Jan 3, 2012 - The Ultimate Shark Challenge

Scroll Down for the "Ultimate Shark Challenge" story.

Photo of the Week.
Sand Tiger Sharks on the buoy deck of the USCG Cutter Spar.

Just a Few Words First
      I have experienced some pretty exciting New Years Eve's in the past such as, four back to back trips in to Times Square, NY and a millennium party in the bush of Mozambique. This year, I got to experience my first New Years Eve in Southern Style.  A good friend of Annette and I invited us to her small farm house outside of Beaufort, NC. It was here were we met some great down to earth people and celebrated till the wee hours of the morning. The food was all potluck and included some traditional items such as fried collard greens, black eyed peas and grilled local oysters which we was washed down with plenty of good beer and wine. Pretty soon the  fireworks were pulled out and then the evening really got going.  At first I stood back so not to accidentally get singed or blown up with low flying ordinace, but then I lapsed in to a state of regression therapy and jumped right in shooting rockets off like a teenager. As this was going on a couple of guys decided to take the farm tractor out for a spin driving in circles around the massive fire pit that was keeping us all warm through the night. After nearly running a few lawn chairs over the tractor drivers came to their senses and shut it down.  After a few more hours of eating oysters, drinking a few beers and shooting off more fireworks, midnight arrived but with little fan fare. Someone looked at their watch and said it was midnight, we all said Happy New Year and then I went back to being intrigued with the pyrotechnics and shot off more rockets. By the end of the night, after probably becoming fed up, one of the dogs evolved into a more intelligent species than us humans and decided to disappear for the rest of the night. We looked with flashlights for an hour or so but we all knew this dog did not want to be found. At sunup, the owner awoke to have another look for her beloved pet and no sooner than she opened the door, their he was traipsing through the field and back in to the house were all us humans sat, mulling over a great evening and readying ourselves for 2012. 


     I for one am extremely optimistic about this coming year. Let's just call it a hunch, but I suspect the dismal economy that has plagued us for more than three years will improve, unemployment rates will decrease and housing prices stabilize. When this happens people will be able to return to doing what they love to do in their spare time. To be more specific they will have more time and money to GO DIVING! I for one am weary of digging through my couch cushions looking for spare change to apply towards my photography habit and look forward to a prosperous year of diving in the lap of luxury with some new camera gear. Before any of you dismiss what I'm saying with your negative energy just remember that positive thinking is a powerful entity, so join me in my desire for a grand year of diving and it will come to fruition. 


All the best to you in 2012!


-Mike
     
The Ultimate Shark Challenge
        Not too long ago I heard some guys talking on the boat I captain, the Midnight Express with Olympus Dive Center, about a shark tournament, where all the sharks were released alive after caught and measured. This has not been the standard in most shark fishing contests since the sharks were brought back to the dock for weighing, photos and bragging rights, so I decided to do a little research on the net and find out what this was about. Sure enough, I discovered a new style of tournament where no sharks are landed or killed. I'm not a supporter of fishing tournaments that land fish for the sake of prize money, but I do understand there economic significance. This new style of tournament could change the industry.
     Catch and release sport fishing tournaments, both fresh and salt water, have been around for more than three decades. The rules of these tournaments are varied from one to the next but the general policy is just like it sounds. You catch a fish, keep it alive, weigh and measure it and then release it, hopefully, while it is still alive. The angler with the biggest and/or most fish caught has the chance winning a cash prize and prestige that goes along with it. The purses for such tournaments can run in to the hundreds of thousands of dollars. These catch and release practices were established by the sport fishing industry as an attempt to conserve fish stocks for a more sustainable long term industry that is vital to our economy. How vital? It is estimated, by the American Sportfishing Association, that as of 2011, there is $125 billion worth in economic output and more than one million American jobs in the recreational sport fishing industry alone.  That's bigger than IBM.  These tournaments, that are an integral part of the industry, are here to stay wether you like them or not.

