Preview: View from the Blue
View from the Blue
Original videos, news and musings about our water planet
Last Build Date: Wed, 02 Mar 2016 07:58:04 PST
Copyright: Images: Simon Spear Audio: Various Artists
Red Sea Spawning Aggregations
Fri, 03 Jul 2015 04:48:00 PDT
Well it has been a busy summer so far! We've just returned from Egypt once again, where we have been filming the spawning aggregations in Ras Mohammed National Park at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula. Every year hundreds of thousands of Snapper, Batfish, Unicornfish and Barracuda head for this area at the end of June / beginning of July.
It is a wonderful spectacle in crystal clear blue water and certainly easier to film right now than it has been for many years. 5 years ago you would often find up to 50 dive boats a day on the world renowned reefs of Shark and Yolanda, yet today at times in the peak of the season we saw only a handful of boats. It certainly makes it easier to keep divers bubbles out of shot(!), but it is a stark reminder just how badly the Egyptian tourist industry has been decimated in recent years.
Let's hope for a bit of stability in the region to allow divers once again to enjoy the wonders of the Red Sea. Shark and Yolanda is one of my very favourite dive sites anywhere in the world and is in amazingly good condition considering it is still probably the busiest dive site in the Red Sea, if not the world! We are going to be chartering private daybooks again next year for the aggregation, so get in touch if you are interesting in joining us!
Countryfile BBC1 Sunday 5th July - Shark Special
Fri, 03 Jul 2015 04:45:22 PDT
Countryfile will be screening an episode dedicated to sharks on BBC1 Sunday 5th July, including our footage of Porbeagles filmed back in 2007 which to this day is still the only free swimming Porbeagle footage in existence.
Porbeagles are impressive sharks. At their largest they can grow up to 3.5 meters long and are close relatives to Great Whites with which they can often be misidentified.
Below is our multi award winning short film which was successfully used as part of the campaign to get Porbeagles entirely protected in European waters, with a zero total allowable catch (TAC) fishing quota.
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Whale sharks of Isla Mujeres - G I A N T S
Fri, 03 Jul 2015 04:45:57 PDT
I love making mini documentaries about the places we have visited or about a particular subject that we have seen. It is what got me actively involved in filming in the first place and led onto a full career doing something I absolutely love doing. So to not have made a mini documentary for over 3 years seems SO wrong!In my defence I have been incredibly busy for the last few years and it has becoming increasing difficult to put aside sometimes up to a week to edit these pieces. Recently though I've had a break in my schedule and took the opportunity make this short film that I'm really pleased to be able to share with you. allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="https://i.ytimg.com/vi/8U48NfAEEGQ/0.jpg" frameborder="0" height="266" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8U48NfAEEGQ?feature=player_embedded" width="320">I wont say too much about the film itself but will try to give you a few insights into how it was made.This trip was mainly used as a shakedown for the GH4 which had just been released. Using a new camera underwater for the first time is a bit of a lottery. Sometimes they are amazing while other times you get a real stinker of a result when you were expecting something great (yes I am looking at your Sony FS100!).The key is to try many different settings and to come up with a workflow that gives the best results. I basically went through most of the settings in the camera when filming on this trip which made it very difficult to colour match all the images in post. Also a Canon 7D was used for about 25% of the shots and when using them underwater they become very, very difficult to match.After looking at the results I found that for me the best settings when filming with he GH4 was to use the Natural setting with sharpness turned down the maximum amount. I've since been filming with the GH4 for the last 12 months and I still agree that I like this the best.Most of the filming was with the Lumix 7-14mm which is a lovely lens. To help retain the reds at depth when white balancing I also taped a piece of magic filter to the rear of the lens as there is no filter holder or thread on the 7-14mm. This worked surprisingly well.I can see a big difference not only between the 1080p and 4K images from the GH4, but also the 7D shots used. Hopefully that is not too distracting to the viewer!If you have any technical questions please ask away and I hope you enjoy the film! [...]
Tue, 28 Apr 2015 06:47:11 PDT
We certainly had a fun trip to the Red Sea during our last visit and between all the filming we even managed to take a new photo for our 'Contact Us' page on our website
Sorry if we are out of touch when we travel, but phones don't tend to work well underwater!
