Review by Explorers Club International Fellow and Writer Nick Lyon
We are surrounded by image recording technology, in our phones, our cars, even our doorbells! But until relatively recently, our ability to record high quality moving images underwater easily and conveniently was dependant on bulky and expensive camera systems. This is no longer the case. The GoPro camera, and subsequent models allowed all of us the opportunity to record our dives. But as with all new technology, most of us struggled to figure out how to get the best from our new cameras.
Some time ago, I was fortunate enough to attend one of Jeff Goodman’s GoPro workshops in Cornwall, UK. I knew of Jeff’s impressive pedigree and it was no surprise that the event was highly enjoyable and packed with useful information. But of course, as we all know, memory is water soluble and with every subsequent dive, I often struggled to replicate what I had learned.
Thankfully, Jeff has now released ‘Action Camera’ which is the culmination of many years working with a variety of these excellent devices. The book covers far more than simply ‘which buttons do what’. There is a welcome emphasis on the ethics of responsible filming in order to minimise our impact on the environment. The chapter dealing with equipment sensibly advises on choosing the features which suit the reader’s requirements. In a constantly evolving market, recommending specific models would soon be out of date and is avoided.
Photographic theory is rarely the chapter which most people skip to first as it can sometimes be rather laborious. Thankfully, Jeff has taken a progressive approach and as with the entire book, the subject is lavishly illustrated to enhance understanding. The practicalities of shooting in a variety of environments are also covered with emphasis on the value of thorough planning and preparation (I’m sure you know the full acronym!). This starts with getting equipment ready, but includes use of a storyboard to fully plan the shoot, as well as the techniques required to achieve the results you want. Then there’s actually producing your product and Jeff devotes a chapter to editing your film.
It could have ended there, but there are also a confined water and an open water exercise for the diver to test out their newly acquired skills and knowledge.
I was particularly glad that this is not a ‘coffee table’ book. It’s a proper hands-on manual that can, and should accompany the diver on their trips as a constant source of reference. If you have an action camera you really should have this book too.
Action Camera: Underwater video basics
- By Jeff Goodman
- Published by Dived Up Publications
- RRP: £20
- ISBN 978-1-909455-44-3
Available now from Divedup.com, and to order online and from retailers.
British freediver sets new national record with 112m dive
British freediver Gary McGrath has set a new national record at the prestigious Vertical Blue freediving competition in the Bahamas.
Using only a monofin for propulsion, Gary swam down a measured rope to a depth of 112m (367ft), returning to the surface to receive a white card from the AIDA International judges to validate his dive.
Gary, 41, held his breath for three minutes and 13 seconds to complete the dive.
Freedivers descend underwater on a single breath of air and the atmospheric pressure on their bodies increases as they go deeper.
At 112m deep the pressure is 12 times greater than the surface, meaning the air in Gary’s lungs would have shrunk to less than a twelfth of its original volume – around the size of a golf ball.
Freedivers train to cope with the physiological strains placed on their bodies by their sport, and Gary uses his background of yoga and meditation to help his physical and mental preparation for deep dives.
He has also had to overcome physical challenges after contracting Covid last year during preparations for a previous national record attempt.
Gary said: ‘Diving below 100m is a totally unique environment, it’s my therapy.
‘This year has been extremely challenging for my mental health and freediving has helped me overcome that for sure.
‘At depth I have complete isolation from the everyday world we live in. Down there it’s just me and nature. It’s that escape that all freedivers crave.
‘There are moments of extreme mental clarity and purity that I can only achieve when underwater. The flow state that a deep dive allows me to experience is unique and addictive.’
Gary, originally from Twickenham, began freediving in 2006 and has been competing since 2008.
A former tree surgeon, he became a professional freedive instructor in 2014, and he and his partner Lynne Paddon run Yoga and Freedive Retreats in Ibiza.
Remarkably, he completed his 112m national record dive on Tuesday (August 9) despite being forced to compete wearing a borrowed monofin which was a size too small for his feet.
His entire kit bag containing his monofin, bifins and two wetsuits was lost by an airline as he travelled to the competition.
Despite his careful preparation, Gary said he suffered nerves on the morning of his national record dive, and relied on a phone call to his partner Lynne, who helped him focus on breathing techniques and visualisation to calm his nerves.
Speaking immediately after his dive, he said: ‘That was all for Lynne – this whole week has been about her. I could not do it without her. I hope that everyone finds someone they can click with, it’s the most magical thing in the world.’
Gary also thanked supporters who helped him to crowdfund to raise the money needed for him to travel to the Bahamas and compete.
Vertical Blue is considered one of the most elite events on the freediving calendar and has been dubbed the ‘Wimbledon of Freediving’.
Owned and run by world record freediver William Trubridge, the event takes place in a 202m (663ft) deep sinkhole known as Dean’s Blue Hole, off the coast of Long Island.
The previous British national record of 111m was set by Michael Board in 2018, also at a Vertical Blue competition.
All Photographs courtesy of Daan Verhoeven (www.daanverhoeven.com)
Film Review: Thirteen Lives
Ron Howard’s recreation of the 2018 rescue of a Thai junior football team is impressive. Even though we know what happens in the end the tension and drama played out is palpable.
On 23 June 2018, 12 members of a Thai junior football team, the Wild Boars, and their coach became trapped deep in the Tham Luang cave system by rising flood water. The film details the incredible international rescue efforts that ensue. And Ron Howard has judged the tone perfectly. There is no Hollywood glitz and glamour and the two leading actors: Colin Farrell and Viggo Mortensen, who play John Volanthen and Rick Stanton respectively, capture the intensity of the situation perfectly.
The diving scenes are claustrophobic in the extreme. Although I suspect that the visibility was even worse than the film depicts as you have to be able to see something in the dramatization! All the way through the film I found myself shaking my head in disbelief at the extraordinary feat these divers pulled off. The skill and bravery required still impresses after watching films, hearing them speak in public and reading about the rescue.
I loved that, whilst the divers took centre stage in the film, the heroic rescue efforts of the water engineer and his team was also given the attention they deserve, as well as the incredible Thai Navy Seals and the thousands of people that flocked to the region to help.
Thirteen Lives is a must watch movie about an incredible cave rescue. It’s sober tone hits the mark. The cinematography is skilled and creates an impressively tense experience. It is available on Amazon Prime right now.
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