Dive Etiquette for Underwater Photographers

Underwater Photography Corner Article #1


The following article is the first ever from our new "Underwater Photography Corner". The content of all these articles has been assembled by our in - house photography and videography team, made of  Takuya Miyazawa & Nicolas LurotThis first article is being released to coincide with  Project AWARE's "Month against debris - September 2013"

Underwater photography, though the most popular type of scuba diving amongst divers of all levels, without the appropriate environmental respect, adequate training and spacial awareness, can be a serious health hazard to any coral reefs. The sight of photographers kicking/ breaking coral, not using proper buoyancy control and harassing their subjects has became more and more common. The following is merely a helpful suggestion from two seasoned underwater photographers on best dive practises for underwater photographers.

Please try to be polite underwater, respect marine life while diving and set a good example for others. These underwater etiquette guidelines are not listed in any particular order.

  • Don’t grab on to coral.  
  • Don’t damage the reef just to get a shot.
  • Be extremely careful not to damage the sea fans when shooting around them (e.g. pygmy sea horses).
  • If you are getting too close to the coral, gently push away with one finger or a Lembeh Stick, on the area with the least amount of growth: preferably a dead zone.
  •  Don’t silt up an area before or after taking a photograph. Often I see photographs "flutter kicking away" after taking a shot picture, ruining the shot for others. They usually don't realise they are doing so. Learn how to frog kick and do it slowly.
  •  When waiting for another photographer, give him some distance. Make sure you wait down current, so silt is not carried to the photo subject. Photographers will often change position while taking a shot, sometimes stretching their legs back. This is why you should/have to stay back further than you would think. If there’s many photographers among you, take turns photographing the subject. Discuss hand signals with your buddy ahead of time if you want to "work" a subject for a while and make sure you let the other person get some shots first.
  • When diving with others you should always discuss dive etiquette rules ahead of time. Agree on how long each photographer will spend with a subject. Everyones time is valuable.
  • Regarding buoyancy, I believe that most people don't realise when they have a bad buoyancy or a the tendency to silt up the area. If you see other divers doing so, think of a way to politely mention it to them and ask your buddy to tell you if he would see you doing the same thing.
  • Always show your friends interesting subjects that you find. They will really appreciate it.

This image clearly shows a responsible underwater photography behaviour.

Review: iSaw HD Action Cam

iSaw A3 Extreme HD Action Camera-
the world's most powerful ActionCam

iSaw HD Camera & Underwater Housing- the revolutionary new action cam

Introducing the revolutionary new iSaw HD Action cam- set to change the way in which you view and capture your world around you. Now I know a lot of you are thinking, "Not interested, the GoPro3 is the Industry standard". There's no doubt the iSaw is up against a huge, and well established piece of hardware. But so was Apple when they first started... Just read this short unofficial review, and watch the video snippets throughout. I'm sure you will be shocked at how far ahead the iSaw is of the competition- and that includes the GoPro Hero3. 

Don't want to read? Jump right to the end and look at our GoPro vs. iSaw table at the bottom of the page

You'll find this amazing package with the iSaw
Feedback after 1 week practical use (including underwater use)

We could easily start off by saying how great this action cam is and how much we are in love with it. Let's just specify what has made a huge difference to us (this cam has been used to shoot time-lapse's  slow-mo, underwater, low-light, motorbike, thai boxing). First off, the two hour battery life is a God send! GoPro also has a longer life battery but suffers from a real design flaw when this is installed (see below under NEED TO KNOW).

Though there is currently no red filter available (yet... we have one coming, so watch this space...), the iSaw's unique "AquaMode" makes shooting underwater a breeze. Some have suggested it is the equivalent of a modern compact camera's "Underwater" function. This is rubbish: whereas "Underwater" modes just tend to give everything a blue hue, the "AquaMode", does a close to perfect job of keeping real colours- up to 17m (then it's time for the lights)- without any loss.