We are back in the UK for a few weeks now before heading back to Egypt to film the massive aggregations of snapper, barracuda, unicorn fish, banner fish and all manner of others that peaks at the end of June.
Should be fun!
Gracie the 5 Year Old Mermaid!
Tue, 28 Apr 2015 06:38:01 PDT
We introduced our children to the water at a very early age. Both Oliver and Gracie were learning to swim at 10 weeks old and they loved every minute as you've probably seen from the web videos that we've posted over the years.
We made this film with Gracie who has been obsessed with Mermaids since she was very, very small. This is her story....
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Bahamas - Tiger Beach and Bimini
Tue, 28 Apr 2015 06:32:47 PDT
We've just got back from a great trip to the Bahamas aboard the Dolphin Dream filming Great Hammerheads and Tiger sharks, so we wanted to share a few photos and video clips that we captured during our visit.
This is what it looks like when a Tiger shark gets a little too close for comfort!
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This is Zoe filming on the sea bed surrounded by Lemon sharks:
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and here are some photos of us filming Great Hammerheads:
Next up we have a couple of trips to the Red Sea with some filming in the tropical UK waters sandwiched in between, so we'll definitely try to make an effort to post some more photos and video clips from those!
Isla Guadalupe September 2015
Tue, 28 Apr 2015 06:26:10 PDT
If you are thinking of going to Isla Guadalupe in 2015 then we still have a couple of places open for our September charter.
The boat is full of experienced photographers and videographers although total numbers have been limited to 12 to ensure the most time possible in the water with the sharks.
There is not another spot anywhere like Guadalupe where you can view, photograph and film Great Whites in often crystal clear blue water. If you are interested please email me for full details at firstname.lastname@example.org(image)
Panasonic GH4 Underwater
Thu, 22 Jan 2015 05:19:49 PST
I've been filming with the GH4 since it was first released in the summer. I've got to say that using it has been a breath of fresh air.It is small and compact and a dream to travel with. I love the 96fps slow motion, the 200mpbs 1080p50 setting is as good as anything else HD out there right now and the 4K option produces some stunning footage. It does have some faults (its ok, but not exceptional in low light) but it is very hard to compare the GH4 with any other camera in its price range (and quite a bit higher!).In addition to testing the camera out underwater I've been working on a new short film which should be finished soon. In the meantime here are some links to test samples that I've uploaded to YouTube.[...]
Tue, 14 Oct 2014 15:28:58 PDT
Skomer Island lies off the coast of Pembrokeshire in SW Wales. Skomer is a 'National Nature Reserve', 'Site of Special Sceintific Interest' and a 'Protected Area'. It is also one of only a handful of Marine Reserves in the UK and it has adopted a voluntary no take zone.
Skomer and the islands around it host some of the largest sea bird breeding colonies in Europe. Gannets, Manx Shearwater, Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, Storm Petrels, Cormorants, Shags and the wonderfully charismatic Atlantic Puffin. Below the waterline Grey seals are in abundance and Porpoises, Common and Bottlenose Dolphins are regularly sighted.
I spent a magical few days there in July 2014 attempting to film a Spider Crab mating aggregation. We missed the Spider Crabs, but nevertheless had a wonderful time!
Sony PMW200 / Gates Housing
BMPCC / Nauticam Housing
Fiji's Rainbow Waters
Sat, 07 Jun 2014 14:40:07 PDT
Although Fiji is a long way from anywhere when you live in the UK, Fiji is literally on the 'other side of the world'.
When I visited there in March 2013 and spent a week aboard the wonderful live-aboard Nai'a I was delighted to experience some incredible diving and to witness some of the most healthy and most colourful reef systems in the world. Fiji truly is a nation of 'Rainbow Waters'.
