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Make the most of your GoPro

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Jeff Goodman is not someone to shout about his achievements from the rooftops, in fact I can’t imagine him shouting at all. But beneath the serene, almost unnaturally calm exterior, there lies a spirit of adventure that has seen him spend over 30 years travelling and filming on every continent, much of the time beneath the water. He has won many awards, been twice nominated for a BAFTA, and worked with everybody worth knowing in the business. He never name drops though, with one notable exception. He becomes uncharacteristically excited when recalling his filming exploits with his childhood hero, John Craven!

I first met Jeff a couple of years ago on a local dive trip, a time which coincided with the meteoric rise of the GoPro camera. Originally developed to film its inventor’s surfing exploits, this amazing piece of kit has now been used to capture thousands of hours of adventure footage and all in a package no larger than a match box. So when I discovered that Jeff was running GoPro filming and editing courses here in Cornwall, it would have been rude not to sign up.

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A hot Saturday morning found us meeting at the Atlantic Scuba dive centre near Falmouth, where Jeff bases his UK courses. We were joined by fellow participant Nic Weeks of Holborn BSAC. This was the introductory weekend course but, as we soon discovered, it’s far more than a taster session. We were soon chatting about long, mid and close up shots, and how to alter the settings on the camera to achieve optimum results. That was the first epiphany: small it may be, but the GoPro is far more than a point and shoot camera. With the ever-tactful Jeff gently pointing out that knowing how your camera works is rather important, we eagerly gathered our kit together, and headed to Mylor to board the dive centre’s spacious RIB, Stingray, for the first dive.

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Dive 1: The Outer Bizzies Reef.

This dive was originally to be in the East Narrows, closer to Falmouth, but a yacht race directly over the site forced a rethink. So we rounded St Anthony’s Head and were soon over the reef. We dropped into about 20 metres onto a series of rock pinnacles and sandy gullies, well stocked with invertebrate and fish life. We had no concrete plan other than to do some filming of whatever we could find. And with that came the first increase in the gradient of the learning curve. Video is dynamic, so simply filming a stationary urchin is unlikely to secure you a contract with the Discovery Channel or the BBC. Nic and I were also surprised to discover that when our footage was reviewed, neither of us had a single shot that lasted more than three seconds. Patience, it seems, was a virtue that we would both need to work on.

Dive 2: The Andromeda.

This four masted barque has long been a favourite wreck of mine. It’s shallow, colourful, easy to get to and a joy to film. We were briefed to include some of the structure of the wreck to frame divers or fish. The visibility was uncharacteristically poor for this site at around five metres, and the kelp had certainly reached its full Summer growth, but there was still ample scope for filming. We experimented with lighting and perspective and whilst I can’t honestly claim to have been ready to jump on the next flight to Hollywood at that point, I did at least manage to take one or two of the shots that I intended, rather than relying on good luck or panic to attempt a sequence. We could now identify a subject which might be worth filming. Next we needed to know how to film it.

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Dive 3: Shore’s Rock.

This was another site which I know well, having spent many dives trying to locate an elusive wreck in the area. Our task was more specific, namely to film a sequence featuring long, mid and close up shots of a diver, as well as a POV (point of view) shot to illustrate what they were looking at. It sounds straightforward, but this was the point at which Jeff wanted us to move up a notch in terms of the quality of our work. Unfortunately this was also the point when I realised why blind photographers are something of a rarity, as I mistook the stills icon (a tiny red blob according to my eyesight) with the video icon (another tiny red blob) with the result that I presented Jeff with 300 still shots of his legs. As always, he was the very epitome of diplomacy, but I could tell that my avant garde approach to film making was unlikely to earn me as many BAFTA nominations as Jeff had received. Another lesson was learnt too, as a seal and a barrel jellyfish popped up next to the boat just as we had de-kitted. Wildlife will never miss the opportunity to taunt you without mercy if it knows you have no camera. As you will see, that particular lesson was to be reinforced on the next dive.

Dive 4: the East Narrows.

