Our first Photocomp for the GFD! (By Russell)

The Geelong Camera Club might cringe at our efforts. Whilst some (OK, not me) came up with some beautiful shots, for the most part what came out reflected the equipment used: small digital cameras with the qualities of a modern box brownie. But then small cheap cameras are what we have and photography is not what we do: we’re freedivers and spearfishers, not photographers. The photocomp rules are set to match us and it’s more like a spearing comp where the species needs to be identifiable rather than focussed and, close and centered rather than evoking emotion using light. Some may graduate to the standards of the camera club, but the intent is to provide another excuse to get out and explore the underwater environment of our region, particularly those places where fishing is prohibited such as we did yesterday at the Point Addis marine park. So for those of you who don’t have an expensive underwater camera the message is: expensive equipment and skill is not required to be part of this comp: just do it!

While the rules are formatted to be similar to the spearing comp it opens access to the intertidal zone and marine parks, and species size doesn’t count. I didn’t know what an infant sea sweep looked like until I saw a group of perhaps 50 of them swimming in a space about 1m square in 50cm of water. They ranged from a few readily identifiable 5cm long specimens down to 1.5cm and every size in between. As I now know what a sea sweep looks like when its 1.5cm long I can use that knowledge for the next photocomp. I saw many very small fish for which I didn’t submit photos because I didn’t know what they were, and this comp has motivated me to find out though I may need to provide  identification evidence for the judges to claim the points.   

The sea sweep shot I submitted is below: the fish in the center is perhaps only 5cm long. With the wide angle camera it makes it hard to judge the distance – a key ‘framing’ points consideration – yet it’s so close I could reach out and grab it. This size versus distance issue made for a head-scratching moment for the judges who are all more familiar with ‘legal size’ specimens.

Another example of the ‘did you shoot it’ points scaling can be seen in the shot below. A bystander would judge this a crap photograph as there is nothing of interest. However if you look closely there are two fish just below the middle of the shot. On zooming in these are clearly identifiable as trevally: so thats 4 points. The distance is not close so this shot didn’t score highly on the framing section of the judging. This shot provided one of my highest scores: the GFD is not the Geelong camera club.  

I had many photos that left me wondering what on earth I was looking at when I took the shot. The rules require submitting your photos within an hour after the comp conclusion and I rushed. Had I taken my time I would have found the fish in some of those ‘ blank’ shots. Example below is a zerbrafish. Not in close range so few framing points, but on zooming in it’s identifiable hence it would get the one point for the fish. Since going over the photos again at home in addition to this Zeb (1) I have found photos of an ‘other’ leatherjacket (1), a herring cale (1), and a red mullet (2): thats 5 points I missed out on because of my lack of effort at the very end. Might put that down to fatigue after the 5 hours in the water.

At the start I had a vision of this being a very short event limited by the battery life of my camera which I thought would be an hour perhaps two. I decided to switch it off as much as possible until I came across an area with some potential. This let the time spread out and led to a few issues as my camera was in video mode when it came on and I had to switch it over to single shot mode. This was fine until I found myself in a hurry and forgot to do the switch – as when I come across a cray out in the open. Thankfully the judges took pity and accepted the first frame of a 2 second video. I need to read the manual on my camera (yes we are that inexperienced).

A normal comp dive has the same 6 hour time limit but that time has been rarely used by me when spearing, I find myself back at shore having exhausted myself or got to the point where more time didn’t feel usable, For this event the time flew and I can see that with good battery management the full 6 hours will be more likely, and require more use of the float to carry water bottles and energy bars.

So, not worring about gun safety or judgmental bystanders, not worrying about the size of fish and introducing an interest in species identification of juveniles, going where fishers are not welcome, rules that level the field so guys like me can feel competitive: I think this new comp has potential and look foreward to it appearing more often on our calendar. And for those who wish to take their pictures home to use outside the rules then that opportunity remains.

Yep, same bloke, same camera, same dive. But crikey what a difference some photo editing makes!

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