How many GoPro users/owners have turned the camera around to face themselves during scuba, sky diving, motocross, etc? The 3 LED lights tacttically positioned around the device make filming yourself and anything in ANY very easy- as opposed to GoPro's single frontal LED. When you put the LED's to full use, it's impossible to work without them!

Some important facts that set apart the iSaw from the GoPro- facts you may have never thought about or have bothered you. They say ignorance is bliss, and that couldn't be truer than in this case:
  • GoPro is actually built with a serious design flaw: So easy to miss, but one which really highlights the difference between the hardwares and the attention to detail they have been subject to. GoPro's LCD BacPac looks fantastic given it's size but, when the BacPac is attached, the longer life battery (providing 2 hours, instead of just 50 mins) cannot be attached!?! With the iSaw, the larger battery fits into the device from the side, while the BacPac sits where it should on the back. I'm sure many will now say that GoPro's LCD screen is superior- can't argue that. But let's remember that iSaw not delivers superior final results, it's LCD screen is included FREE!! As are many, many of it's accessories, check the Comparison Chart at bottom of page.
  • Don't worry about accessories: ALL GoPro's accessories are compatible with iSaw (yet comically, iSaw's are NOT compatible with GoPro!). Even better, many of the must-have accessories for these devices, upon purchase, are FREE with iSaw, whereas with GoPro, get ready to fork out more hard-earned money. How "must-buy" are they really? I challenge you to shoot using the GoPro with no LCD screen, with only 50 minutes battery (both the long life battery & LCD-to name just a few- are paid extras).
  • Special features: A lot was made of GoPro's Timelapse brilliance. For those who don't know, GoPro uses a special program (Twixtor) to create it's Timelapse effect- and this is only with photos remember! iSaw creates video Timelapses on the spot, with just a push of a button. Pick your scene, click Timelapse button, leave your camera for a given amount of time to film continuously, upload it, and that's it! The timelapse is all ready. The exact same can be said for the slow motion function- one button click away, no post-production retired. And just look at the results it delivers:
iSaw A3 Time-lapse function- Phuket, Thailand 
  • the "4k argument": GoPro beats iSaw in one main area: 4k. I'm guessing right now, many are wondering "what's 4k?, i don't need to know about that". To simplify all the tech-talk 4k is essentially the "New HD". Full HD is 1080 pixels displayed horizontally and vertically across your screen repeatedly within a certain time frame. 4k will increase this to 4000 pixels. All those amazing graphics on your PS3/XBox, or in movies like Avatar look so amazing because they are displayed in HD (1080p). GoPro actually has the ability to shoot in 4k. So all GoPro owners are now jumping coz they've just won this mini hardware war, right? Nope... Sorry to disappoint, there is no hardware available for the general consumer that can display 4k (until this christmas when the first will be released, no doubt for an extortionate fee). So it's like, I have 4k, but nothing to show off it's beauty. And, by the time 4k becomes "consumer friendly", we will probably have reached the GoPro Hero10 model, and something tells me that iSaw will also be delivering 4k by then. So great you have 4k, please do show me how great it is, oh wait... Doh!
  • the wifi remote: another point GoPro owners are keen to point out to iSaw admirers, is the "lack" of a wifi remote. The current wifi remote is a "cool toy" at best. No one uses this when actively scuba diving, sky diving, motocross, skying, etc. And another FYI, there's an iPhone app available which is far more responsive than the actual wifi remote. So the whole, "But mine has a wifi remote!" argument is not really something to brag about. In fact, why not download the app by clicking below
  • U2U (Unit2Unit) policy: damage or received a damaged accessory? Take it to your trader, INSTANT trade. Camera itself damaged? Bring the whole box to your trader and the entirety of the contents will be replaced, right there, on the spot. Does GoPro do that? Don't believe so....
  • Finally, many have criticised the iSaw for being too "big" compared to the GoPro!?! With it's large battery attached, yes, it' bigger. Attach GoPro's large battery (the 2 hour model) and it's exactly the same size, as you can see below: 
A clear view of how both cameras are nearly alike in size- also shows the more efficient method that one loads iSaw's Battery (bottom right), allowing for longer battery life and use of the LCD screen at the same time.

