28mm
ISO 500
f11 @ 1/320 sec

 

Spotted Stonefish, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D800
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 34mm
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/200 sec

 

Southern Stingray, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 34mm (51mm effective focal length)
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/320 sec

 

Octopus Inking, Cayman Brac
Nikon D800
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 24mm
ISO 500
f11 @ 1/400 sec

 

Spotted Stonefish, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D800
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 34mm
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/400 sec

 

Spotted Stonefish, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 24mm ( 36mm effective focal length)
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/160 sec

 

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I’d like to announce an awesome eBook entitled “ONE IMAGE” authored by good friend, fellow photographer, and colleague Kyle McDougall. ONE IMAGE is a 196 page eBook that is full of inspirational landscape photographs, all created using Kyle’s one image methodology with stellar results. As Kyle states within the early pages of the book: “In a nutshell, the One Image process is the act of setting out to create only a single photograph while on location, or at the very least, exhausting all of your options before moving on to the next.”

In this day and age where it seems photographs are judged by the number of likes they receive on Facebook or Instagram. ONE IMAGE is thought-provoking, adaptable and flexible concept that reminds us to slow down, become one with nature, and make deliberate decisions when crafting our landscape imagery, rather than run around a location creating a multitude of images only to select our favorite image at the home computer. Something we are all guilty of at one point or another during our photographical pursuits.

From the first chapter “Concept – Take Control of Your Art” to the last chapter “Moving Forward” Kyle reminds us of one of the most important and thought-provoking points that we must first and foremost be creating our photography for ourselves. After all did we not purchase our camera gear because we enjoy taking photographs?

The ONE IMAGE process will raise your awareness for creating meaningful landscape imagery by making deliberate and specific choices when crafting your photographs, by consciously deciding what to include or exclude, and by understanding light and how it plays a significant role in shaping the resulting photograph.

ONE IMAGE will help you develop a workflow that will guide you through the process of creating meaningful landscape imagery for YOU! Just as Kyle states on page 185 Take the time. Do the work. Be thoughtful. Be unique. Create for yourself”

To order your copy of ONE IMAGE please click here.

 

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Brown Booby Silhouette, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 200mm (300mm equivalent)                                             ISO 400                                                                                                                                                   f11 @ 1/1000 sec

 

My chosen time to travel to Cayman Brac has always been towards the end of February as this timing will often allow for great imagery of the nesting Brown Booby. It provides the greatest opportunity to create imagery of birds at the nest, birds with newly hatched chicks, and nests with almost fledged young. These large seabirds typically nest high up on the edge of Cayman Brac’s bluff and in recent years they have also begun to nest on the ground close to the shoreline. They are often tolerant of human presence however I do still choose to photograph them with a long lens, especially when they have chicks at the nest so as to avoid causing any undue stress to them. This year I did note that several of the birds I photographed were tagged as scientists begin to study their declining numbers. During daylight hours Brown Booby can be encountered just about anywhere on the island as they fly across the sea in search of food to feed their young. One of the parents watches over the chick as the other goes to fetch a meal. As evening approaches both males and females can be found with the chick at the nest sites as they settle in for the night. Generally Brown Booby only have one chick to raise. An interesting behavior that I noticed while observing the parents at the nests of older chicks is that the adults continuously pick up sticks and pass them to the chicks.

On one occasion I had the opportunity to photograph these large sea birds from the water. While snorkeling at one of the sites I frequented Brown Booby would often perch on the rocks to rest in between flights out over the ocean for food. I snorkeled in reasonably close to these rocks and using my Nikon D500 with the Nikkor 18-35mm lens in an Ewa Marine underwater housing created a sea level perspective of the birds. I do wish that there was a larger congregation of birds on the rocks to give the image more impact, but nonetheless I think it provides a different view at these fascinating birds.

Here is a collection of Brown Booby imagery from my recent trip.

 

Brown Booby, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D800
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 330mm
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/1000 sec

 

Brown Booby Chick, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 500mm (750mm equivalent)
ISO 800
f11 @ 1/50 sec

 

Brown Booby Details, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 500mm (750mm equivalent)
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/1000 sec

 

Brown Booby with Chick, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 290mm (435mm equivalent)
ISO 400
f11 @ 1/400 sec

 

Brown Booby Silhouette, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 200mm (300mm equivalent)
ISO 400
f11 @ 1/1000 sec

 

Brown Booby in Flight, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 240mm (360mm equivalent)
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/640 sec

 

Brown Booby with Chick, BWI
Nikon D800
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 210mm
ISO 400
f11 @ 1/500 sec

 

A Brown Booby-scape, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D500
Nikkor 18-35mm lens @ 18mm (27mm equivalent)
ISO 500
f13 @ 1/640 sec
Ewa Marine Underwater Housing
Handheld while snorkeling

 

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Epipedobates anthonyi – captive

Without a doubt dart frogs, also known as poison arrow frogs, are among the most colorful animals on Earth. A fascinating fact about them is that in the wild they develop their deadly toxins from their food source of ants and termites. In captivity these amphibians are fed cultivated wingless fruit flies which results in them losing their toxicity, rendering them harmless. Nonetheless, they retain their vibrant coloration.

On Saturday May 13 at 10:00 a.m. you too can have an opportunity to photograph 20 different species of dart frogs in my exclusive Darts Frogs of the Amazon Rainforest being held at the Crinan Community Centre located at 13568 Dunborough Line in West Elgin, Ontario, near London, Ontario. For further information please check out the early blog announcement for this workshop by clicking here or by visiting my Workshops page on the website by clicking here.