With much lighter boat traffic than the previous day, we headed back to this site, which is a sloping bank on the eastern side of the shipping channel into Falmouth. The pressure was really on here. As the person supposedly with local knowledge (never admit to this) I was chosen to pick a specific subject to film. This site is normally a good spot to see various species of Ray so that was my suggestion. Jeff took us through the sequence of shots which would work best with this animal. The seabed is unusual in that it is composed of fragments of maerl, or calcified sea weed. We drifted North in the light flood tide until Jeff spotted a beautiful Thornback Ray, and we gingerly gathered round to film it. I switched my camera on and… nothing happened. I tried again, still nothing. It had gone into sulk mode. One of my regular buddies, Paul Freeman, who had been watching us film, felt my pain, as he had lost his stills camera on the previous dive! So with Jeff and Nic having the only working cameras, Paul and I headed further North to cut our losses by practicing our skills at locating wildlife. Need I tell you what happened next? The wildlife, sensing our inability to immortalise it on film, began to show up in droves. We counted twenty Rays, both Thornback and Blonde, and a stationary John Dory which didn’t move an inch, no matter how closely we approached. Two other divers on the boat told us that they had witnessed the amazingly rare spectacle of a huge Bull Huss giving birth in a small cave! Of course they didn’t have a camera either.

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When we returned to the dive centre, the mystery of my malfunctioning camera was humiliatingly solved by Jeff, who discovered that during the surface interval I had changed batteries and put the new one in upside down. I was utterly mortified. Having sorted out that little problem, we looked more at editing techniques, and software choices available, as well as discussing continuity issues and how to overcome them (the fish will do it for you if you ask nicely). We concluded with some valuable information about the use of music and narration in our soundtrack.

All too soon the course was over and my head was reeling with all the new information which had been stuffed into it. If this much knowledge had been imparted during a weekend course, I can only imagine how much more one could learn during a week’s tuition. Even now, several days later, I find myself framing shots and contemplating composition as I stroll along the sauces, pickles and condiments aisle of my local Sainsbury’s. And my GoPro camera, up until then, an accessory on a dive, had been elevated to the actual purpose of the dive.

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Jeff Goodman runs a variety of courses based not only in Cornwall, but also in Portugal and the Red Sea. Whilst the warm water courses were very tempting, I found the appeal of getting to grips with filming our own wildlife and its environment much more challenging and enjoyable. It was a real pleasure not only to learn so much about the GoPro camera, but also to witness the deep respect that Jeff has for the sea and its inhabitants.

So when my friends ask if I have any plans for the forthcoming week, I can casually announce that I’m doing a spot of filming with Jeff Goodman without being accused of name dropping, because given my inability to read my camera’s screen, or insert the battery correctly, I feel confident that he’s already been talking about me.

Course information and booking: www.jeffgoodman.co.uk
Atlantic Scuba/Stingray Charters: www.atlanticscuba.co.uk

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*Top 5 GoPro filming tips*

1. The GoPro can be a point and shoot camera but it can do so much more. Learn how to set it up correctly for the best results.

2. If your GoPro doesn’t have a screen, you will struggle to get decent results. The back screen is a must have feature.

3. Hollywood may be beckoning but you are still a diver. Don’t let filming distract you from monitoring you and your buddy.

4. Have a shooting plan in your head, it will make editing much easier later. Having said that, stop filming a blenny if a basking shark turns up unexpectedly.

5. Know how your chosen subject characteristically behaves. Successful wildlife filming comes, in part, from predicting what the animal will do next.

Find out more about Nick at his website: www.nicklyon.co.uk

Marine Life & Conservation

Dive Guides invited to apply for the Green Fins Dive Guide Scholarship

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Reef-World’s campaign is helping dive guides in need receive Green Fins environmental certification

The Reef-World Foundation – international coordinator of the UN Environment Programme’s Green Fins initiative – is calling for dive guides to submit their application for the Green Fins Dive Guide Scholarship.

As a result of the Scholarship campaign, dive guides working around the world – including Brazil, the Philippines, Egypt, Colombia, South Africa, Indonesia and Turkey – have received their certificate proving their status as a Green Fins certified dive guide. Yet, thanks to funding from Reef-World’s partner Paralenz, 149 more scuba diving guides will be able to receive their Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course environmental certification.