The iSaw is cheaper (especially when you factor in the extras one is "encouraged" to purchase to get full functionality of the GoPro); the iSaw delivers better quality; the unique functions such as Time-lapse & Slow-mo (and zoom!?! can't blieve GoPro missed that??) are in-built into the camera as standard, activated with just a push of a button; GoPro users will argue that they have 4K (currently useless), a wifi remote (laggy- app is better), and are smaller (wrong, look at the above photos). What GoPro does have is a name, and a very recognised one. But all other factors would suggest you buy the more modern, more user friendly just (for lack of a better sentence)...Better piece of hardware! Remember, anything goes wrong, it's a direct swap with another unit as mentioned above! If you're still not convinced then just refer to the chart below. Bottom line: do yourself a favour and get an iSaw A3 Extreme HD!


Comparison Chart

                                        GoPro Hero 3                                            iSaw HD 
  • Frame mount (see video): 1,450 Baht                           Frame mount:  INCLUDED  FREE 
  • Resolution: 2.7-4K Max                                                   Resolution: 1080p 60fps
  • 2 suctions included                                                          3 suctions included
  • 2 screws for mounting                                                     5 screws for mounting
  • LCD BacPac: approx. 3000 baht                                   LCD BacPac: INCLUDED FREE
  • Timelapse-> use Twixtor software                                Time-lapse->  built-in
  • Time-lapse: photo only                                                  Usage: photo & video
  • Lens Caps: approx. 500 baht                                          Lens Caps: INCLUDED FREE
  • Wifi remote: FREE                                                             Download from App Store
  • LED lights: 1                                                                        LED Lights: 3
  • Zoom function? -> No                                                       Zoom Function? -> built-in
  • Tripod mount= approx. 400 baht                                     INCLUDED FREE
  • Battery life: 50 mins                                                           Battery Life: 2 hours                                                                       (2h  available-2000 baht- stops LCD screen use)         (screen + battery-> same time)
      GoPro Hero 3:  RRP= 16,500 BAHT (Excludes LCD Screen, big battery, lens cap -> just these items= extra 5,500 BAHT)           

   iSaw A3 Extreme: RRP= 13,000 BAHT  All inclusive (see unboxing video above)                                                     



How to safely dive with Sharks: 6 MUST KNOW tips & procedures - Part 6 of 6

Click here for TIP#1
Click here for TIP#2
Click here for TIP#3
Click here for TIP#4
Click here for TIP#5

After the interest raised by our dual perspective TIP#5, we felt a continuation would be relevant for our next tip. As well as their so called "6th sense" of being able to detect vibrations (namely of a rapid beating heart, or an injured fish) due to the Ampullae of Lorenzini and their Lateral Lines, it has often been suggested by various movies and documentaries that Sharks may also attack based on a relatively unknown factor.
Given their superb aforementioned 6th sense, making them superlative hunters and apex predators, sharks are also apparently attracted by colour & sound (sorry to all of you who were thinking smell, such as that of blood- it may come as a shock that the one "fact" everyone seems to know, the age old "Sharks can detect a drop of blood in an olympic swimming pool" is actually a complete myth; you can find out more in Myths about Sharks). So how can we use this knowledge of shark's being attracted to colour & sound to encounter/avoid sharks?

