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Dec 31, 2014

The Underwater GoPro Book

I've spent weeks putting together this instructional eBook for scuba divers who want to get the most out of their GoPro video camera. It's available on iTunes at:

Here are a few screen grabs:

Jill Heinerth writes: Pete Bucknell has just released an important book for avid GoPro users. Available on iBooks, the comprehensive manual offers tips specifically geared to help you overcome issues found while shooting the GoPro in an underwater setting.

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Sep 29, 2014

GoPro Dive Filters a must

Underwater video on youtube is often blue or green, and not in a good way. The GoPro filters are here to help us with this problem.

We're all taught during our initial training that water filters out light. Conveniently we all learnt the colors of the rainbow which is the same order in which color disappears from the light which we are trying to capture with our cameras: Red, orange, yellow etc. You have to go pretty deep to start losing the greens and blues.

Adding a GoPro Dive Filter will cut out some of the unwanted color:

  • A Red Filter will cut the blues.
  • A Magenta Filter cuts the greens.

The two different filters are designed for different colored water. The Magenta Filter is for green water which you might find in the North Atlantic and quarry diving. The Red Filter is good for blue water such as Caribbean waters. 

A Red Filter will work in green water to a certain extent, and is better than no filter at all. 

You can use the filters in conjunction with your light system. The GoPro has an excellent Auto White Balance which will make the necessary adjustments. You can experiment with this of course.

I've had great results using the filters. Here's a playlist of my recent GoPro videos:

The GoPro Dive Filters are simple and sturdy. They click onto the front of the GoPro housing. Make sure that you get the right sized filter for your particular housing. The dive housing has a slightly bigger lens box so needs the larger size.
They come with a string lanyard that attaches the filter to the mount. Handy for the moments when you don't need the filter, such as when you are filming on the surface or at depths above 10 feet.

Personally I find that the simplicity of the filter is a good thing. You set it and forget it. Some of the other filter systems on the market have moving parts, small screws, hinges etc.
Keeping it simple adds an element of safety by reducing task loading and potential distractions.

If you are doing macro videography then you might want to go another way, but for everything else, the GoPro filters are well priced and do the job.

Join the GoPro Underwater Video Group on Facebook

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Sep 18, 2014

Pairing Classical Music with Underwater Film

Somehow I always gravitate to editing classical music into my scuba videos.

I veer away from it most of the time after realizing that the available choices at the time are all wrong, but just sometimes….. it works.

I think that the natural horn nicely represents sunken underwater vessels, so I've pulled an old live recording off the shelf from my period with the Baroque Ensemble Rebel, and paired it with a ship wreck diving promotional for a live aboard dive boat called The Spree.

As it exports, I think about some of the terrible things I said in the narration, and hope that I get away with it… but maybe the classical music will keep it classy?
The Final Cut Pro Project, as it exports

Here is the finished video:

I need help: documentary in process (More info here )

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Aug 20, 2014

The GoPro Underwater Videographer Course

I wrote the PADI GoPro Underwater Videographer course to fill a void.
I was hearing so many complaints about people's shaky footage. Almost every new GoPro owner had to reinvent the wheel. The settings are many... and people just don't have the time to experiment! 

This specialty certification promises to help you understand how to get the most out of your GoPro camera.
We work on settings, editing workflow, footage storage, shooting techniques, dive skills and safety.

Over two evenings, there are two pool sessions and two classes.

People are loving this class! MORE INFO
Next New York class dates:
  • October 20 and 23
  • October 27 and 30
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Jul 31, 2014

Australian Youth Orchestra: video insight during their concert's interval

I spent the week pointing various cameras at the Australian Youth Orchestra, filming a 16 minute feature for webcast last night. 
The musicians gave great interviews, providing interesting insight for the viewers watching around the world. Have a look:

Need Video work for classical music?

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Jul 21, 2014

Florida Cave Diving: video

A flight to Jacksonville Florida, and a ride to Cave Country to see what the fuss is about: Cave Diving in Florida.

It's a bit of a cult, and the people who dive the caves of Florida are special, it seems to me, different to the rest. The caves are quite deep, and the rivers flow, and there are accidents to learn from.
Such was my gentle introduction to this particular sub-sector of the diving community.

Here's a short film that I think captures the experience of heading into Florida's underground waterways.

