Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I think as underwater photographers, we sometimes obsess about the world below the plimsoll mark (a phrase I learned from Captain Don Stewart) without enough concern for the terrestrial beauty of the places we go in pursuit of the scuba lifestyle.

The photos above are a random sample of some topside images from various trips over the years, rediscovered as I began pulling images for an updated website. Justification, perhaps, to have a camera that's not always stuck inside a housing!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Working on a new web site

I am long overdue for an update to my existing web site, stephenfrink.com. Actually, I wanted to do a "portfolio" site in addition to my existing informational site, so that's what I've been working on lately. All of which forced me to pull out some old tearsheets to scan for this new website. Kind of fun to remember projects, some of which go back more than a decade and some of which are brand new.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

In the water with my new Canon 5DII

I shot my Seacam 5DII housing yesterday on Aquarius Habitat, here in Key Largo.

A few quick observations on housing + camera:

Set -up - New latches and integrated lens release are very nice additions to new style housings (also on Nikon D3 version). Otherwise very similar to my other Seacam housings, except considerably smaller and lighter than MKII and MKIII housings I have been using. Also, the shutter release is different on the newest housings, and there is a "molded" region where the shutter release can travel, effectively creating a stop so it can't travel too far. This is good because we have replaced several shutter release springs because of people operating without camera in housing and simply pushing too far and stretching the spring beyond optimum.

In-water - Wrist fatigue is not an issue with this camera. I shot 2 dives with 5DII housing, most of the time hand-holding a Seaflash 150 in left hand and 5DII housing with superdome and PVL 57.5 in right hand. With 2 dives like that on my MKIII housing my right wrist would likely have been sore from upward torque of only one hand on housing (mounted strobes and 2 hands on grips are not an issue, but long periods of hand-holding housing with MKIII with superdome and long port extension is tiring). 5DII housing handles very nicely in water & I was surprised what a modest decrease in size of housing could make to overall comfort. Of course, camera is much lighter than MKIII too. So, as a package, it was very pleasant and easily manageable.

Native viewfinder discernibly smaller than MKIII, but not an issue when using S180 viewfinder, in either reading numbers or fine-focus on groundglass. As compared to the 5D, where the zones of AF are black, on 5DII they are red, and therefore very easy to see and navigate. Controls essentially similar to other Canon housings I've used over the years, aside from those relating to video.

Image Quality - Quite excellent, no surprise there as I expected that from having shot the camera topside already.

Quick Evaluation - Already owning a 1DMKIII for the 10-frames per second, and a 1DsMKIII for the high res 21MP full frame, the 5DII leaves me conflicted about which to pack for a serious shoot. Which, says a lot about the 5DII and its ability to render very high quality files in a smaller package, easier for travel and in-water applications. If I didn't sometimes need the ultra-high speed motordrive sequencing of the 1DMKIII and the fact that I get a nice expansion of options by carrying 2 such different camera bodies that fit in the same housing, the 5DII could easily be my go-to system. I was certainly impressed with its abilities to shoot still images underwater.

Video - Observations deferred to a later date. I was diving with Pete Zuccarini, filmmaker for UW segments on many Hollywood movies, and he was shooting his own 5DII in Seacam housing. Since he was shooting video this day, I just shot stills and figured I'd hold off until I heard his thoughts on the matter and present them at a later time. More on that in a subsequent post, from his far more experienced cinematographic perspective.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Photographer's Daily "To-Do" List

One of the daily e-forums I monitor is from the Stock Artists Alliance (SAA). It is a group of proactive professional photographers who specialize in selling existing images (stock) via their own efforts and through collaboration with any of a number of multi-national stock agencies.

These are troubling times for the stock photo industry, not only because of the economy in general; but issues specific to this niche including a decrease in print venues (affecting both advertising and editorial photography), reduced assignment photo budgets, and most troubling, the race to the bottom on use fees for stock photography. The charge is being led by various Microstock agencies pricing photo licenses for only a few dollars each, and most tragically by industry giant Getty Images with their Premium Access fees. This is a licensing paradigm where big institutional buyers of stock photography can sign up for a bulk buying scheme, effectively purchasing rights managed and royalty free images that were submitted by photographers as "premium" images (with commensurate use fees) for prices that are sometimes less than Microstock.

Despite all the gloom out there, sometimes we have to laugh at ourselves, and our business. Today's chuckle came from SAA contributor George Remington as he ticked off the things he has to think about daily as a professional photographer.