         There are catch and release tournaments for dozens of different fish species from fresh water bass to the pelagic ocean going marlin and of course sharks. It is not possible to keep large bill fish alive for the weighing process, so only a select few are actually landed in the hopes of a prize while most are released. There is not much of a commercial fishing market for billfish in the US so the landed fish that are brought to shore for the weigh-in are either donated to marine science research or tossed out in to the trash. The killing of even a few fish, is of course not ideal, but it is a vast improvement from past practices where every fish was landed, returned to shore and tossed in to a dumpster regardless if it would yield a prize. (This article doesn't discuss the negative effects of by-catch in the commerical fishing industry but it's shortcomings are recognized.) 
        Shark tournaments have also been widely popular in sport fishing in the US as in the rest of the world, but have not been given the same respect as bill fish or other fresh water species of game fish.  Sharks have been seen as enemy number one in the oceans and are caught and landed with impunity even if the angler intends to consume it or not. It is not uncommon at marinas to see a sport fisherman proudly posing next to a shark with its rows of razor sharp teeth highlighted. Once the photo is taken and the jaw removed for posterity the sharks that are not edible are tossed out with the trash. For that matter many of the edible ones are also tossed out as well. These tournaments are not about catching sustenance but are all about ego and cash prizes that show contempt for sharks and teach nothing about how vital they are to the overall marine ecosystem. After all, an ocean without sharks will inevitably harm humans by disrupting the natural order in the food chain and diminish food stocks that are already suffering today.
     With the growing worldwide movement in marine and shark conservation, wasteful sport fishing practices such as these are drawing a lot of negative criticism from environmentalists, scientists and the general public alike. There is hope though for saving sharks and the billion dollar industry they are a part of with a new type of tournament. Famed angler, artists and conservationist, Guy Harvey, founder of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation has introduced a novel catch and release shark tournament, the Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge, founded  in 2009. Prizes are rewarded to the angler(s) who score points based on the length and variety of shark species caught, but not the weight. No shark is permitted to leave the water at any time and all must be released alive. In addition, many of the sharks are tagged with the hope of yielding valuable scientific data. (Read more about the tournament rules here.) So far, this tournament has been well received by environmentalists, anglers and scientists alike for combining the goals of sport, science and conservation. I encourage you to read more about Guy Harvey, his work and this tournament in particular at the links provided. The job of maintaining and protecting our environment is a complex one that will need continued innovation and cooperation to be successful in the future. Guy Harvey's ground breaking shark tournament is just one step of many in the right direction towards these goals.
       
         If you have insight or an opinion you would like to contribute on  tournament fishing and shark conservation, I encourage you to leave a comment or contact me to share this information. Thank you.


Dive News
Newsletter Sign Up
     I will be simultaneously posting this blog report and sending out my first experimental Dive & Photo Newsletter via email. The newsletter will cover news items and links to stories that I find significant to the diving industry and marine conservation. It will also give you updates on what is going on in my part of the dive world. If you would like to receive the newsletter please click here to fill out your form. If you don't enjoy it you can always unsubscribe later. Sign up now though and automatically enter for a chance to win a fine art print of your choice from my portfolio. The drawing will be on January 15th.

Beneath the Sea Dive Expo  
I am pleased to announce that one of my underwater photo workshops was chosen to be conducted at Beneath the Sea diving expo in Secuaucus, NJ on March, 25th of 2012. The title of the workshop will be, Wreck Photography Techniques: Wide Angle to Macro. If you would like to sign up for the course please click here. I will also be conducting two presentations. One on the film I produced, The Wrecks of Truk Lagoon and the second on North Carolina Wreck Diving. The schedule is to be announced on these.