This trip was used to test the Sony PMW200 with Gates Underwater housing prior to using it on a broadcast documentary for NHK Cosmomedia. I was very impressed with the codec and shooting XDCAM 422 50mbps gives a great deal of flexibility in post. As always using the Gates housing was a pleasure. There is a very good reason why they are considered the best in the business!(image)
BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera (BMPCC) Underwater Grading Tips
Thu, 10 Apr 2014 15:38:18 PDT
I've had a lots of people contact me and ask how & what settings I used to grade the footage from the BMPCC example video. As mentioned in the review I am still only just starting to learn Resolve and Speedgrade, so I actually used the Colour Correction tools that are available in Premiere Pro CC. There is absolutely no hard and fast rules to follow when colour correcting underwater footage and there are probably multiple ways to come up with either the same results or something that is acceptable to you or your client. As a general rule you'll need to pull in reds into your highlights and pull in blues into your midtones to retain the water colour. Once that is done you really just need to experiment with the image. The Gamma tool can be used in place of Brightness/Contrast/Saturation or in combination with all of those tools.I've listed some basic info on each shot, depths, settings etc if I can remember them (difficult to take notes underwater!). What you should note is that doing this amount of colour correction on normal codecs would break the image apart instantly. I actually checked what would happen with some of my footage shot on a 7D, FS100 and PMW200 and the results were not pretty!!Also I'm happy to make some of the ungraded ProRes files available for people to mess around with if anyone can let me know a hosting site that will take up to 1GB files. I can't use my Dropbox account as I have files constantly getting uploaded and deleted so I couldn't guarantee how long I'd be able to host them.Hope this helps!SHOT 1 - Magic Filter, 6-10 metersCOLOUR BALANCEShadow Red 0Shadow Green 0Shadow Blue 0Midtone Red 0Midtone Green 0Midtone Blue +28Highlight Red +26Highlight Green 0Highlight Blue 0BRIGHTNESS & CONTRASTBrightness -46Contrast +42FAST COLOUR CORRECTORSaturation 154 GAMMAGamma 10SHOT 2 - Magic Filter, 15 metersCOLOUR BALANCEShadow Red 0Shadow Green 0Shadow Blue +74Midtone Red 0Midtone Green 0Midtone Blue +15Highlight Red +49Highlight Green 0Highlight Blue 0BRIGHTNESS & CONTRASTBrightness -24Contrast +45FAST COLOUR CORRECTORSaturation 115 GAMMAGamma 10SHOT 3 - Magic Filter, 15-20 meters, 1600 ISO!COLOUR BALANCEShadow Red 0Shadow Green 0Shadow Blue 0Midtone Red 0Midtone Green 0Midtone Blue 0Highlight Red +38Highlight Green +3Highlight Blue 0BRIGHTNESS & CONTRASTBrightness -10Contrast +18FAST COLOUR CORRECTORSaturation 160 GAMMAGamma 10SHOT 4 - Magic Filter, 5 metersCOLOUR BALANCEShadow Red 0Shadow Green 0Shadow Blue 0Midtone Red 0Midtone Green 0Midtone Blue +10Highlight Red +35Highlight Green 0Highlight Blue 0BRIGHTNESS & CONTRASTBrightness -35Contrast +42FAST COLOUR CORRECTORSaturation 100 GAMMAGamma 10SHOT 5 - Magic Filter, 7-10 metersCOLOUR BALANCEShadow Red 0Shadow Green 0Shadow Blue 0Midtone Red 0Midtone Green 0Midtone Blue 0Highlight Red +19Highlight Green 0Highlight Blue +24BRIGHTNESS & CONTRASTBrightness -23Contrast +37FAST COLOUR CORRECTORSaturation 129 GAMMAGamma 16SHOT 6 - Magic Filter, 10-15 metersCOLOUR BALANCEShadow Red 0Shadow Green 0Shadow Blue 0Midtone Red 0Midtone Green 0Midtone Blue +20Highlight Red +23Highlight Green 0Highlight Blue 0BRIGHTNESS & CONTRASTBrightness 0Contrast +46FAST COLOUR CORRECTORSaturation 147 GAMMAGamma 10SHOT 7 - URPRO Green Water Filter, 15 - 20 metersCOLOUR BALANCEShadow Red 0Shadow Green 0Shadow Blue 0Midtone Red 0Midtone Green 0Midtone Blue 0Highlight Red +92Highlight Green 0Highlight Blue 0BRIGHTNESS & CONTRASTBrig[...]
