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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

Exhibition: Protecting UNESCO Marine World Heritage through scientific research

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From now until 30 October, the photo exhibition “Protecting UNESCO Marine World Heritage through scientific research” features 21 photographs at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, as well as a digital edition.

Exceptional photographs highlight how innovative marine experts and scientists take the pulse of the ocean by exploring ecosystems, studying the movement of species, or revealing the hidden biodiversity of coral reefs. Scientific discoveries are more important than ever for the protection and sustainable conservation of our Marine World Heritage. This memorable exhibition comes ahead of the launch, in 2021, of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (“Ocean Decade”). The exhibition was jointly developed by UNESCO and the Principality of Monaco.

The 50 marine sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, distributed across 37 countries, include a wide variety of habitats as well as rare marine life still largely unknown. Renowned for their unmatched beauty and emblematic biodiversity, these exceptional ecosystems play a leading role in the field of marine conservation. Through scientific field research and innovation, concrete actions to foster global preservation of the ocean are being implemented locally in these unique natural sites all over the world. They are true symbols of hope in a changing ocean.

Since 2017, the Principality of Monaco supports UNESCO to strengthen conservation and scientific understanding of the marine sites inscribed on the World Heritage List. This strategic partnership allows local management teams to benefit from the results obtained during the scientific missions of Monaco Explorations. The partnership also draws international attention to the conservation challenges facing the world’s most iconic ocean sites.

The exhibition invites viewers to take a passionate dive into the heart of the scientific missions led by Monaco Explorations in four marine World Heritage sites: Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (Philippines), Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary (Colombia), Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (Palau), and the Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems (France). It is also an opportunity to discover the work of a megafauna census; the study of the resilience of coral reefs and their adaptation in a changing climate; the exploration of the deep sea; and the monitoring of large marine predators through satellite data.

To visit the Digital Exhibition click here.

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Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 7

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Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy for the final part of his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

Deptherapy expeditions do not just magically happen, they need planning and they need funding.  This expedition was funded by our long-term partners the Veterans’ Foundation.  The funding is part of a grant they awarded us for programmes this year, which were then put on hold because of COVID.

All charities in the Armed Forces’ Sector are struggling for funds. Deptherapy desperately needs support going forward and every penny counts.

We know what we do works and at the end of this blog you will find details of the research studies into Deptherapy’s programmes and how they impact on the lives of our beneficiaries.  This includes details that are hot off the press about the latest study that reports that what we offer through scuba diving and 24/7 support has benefits beyond those found in other sporting rehabilitation programmes.

Well tomorrow we fly home, late in the evening with the journey home for some of the guys who live up North taking around 15 hours after leaving Roots.

We want to make the most of today but with the tide running we are not going to be able to dive until later this morning which means only two dives today.

Oatsie and Swars about to start their sidemount dives

Things, however are really busy over at the dive centre with Swars and Oatsie putting their sidemount kit together for their training dives with Steve Rattle leading to their RAID sidemount qualification.  It has been nice to be able to offer the guys this extra training, given the amount of work they have put in this week.  They have needed to get through their theory quickly but given the RADI online learning system this has not been too arduous.

Steve came diving with us yesterday to get some more photos and was really amazed at the progress that Corey had made. He was quite open in his praise, as in his view Corey has gone from a non-diver to being a very competent OW diver capable of diving, unsupervised, with a buddy.  Praise indeed.

Other than the sidemount course we are diving as a group today: Corey, Keiron, Michael, Moudi and me. Corey has been given some tasks – SMB deployment on both dives and the afternoon dive will be a ‘naturalist dive’.  Guy Henderson has set Corey a task: ‘to identify three species of fish and record the time into the dive and the depth at which each one was spotted’.  Guy runs Marine Biology courses on the reef and knows where the fish are to be found, how long into the dive, and at what time.

The two Toms are getting put through their paces. They have walked their cylinders down to the entry point, but Steve sends them back to the dive centre to collect other kit they should have brought with them.

Our general dive goes well and the sidemount guys appear from their sidemount dive some 90 minutes after dipping their heads under the water.

Corey enjoying being a RAID OW20 Diver

Lots of bubbly chat at lunchtime, a group of really happy divers. Corey really has benefited from the week and over lunch thanked the team for making him a diver. He has very quickly become part of the family and after returning home he published an amazing post on Facebook about his experience.  Corey really gets Deptherapy and had soon realised that we see past mental and physical injuries and see the person inside and work with that person.  He also realised that we want beneficiaries to see their fellow beneficiaries in the same light.  He knows he now has another ‘family’ – a family of brothers in arms who have two things in common, they served their country and they have suffered life changing injuries or illnesses.

