By Jill Heinerth, Professional photographer and cave explorer.
Comparing your dive partner’s vacation video to an IMAX film shot by Howard Hall reveals some glaring differences. Your buddy’s vacation video likely makes you feel a little dizzy from the jerky motion, while Hall pans across a reef with the elegance of ballet dancer in a graceful pose. Perhaps the single greatest thing you can do to improve your video and bring it up to a professional level is to learn how to stabilize your shots. Hall’s usual advice for aspiring videographers is “f 8 and be there,” but his diving expertise is far more critical in the foundation of his shooting. In the case of the Paralenz, let it do the exposure work. You need to concentrate on a few other things.
1. Buoyancy and Trim
Diving skill and comfort are essential for delivering great video footage. You need to achieve perfection in buoyancy to obtain smooth, stable footage. Gear trim is equally important. When a turtle crosses your path and heads for the depths, you’ll need to be able to pivot your position without losing your balance. Your gear needs to be tucked close to your body and be well secured to avoid pendulum swings of equipment that can throw you off your mark. You should seek to attain neutral buoyancy that will permit smooth descents and ascents through breath control. The next time you are in the water, attempt to maneuver and ascend using only your lung control. I’m not advocating breath-holding. Instead, I am suggesting that you should be able to move up and down in the water column without finning, with both hands cradling your camera system.
2. Move Slowly
Small cameras such as the Paralenz need to be held still and moved slowly. Quick jerky movements are amplified in small cameras. If you are mounting the camera on your helmet you will need to learn to move your head slowly and deliberately.
Learn to shoot long sequences with plenty of head and tail material before and after the action. The Paralenz battery will last a long time. Don’t try to edit in the camera just to save a few seconds of battery. It is easy to suffer from underwater attention deficit and dart from scene to scene in excitement. When you are in a new diving location, it is easy to start “collecting” shots of things that are rare. It is better to resist distraction. Focus on shooting one topic well. If you have the opportunity to document a feeding eel, give yourself time to get a nice long steady sequence before swimming away to join your buddy who thinks they have the next best thing to shoot.
Practice holding the camera as if you were taking a still photo and then remain stable in the shot for at least ten to fifteen-seconds. Action can be provided by the marine life, not by unnecessary camera moves. If you watch Hall’s IMAX films, you will see plenty of still shots that allow the viewer time to take in the beauty and look around the scene.
Hold the Paralenz as close to your body as possible. Bend your elbows to brace for mild shocks. Remain conscious about stabilizing the shot. If you are kicking hard, extend your arms a little further from your body to buffer the action of finning.
The third person viewer accessory will help you support the camera for great selfies. It is neutrally balanced and easy to operate. Hand mounting the camera is also a good solution using the included tray. Remember to concentrate on creating a long usable sequence without jerking movements ruining the shot.
7. Go With the Flow
Whether you are shooting in high current or surge, learn to go with the flow of the ocean rather than fighting it into submission. Use the rush of the surge to give you a free ride over a beautiful reef. Mobilize your shot on a long drift dive with a current. Practice holding the camera at your side for profile shots in the flow and work with a buddy in tandem while you learn to drift backward while your partner protects you and the reef from impact.
8. Shoot from the Hip
The 140 degree wide angle lens on the Paralenz covers a lot of territory. You should be able to estimate where the camera is pointing with a little practice. That means you are not tied to a display. You’ll enjoy the dive and free up your shots.
I’ve always believed that it is the best practice to shoot without fancy filters and software. Thankfully the Paralenz will take care of white balance as you change depth. That makes editing easy. When I am privileged to have an IMAX moment underwater, I tell myself to be patient, stay in the moment and stabilize my shot. Concentrate on skills and let the Paralenz do its job!
Another way of ensuring stable shots with the Paralenz Dive Camera is to enable the Electronic Image Stabilisation in the camera settings menu. Check out this video made by one of the Paralenz users, Nicolas Febvay.