Written by Shawn Mahoney of Beacons Films
I’ve been diving for almost 15-years. But up until 18-months ago, I’d only filmed with Olympus or GoPros. As a kid, I dreamed of having a top-of-the-line Canon. At the end of 2016, I made it happen and early in 2017, I released my first short film about the cenotes of the Mayan Riviera in Mexico. I used a set of 14,000 lumen lights from a company called Gates and once the short film was out, I sent it to them. Gates responded and invited me for a factory tour. That is where everything changed.
In April 2018, I found myself in Fiji for Gates’ STO, a workshop by Gates dealer Down Under Aquatic Imaging’s Pete Lightowler, and Red Digital Cinema’s legendary Operative, Sean Ruggeri. Emmy winner and underwater imaging guru Becky Kagan Schott was also there to instruct and my fellow students were Julia Sumerling and Leah Hall. Up to this point, I was completely self-taught from trial and error, articles, tutorials, and lots of online videos, so having expert advice to take me to the next level was key!
While we were in Fiji, we dove with Beqa Adventure Divers run by Mike Neumann. The dives? Let’s just say there were sharks, hundreds of sharks, including the largest bull sharks in the world-up to 12 ft (3m). This is one world-class operation and their number-one priority is safety, human and shark. The sharks come incredibly close but I was so relaxed and felt safe because sharks are smart and know we aren’t food, but also because the crew was on top of everything. As usual, I had my HECS Aquatic wetsuit in tow but this was the first time I got to use my 3mm. I thought I might be hot in the warm Fiji waters, but I was perfect. I also had my Paralenz to get varying angle shots (an incredible one can be seen 15-seconds into the film).
Overall, the trip was a success and I came back with an appreciation for the sharks as always, but the amount of knowledge gained will propel me to a new level in the underwater cinematography world. The Gates STO is the way to go for a newbie underwater photographer or even advanced. For more information on the next 2019 workshop, reach out to Pete at email@example.com.