Watch more of my videos here

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Jul 14, 2014

An Underwater Filming Career can be rewarding

The big boys warned me a few years ago that a career in underwater video was a hard, uphill road.

They were wrong, kind of.
Working hard on perfecting the skills needed for high level professional underwater film making is extremely satisfying. Potential clients are looking for high quality and reliability, and being easy to work with helps. Once that reputation starts to take root, the phone calls start to come in.

Sure, some of the work environments I have found myself in would scare the crap out of most recreational divers. How can I be so sure? I was scared too.
Deep in a new cave with a big camera rig, or fiddling with tiny buttons through thick neoprene gloves at 180 feet on a rusty and unstable wreck with 25 minutes to get enough footage for an episode of a TV show… you'd have to be stupid not to be a bit scared. (weirdly enough, I'm usually more anxious that I won't get the footage we need, than I am scared of the situation I'm in).
And then there's the decompression to deal with, which isn't always as straight forward as it is on a regular dive boat with paying passengers. That's another story...

You get yourself trained by the best specialists you can find, and you practice. After a while you get used to it. No that's not true. Not so far anyway.
Every job I have had in the last two years has been completely different from preceding jobs. The required skill set is like an amoeba. You just have to adapt, and keep your skills sharp and at the ready, because when the time comes to hit the record button, it's just you and your equipment, and it has to be good. That's why they called you.

It's a high pressure job that sounds really fun and exciting, because, most of the time, it is ; especially if you have the right attitude.

Here's my business card... we're digital these days right?

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Jul 8, 2014

Shooting Deep on Air in the North Atlantic

The mission was to shoot footage of rebreather diver: Ralph Towlen gathering seafood from in and around the shipwreck of the Coimbra.

The Coimbra lies at 175 feet below the surface of the North Atlantic. A large wreck, easy to get lost in, and deep, especially considering that I was diving with compressed air with no helium in it.

Nitrogen and CO2 are narcotic gases which at depths below 100 feet become more and more disturbing to brain function as the diver descends. With special training and a thick wallet, divers can replace some of that narcotic nitrogen with helium.

Twenty-five minutes on the bottom, pressing tiny buttons on my camera housing and adjusting lights for bad visibility, followed by about half an hour of decompression on the anchor line and time to come up and be ready to attend to the passengers who would be coming up soon.

Here's a glimpse of a crew member, Andy, jumping in with some gas to spare:

I need help: documentary in process (More info here )

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Jun 25, 2014

Cave Diving in Florida: the underwater river experience

"How to Scare Your Family, in One Easy Lesson"

No-one in my immediate family bats an eyelid at the idea of me scuba diving for a living. However.....  take that hobby deep underground into dark caves that are full of flowing water, and the comments about the films I'm producing become more abusive and emotional.

"That made me feel sick!" wrote my little sister.
"I don't like you doing that Peter. What's wrong with diving in the ocean?" wrote Mum.

Even to me, the idea of swimming along narrow corridors of springing water, pitch black but for the beams of light shooting from our thousand dollar torches... well I question it too, especially during occasional, fleeting moments of doubt during our journeys away from safety, near the turning point of the dive, and we are at maximum penetration. "What am I doing here? This is crazy. Go back."
But controlling the natural flight response is part of the deal, and if you can't do that, you don't pass your training anyway.
Many divers who successfully complete full cave training never venture into a cave again. It's an adventure that many prefer to avoid once they see and feel what's involved mentally.

Tiger Woods is a certified cave diver. There was a photo of him at the dive shop where I was staying in Gainesville, posing with the owner. Apparently his sponsors have banned him from the sport. Too risky for Nike.

Florida's caves have water flowing through them, and the flow can be quite strong, to the point where you have to drag yourself in and along, much like a rock climber, only without so much gravity. Doing this with a video camera and lights takes some getting used to. It's not for the faint of heart.

The caves in Florida tend to be deeper than the ones I trained in in Mexico. Watch the Video.
A hundred foot dive in a cave such as Ginnie Springs can incur a good bit of decompression as you near the surface. Hanging around at ten to twenty feet can be fun if you are warm enough. 25 minutes can slip by quickly surrounded by all the natural colors of the river, autumn browns and tropical blues.
Ryan Christie doing Deco
The fun part for many is the 'going with the flow' part of the dive.
This past week, we would dive into the flow at the beginning, having calculated how much gas we would like to keep for the return journey and a reserve for pear-shaped situations.  The exit leg of the journey, aided by the laws of water dynamics, would be more of a joy ride without much kicking, more steering than anything, and with the knowledge that you have already fit through any and all restrictions on the way in, well it's comforting. It's mainly the navigation that you have to keep at your mind's forefront.