BMPCC Underwater Test Review (BlackMagic Part 2)
Sat, 12 Apr 2014 12:56:25 PDT
Nauticam HousingBlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera (BMPCC) I was able to test the BMPCC in more traditional conditions than its bigger brother when I managed to do half a dozen dives with it in the Red Sea. As expected the housing for the BMPCC is small, much smaller than its bigger brother the BMCC and more in keeping with the size you’d expect from a MFT or compact camera.The lens port fits nicely into place and is secured with a locking mechanism. The camera sits on a tray and slides into place to ensure all the controls line up correctly. I did have a slight problem with the record on/off control engaging with the button. It was hitting the button on the camera, but it didn’t appear to be applying enough pressure to actually turn the recording function on and off. I’ve had this problem before with manual control housings and it is often easy to work around. On this occasion I placed a strip of card and tape over the record button so when the housing control hit this more leverage was applied and the record function engaged. The control will still need adjusting, but at least it didn’t stop me from filming.The rear of the housing is locked into place securely once closed and this housing came with a fully functioning vacuum leak detection system which was a great reassurance especially when using a housing for the first time, or on the first dive after traveling. I will not go into too much detail about it here as there are extensive reviews already out there, but it is fair to say that it gets a big thumbs up from me.SENSOR / LENSES The BMPCC uses a Super16 sensor which means that it has a 35mm equiv crop factor of x2.88. I’ve been spoilt over the last few years by being able to use a 10mm lens on the S35 sensor to give amazing super-wides, but that is definitely not possible with this camera. Also one of the first rules of filming underwater is to remove the water inbetween your lens and the subject by getting as close as you can, but it is really hard to to do this and keep much in frame with a x2.88 crop factor.I hadn’t put a lot of planning into this trip and only decided to take the camera and housing just over a week before leaving. I have lots of lenses which I can use via adapters on the BMPCC but none of them were suitable for using in the housing underwater. About the only lens I did have that I could use was the Lumix 14-42mm which is basically a cheap kit lens and not an ideal choice for testing a camera with! Unfortunately I didn’t have the budget or the time to go out and buy something like the Olympus 7-14mm, although that lens is renowned for using underwater and should be on anyones wish list for the BMPCC or MFT in general.Another alternative on lenses is to use an adapter called a Speedbooster from a company called Metabones which allows you to use Nikon glass on the BMPCC. Not only does it allow you to use the lens, but by some form of voodoo it also magically makes the lens faster and wider, turning the BMPCC from a 16mm into a S35 camera! I have loads of EF glass and the rumour is that Metabones are working on a EF adapter so I do hope that Nauticam will support these adapters as it will transform the BMPCC when shooting underwater.BATTERYLike the BMCC housing the BMPCC housing also has the ability to fit in an external battery holder. The BMPCC uses a removeable Nikon EN-EL20 battery which gives about one hour of standby/record time. This is probably going to be enough for most single dives, but nowhere near enough for a two tank or longer day. The external holder fits in an additional two EN-EL20 batteries into the housing which in total will give up to approximately 3 hours [...]
BMCC Underwater Test Review (BlackMagic Part 1)
Mon, 07 Apr 2014 12:06:14 PDT
Nauticam Housing ReviewBlackMagic Cinema Camera Blackmagic Design (BMD) are a successful supplier of post production video hardware and software and they caused a big stir within the industry at NAB 2012 when they announced a new Digital Cinema Camera (BMCC) shooting 2.5K in RAW or 1080p in the editing friendly codecs of Apple ProRes or Avid’s DNxHD. The specs were impressive enough but the price was astounding at under $3000US (later dropped to $1995) as in the recent past you would have paid tens of thousands for a camera with this much power under the hood. Needless to say the BMCC generated huge interest but the camera was dogged by production and QA issues. Eventually BMD finally managed to get more than just a token handful of cameras into the wild during the spring of 2013, almost a year after it was announced.At NAB 2013 BMD again created quite a stir with the announcement of the BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera (BMPCC) and the 4K BlackMagic Production Camera (BMPC). Again these generated huge interest especially with the launch price of $995 for the BMPCC and $3995 for the BMPC (later dropped to $2995). Sadly yet again BMD were dogged by production and QA issues. The BMPCC finally started to ship in September 