Yann Herrera Fuchs is this year’s Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society’s 2018 North American Rolex Scholar. This scholarship is made possible by the generous donation of several entities and admirable people that act in community to train younger generations in becoming experts in an umbrella of water-related fields. Yann got a chance to learn more about the Nauticam equipment he will be using this coming year at the Digital Shootout in Roatan.
Yann Herrera Fuchs photo by Dylan Silver
The day finally came for me to confront my fear of putting together my camera equipment. For the past two months I have been dragging a suitcase full of lenses, arms, adaptors, batteries and all sorts of bits and pieces clueless of what I am carrying and scared that if I attempted to assemble the pieces together I would break or lose something. But when the opportunity to participate in this year’s Digital Shootout came, I knew it was time to get over my ridiculous fear and open this underwater treasure.
My week kicks off with a jaw-dropping shark dive. We had around 20 Caribbean sharks swimming around us, hovering above big groupers and schools of fish. The show was absolutely spectacular and trying to focus on one shark was definitely a challenge.
Digital Shootout is an event unlike any other I have seen or heard of. Put together by a lovely group of people from different companies and organizations, the two-week program sets the scene for a trip exquisitely designed to immerse yourself in underwater photography and videography. Aside from taking place in a resort-style hub that offers you the opportunity to dive 24/7, it hosts a series of lectures, workshops and activities that guide you in reaching your camera goals whether you are completely new, like myself, or have been in the industry for years.
Next up was a scavenger hunt for macro, to find all the little creatures with the incentive of getting that one super crisp and sharp shot.
The most fascinating thing about shooting underwater is that light behaves differently than on land, meaning that no matter how automatic technology has made this practice, mastering it requires you to become a better observer and learn about white balance, exposure, contrast, composition and natural and artificial lighting; components that revive video & photo as true forms of art. But technology has also enhanced the potential of image processing, and understanding how powerful computerized tools can be for enriching the image’s final product takes underwater photography to the next level.
We also had the chance to play around some wrecks, which offered a great setting to explore the use of contrast and exposure.
So when you have a group of top-notch photographers, gear experts and a public merging together in their passion for the sport, the Digital Shootout becomes the platform of excellence for anyone who dreams to learn about shooting underwater. And when the island of Roatán in Honduras becomes the designated hub for the event, you know that you are in for one heck of a treat.
But some of my favourite dives were those where I just practiced using natural lighting and tried to portray the dreamy landscapes that make our underwater world so breathtaking.
But first things first – I needed to open that suitcase. Lucky for me, Todd Winner and Hergen Spalink who were there representing Nauticam, literally took me by the hand and showed me piece by piece, setting by setting, how an underwater rig is set up. After a couple of practice rounds assembling and disassembling my new toy I felt like I was ready to dip in the water.
And on top of everything I had the chance to experiment with split shots, where you try to capture half of an image under the water line and the other above. So after hundreds of tries I think I found one that wasn’t at all too bad.
Using a camera underwater is hard work. You need to pay attention to light, understand your subject, discriminate between lenses, switch around strobes and keep your buoyancy right! For a noob like myself, it was crazy to play with swapping cameras underwater with your buddy and feel instantly the push or pull in the water column.
Though as magnificent as these dives were, the real highlight was definitely attending the lecture series and workshops, learning from the masters Berkley White, Erin Quigley, Jim Decker, Cristian Dimitrius, Stefan Shulz, Jeff Honda and Dylan Silver.