The 10th Annual Penguin Plunge
Penguins plunging on New Years Day, Atlantic Beach, NC.
      This is not exactly diving news but since we are not doing much diving this time of year in North Carolina this story will have to do. The Penguin Plunge is a not for profit organization that makes efforts to raise funds for local charities. On New Years Day those interested parties can brave the frigid waters and make a mad dash down the beach and jump in to the Atlantic Ocean. This year came to be one of the biggest turn outs to date. Since I volunteered to take photos of the events, I opted not to take the dive myself. It had nothing to do with me not being man enough, but I didn't want my camera to get wet. (That is my excuse and I'm sticking to it.) This year there was a few special plungers taking part in the festivities. First, a woman took a swim and celebrated her 90th birthday!
I hope very much that I have her kind of fortitude at 90. Then again I hope I can find her fortitude right now. Next, a couple got married right on the beach in front of all the Penguins and they themselves jumped in with wedding dress on and all. What a wake up call that must have been that you just got married. No sooner did the newlyweds make there swim, a horde of mad human penguins came barreling down the beach towards the water in an image reminiscent of a battle scene in the movie Braveheart. The shrill cry of warriors doing battle in the surf was intimidating. I for one nearly got run over and water splashed on to my lens and camera.  The gang from Olympus Dive Center was there doing there part for charity with Robert Purifoy leading the pack.
"I do", now lets go get wet! 
The fact that many of us have not been in the water for some weeks now made the swim all the more worth while. Even though dive tanks and wetsuits were left at home it was still exhilarating all the same. As for me, I did manage to get wet up to my knee caps before retreating to the safety of the beach with a dry camera in hand. If you would like to see additional pictures of this event please visit  my Facebook page here.




Capt. Robert taking the plunge.

If you would like to sign up for one of my online photo lessons, visit my web site www.evolutionunderwater.com or contact mike@evolutionunderwater.com to learn how.


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Please visit Mike's web site

to peruse his portfolio of underwater photography, view his video excerpts from his documentary films and purchase fine art prints from his online gallery.


If you wish to dive North Carolina contact
Olympus Dive Center, Morhead City, NC.
Please leave comments. 
I would like to hear from you.



   







Dec 23, 2012 - Diving Therapy

Photo of the Week
Sand Tiger Shark atop the superstructure of the USCG Cutter Spar.

A Few Words First
     SCUBA Diving, as a form of therapy, has been a frequent theme in my Dive Blog Reports in the past and even as recently as the previous issue from Dec 15, 2011.  For years I have benefitted from diving's healing properties when it has help me cope with adverse times in my life. With the war in Iraq now officially ended and the men and women returning from over seas, I wanted to take a moment to touch on this theme again in this issue.  It could be of relevance to some.
       Also, win a free fine art print from my portfolio by simply signing up for Mike's Dive & Photo Newsletter (sign up here).  This newsletter will give you up to date dive industry and marine conservation news plus updates on my presentations and workshops. I will be drawing a name January 15th. The winner can pick out a print of their choice from my web site: www.evolutionunderwater.com. The first issue newsletter will be out shortly after the New Year.
     For you photo buffs out there scroll down within this blog and check out the Photo Tip of the Week and pick up the latest dive news from North Carolina and Olympus Dive Center.
     In my next Blog Report I'll be reporting on recent developments in shark fishing tournaments in the US and how these new practices are affecting the sport fishing industry, conservationist movements and scientific research alike.
     Thank's again to everyone who takes the time to view my Dive Blog. I have had a lot of fun writing this and sharing my work with you. 2012 is going to be an even better year. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!
-Mike
     
