GoPro Hero 4, underwater lighting and filters

 

GoPro Hero 4 underwater Copyright ©Angelina Cecchetto

GoPro Hero 4 underwater. Copyright ©Angelina Cecchetto

If you are thinking of buying a GoPro Hero 4 to play and shoot underwater, there are a few tips you may find useful! I have just bought a GP Hero 4 myself together with an Ikelite Tray with the Orca Torch Underwater Lighting and Flex Arms Light Kit to shoot and make some underwater videos.

I must say the GoPro performance itself was pretty good overall and in natural lighting it was fairly decent for the depth delimited within recreational diving. The sound on the videos is also quite good and clear. I liked the fact that you could lower the volume underwater.

The photo definition for the 12MP/Wide angle photos was really good even without lighting and even at 30m+/100ft depth.

As I was curious to try some polarizing and red filters, I also ended up buying a set of 6 XCSOURCE underwater filters (red, blue, yellow, purple, polarizing and neutral density). They come in a nice little wallet and they include a very easy to mount filter mount. When I actually tried out the red filter for the first time, I had the great surprise to find out that all my photos and videos looked like I was diving on Mars!

GoPro Hero 4 underwater

GoPro Hero 4 underwater with XSource red filter

GoPro Hero 4 with XScource filter mount

GoPro Hero 4 with XScource filter mount

If you don’t want to give your photos a Martian red tint like on the picture on the left here, you’re better off getting an underwater color correction filter.

When using the polarizing filter, I also found out that the mount created a definite vignetting stamp on pictures when shooting above water as shown on the right here.

I found that the Orca Torches were excellent diving torches with a good battery life. For videos I found the beam to be quite strong in full strength, which created unnatural shadows on the subject. To compromise I ended up setting a dimmer light set which is possible with the Orca Torch D500V.

GoPro Hero 4 underwater Copyright ©Angelina Cecchetto

GoPro Hero 4 underwater with Orca Torches D500V. Copyright ©Angelina Cecchetto

To conclude I would say that the GoPro Hero 4 is quite a good camera to start playing with underwater especially if you intend to do wide angle photos but if you want to do macro you’d better invest in another camera with more versatile zooming options. In other words, if you are planning to make your GoPro your main underwater camera, consider its limits carefully but if you intend to take it with you on your next snowboard or rock climbing trip, like I do, then it’s definitely a great option!

By Angelina Cecchetto on 10th December 2014

To dive or not to dive? Is diving more detrimental than beneficial?

 

Photography: ©2013 Martin Ureta. All Rights Reserved.

Photography: ©2013 Martin Ureta. All Rights Reserved.

When you work as a dive instructor or a dive video photographer you witness a lot of the underwater world as the ocean becomes your office. A friend of mine who has been a great dive instructor for years and lately also became video photographer decided to stop being a dive instructor and an underwater video photographer all together. When I asked him why, he told me that he could not handle seeing the damage that the dive industry caused upon the reefs and especially the shallow coral reefs where novice divers are brought to on their very first dives. I must say that I have myself witnessed a few beginners’ divers walking or clumsily finning on coral reefs and I also wondered if the dive industry was not generating more damage than protection.

After reflections and discussions, I came to the conclusion that diving was more beneficial for the ocean than it was destructive. I even now go as far as believing that divers and diving professionals could constitute a strong “manpower” towards ocean conservation along with the marine biologists.

First I would say that when people start diving they discover a whole new world that was totally unknown to them. Then as they dive more and become more confident, they really relax and start appreciating the underwater world, its diversity and magic beauty. As they dive more and more in various dive spots around the world they become aware of the ocean pollution across the world, of the traces of human consumption such as plastic bags floating around, plastic or glass bottles, metal cans laying around the reefs. This is where divers influence can positively make a difference in the right direction. I estimate there are several millions of divers in the world and a few thousand professional divers. If all the divers who come across garbage picked it up, this would definitely start making a noticeable difference.

More and more dive centers also start organizing regular “clean-up” dives on their house reefs or local reefs, this is a great action that should become common in most dive centers in a near future.

I also know of a few non-professional divers who have been organizing individual actions within their county or province to raise awareness to non-divers about the state of the reefs but also the lakes in which they dive near their homes.

