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Red Sea Workshop

I announce my workshops through my travel newsletter. They are often full before they are announced elsewhere or publicised openly on my website. You can receive my travel newsletter by subscribing here by email (or email alex@amustard.com).

I have been running Red Sea workshops for many years and the vast majority of them are on my favourite boat MY Whirlwind, of Tornado Marine Fleet, with the workshops coordinated by Scuba Travel in the UK. Whirlwind was voted live aboard of the year in the Diver Awards 2012, an award she has won on several occasions before. But it is not the awards that attracts me to Whirlwind, I think she is perfectly set up for a group of photographers. She has luxurious cabins, but more importantly she has very large communal spaces, providing enough room for everyone to bring as much camera gear as they want and it is never under foot. Moreover, I have been using Whirlwind as a base in the Red Sea for many years and the Captain and his crew know me and my groups very well and always bend over backwards to look after our unusual demands. Whirlwind is definitely one of the reasons my Red Sea workshops are so popular. I have now run many, many workshops and trips with Scuba Travel and I continue to work with them because they provide a helpful, friendly and efficient service to the photographers who book on my trips. They know my stuff and they do all in their power to put the customer first. You can get a clear idea of the quality and diversity of subject matter on my workshops by looking at these galleries of images taken by people on the workshops in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

I typically run my Red Sea workshop in late June, which is my preferred time for shooting the dramatic schools of fish that gather in the early summer at Ras Mohammed to spawn. These include the famous bohar snappers, batfish, giant trevally, bigeye jacks, unicorn fish, barracuda, blue-line emperors, masked pufferfish and long nosed parrotfish. When it kicks off it is my favourite dive site in the world. The wonders of Ras Mohammed tend to be our focus for the second half of the week. We tend to start the week on the Red Sea's photogenic shipwrecks, usually including the Giannis D, Carnatic and Thistlegorm. And sometimes we fit in a couple of others. We also take in a few more standard reef dives, Tiran being a favourite for reef wide angle incorporating the classic Red Sea scenes of red soft corals and thousands of dancing anthias. It is also a great spot for hawksbill turtles feeding on soft corals.

That said, when the conditions are excellent at Ras Mohammed we don't move and just dive here all day, for several days in a row. When time allows we may try some other sites, such as diving in the middle of the day at cave sites to get light shafts cutting down into the caverns, or an afternoon dive at Anemone City, when the day boats have gone and the anemones begin to close up, revealing their bright red skirts as backgrounds. Late afternoon dives are also good for catching lion fish hunting and photographing mating, I have even photographed clear fin lion fish spawning. Plus there is plenty of macro too. Although I encourage people to use the workshop to concentrate on developing their wide angle skills. Suffice to say we don't struggle too much for subjects.

The teaching element of the Red Sea Workshop is themed on making the most of the photographic opportunities in the Red Sea. Lectures usually cover shooting wreck externals, wreck internals, filter photography, shooting schools and fish portraiture. On my Red Sea trips I give the lectures during the day, between the dives, so you have ideas to try straight away. This also leaves the evenings free for group image review sessions, which provide a chance to solve problems, make plans to improve our pictures and to get inspiration for shots to try on the next day. The group size is larger than the Cayman trips (usually 19 plus me, although we run Whirlwind under her official capacity of 22). These trips are usually sold with flights from London or they are available without flights. The flights to the Red Sea are charter flights and can be a bit tight on carry on luggage, so it is a good one to wear a photographer's waistcoat!

Subject Matter

The Red Sea provides guaranteed sun shine, clear water and wrecks, beautiful reefs and massive schools of fish. This is a wide angle trip. There are plenty of macro subject, but I always encourage people to focus on wide angle.

The wrecks. Many people come to the Red Sea convinced that they don't enjoy wreck photography and tell me they plan just to shoot marine life on the wrecks, which is there is abundance. But the Red Sea wrecks are different. They are all very photogenic and tend to convert even the most dedicated fish lover into a wreck photographer. I know because they convertered me. The Giannis D is perfect for wide angle with filters. Both the stern and the, less photographed, bow provide many images, including the classic stern shots. And there is often a good chance of a lucky encounter with dolphins here.

The other wrecks at Abu Nuhas, the Carnatic and the tile wreck (whose identity once again seems to be being debated are also both excellent for photography. In recent years we have also started visiting the Thistlegorm on my workshop trips, which is fantastic for wreck internal photography, and experimenting with creative techniques such as off camera strobes. Within the wreck we've identified all the best features for photography, artefacts that are perfectly placed for a fisheye shot with blue in the background to add depth to the frame, and given them all nicknames. The Thistlegorm has become so popular on my workshops that in 2011, I ran a specific Thistlegorm workshop, spending three straight days on the site.

The main reason for the timing of my Red Sea workshops is to catch the schooling fish at Ras Mohammed, and now many other photographers now also time their Red Sea workshops to be at the same time as mine! There are many different species gathered and each has its favourite location and behaviour, which offers different photographic opportunities, which also vary on the time of day. I am sorry that is a bit vague, but I will share all my knowledge on the schools on my workshop, but I am not prepared to write it on my website for anyone to read! The schools offer a very wide range of photos with many lenses and are of course right alongside a beautiful reef.

The classic Red Sea scenery is another major draw for photographers. While anthias and Dendronepthya soft corals are found throughout the Indo-Pacifc, there is some special about the Red Sea ones. The anthias are definitely bigger and more pure orange and the corals seem a particularly vibrant red. Add to this beige fire coral and the Red Sea's cobalt blue water and you have an almost perfect pallet of colours for stunning wide angle. Capturing it, requires a few tricks though, which I will share on the workshop. You can see a couple of tips in this video, taken on a smaller site, not as spectacular as where we go on the workshop!

A variety of other marine life is too numerous to list here. But popular subjects include anemonefish, napoleon wrasse, longnosed hawkfish, nudibranchs, lionfish and hawksbill turtles. Details of forthcoming Red Sea workshops will be sent out in my Newsletters and then listed on my website. Bookings are taken through Scuba Travel.

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