Diving Therapy

     Most people who participate in the sport of SCUBA diving will emphatically tell you that  being submerged in the alien, but beautiful underwater world, is both peaceful and euphoric as well as, calming and uplifting. For many, during tough times in their life, it is of all things, an emotionally healing experience. Everyone has their own inspirations for diving. Wether  you are simply having a bad week at work and need an escape, or a veteran seeking a way to over come the physical and emotional scars of war, SCUBA diving has proven to be a highly effective form of therapy for all.
     If there is anyone who is more aware of these healing properties, it would be the men and women from Soldiers Undertaking Disabled SCUBA or SUDS (Please read previous Blog Report on SUDS for more information: July 12, 2011 - SUDS & Subs). Many of these men & women, some who have suffered debilitating amputations and injuries, have discovered the  liberating feeling of weightlessness that diving offers and how it speeds up the healing process by promoting mobility. The success of this form of physical therapy can be easily measured with performance data while the emotional healing may be more difficult to determine, but is as important as any part of the healing process.
    Recently, I had a very insightful discussion on this topic with a Marine Officer and avid SCUBA diver about what diving has done for him since his return from duty. After serving three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) , he solemnly said to me, "SCUBA diving has been the most effective therapy I've found in over two years of medical treatment". "It helped save me". After speaking to him in more detail, I became deeply moved by his passion for diving and the solitude that it offers him. After a while, I began to try to relate his feeling for diving to mine.  After pondering this thought for a few moments, I concluded that I don't think I have ever felt this intense about diving, but I've also never had to deal with the traumatic effects of war.  Do I take for granted what the ocean and diving is? In some ways, maybe. This can be acquainted to a person whose home has a beautiful view of the mountains and has lived in this house their entire life. The first thing a new visitor entering this home will notice is the striking view, while the home owner may simply shrug it off as common. After all, the view has always been there. Can they feel as passionate as the person who just saw it for the first time? I have looked out my window often in the past, but after the conversation with this Marine Officer, I will be looking out it much more.
     Wether you are a wounded warrior or someone who simply is having a bad day, SCUBA diving  can be a effective form of therapy. It can offer tranquility and the opportunity to forget. The fact that we are merely visitors in the watery world and cannot stay long, is an added incentive to return again and again. If you are a diver and reading this you can already relate to what I'm saying. If you're not, and are looking for a needed diversion from life, then I can strongly recommend becoming a diver. If SCUBA diving is beyond your means there  is more than one way to feel the healing effects of being immersed in water. Visit your local beach, lake or watering hole and try snorkeling or just take a splash and swim around.  If all else eludes you then simply fill up your bath tub up and allow the water to soak in and sooth your skin. It can help cure whatever ails you and put a smile on your face where there was none before.


Enjoy the view. Always!
(The summit of Blackcomb Mt., Whistler/Blackcomb, BC.)



Dive News from NC
     All is quite in the dive world at Olympus Dive Center here in Morehead City. Last week, the 'six pack' charter boat, the Thomas S out of Olympus Dive Center did made it out to the wreck of the Tako which is a small tug only a few miles off Atlantic Beach. Visibility was about 12' and the water temp a chilly 57 degrees, but the wreck was loaded with black sea bass, sheepshead and flounder. A good time was reported by all who went. The dive wimp that I am, I was home with my fireplace running, drinking tea and staring at my camera gear piled in the corner. Woe is me.
      Olympus will be running charters all winter if the demand is there. So give them a call at 252-726-9432 to check on the schedule or sign up for a dive in the 2012 peak season starting in May.


Photo Tip of the Week
Histograms
     Many of you photographers who are new to the hobby may be wondering what that funny looking line graph is on your camera's LCD that accompanies each photo. Some of you may know what it is, but choose to ignore it because it looks too complicated. I say this confidently because I was one of those people who chose to ignore it when I first started shooting. I can now tell you  now earnestly that you are making a mistake by paying it no mind. This funny looking graph is called a Histogram. In actuality, it is a very simple representation of the exposure of your image. When you can learn to read a histogram properly you can ascertain wether or not the image is too dark, too light or in between.  The y-axis or vertical axis represents the number of pixels. The x-axis or horizontal axis represents the tone from shadows of the left to highlights on the right. Usually histograms are set up where the left side of the x axis is the shadow while the right side is the highlights but this depends on the camera.

     The histogram that is shaped like a bell curve,  where neither the left or the right side of the graph runs off the side and the mid-tones dominate the image, represents a properly exposed image. (See item a.) If the graph runs off the side to the left in the shadows, this is an indication that the photo was under exposed, thus loosing the details in the shadows. (See item b.) If the graph runs off the page to the right this in turn indicates an over exposed image where there is loss of highlights or burning. (See item c.) This clipping, as it is called, is undesirable with most subjects and can easily be compensated for by adjusting your exposure settings such as f-stop or shutter speed (see last weeks Photo Tips). Ascertaining what your image looks like by merely inspecting the LCD is not sufficient. LCD's can be misleading depending on how bright or dim your viewing light or ambient light is. Histograms, however, never lie!


Item a. Proper Exposed: note minimum clipping.