2013 and the BMPC has only just started to ship in any meaningful volume during the Spring of 2014, although QA issues still persist.Despite all the negatives the BMD family of cameras has received rave reviews. For the price nothing really compares to the results that you can get from these cameras. They have been dubbed the poor man’s Alexa, but comparing them to a camera costing $80,000 is a huge compliment rather than any form of slight! I own a video production company filming commercials, corporate videos, weddings and events. I also freelance as a camera operator, underwater camera operator, director, DP and FCP7/Premiere Pro CC editor.As part of my video production business I regularly need a C and D camera for multi cam shoots. In the past I have used HDSLR’s or hired cameras in for this role, but I have been frustrated by HDSLR restrictions on continuous record times and the cost of hiring equipment on a regular basis. On the face of it neither the BMCC or the BMPCC fitted my needs. Both cameras have a number of drawbacks with the media that they use and the run time of the onboard/internal batteries, but with some relatively cheap add ons they could be adapted to fit my needs for a fraction of the price of a traditional camcorder. In addition the images produced by these cameras are exceptional with a very film like quality which would be ideal for some of my more creative projects. UNDERWATERA large part of my freelance work is filming underwater and I was curious thinking what these cameras might be able to produce in that environment. In addition to the normal topside ‘rules’, filming underwater has some very specific requirements and it can really tax cameras beyond their limits. Wonderful topside cameras like the FS100/700 completely fall apart when shooting with their internal AVCHD codec underwater and there are countless other examples where cameras that should work don’t work well, or don’t work at all. The minimum recording spec for HD broadcast of 50mbps is well known, but there are always exceptions. Since 2010 I have used HSDLR’s extensively for shooting underwater with great success. My trusty and now rather battered old 7D for example has amongst other achievements been used to provide underwater footage for an award winning feature and successful theatrical release (Short Term 12 - SXSW Grand Jury Award / Audience Award 2013),[...]
Fri, 04 Apr 2014 06:20:16 PDT
Well life gets busy sometimes and I've certainly not managed to keep this blog updated lately. I've literally had so much work on that at times I've not known where to turn.
Last year I was incredibly busy with my video production company's work, but I also managed to fit in what turned out to be a couple of months worth of filming for a NHK production on Northern Pike. Diving in a flooded quarry in central England in 4ºC water is certainly not as glamorous as some of the other locations that I managed to visit last year (Fiji, Socorro, Guadalupe & Egypt amongst them) but it was certainly a lot of fun, especially as I was working with my good buddy Dean Burman who was the DP for the production. Well things have now started to slacken off a little to normal levels so hopefully I will have more time to blurt out my random thoughts to the world again right here!
One preview that I can give you is that I have almost finished a review of my experience filming with the BlackMagic Cinema Camera (BMCC) and the BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera (BMPCC) in Nauticam Housings. I'm hoping to get it posted here in a couple of days along with some sample videos so as those immortal words say - "Stay Tuned"!
Short Term 12
Thu, 17 Oct 2013 06:33:31 PDT
I was pleased to attend the UK Premiere of 'Short Term 12' on Tuesday evening, screening as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2013. My short film 'Solstice' features in the background in a couple of scenes of the film as part of the plot/character development. I can't say too much more as I wouldn't want to be the cause of a spoiler, but you'll probably work it out by the end of the film! :)
Leicester Sq, Central London. BFI London Film Festival 2013.
I've got to say that all bias aside - 'Short Term 12' is a truly outstanding film. It is rare to feel so connected and so involved with the story and the emotions of the characters from the very first scene, but this film sucks you in for a roller coaster ride of raw emotion, sadness and ultimately hope and the potential for happiness. This is not a Hollywood feel good, hero saves the day type production. It will have you laughing out loud while still having a tear of sadness in your eyes. It will leave you feeling raw and possibly a little more alive than when you went in. Only a handful of films each year come close to achieving what Director/Writer Destin Cretton has achieved with this marvel.
From Left to Right: Short Term 12 Producer John Astrachan, Simon Spear, Short Term 12 Director/Writer Destin Cretton.
It is released in UK cinemas on Nov 1st and if you only see one more film this year then make sure it is this one!