This post features only a sampling of species we will be photographing in a comfortable setting with realistic studio set-ups. One lucky participant will also be walking away with a door prize supplied by Wimberley!

There are still a few spaces available for this workshop. Please contact me by clicking here to register for the workshop.

 

Dendrobates tinctorius (Citronella) – captive

 

Dendrobates leucomelas – captive

 

Phyllobates terribilis (mint) – captive

 

Ameerega pongoensis – captive

 

Dendrobates auratus campana – captive

 

Phyllobates terribilis – captive

 

Phyllobates vittatos – captive

 

Ranitomeya amazonica – captive

 

Ranitomeya fantastica – captive

 

Ranitomeya imitator – captive

 

Dendrobates tinctorius (Azureus) – captive

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Silver Thatch Palm at Sunset, Cayman Brac, Cayman Island, BWI
Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm Lens
ISO 200
f11 @ 1/50

 

I have been hard at work editing the many thousands of images created during my two week trip to the Caribbean island of Cayman Brac within Cayman Islands. Each morning I awoke at 5:30 a.m. to be on location roughly one hour prior to sunrise. One of the key elements to successful landscape imagery is to arrive for work on time! For me that means being on site long before sunrise and staying well past sunset. Often I find my favorite photos are created in the brief window of opportunity prior to sunrise or they are created after the sun has dipped below the horizon. The opening photo for this blog post, the Cayman Islands national tree, is the Silver Thatch Palm Trees was created one evening while I was up on the bluff photographing Brown Booby birds in soft light and decided to take advantage of my Nikkor 200-55mm lens to isolate these trees against the beautiful glowing sky.

 

Below are some early morning scenes from Pollard Bay on the island’s south east side. Here the Caribbean Sea rolls into the rugged iron shore that surrounds much of island. This area is by far my favorite sunrise location on the island and when the seas get rough tide pools are created on the rugged shoreline rock creating lots of foreground interest. For each of the Pollard Bay images I used my never-leave-home-without-it Singh-Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter. And furthermore, since each image was created in pre-dawn light I was able to use long shutter speeds to smooth out the ocean waves so that they would not become a distracting element within each scene.

Pollard Bay, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 15 seconds
Singh Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

 

Pollard Bay, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 8 seconds
Singh Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

 

Pollard Bay, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 15 seconds
Singh Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

 

Pollard Bay, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 5 seconds
Singh Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

 

On the morning of February 26th when I headed out there was a persistent drizzle in the air, but that did not deter me from making the 20 minute drive up to the bluff to photograph an inclement weather sunrise looking out across the Caribbean Sea – I was certain there would be a little bit of color peaking through as the sun rose.

 

Sunrise From The Bluff, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 2 seconds
Singh Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

 

Sunrise on Caribbean Sea, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 1.3 seconds
Singh Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

 

On February 28th I was in the mood for a sandy beach sunrise, which brought me to the public beach area which has several large rocks scattered about that make for nice foreground elements. Again in pre-dawn light a long shutter speed allowed for the blurring of the incoming waves which were starting to get much larger as the winds were getting much stronger at this point in the trip.

 

Public Beach, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm lens
ISO 50
f16 @ 4 seconds
Singh Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

 

One part of this recently concluded trip that I was looking most forward to was the underwater photography I had planned to do with both the Nikon D800 and Nikon D500. I purchased an Ewa Marine Housing for this part of the trip but that will be reviewed here on the blog shortly. I did, however, take a few underwater sea-scapes with that set-up of which two of my favorites can be seen below. I only wish a shark could have been swimming through these sea-scape scenes 🙂

 

Sea-Scape, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm lens
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/200 sec

 

Sea-Scape, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm lens
ISO 500
f11 @ 1/320 sec

 

Please do remember to click on each image to view the larger, sharper version.

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Sunrise at Pollard Bay on Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, BWI
Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 18mm
ISO 250
f16 @ 30 seconds
Singh-Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

I returned from a two week stay on Cayman Brac in the Cayman Islands on March 8th and have been busy processing the image files this week. I will share many more images here in the coming days, including a selection of underwater photos captured using my Nikon cameras in an Ewa Marine Housing. First I thought I would share my gear bag for this trip. My go-to pack for traveling light is the Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack which is distributed in Canada by Gentec International. I am always amazed at how much gear I can fit into this well designed pack that meets the current carry-on luggage requirements of airlines. Here is what I packed into this gear bag for the trip:

  • Nikon D800
  • Nikon D500
  • Nikkor 18-35mm Lens
  • Nikkor 105mm Micro Lens
  • Nikkor 200-500mm Lens
  • Nikon SB400 Spedlight
  • Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket
  • 77mm Polarizing Filter
  • 95mm Polarizing Filter
  • Singh-Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter
  • Cable Release
  • Gepe Card Holder
  • 2 extra batteries for the camera bodies and lithium AA batteries for for the SB400

Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack

The total weight of the gear bag fully packed was 19lbs, which was a tad over the weight requirement for the Twin Otter flight from Grand Cayman to Cayman Brac but the good folks from Cayman Air were fine with me carrying my camera gear with me on the flight. Packed in my checked luggage was my MeFoto Travel Tripod, which was carried in the tripod pocket of the Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack once I arrived on Cayman Brac. The water repellent fabric of the pack and the included rain cover came in particularly useful towards the end of my trip as the winds became very strong with 8-10 foot waves crashing into the island’s iron shore causing significant salt spray. It was comforting to know that my gear was safe in the pack when not is use. To read my earlier, in-depth review of this great gear bag please click here.

Stay tuned for much more form this beautiful Caribbean island getaway. To view a larger and sharper version of today’s featured image from Pollard Bay on the island’s south easterly side please do click on the image.

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