From George Remington:

Photographer's Daily To Do List

"Read emails
Answer emails
Send new emails
Network on Facebook
Update my MySpace page
Network on Linked In
Network on Plaxo
Read web forums
Post on web forums
Research consumer trends
Research the next shoot
Plan the next shoot
Scout locations for next shoot
Speak with talent for next shoot
Add new images to web site
Write new opinions on blog
Upload images to blog
Optimize website for search engines
Add new links to website
Add new images to Archive to sell prints
Keyword images
Caption images
Study image sales data
Retouch photographs
Scan model's release forms
Add identifying photos to model's release forms
Upload model's release form to Stock agency's portal
Upload low rez images to Stock agency's portal
Upload high rez images to Stock agency's portal
Archive photographs
Find image that you promised to someone
Retouch image that you promised to someone
Post images on ftp for download that you promised to someone
Make prints people requested
Research web marketing strategies
Make photo calls to ad agencies to beg for work
Update email mailing list
Update postcard mailing list
Design and layout post card
Send post card print order
Buy stamps
Address and mail post cards
Send marketing emails
Plan to teach photo seminar to supplement income
Market photo seminar
Teach photo seminar
Speak to client about possible photo assignment
Research possible photo assignment
Create estimate for possible photo assignment
Send invoices
Pay invoices
Research new available equipment
Find out why camera is not working properly
Order new strobe lamps
Test new camera that just arrived
Learn how to use the new camera that just arrived
Repair cameras and equipment
Sell old cameras and equipment on ebay
Update new software on computer
Update new software on laptop
Learn new Photoshop techniques
Learn new web gallery techniques
Learn new Lightroom functionality
Learn new proprietary camera software
Read about new computers you should buy
Read about new software you should buy
Fix broken computer
Buy more data storage
Update Digital Asset Management system

Relax and think creative thoughts
Take photographs"

#71 on his list, Take Photographs. Too true. Too sad.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Golden Oldie

National Geographic Traveler called recently to interview me for their photography blog, the resulting article here:


Their first question was to ask what my favorite photograph might be, and the one I came up with is here above. Here's an excerpt of the article:

My favorite photo is one of my daughter Alexa swimming with a dolphin, which I took several years ago near Freeport, Grand Bahama. She was three years old at the time (she has her learner's permit now). For me, the photo shows a moment of incredible and touching interaction. It was also an inspiration that a kid that age would be open to jumping in with such a big "fish." We weren't sure how she would handle it, but she showed no fear. There was also a 13-year-old in the water, and at one point, he began to freak out, hollering "shark, shark!!" Alexa put her head in the water to check out the action, resurfaced, and said matter-of-factly and somewhat disdainfully, "Daddy, it's just a nurse shark." I knew then we wouldn't have to worry about her in the water.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Patima for Canon G10

A friend of mine just bought a Canon G10, which is also my favorite compact camera. The reason I like it, beyond the optical performance and the fact that it can shoot in RAW, is the fact that it goes to 28mm equivalent at the wide end (whereas so many point-and-shoot cameras only go as wide as 35mm). Perhaps more significantly, the navigation is so familiar to anyone who comes from more traditional photography. Important controls are by means of logical & easily accessible dials rather than arcane menus and sub-menus, all of which generally require me to put my glasses on to read.

Anyway, my buddy wanted to take his new camera underwater, but wanted more sophistication than he could get with the Canon OEM housing. Actually, he would have been fine with that, except that he wanted to use his existing strobe with a housing, an Inon Z240 with a traditional Nikonos 5-pin synch cord. Some housings either easily accept a fiber optic strobe, or will do so after significant jury-rigging. But, using an existing strobe with a Nikonos connector was the one determining criteria he asked me to satisfy.

The solution ... I got him a Patima housing, with the help of Ryan Canon at Reef Photo in Ft. Lauderdale. http://reefphotovideo.com/

Very cool little housing. Nicely machined, and the port is easily interchangeable for a wide angle port Ryan said is soon to be introduced. Apparently the 28mm lens has made it tough to source an external wide angle that doesn't vignette, and I haven't seen the Patima solution yet, but really, that's all this housing lacks to make it to make it an excellent medium-priced solution for UW digital imaging.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

My First Canon 5DII video

While I've been shooting with my new Canon 5DII camera since I got it just before Christmas, I have to admit I hadn't gotten around to trying the video capability. Of course, I knew it could capture 1080P high definition video, as that is the big differentiator between this camera and any others on the market. Well, that and the fact that it captures 21 megapixel still images at a very righteous price point.

But, in that I've never been all that immersed in video techniques I had to wait for some down time to begin experimenting. That happened yesterday in a very simple scenario, a couple of dogs playing in the water.

The yellow lab is mine, the black lab belongs to Sylvie, one of our friends from work.

Viewing the video I had a few thoughts:

1. Just because you can shoot video with a particular tool doesn't mean the video should be shot shot. Clearly, my production values can stand improvement. But, I got the models at the right price.

2. A tripod is a very good thing for a topside video. This time the camera was propped up in my lap.

3. I was surprised how easy the video aspect of the camera is to use, and actually how good the in-camera microphone is. I did not expect such good audio.

4. There is no point in shooting high quality high-def video and trying to host it on my blog. I see that now. Clearly, I need to host it somewhere with greater band-width, and my buddies who take video seriously seem to like Vimeo.com these days. Here it is on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/3424039 When you see the original footage, it is quite impressive, particularly when considering it comes from a camera that is primarily tasked to taking still images.

5. Hopefully, next week I can try it in the water as well, as my housing has just arrived.