Basking Shark Workshop 28th July - 2nd August 2013
Sat, 08 Jun 2013 02:51:34 PDT
I know it is short notice but due to an opening in my schedule and the fact that I am increasingly desperate to see some Basking sharks again, I'm now running an informal filming workshop in the Hebrides from 28th July - 2nd August 2013.
We'll be based in Mull and travel around the nearby islands including Coll, Tiree and Gunna which are possibly the best hotspots anywhere in the world to see Basking Sharks! It's not just Basking sharks either as Common & Bottlenose Dolphins, Minke Whales, Orcas, Grey & Common Seals, Golden Eagles, Sea Eagles, Puffins and a host of other wildlife are all commonly seen up there.
In addition to your own filming equipment I'll have a host of cameras with me including the Sony PMW200, Sony FS100 and Canon 7D and of course I'll be around to offer any advice and support that you need.
The trip is designed with filming/photography in mind, but if you are not interested in that and just want to come along on an amazing trip to get really close to the second biggest fish in our Oceans, then that is absolutely fine too! :)
Please contact me for full details.(image)
Thu, 25 Apr 2013 05:23:50 PDT
The Socorro Islands (Revillagigedos Archipelago) are an amazing dive destination that we had the good fortune to visit in February aboard the Solmar V. Often overshadowed by their perhaps more famous eastern Pacific cousins Cocos Island and the Galapagos, they are certainly a world class destination in their own right with some amazing diving and big animal encounters.
Humpback Whales, Dolphins, Manta Rays, Tuna and Sharks (Hammerheads, Galapagos, Silky, Whitetip, Silvertip, Whalesharks) are frequent encounters and these islands can claim to have some of the most diver friendly animals we have ever experienced. The Dolphins and Manta Rays in particular appear to actively seek out diver interactions with the later basking in the jacuzzi created by divers bubbles.
Unfortunately due to bad weather we didn't manage to visit Roca Partida which is one of the three main islands of the archipelago and where the Solmar V went on to experience 2 months of in water interactions with a Humpback Mother and Calf. Oh well, it looks like we'll have to go back again one day then doesn't it!! :)
Filmed by: Simon Spear & Zoe Spear
Edited by: Simon Spear
Music: Requiem For Your Soul / Smartsound Royalty Free Music
Note: This was our first trip diving and filming with the Sony FS100 and Amphibico Genesis housing. We experienced significant issues with both the camera and the housing which meant that 90% of the footage we shot was basically useless. This film has been made from the remaining 10% that was salvageable. The majority of the footage is from the FS100 while the surface shots and a couple of underwater clips are from the Canon 7D. If you would like to know the issues filming underwater with the Sony FS100 and the Sony NXCAM range in general then please feel free to contact me.(image)
Magical Moments | Shark Attack!
Sat, 02 Mar 2013 07:15:28 PST
This is quite a short clip for "Magical Moments", but it is not every day that you get attacked by a shark is it?! Of course popular media would have you believe that if you jump into the sea then you will be devoured almost instantly, but despite their fearsome reputation these days there are just not that many sharks out there and they very rarely attack humans. Very rarely, but not never...
So we were in the Socorro Islands recently, a wonderful place full of Sharks, Mantas, Dolphins and Whales which reminds you a little of what the ocean should look like without human interference. One natural phenomenon that they have been seeing a lot of lately are baitballs, which is when fish group together for protection as they are hunted by a predator or predators working as a team. The baitball that we encountered at Socorro was of juvenile Jacks which were being hunted by Tuna, Silvertip, Silky and Galapagos sharks.
As soon as I'd entered the water I felt an almighty smack on my back and I was pushed underwater. I assumed that someone had jumped off the RIB on top of me, but when I turned around no one was there. I later found out from the guys on the boat that a Galapagos shark had literally jumped on top of me as soon as I'd entered the water!
The action was fast! The bait fish were swimming everywhere in an effort to confuse the predators and make their escape. It's not advisable to get into the ball of fish themselves as sharks will often lunge through with open jaws hoping to snag a fish and if you are in their way you could get a nasty surprise. So when the fish start to congregate around you for protection you know it is time to try to move out of the way.
The Baitball had broken up and I was backing away from a group of fish heading in my direction when the Galapagos shark from earlier made its return. It had obviously taken a liking for the electronics in my camera housing because rather than following after the fish it diverted towards me and as I pushed it away it proceeded to take a chunk out of my brand new Amphibico housing. It was the first time that the housing had been in the water and it was attacked by a shark! Believe me that is quite an achievement!