Item b. Under Exposed: note clipping on left.



Item c. Over Exposed: note clipping on right


     Sometimes you may be shooting a subject that is strong in the shadows and lacking any highlights. Your Histogram will look like this:


     Sometimes you may be shooting a subject that has strong highlights and lacks shadows. Your Histogram will look like this:


     Are you starting to see the correlation? Once you do, analyzing your shots while on the fly will be a cinch and save you a lot of time and effort on poorly exposed images.  Have faith in this little graph. There is a plethora of information within in it.  Good luck!

Note: The top photo is a Pink Anemone Fish and Magnificent Sea Anemone taken in Truk Lagoon, Micronesia. The middle image is a sink and mirror taken on the Heian Maru, Truk Lagoon, Micronesia. The bottom image is the ship builders stamp, Toyo Toki Kaisha, taken from the side of a porcelain sink from the wreck of the Hanakawa Maru in Truk Lagoon, Micronesia. To view more of Mike's images from Truk Lagoon visit here.

 If you would like to learn more please sign up for one of my online photo lessons. Each session is private and can be done from the convenience of your home with the use of a web cam and microphone. Visit www.evolutionunderwater.com to learn more or contact mike@evolutionunderwater.com.

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Thank you!


Visit Mike's Facebook Page





Please visit Mike's web site

to peruse his portfolio of underwater photography, view his video excerpts from his documentary films and purchase fine art prints from his online gallery.



If you wish to dive North Carolina contact
Olympus Dive Center, Morhead City, NC.
Please leave comments below. I would love to hear from you.



Dec 15, 2011 - 2011 "The Good, the Bad & the Ugly"


Photo of the Week
While doing some end of the year cleaning
out of my hard drives, I stumbled across
this image I shot in 2009 on the wreck of the
Spar in NC. It was in a folder labeled, 'TRASH'. Yikes! (New)

Mike Gerken


Since I have no new dive stories to relay to you this week, I would like to share some of my poetry with you instead. It's a dive version of the "12 Days of Christmas". Relax, I'm just joking. I like having you as readers and would hate to loose you. Besides, I don't write poetry. I just have a few words to share with you this week on what was, what is and what will be for 2012. Oh yes, I also have a Photo Tip of the Week. Please read on.






Thank You
     I wanted to take this moment while the season for festiveness and sentiment is high, to thank my family, friends, readers, fellow divers, lovers of the ocean and my beautiful girlfriend Annette for your support and enthusiasm for my work. The ocean has always been a place of escape for me. A place to forget about the life above and live in the moment in the world below. For me, photography and video has become a means of transporting this feeling back to the surface to share with others.  I don't think I would be a photographer if there were no one to entertain my images and stories with.  It is because of you, the viewer and reader, that I continue to engage in this path and for this I thank you most sincerely. I hope I can continue to entertain and inform you for years to come.

A Note on Our Marine Environment
       Since I started this Dive Blog Report in May of this year, I have made a conscience effort to minimize social, political or environmental commentary with the goal of simply entertaining you, the reader.  Although I have no intentions of preaching to you about world politics I do however feel it is my duty to inform you of maritime environmental issues in future Blog Reports. To be silent about an issue so vital to myself and the world, would be irresponsible.
     As years pass by, I continue to see with my own eyes and read of other accounts, the degradation of our natural environment and, more specific to me, the marine world. One not go far to find such stories, for they are all around us in the media and out your own front door. 
A photo can speak a thousand words.
The ocean has been a source for my personal entertainment since I was a boy and more recently in life as a dive boat captain and photographer, a source of income where my livelihood depends on it. I have reached a point some years ago where I feel that this continued taking from the ocean without giving back is no longer acceptable. I have always been an advocate for the protection of 'our' marine resources, but now I am doing something about it by getting more active in environmental organizations and their causes and speaking out at my presentations. Solutions to what ails our marine world are never simple and require sacrifice and sometimes compromise. The long term result of protecting our resources is always beneficial to everyone, especially future generations. Rarely, as individuals, can anything substantial become accomplished, but as a larger body there can be no stopping a movement. Everyone can make a difference if you want to;  you just need to get involved.

