By Ambassador Matt Jacobs
Since the downing of a Russian airliner over the Sinai in 2015 travel to Sharm el Sheikh has been difficult, with few direct flights from Europe. Over the last few years travel from the UK via Cairo or Istanbul has been the only way in there which is tome consuming and expensive. The rewards however are huge. The lack of divers on the once desperately overcrowded reefs has allowed the coral to regenerate at a remarkable rate and in turn attract the larger animals which in the past were so elusive in this part of the world.
This trip as usual I was diving from the M.Y. Juliet, a boutique liveaboard with tailored itineraries to cater for the guests interests which is perfect for photographers who want to spend more time in certain area to get the shots they need. Dolphins and rays were on my list and the crew put me exactly in the right spots.
This was my first time shooting with the Ikelite trim weight system. Previously I would cable tie a kilo weight under the body of the housing to counteract the positivity (especially in the Red Sea which has higher salinity than other seas) but the dome port would always point upwards slightly. The new trim system worked like a charm. A very simple but ingenious and highly practical piece of kit that kept my rig completely neutral in the water by shifting the weight toward the dome. The result was video footage that was much smoother and I experienced far less fatigue in the arms and hands.
I was shooting on a Panasonic LUMIX GH5 out there with a 7-14 and an 8mm fish eye which is a perfect hybrid system for me to effortlessly switch between shooting video and stills. I make full use of the custom settings underwater so that C1, 2 and 3 are assigned to different frame rate settings when on video and either fully manual or shutter priority when shooting stills. The later being in case something big and fast moving appears and I don’t have time to dial in settings, I simply switch to a pre set custom mode as a starting point.
Using only ambient light for both video and stills my white balance is critical. I carry a grey card with me and manually white balance when needed. I also have 3 pre set custom white balance settings ready to call up should I need them in case of not being able to use the card for example in storms current of using an SMB (surface marker buoy) at the end of the dive.
I was lucky enough on this trip to get very close to some eagle rays something that is notoriously difficult to do. They seemed to be looking at themselves in the reflection of the dome, something that I’ve experienced dolphins and turtles seem to also do. On that last point one turtle got a little too interested in the dome and bit it putting it a nasty scratch on it!
I was out there on assignment as well for a jewelry company who wanted underwater model shots. The models had to breathe SCUBA then a supporting diver had to move the SCUBA unit out of the shot to allow me to take the photos then rush in again and give them air. This was a challenging shoot and with the current picking up it took us multiple tries the get the images we needed.
Flights have now resumed back to the Sinai from Europe so now is the time go to experience the corals at their most pristine.
Photos copyright © 2020 Matt Jacobs
Ambassador Matt Jacobs learned to dive in the Philippines while he was traveling around the world extensively as a photographer in the late 90's. It was only natural to combine his passion for photography with his love of the water. Egypt is now his spiritual home with a special fondness for the Red Sea. Matt is a Panasonic LUMIX Ambassador and his work has been published and sold as fine art internationally. Read more...