So not really a shark attack on me
, but certainly a reality check and a reminder that you can never become complacent when sharks are around and in hunting mode! And remember - sharks are in far more danger from man that we are from them!(image)
Magical Moments | Friendly Manatee
Mon, 04 Feb 2013 02:57:54 PST
During cold spells Manatees head in droves for the fresh water springs around Crystal River, Florida as the water temperature in this area remains a constant 72 degF.
On one exceptionally cold winter day a few years ago I managed to film this incredibly friendly Manatee. They really are wonderful creatures and although it is illegal to pursue or harass or even touch a Manatee they will often seek out snorkelers and divers to interact with them and maybe get a belly rub.
Sadly their numbers appear to be in a steady decline so it is unknown how much longer we will be able to share experiences like this one.(image)
Magical Moments | Common Dolphins
Tue, 22 Jan 2013 04:45:53 PST
The west coast of Scotland is a truly magical place and it is one of the few places on earth where I feel totally at peace. Something about the light, the air and the lack of people no doubt!
In June 2011 I spent a week sailing around the islands of Mull, Tiree, Gunna and Coll looking for Basking sharks. We had some amazing wildlife encounters and (Baskers aside) one of the most special was with a playful pod of Common Dolphins.
Anyone who has spent any time out on the water around the UK knows just how unpredictable our weather can be. The number of days I have spent in harbour looking out at rough seas is uncountable and up until that point the spring and summer weather of 2011 had been atrocious. Yet occasionally, very, very occasionally we can chance upon perfect conditions and that day was definitely one of those days.
As we were heading out from the harbour of Tobermory over totally flat seas we came across this pod of anywhere between 50 - 200 dolphins. I sat on the bow for an hour or more as the dolphins surfed the bow wave and played all around us. Most people wouldn't even believe that encounters like this were possible in UK waters. Truly Amazing.
Oliver Spear - Homo Aquaticus
Mon, 14 Jan 2013 11:06:29 PST
For someone who is in love with water, watching your little boy or girl learn to swim is a joyful experience. We first introduced Oliver to the water when he was 12 weeks old as part of the same structured training programme which enabled his big sister Gracie to earn her 100 meters distance badge only a few weeks after she turned 4.
From birth babies have a natural reflex to close their epiglottis whilst submerged underwater but unless trained they have normally forgotten this by the time they reach 6 months old. The Homo Aquaticus (Aquatic Ape) theory has now been largely discredited, but it is nice to let your imagination run wild for a bit and imagine that it was our ancestors interaction with water rather than de-forestation in East Africa due to climate change that set man on a different path to the other creatures on our planet.
Magical Moments | Tiger Shark
Mon, 07 Jan 2013 04:00:34 PST
During February 2008 we visited Aliwal Shoal in South Africa to film and dive with Tiger Sharks. The 'blue water' shark dive that takes place at Aliwal has become rather famous and it is certainly one of the most adrenaline loaded diving activities you can undertake.
The dive is baited with drums of chum so admittedly this dive is not to everyone's taste, however as a shark spectacle it is hard to beat. You can see many dozens of Blacktips (C.limbatus) in addition to Dusky Sharks, Bronze Whalers, the occasional Bull shark and up to eight Tiger Sharks which is the most we saw on a single dive. Very, very occasionally a White shark could turn up, but this is extremely rare.
I'm not afraid of sharks and I don't mean that in a bravado macho beating my chest kind of way. I'm fully aware that even a moderately small shark could quite easily kill me if it chose to attack, but they don't, well at least they don't attack unprovoked very often.
Diving with Tiger sharks in a baited situation however was the most unnerving experience I've ever had in the water. They seem capable of lulling you into an almost hypnotic state and can come incredibly close to you before you are even aware of it. As this is a mid water dive at times we had three or four Tiger sharks coming at us from all directions which certainly appeared to be co-ordinated behaviour. Looking down and seeing a Tiger shark coming vertically up at you from below certainly gets your blood pumping and on more than one occasion I literally had a shark at the end of my dome port that needed to be pushed away relatively aggressively. Great for pictures yes, but maybe not so good for your life expectancy...
