I have just finished a two day one-to-one video course in Falmouth with a young lady who wanted to know how to get the best from her video camera. She had been taking good still photos before, but had not been getting on too well with the video option on her camera.
We spent the morning looking at all the best possible settings for the camera and talked about how to effectively utilise her video light. Ninety nine percent of the time I prefer to use a single hand-held light, which gives me complete control over its direction and distance from the subject. This means having my camera in one hand and the light in the other. It’s quite a tricky thing to do and good buoyancy control is essential.
The afternoon saw our first dive and we decided to stay shallow in a sandy bay dotted with small clusters of rock and kelp to practice filming a short ‘diver’ sequence we had previously story-boarded. We would be too shallow to use our video lights to any great effect and so decided to use available light only. The visibility was very poor as we had previously had some bad weather and the sky was overcast giving a grey flat light underwater. On top of that there were several other divers in the area helping to stir up the sand. Never mind – it was good practice for videoing in low visibility conditions, using wide angle lenses and getting close to the subject.
Having successfully completed our story-board shots, we looked around for something else to film. A small cuttlefish was hiding under a small loose piece of kelp and had turned itself black trying to blend in. We slowly edged closer and as soon as the cuttlefish knew it had been seen it eased out of hiding and immediately changed colour to match the surrounding sand.
One of the key factors to successfully videoing cuttlefish, or any other shy animal, is don’t frighten it. Try not to make it think you are a predator. Avoid sudden or quick movements as getting good video or even photos of marine life is not just about the technicalities of using your camera. Patience and a little knowledge about your subject can bring great rewards. There are occasions when you get lucky and just happen to be in the right place at the right time, when taking a great shot is as easy as could be. In addition to slow movements, try very gentle and even breathing. Try to avoid holding your breath in order to get closer and then exhaling explosively in desperation to take another breath. Gentle and slow….and then there will come a singular moment when you know the animal is relaxed with you and the show is on.
The cuttlefish eased away from us and backed into the thicker kelp for better cover. The temptation to chase can be there, but that really never works as all you end up doing is putting the animal into full flight mode.
Although we lost sight of it, we knew it was quite relaxed and probably not too far away. It was in fact hovering low down in the kelp near the sand keeping an eye on us. Slowly moving forward we came eye to eye with the cuttlefish and began to let it know we were quite harmless. We were then able to spend the next thirty minutes with it before moving away and letting it be free of us.
I have to say that for me, this is what diving is all about, gentle and close interactions with marine animals and capturing those moments on video.
We reviewed the dive video later in the afternoon and discussed how to improve shots and techniques for any future edit. We put the clips together with some music and a brief narration which can be seen below.
The next day we had two deeper dives and so were able to make use of our lights to bring out the hidden colour of the animals we filmed. Again, by approaching animals slowly, we were able to get close and not frighten anything away. It’s an incredible marine world around our coasts and by taking time to explore and observe with your camera, the true wonders of our wildlife will present themselves to you.
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For more information on cuttlefish, click here.