Back into the water for the afternoon dive and Corey identifies the fish and records the details on a slate.  The two Tom’s complete their second dive and qualify as RAID Sidemount Divers. Great!

Kit packed away and it is time to return to the camp for a few well-earned last night drinks.

I am often asked why we use Roots as our exclusive base for diving. I have mentioned before that it offers us an ideal retreat, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We are secluded and there are no distractions such as late-night bars etc.

Roots Accessible Room

The second reason is the amazing welcome we receive from Steve, Clare, Moudi and the team.  We have been going to Roots since 2014 and many of the staff have become good friends, they understand our needs and are the friendliest people you could ever wish to meet.

The third reason is the huge investment Steve and Clare have made in making the resort and dive centre accessible for those with physical injuries including those who need to use wheelchairs.  All our beneficiaries can enjoy Roots and, in fact, love it here.  The reef is perfect for us and in non-COVID times we can travel to the Salem Express and other dive sites to enjoy more of the Red Sea experience.

Accessible toilet on the Roots beach

After discussions with the team I was very proud to be able to tell Corey that his progress had been such that we were inviting him on the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust sponsored two-week Marine Biology Course at Roots in June 2021. There is lots of homework to undertake under the guidance of Dr Debbie McNeill of Open Oceans and Corey will be sent the Red Sea Guide which is the basis for study.

While on that programme, Corey with fellow beneficiary Dale Mallin, will complete his RAID Advanced 35 course.  This all builds to a 10-day Red Sea liveaboard in 2022, onboard Roots’ new boat Big Blue where 18 beneficiaries will compare the coral and aquatic life on the wrecks of the SS Thistlegorm and the less known SS Turkia that is to be found in the Gulf of Suez and is rarely dived.

Paul Rose, our Vice President, is supporting the programme and is seeking the support of the UN and the Royal Geographical Society. A comprehensive report will be submitted to our partners in the project and to the Egyptian Authorities.

Last night and chill

What we do works:

In recent years there have been three academic studies into our work:

2018 – A study by a team from the University of Sheffield Medical School.

2019 – A study by The Centre of Trauma at Nottingham University.

Both these studies reported very positively on Deptherapy’s work both underwater but also in terms of the provision of 24/7 support.

The following is from our press release which was issued on 26th October:

‘A new study into Scuba Diving Rehabilitation Charity Deptherapy’s approach to supporting Armed Forces veterans with psychological injuries such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through the medium of scuba diving has been carried out by Petra Walker in conjunction with Hanna Kampman of the Posttraumatic Growth Research Unit at the University of East London.

This study, which used Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), demonstrates that scuba diving has rehabilitation benefits beyond those found in other forms of sporting rehabilitation exercise. IPA is a qualitative methodology that examines the experiences of participants and has been used in previous studies of Posttraumatic Growth (PTG) in para-athletes.

Petra is an experienced diver herself and was exploring the wellbeing aspects of scuba diving as part of her Masters in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology when she came across a previous study on Deptherapy. Past studies have mainly focused on the medical aspects of diving, so the opportunity to examine the mental health side of rehabilitative scuba diving was impossible to ignore. The full study is currently embargoed until it is published at a future date in an academic journal, but it follows similar academic research into the work of Deptherapy by the University of Sheffield Medical School (2018) and the University of Nottingham (2019).’

This is amazing news and sets us apart from other sporting rehabilitation programmes.

We are currently working with our VP Richard Castle who is a Consultant Psychologist and our Dive Medicine Advisor Mark Downs to identify further areas of psychological and physical dive related research.

We end the week on a happy note.  A young man who has learned to dive properly with a RAID OW 20 certification, a new RAID Master Rescue Diver, two new RAID Sidemount Divers, 5 new RAID O2 Providers, many assessments for our DMs but most of all a week of learning, of making new friendships, renewing old friendships, and building on our family ethos.

Until we meet again…

For us, Deptherapy is a journey, a journey that continues to push boundaries in the use of scuba diving in the rehabilitation of those suffering life changing mental and/or physical challenges.  On our journey we want to change the way the scuba diving industry views diving for those with disabilities.

In the new year, we will be launching, with our diver training agency partners RAID, a new and exciting adaptive teaching programme that will offer diving to the disabled community. We can’t wait to share it with you!


Find out more about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk

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