I was so proud of my staff and interns as they came to the end of the highly successful June internship program in Scottburgh near Durban. I spent over a week with them at the beginning of June, kicking off the program, and I was very sad to leave- what a great group of people they were. I was lucky to spend time with everyone again on the Sardine Run late in June, and to hear how much they had learned. One of my staff, Ariane Robinson, has been keeping a wonderful diary of some of the things they did , Together with some of their pictures I hope this will give a good idea of what a typical month on the underwater photography internship in Scottburgh, looks like. Over to Ari. Here she is with her man Pepe- who is, very ably, training my students.
Week 1 The underwater photography internship has just started and we have 6 students from all over the world ready to learn more about the oceans and how to photograph them- and have some fun while doing so. We have Shawn from Singapore, Rosa from Mexico, Lauren from New Zealand, and Amanda, Grant (better known as Alan) and Colton from the States. During the first week Fiona and Pepe (the new course director for this program) taught the students how to set up the dSLR cameras in their housings; how to take care of them and gave them an introduction to the new techniques they will use during this month.Pepe is quite a find for Fiona! He is a young photographer from Mexico City who has won national competitions in his country; competed on an international contest in Cuba, and has published his pictures and articles in well known mexican magazines. He is very passionate about the ocean and loves teaching, so the students are for sure in good hands. Pepe gets help from his girlfriend Ari a dive instructor, with many years of experience to give the students the best attention they can.The first dive in the ocean was a check-out dive so that Fiona and Pepe could suss out their students dive skills, especially the skill of buoyancy. Neither instructors wanted there to be any reef damage! On the way to the dive site they saw hundreds of dolphins jumping around and mantas at the surface so they jumped and free dived with 3 of the mantas. Not a bad start! Of course- this only generally happens when you don’t have a camera to prove it. During the dive they also saw leopard rays, ragged tooth sharks (raggies), marble rays, a couple of potato bass and much more. The next day the students practiced in the pool and played with the settings as they had never used dSLR cameras underwater before. Everything changed for them, even their buoyancy- which is getting better and better as the course proceeds.
On Tuesday the students did their second dive of the program, the day was perfect and they were using the cameras for the first time in the ocean
On this week the students changed their macro lenses to wide angle for the first time. Using wide angle is a little bit more of a challenge than macro, and requires a lot of practice to get the perfect shot.
To practice this skills we went for our first ocean safari of the program. We launched from Blue Wilderness dive shop, Odette, the manager gave us a full briefing about our first encounter with wild sharks. She explained the behavior and safe practices to snorkel with them.We had the option to use a shark cage to see them but all the interns result very brave and we decided not to use it. The sharks that are normally seen here are black tip reef sharks, the Dive Master Müller de Jager , is passionate about the ocean like us. Muller attracted them with sardine bait and fish oil and when there were enough fins in the water we got ready to jump in, yes in and not out! Most people think this is crazy but we love sharks and to be with them face to face is a unique and wonderful experience.The first five minutes are the most stressful ones because you don’t know how they will react but once you understand that sharks are really not interested on eating humans you get relaxed and enjoy every second with them.
The interns achieved beautiful pictures by the end.
We stayed on a beautiful place called Santa Paloma reserve, they received us with a delicious Braai and we went to sleep early as the next day we had to be up at 5am to try to find the sardines.
We have Shawn from Singapore ( in the green hoodie ), Rosa from Mexico ( in the denim jacket ) , Lauren from New Zealand ( next to Rosa with long blonde hair ) , and Amanda ( stroking the dog ), Grant (a.k.a Alan) ( grey top in the middle ) and Colton ( resting his chin on Rosa’s head ) from the States. During the first week Fiona ( bottom right with her son Finn on her lap ) and Pepe ( extreme right top holding up the bamboo !)
Next morning we enjoyed the sunrise from the boat and got ready to see one of the most beautiful shows on Earth.Early in the morning, Pepe spotted the gannets, this marine birds are the predator species most closely associated with sardine presence, at the same time we saw thousands of dolphins, this are responsible for rounding up the sardines into bait balls, we were all happy, screaming and some of us crying just a little bit, this moment is one of the best in my life. It’s was a unique moment and a beautiful show to see.When the skipper told us to jump, we didn’t hesitate and put our face in the water, we saw many of the dolphins swimming next and under us, we could even hear their beautiful singing. To be honest with all this excitement believe it or not, all the interns left their cameras on the boat, but luckily we had Fiona on board to provide us with a picture of our magical day.
The wind was too strong the next day to do the sardine run and we explored Santa Paloma reserve, we saw some cebras, friendly horses, wildebeest and impalas jumping around.