2011, the Year.
The Good
2011- The Good, the Bad
and the Ugly.
     Life for me, at times, emulates the epic Clint Eastwood western film, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. 2011 was such a year for me. The 'good' was, I managed to experience with my divers on board the Midnight Express some fantastic wreck diving offshore of the Outer Banks of NC with Olympus Dive Center. It is obvious, when viewing my work, that my love of wreck diving is only surpassed by my love for sharks and there was no shortage of them this year on the wrecks of North Carolina.  The Papoose, the Atlas, the Carib Sea and most surprisingly, late in the season, the USS Schurz were all 'magnets' that attracted numerous sand tigers, dusky's, sand bar sharks and even a hammerhead or two. I shot video this year for the first time since 2008 and I was very pleased with the shark action captured on film. (see link below) 2011 was a productive year for me photographically as well. I was fortunate to obtain some great keeper shots while focusing mostly on sand tiger sharks. (click link for stills) These creatures continue to capture my attention and never cease to interest me. View the video shorts for the year and let the the images speak for themselves. 
Click Image to View Videos
The Bad
My Father in his prime.

     On a bad note for me and my family, my father, Fred Gerken, passed away in early October. My father, as well as my mother, were the ones who made it all possible for me to experience the ocean from an young age. It was these early years of boating, swimming, snorkeling and diving off the shores of Long Island, NY that left an indelible mark on me until this day. My fathers health later in life prevented him from participating in many activities including travel. To compensate, he lived vicariously through myself and experienced my life as if he was there. My photo and video works were incremental in achieving this. There wasn't a photo I took or a video that I shot that he had not viewed or even critiqued at times. He was my biggest fan, as I was his, and a supporter of everything I did. He will be sorely missed.


The Ugly
Thousands of shark fins being dried on a roof top in Taiwan.
The scale of shark finning is enormous. Photo courtesy of RT Sea Blog.
To learn more click HERE.
On the ugly side, the world seems to be hell bent on killing every last shark in the ocean for the sake of a bowl of shark fin soup. Shark fin soup is a delicacy mostly served in eastern asian countries that can fetch up to $100 or more per bowl. Sharks are caught to the tune of 65 million per year to meet the demand for this market. Most of the time the fin is sliced off while the rest of the shark is tossed back in to the ocean sometimes alive. Can it get any uglier than this? These apex predators, that are so vital to the health of our oceans fish stocks, are being wiped out at an alarming rate. This is not so much an issue of cruelty but stupidity. By destroying the upper parts of the food chain we will harm everything beneath it thus harming humans. There are many violations of our oceans being perpetrated in the world but for me none so heinous as shark finning. If you would like to know more about this and to get involved to protect sharks, please contact me at the links below. I stumbled across a Blog on shark finning and all things shark related at RTSea Blog. Check it out.
This has to stop!
Hurricane Irene 2011.
     Lastly, I'm not sure what category to place Hurricane Irene in? The bad, the ugly or even good? Irene slammed in to the Carolina Coast in late August with wind speeds sustained at around 70 miles per hour. The damage we received here in NC was minimal compared to many up north but the conditions off shore for diving were severe. Due to the 25 foot seas and the subsequent surge, the visibility was reduced to less than five feet for many weeks after the storm subsided. The subsequent hurricanes and storm systems only added to the muck. We at, Olympus Dive Center, cancelled many charters due to this and the conditions did not return to normal until after the peak season had subsided. A hurricanes immediate benefits are hard to see due to such problems. Is there any good at all that comes from them? Mother Nature isn't always so clear but, she has an agenda all the same. For example, here is a quote from a researcher at Duke University: 
"Barrier islands need hurricanes for their survival, especially at times of rising sea levels such as now. It's during hurricanes that islands get higher and wider," he said. "From a purely natural standpoint hurricanes are a blessing for islands, even though they're a curse for people who live there." Click here to read more.
     Lastly, lets not forget that adversity can be a strengthener that will, hopefully, teach people to be better prepared for catastrophes. Well at least in theory that sounds good. With that said, I'll let you decide what category to place Hurricane Irene in.

