In 2007 the idea of shooting underwater with HDSLRs seemed like an unfathomable dream to me. I longed to move up from a cheap “point & shoot” to a real camera but I didn’t know my F-stop from my iris-hole.
So I start reading about photography – voraciously – and taking video-focused courses at Maine Media Workshops (MMW) in Rockport, Maine. World renowned, well-worth the tuition, and less than a two-hour drive from my home in Portland.
We’ll get to the underwater stuff in a moment, but first a few words of appreciation for my favorite MMW teacher, 3-time Emmy winner Brian Kaufman. He was my instructor for “Storytelling with HDSLRs” (twice!) and a strong advocate of the “travel light and shoot fast” approach to film making. His mantra? “The world is your tripod.” If you’re dragging around a ton of gear, you miss too many opportunities to capture what’s unfolding right now. Use what’s around you to steady the shot.
I’ve applied that philosophy to filming underwater, where even the “stripped-down” approach can be gear intensive. The short list:
• Wetsuits (short or long), hoods, booties, gloves, masks, snorkels, neck weights, belt weights, fins…
• Kayak, paddle, seat, vest, dry bags, towels, warm clothes, food, water, safety gear, first aid gear…
• HDSLR, lenses, underwater housing, dome port, carrying case, Pakpods™, batteries, CF cards, chargers, filters…
• GoPro’s, camera holsters, filters, head mount strap, hardware, batteries, chargers, filters…
Just packing, lugging and keeping track of all the above-mentioned gear can be overwhelming. Add one hundred-plus pounds of scuba gear and it would put me over the edge.
To top things off, many of the remote Maine lakes, ponds, rivers and streams I film in require the dragging of my gear-laden kayak through the woods for long distances. But if I’m free-dive filming? I can suit up and get it all there in one trip even if I’m hot as hell when I arrive at the water’s edge. Add scuba gear? It would break me. I would cry.
The bonuses of “free dive filming” are many…
7 REASONS WHY FREE DIVE FILMING GETS YOU CLOSER TO YOUR NATURE
1) You’ll save a lot of cash on gear – (free diving’s actually free!) – and you won’t have air tanks to constantly refill.
2) You’ll move at about twice the speed that you can with the added weight and drag of all that scuba gear.
3) You’ll see a lot more fish. They’re much more likely to approach when you aren’t blasting bubbles every few seconds.
4) You’ll be able to film in fast water and white water because you’re streamlined and can move fluidly around obstacles.
5) You’ll stir up much less silt in shallow coves where the fish hang out, and you’ll get hung up on things way less often.
6) You’ll be surrounded by silence and have opportunities to tune into what’s happening around you. The ‘underwater bliss‘ factor.
7) You’ll be breathing deeper and with more awareness – a result of all that ‘breath hold training’ you’ll be inspired to do.
At the age of fifty I discovered free diving and dove in to a whole new world. The sport isn’t for everyone, but I’ve discovered – relatively late in life – that if you can really relax in water, you can hang out there for a lot longer than you might imagine. It takes some training, but it’s worth the time and effort.
See you in the water! ~ Steve Underwood