Beyond dive centers and individuals initiatives there is another important positive impact related to diving. In many of the tropical countries where I have been working and diving, I have witnessed that the local people can only live off 3 main activities, fishing, tourism (diving) and drugs dealing. Before tourism developed, their main activity was fishing. As we all know overfishing is a major threat to many species and the main cause of some species depletion. The fact that the dive industry is developing and offering the locals more and more job opportunities help them shift their main activities from fishing to diving or tourism. Not only more and more locals start working in the diving or tourism industry but they become aware that they can generate a good income doing so and as a result some started protecting the ocean wealth. The Maldives, that are now very famous for manta presence, have fully understood the great value of manta diving. Millions of divers go to the Maldives on expensive holidays to see the mantas and whale sharks and this contribute heavily in the wellbeing of the Maldivian tourism industry.

Now whilst some countries have understood the value of the underwater biodiversity and the importance in protecting this natural heritage, some others have not yet realized this.

I must be honest and say that before becoming a diver years ago, I was not aware of all these issues and therefore I was not doing anything about them. Now I am aware of these issues, like many divers I know, I do my best to act and try to have a positive impact about it. When I used to lead dives I would show the example by picking up debris whenever I saw some. I am now trying to work on an awareness project against shark finning which would ideally be diffused in China if possible. I truly believe that if the millions of divers across the world did a small gesture towards ocean conservation, it could have a definite positive impact on the situation. I know that many divers and dive centers are involved in conservation projects and this is the way forward.

Many would argue that the tourism industry is one of the sources of sea pollution and I would agree however I know for a fact that there is a higher probability that a “diver” gets involved in an ocean preservation project rather than a “non-diver”. If two individuals pollute equally but one of them cleans up some of its pollution then he is the example to follow.

I truly believe that divers can protect the ocean more than they damage it, so to the question “To dive or not to dive?” I would reply “Dive it is!” 

By Angelina Cecchetto on 12th February 2013

Manta giving birth or intestinal eversion?

 

Photography: ©2013 Martin Ureta. All Rights Reserved.

Photography: ©2013 Martin Ureta. All Rights Reserved.

Following the great feedback I received from the last post “The first breathtaking photo of a giant oceanic Manta Ray giving birth??” it would seem that the picture could well show a case of what is called “gastro-intestinal eversion” where the manta actually ejects the lower part of its intestine out of the cloaca in order to clean its intestine from indigestible debris.

This is an event which has so far been rarely recorded in the wild. One other case has been recorded in 2007 at a cleaning station in waters off Maui.

Since I am no marine biologist I will leave it to the specialists to decide whether the picture shows a manta giving birth or everting its intestine. In any case this is a very rare and lucky shot!

What this information leads me to wonder is whether the regularity at which the mantas evert their intestine has been increased by the anthropogenic pollution factor? It would also be interesting to know what sort of impact this has on the mantas habits and behaviors if any.

It would also seem that the shot could be of a Manta alfredi rather than Manta birostris, this is still to be defined with other shots. The differentiation between Manta alfredi and Manta birostris is fairly recent and dates back from 2009. In fact Manta alfredy, also known as Reef Manta Ray and Manta birostris are both part of what is called the “genus Manta” family and they can easily be confused. It would seem that manta birostris do not display markings between the gills.

What is pretty certain is that the situation of the mantas alfredy is also critical. The same over fishing threats apply to both species and the population is drastically decreasing. The IUCN categorized the manta rays as “Vulnerable” in between the “Near Threatened” and “Endangered” species and states that “Overall, the rate of population reduction appears to be high in several regions, up to as much as 80% over the last three generations (approximately 75 years), and globally a decline of 30% is strongly suspected.”

As I mentioned in the previous article, there are various factors that led to this critical state of affairs: overfishing, very low fecundity rate and anthropogenic pollution.  It would seem that in the wild female mantas give birth to a single pup every 2 to 3 years cycle. When we add this factor to the overfishing trends we can easily understand that populations are being easily depleted.

Whether this picture shows a Manta birostris or a Manta alfredi and whether it is showing a birth or a gastro intestinal eversion (I leave it to the knowledgeable marine specialists and scientists to decide), the important message is that Mantas are in danger and they need a strong global protection. I am hoping that this picture will raise awareness, open up discussions, ideas exchange and humbly contribute towards global mantas protection.

By Angelina Cecchetto on 9 February 2013 

The first breathtaking photo of a Manta Ray giving birth??