We all read the accident reports and learn from them, following a set of rules that has been developed and fine tuned by those who have gone before us. It might seem crazy, but we wouldn't do it if we didn't all love it.

Just added this video to youtube:

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May 9, 2014

Cave Diving: the dark sister of scuba diving

Down in Mexico, there are holes in the earth that extend miles away from sunlight.
Some of us dive in them....

I need help: documentary in process (More info here )

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Apr 7, 2014

Cozumel: new dive sites discovered to the North

Aldora Divers have been exploring the Northern reefs, and made some exciting discoveries:

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Mar 21, 2014

Wreck Trek and some spear fishing with John Chatterton

Pompano, South Florida has some great diving. 
Here's a short film that captures a couple of dives, one with Diving legend: John Chatterton.

I need help: documentary in process (More info here )

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Feb 24, 2014

A Bridge over Bubbled Water: diving under a bridge for fun

Michael Rothschild and I headed down to Florida to dive the world famous Blue Heron Bridge.
Pete and Mike after a dive

Here's Mike's account:

Regular readers of this column (hi, mom!) know that I loves me some local, cold water diving. But I have to admit that the warm, clear waters of the southern latitudes and their healthy tropical sea creature populations do have a certain appeal. Especially when the polar vortex is kicking our collective ass at home in NYC. So my buddy Pete and I decided to head south for a quick trip to warmer seas for a dive that I have always wanted to do - the Blue Heron Bridge.
Read on>

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Feb 17, 2014

Taking Stock in Hamburg, GoPro 3+ underwater and stock footage

I'm in Hamburg for 3 weeks visiting my wife who is rehearsing a big new play at the SchauspielHaus Time to gather my thoughts and look back…. and forward.

Between shoots, the discovery of a new stock footage site kept me busy last Month, uploading the first batch of footage from a Mexico shoot.
(If you are a cameraman, you should join: )

Capturing stock footage can be tough. It has to be a certain length, steady, well lit, perfectly focused etc. Sometimes you just bung it up there anyway and hope it's approved.
The aim is to create an income stream that doesn't need your constant attention.
The problem is that technology advances make your footage go out of date in a matter of a few years as resolutions creep up.
Have a look at the stuff captured by my new camera:

GoPro sent me a Hero 3+ camera and some accessories to test out. I've been experimenting with it all in preparation for a course I'm going to be teaching in New York City this season.
Here's the first outing with the camera stuck on my big rig, followed by the second experiment using it as an extra angle camera

As you will see in the second video, I have put the GoPro mounts to work, and tried to be creative in devising new places to place the GoPro.

I'm currently working on an edit for Aldora Divers, a dive operation in Cozumel who have recently explored some areas outside the comfort zone of the island's dive industry. So exciting stuff. It was another challenging shoot. Lately, the shoots I've been sent on have had more specific purpose than usual. The pressure of getting particular shots for a desired end result can really put an underwater cameraman's skills to the test. No time to fart around with settings or make mistakes. You have to have your shit together.

More extreme was the Cenote shoot in Mexico a couple of weeks ago. The video director needed extremely steady shots as the screen will be enormous, and any little movements would make the audience seasick. Even more challenging was the fact that the models were freedivers, so each shot would last for a minute or less. No time to mess around, and the water was cold, so the brave freediver in the wedding dress had limited time in the water.

More films to come. The Deepest Man is a theatre production, so I am off the hook for the editing, but there is a nice bunch of footage on my hard drive of John Chatterton spearfishing in Florida during a wreck trek.

I need help: documentary in process (More info here )

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Jan 2, 2014

GoPro 3+ Underwater test film

The GoPro 3+ performed extremely well in tandem with the much larger Panasonic AF100 during this dive.
Bit chilly, it was, and thick neoprene gloves make pressing buttons and pulling levers more challenging, let alone managing a rig of this size underwater.
Results are good:

I need help: documentary in process (More info here )

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