Dive guides who meet the criteria (outlined below) can apply for the scholarship at any time through the Green Fins website. To be eligible for the scholarship, guides must:

  • have completed and passed all modules of the Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course
  • be able to demonstrate they or their employer are not financially able to purchase the certificate
  • be a national of a country which receives official development assistance from the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The Scholarship was created in response to feedback from dive guides who had passed the Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course and were keen to download and display their personalised electronic certificate but were not financially able to cover the associated cost (£19 / $25 USD). The personalised electronic certificate can be displayed to entice eco-minded guests by informing them the guide has received this vital environmental certification and is aware of how to reduce the negative environmental impacts associated with diving.

Diving related damage to sensitive marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, is becoming an increasingly significant issue. This damage makes them less likely to survive other local and wider stressors, such as overfishing or run-off from land containing pollutants and plastic debris as well as the effects of climate change, such as rising sea temperatures. The Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course, created with the support of Professional SCUBA Schools International (PSS) and running on their innovative EVO e-learning platform, teaches dive professionals how to prevent diving-related damage to coral reefs by following the highest environmental standards and better managing their guests to prevent damage to the reef.

Sam Craven, Programmes Manager at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We’re proud to be offering dive guides around the world the opportunity to become Green Fins certified; no matter their background. Both the e-Course and the Scholarship have been a great success so far and we’re delighted to see so many dive professionals demonstrating their commitment to sustainable tourism by taking the course. We urge dive guides who haven’t yet taken the course to consider taking this step and welcome Scholarship applications from anyone who meets the criteria. Together, we can protect coral reefs through sustainable diving and we’d love as many dive guides as possible to join us.”


Dive guides who want to be considered for scholarship can visit www.greenfins.net/green-fins-dive-guide-scholarship-applications to apply.

To donate to the Green Fins Dive Guide Scholarship Fund, please visit www.greenfins.net/appeal/sponsor-a-dive-guide.

Supporters who are interested in helping additional dive guides receive their certifications can also donate to Sponsor a Dive Guide.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Go Fish Free this February

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There are no longer plenty more fish in the sea! Fish Free February challenges you to help protect our oceans by removing seafood from your diet for 28 days and helping to raise awareness of the issues caused by intensive fishing practices.

Our oceans are in a state of global crisis, brought about by ocean warming, acidification, pollution, and habitat destruction. However, the biggest immediate threat to ocean life is from fisheries. Each year an estimated 1-2.7 trillion fish are caught for human consumption, though this figure does not include illegal fisheries, discarded fish, fish caught to be used as bait, or fish killed by not caught, so the real number is far higher. It is no wonder then, that today nearly 90% of the world’s marine stocks are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted. If we do not act fast, overfishing and damaging fishing practices will soon destroy the ocean ecosystems which produce 80% of the oxygen in our atmosphere and provide three billion people with their primary source of protein.

Fish Free February, a UK-registered charity, is challenging people around the world to take action for marine life in a simple but effective way. Take the Fish Free February Pledge and drop seafood from your diet for one month, or beyond. Fish Free February wants to get people talking about the wide range of issues associated with industrial fishing practices and putting the well-being of our oceans at the forefront of dietary decision-making. A third of all wild-caught fish are used to create feed for livestock, so Fish Free February urges us to opt for plant-based dishes as a sustainable alternative to seafood, sharing our best fish-free recipes on social media with #FishFreeFebruary and nominating our friends to do the same.

“Not all fishing practices are bad” explains Simon Hilbourne, founder of Fish Free February. “Well-managed, small-scale fisheries that use selective fishing gears can be sustainable. However, most of the seafood in our diet comes from industrial fisheries which often prioritise profit over the well-being of our planet, resulting in multiple environmental challenges. In some cases, the fishing industry has even been linked to serious human rights issues such as forced labour and human trafficking! Fish Free February hopes to shed more light on fishing practices, create wider discussion around these issues, and offer solutions to benefit people, wildlife, and the natural environment.”

To learn more about these issues and to take the Fish Free February pledge visit www.fishfreefebruary.com

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Competitions

This is the perfect start to your 2021 diving season… and at an incredible lead-in price of just £885 per person.

Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. This itinerary takes in the wonderful South & St Johns from 26 February – 05 March 2021.  

Subject to availability – limited flight seats at this price so don't delay!

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk to book your spot!

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