 

Photography: ©2013 Martin Ureta. All Rights Reserved.

Photography: ©2013 Martin Ureta. All Rights Reserved.

When my friend Martin Ureta came to the Maldives for a dive holiday he was far from imagining that he would be the amazingly lucky and first ever photographer of a giant oceanic manta giving birth in its natural environment!

Despite a growing number of scientific studies on manta populations very little is known thus far about the giant oceanic Manta ray also known as Manta Birostris. No one has ever seen them give birth so far. So it would seem that Martin is the first person to have ever photographed a Manta Birostris in the process of giving birth in its natural environment, and this happened during the first week of January 2013! The shot was taken during a dive in the southern part of the Ari Atoll in the Maldives in a dive spot famous for spotting mantas. During the dive a group of 3 Mantas Birostris were twirling over the shallow reef to feed to the delight of the group of divers observing their graceful underwater moves. The divers were all mesmerized by the spectacle and couldn’t believe their luck to have spotted the mantas and have them twirling over them for some magical minutes. Martin was busy enjoying the show and capturing this underwater ballet on camera. None the divers, nor their guide noticed anything particular happening with the mantas during the actual dive but when they came back to the island and viewed the pictures we noticed something unusual in one of the manta’s pelvic area. I immediately thought this might be the unbelievable capture of a manta birth but I am not a marine biologist.

When he returned from holidays, Martin contacted The Manta Network in California to get an opinion on what is actually happening on the photo. Robert Aston, The Manta Network Executive Director shared the photo with Dr. Robert Rubin who is one of the foremost experts on Manta Birostris and from their very enthusiastic feedback, it would seem that the picture is indeed the first picture of a Manta Birostris giving birth.

We would like to use this picture as a flagship picture to defend mantas and especially the giant oceanic mantas. We hope this picture will create the awareness that mantas are some of the most peaceful and graceful underwater creatures. Very little is known about them so far but all the studies being led are highlighting a drastic decline in their populations. According to the IUCN “The rate of population reduction appears to be high in several regions, as much as 80% over the last three generations (approximately 75 years), and globally a decline of 30% is strongly suspected.”

The IUCN categorized the manta rays as “Vulnerable” in between the “Near Threatened” and “Endangered” species. There are a various factors that led to this critical state of affairs.

The first main threat comes from fishing as mantas are highly valuable in international markets and in particular in Asian markets. As Africa Geographic’s Science Editor Tim Jackson[3] mentions in his article entitled “Myths about manta rays”:  “In traditional Chinese medicine, it is believed that the gill-rakers of mantas and other rays cure chickenpox and alleviate high blood pressure. They don’t!”

The fact that mantas are easy to spot from the surface due to their large size, and easy to fish out because of their slow swimming speed and the fact that they don’t avoid humans, make them a very easy prey for many fishing boats.

Another important factor to understand is mantas reproductive cycle. Although there is a lot to be learnt still, it is thought that Mantas Birostris have a gestation period of one year and generally give birth to a single pup at a time. It is still not quite clear whether females have a pup per year or one every 2 years. At this rate it is important to understand that if the fishing rate is higher than the manta rays reproductive rate, they will soon be extinct.

Another factor to mention is the anthropogenic factor such as water warming and pollution which indirectly affects mantas habitat although it is pretty difficult to evaluate in which measure.

To conclude I would say that in the light of all of the above it appears quite vital that worldwide measures are taken as soon as possible. Some countries have already applied strong measures to protect mantas as the UICN states, mainly the United States, the Republic of Maldives, the Philippines, Mexico, Ecuador, Australia and New Zealand. Whilst this is a great start, Mantas are in danger and need a strong global worldwide protection.

Mantas are some of the most peaceful and graceful underwater creatures I have been given the chance to see. It would be a lot more than just an “awful shame” to loose such a magical underwater specie in the name of an unfounded cure property.

By Angelina Cecchetto on 7th February 2013

 
 

Welcome to Life of the Worlds

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Welcome to Life of the Worlds*

Welcome you all to Life of the Worlds and thank you for your visit and your contribution. Feel free to add your comment and ideas in the comments section below the posts. 

I am passionate about Nature and Ocean conservation, diving, travelling, photograpghy, adventure to name but a few and this is one of the primary reasons that lead me to create this blog. 

The idea is to share information and raise awareness on today society issues and create a frame of reflection which will hopefully have a positive impact.