2012, the Future
Another photo rescued from the trash.
The Spar NC 2009.
     With the year nearly behind us, I for one, am excited at the prospect for 2012.  There will be new challenges to overcome, awe inspiring events to witness and, let me not forget to mention, epic diving to be had. I will continue to write this Dive Blog Report delivering dive industry news, stories, condition reports, photo tips and previews of my latest works.  This blog has been a work in progress; expanding and evolving since it started. I will continue to improve upon it with the best material I can muster.
    In addition, I will be adding a dive and photo newsletter to my itinerary of social media networking tools. The newsletter will highlight what the Dive Blog Report will contain and reach out to those who have yet to discover this sight. The first newsletter should come out early in the year. If you would like to sign up for it click on the link towards the bottom of the page.
    I have lots more to tell you in regards to upcoming presentations, photo workshops and dive magazine stories to be published in 2012, but you will have to stay tuned for the next Dive Blog Report scheduled for after the New Year. I'm not sure if I will be doing much diving this winter so I'm relegated to telling you stories from the past such as "Mike's Top 10 Dives" of all time.  From Truk Lagoon to Vanuatu to Palau and North Carolina check out my stories of the best dives I have ever done. Lastly, I would like to say Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone out there reading this. I'll see you in 2012!

Happy Diving,

Mike Gerken

Photo Tip of the Week
Bracketing

Nikon D300
    Bracketing is a technique used to achieve a wider range of photo results by making several exposures of the same subject.  This way the odds are more in your favor of yielding a desirable shot that does not contain over or under exposed shadows or highlights.  Changing your exposure can be done by stepping up or down your shutter speeds and/or your F-stop.  For those of you unsure of what shutter speeds and f-stops are, I can explain them quickly now. The shutter speed is the length of time the cameras shutter is left open allowing light to enter in to the camera and on to the sensor or CCD. Long shutter speeds will yield brighter images, while short ones will yield darker images. F-stops are the size of the aperture or hole leading into the cameras sensor. The higher the number of f-stop the smaller the aperture is letting the least light in. The lower the number f-stop the larger the aperture is etc. By changing your f-stop and/or shutter speed, while shooting the same subject, you will have a wider gamut of exposures to choose from in post-processing. Trying to ascertain what the perfect exposure is underwater may be difficult due to the lighting at the time of day and how it effects your LCD. (Of course learning to read histograms would prevent this problem but that is for another blog). 

Overexposed at
F14, 1/1250sec.
Under exposed at
F22, 1/250sec.
Just right at F18, 1/250sec.
By bracketing the shots of this sea fan, from F14 to F18, I succeeded in finding the optimal exposure. F14 was over exposed with highlights 'burned'. F22 was under exposed with the loss of details in the shadows. F18 yielded a better dynamic range from highlights to shadows.

Bracketing can be done manually or automatically. Many cameras, especially SLR's, will have a setting in your menu that will let you create custom auto bracketing exposures by telling the camera how many shots you want to take and how many F-Stops or Shutter Speed settings you want to change up or down, fast or slow. ie Using your light meter, select an exposure setting that you think is correct as your starting point. Let's say I set the camera up to take 5 photos stepping up two and down two starting at F5 with a fixed shutter speed of 1/100. On aperture auto bracketing the results would yield 1 photo each at F5, F5.6, F4.5, F6.3 and F4 (with a Nikon D300). You can do the same for shutter speed and even ISO and white balance but, let me not get ahead of myself. By going up two stops and down two stops from your you are covering a much broader area of exposures. Make sure the strobe units you are using can keep up with the rate at which the camera will fire on auto mode, otherwise do as I do and shoot manual. When you have the time, adjusting your exposure for a photo manually can be as easy as talking a shot, flipping a wheel or control for shutter or aperture and then taking another shot. With practice is gets easier.

Good Luck!

Mike

    If you would like to learn more please sign up for one of my online photo lessons. Each session is private and can be done from the convenience of your home with the use of a web cam and microphone. Visit www.evolutionunderwater.com to learn more or contact mike@evolutionunderwater.com.


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