Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia. March 2009
In February and March 2009 I travelled to Raja Ampat in West Papua, Indonesia to lead my Divequest Ultimate Indonesia group trip with Graham Abbott of Diving 4 Images on the Seven Seas Liveaboard. The Seven Seas is an lovely boat and the crew are even better. I would not hesitate to recommend it.
I don't remember exactly how many times I have worked with Graham. This was my third time taking a groups for Divequest with him, and my previous trip to Raja Ampat was with him too. On that trip we really went off-piste and many established authorities were keen to tell us that we were wasting our time in some of the areas we dived. Going back a few years later I was pleased to see that many of those people are now diving the sites we explored on that trip. Graham's key strength is that he truly understands what underwater photographers want from their diving and divesites, because he spends most of his time guiding professional film-makers and photographers. He had been on the Seven Seas recently with Howard Hall's IMAX team. But on this trip he truly excelled himself, making almost every photographer on board feel that each divesite had been selected specifically for what they wanted to photograph.
What is most exciting about diving is Raja Ampat is the variety of habitats available. The reefs are stunning, of course, but the archipelago is so pristine, over such a large area, that the variety of images you can produce is beyond belief. We dived on submerged seamounts, around small islands, large islands, rocks, in channels, bays and on points, in caves, in tunnels and on sloping reefs, drops offs, rubble areas and algae patches. We also spend considerable time exploring mangroves and these are covered in a separate gallery. I also shot a lot of topside images, although none are included in this gallery because it was already one of the largest on my website.
For kit: I used the Nikon D700 in my Subal housing with Subal's 45 degree viewfinder. I shot the Sigma 15mm fisheye, occasionally with a 1.5x teleconverter fitted, Sigma 28-70mm with +3 dioptre, Nikon 60mm AFS, Nikon 105mm AFS VR and Sigma 150mm macro lens. I used the Nikon 5T and Canon 500D dioptres, sometimes stacked together. I used Subtronic Alpha strobe and Inon Z240 strobes (the Inons fitted with Lee 443 filters to match their colour temperature to the Subtronic). I also used my own softboxes on the Inons, for extreme wide angle, when I shot with all three strobes. I also used a snoot on my strobe for some of the wide angle shots in the caverns. For colour available light photographs I used a Magic Filter.
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