TIP #6
Be "interesting" or Dress "appropriately"

  • Be "interesting": To prolong your encounter, take advantage of the Shark's natural curiosity. Try humming quietly into your regulator. Almost any tune with a simple but not-too-regular rhythm works pretty well- I've had good results with Waltzing Matilda. Or try clicking two rocks together or clanging the butt of your dive knife against your scuba tank (it should be noted that tank bangers are no good as they emit much too loud a sound). If you have a brightly coloured camera housing, reef gloves or fins, they may also help pique a Shark's interest. Be wary with these as they may look edible to a Shark (as mentioned in TIP#4) if you begin to move erratically. It should also be noted that, amongst all colours tested, Red was by far the most interesting for the sharks.
the bright red colours of Lion fish make them prime targets for Sharks
  • Dress "appropriately": Want to avoid sharks? Simple. Stick to dull swim wear and wetsuits. Those of you who favour the all-black look a la James Bond and who are wondering why your Shark encounters are rare, now you have your answer: wear more bling colours. Avoid wearing jewellery as they may resemble a fish's scales, thus making you look like food. Similarly, cover uneven tanning, as the contrast makes you more visible to Sharks. Here's a real catch-22 to finish off: the bright yellows and oranges typical of life jackets and flotation devices can be attractive to Sharks, but also make you more visible to rescuers. And who amongst ever though you would have to gamble with your lives?
Go for the James Bond look to decrease your chance of Shark encounters
After reading this post, do you want to get more involved with Sharks? Help them in any way you can, dive with them, learn about them? Everything you need is right here. Or you can keep on reading our posts, listed just below

Click here for Myths about Sharks

Blog written by Nicolas Lurot
©Freedom Divers, Phuket

How to safely dive with Sharks: 6 MUST KNOW tips & procedures - Part 5 of 6

Click here for TIP#1
Click here for TIP#2
Click here for TIP#3

For this 5th instalment in our shark mini-series, we thought we'd mix it up a bit by providing a dual point of view. As much as we love Sharks at Freedom Divers, these articles are meant to be for educational purposes (with a hope that in educating, we are also doing the little we can to raise shark conservation awareness and dispel the unfair Myth that sharks are killing machines).

To be more precise, we mean that we recognise that not everyone (diver and non-diver alike) has the same fascination we do towards Sharks and that some may sincerely not wish to dive or encounter sharks, though may still wish to know how to behave should the situation arise. With that said, here is a little known but important tip for both shark aficionados and avoiders

TIP #5
Avoid cluttering with other divers or Swim in a group

  • Avoid cluttering with other divers: This goes out to all those who wish for in your face, close encounters of the "sharky" kind or are looking for that once in a lifetime priceless shot (If you wish to avoid such encounters, please refer to the next point). Sharks often seem to perceive tightly packed groups of divers as a single, large, and altogether frightening super-organism. Remain close enough to your buddy to maintain safety (when diving with a species such as the Tiger Shark), but relatively far away from other such buddy pairs. IMPORTANT: leave solo diving with sharks to the professionals!
when you reduce your numbers, you may experience close encounters like this
  • Swim in a group: If you wish to maximise your safety, with a view to not encountering sharks, this half of the tip is for you. Regardless of the potential danger of sharks, you should avoid swimming alone. If sharks are present, however, it's even more important to stick with your buddy or, even better, a large group. Sharks are less likely to approach and attack a group of people. When diving in the presence of sharks, no matter the size of your group, you are still each responsible for yourselves, and should not rely on anyone else to keep a watch on the shark. Daunting as it may sound, underwater we are out of our element and the notion of "safety in numbers"- though it may act as potential shark deterrent- goes completely out the window if the unexpected should arise and the shark should behave aggressively. I have been privy to see large groups disperse and bolt for the surface at the slightest sign of curiosity on the sharks part. So remember, grouping up may go some way to keep sharks away, but it is not a final solution.
group up to create the sense of size and keep any unwanted shark encounters to a minimum.

After reading this post, do you want to get more involved with Sharks? Help them in any way you can, dive with them, learn about them? Everything you need is right here. Or you can keep on reading our posts, listed just below

Click here for Myths about Sharks

Blog written by Nicolas Lurot
©Freedom Divers, Phuket