Underwater Critters Gone Wild originated almost 20 years ago when Travel Masters regularly scheduled Photo Weeks at Sipadan Water Village. We would gather up groups of people who were willing to spend insane amounts of money on camera systems and then carry them half way around the world in order to capture images of mythical creatures such as the flamboyant ornate ghost frogfish (amphibious newbious balonious).
It was all about the equipment. Who had the latest system, the most megapixel, the new Nikon wide angle lens, or the most doublers. Whether or not you liked a wet mount was not a personal question but a topic of general discussion with vocal groups expanding on both the pros and the cons. With systems assembled the group looked more like a special forces team loading out for a mission than a bunch of divers headed to a dive site. It was an arms race and size definitely mattered.
Over time the systems got smaller, lighter weight, and easier to use and everyone had one. The arguments grew quieter and less frequent because everyone’s equipment was basically the same. It became great fun to hover high over a dive site and watch the underwater photographers carpet bomb the area rapidly firing their strobes at anything that moved, and a lot of things that didn’t. More than once we had to explain that a rock fish was in fact, not a rock at all. Everyone’s equipment was the same and we began to notice that everyone’s photos were also the same.
We discovered that Photo Week needed a reboot and Underwater Critters Gone Wild was born. This time the focus is on the critters not the cameras. Instead of focusing on technology we are focusing on the expertise of local dive guides that know the life cycles and behaviors of some of the most unique animals on the planet. These guys know where to look and what to look for and they’re willing to share that knowledge with you.
Of course, we still have experienced photographers available to help you get the most out of your photo or video equipment, troubleshoot problems, and offer suggestions on photo and video editing. The difference is that we aren’t focusing on getting just a technically great image. After all, with today’s equipment getting an image that is correctly exposed and in focus isn’t all that great a challenge. However, capturing a unique subject doing something interesting while controlling lighting in the foreground and background to create a dramatic and engaging image is something worth bragging about.
Will you be able to do that after attending Underwater Critters Gone Wild? Probably not. We’re still working on it ourselves! What you will leave with are images that are better than you’re used to and a lot of knowledge about how to plan to shoot that critter the next time you see it. You may also leave with a prize!
We’re looking for new and experienced divers, photographers or not, who are interested in learning more about the animals they are interacting with while enjoying a little fun and adventure. We’ve designed Underwater Critters Gone Wild to be an exciting, informative, low stress event. Divers who are looking for a hyper-competitive event full of snooty photo pros willing to give you a beat down for every image you create need not apply. Everyone else is welcome!