In my opinion without dedicated safety divers this would be a very dangerous dive. I've heard lots of unofficial reports of injury, some minor, some fairly major. I've also heard of lax diving practices by some of the operators so this is definitely not a dive to be done lightly. However despite the warnings it has to be said this this is one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had underwater and deserves to be included as a very Magical (if slightly unnerving) Moment!
Filmed: Simon Spear
Music: Furnace (Smartsound Royalty Free Music)
Magical Moments | Flamboyant Cuttlefish Eggs
Wed, 02 Jan 2013 11:22:18 PST
The instant that a bunch of cells sparks into life and turns into something much more than the sum of its parts is a truly Magical Moment.
We spent a couple of months during the winter of 2009/10 diving the famous Lembeh Strait which has become world renowned as a biodiversity hotspot. When diving there it often feels like you are in Disneyland as one strange creature after another can be spotted in your camera lens.
A couple of days before Christmas 2009 we had been on a relatively uneventful dive by Lembeh's standards. That all changed however when I spotted an upside down coconut shell and turned it over to see if anything had been hiding beneath it.
To my surprise I found the inside of the coconut shell packed with tiny eggs with miniscule baby cuttlefish inside, probably not much bigger than a grain of rice. I set my camera up, started to film and was stunned to see the baby cuttlefish moving around inside the eggs getting ready to be born. Truly remarkable.
** More footage of these Flamboyant Cuttlefish Eggs and newborn hatchlings can be seen in my film "Circle of Life" http://youtu.be/U_bcFEyTVFk
Magical Moments | Mother & Calf Humpback Whale
Fri, 28 Dec 2012 08:00:38 PST
The Silver Banks are world renowned as a Humpback Whale nursery that lie midway between the Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Every year from mid February until mid April female Humpback Whales take up resident at the banks to nurse their new born calf's before a long and arduous journey north to their summer feeding grounds.
During March 2010 we spent a magical week at the Silver Banks and we were privileged to spend nearly 2 whole days in the water with this mother and her calf. The mother will sleep much of the time and will surface to breathe every 10 minutes or so. However the young calf needs to breathe every few minutes and will surface much more often so if you wait calmly at the surface you will sometimes be rewarded with spectacles like this...
Personally I still believe that the week I spent at Silver Banks was the most memorable of all encounters I've ever had underwater. At times you simply had to stop filming and just watch what was going on in front of you with an open jaw and when you got a chance to look closely into the eyes of these magnificent creatures you were certain that you were starring deep into their souls.
** These Humpbacks can also been seen in my short film 'hope'
Filmed: Simon Spear
Music: Prelude in Dreamtime (Smartsound Royalty Free Music)
Magical Moments | Friendly Turtle
Fri, 28 Dec 2012 09:21:09 PST
Very occasionally while diving we are fortunate to experience a natural high so intense that it literally feels like it touches your soul. With "Magical Moments" I hope to regularly share some of these amazing experiences that I have been lucky enough to witness. All clips will be one shot unedited sequences - a moment in time never to be repeated, yet never, ever forgotten.
First up is a very friendly Turtle that I met last year in the Red SeaMagical Moments | Friendly Turtle
I spotted this Hawksbill Turtle on a reef outside Hurghada towards the end of a Red Sea Liveaboard trip out to the offshore marine parks in the southern Egyptian Red Sea.
Due to the shear numbers of divers from the Red Sea resorts Turtles often get severely mobbed when spotted here. Today however at this rarely visited reef I was completely on my own, so I had the opportunity to spend maybe 30 minutes just watching and filming him from a distance while trying to make him comfortable in my presence. Eventually my patience paid off and he moved away from the reef where he had been feeding towards where I had been waiting for him in open water.
I'd seen shots of Turtles coming right up to camera dome ports before and had always wanted to experience it. The reality was as good as I'd ever imagined it would be as he came over, put his head right up against the dome port and peered straight into the lens of my camera. A truly Magical Moment.
Nearly all species of Marine Turtles are classified as Engandered. Who knows if this ocean nomad will ever encounter a human again. If he does lets hope it is a positive experience.(image)