Already five years in a row, my favorite scuba dive destination is the Cayman Islands. If I add to that the ” Digital Madness “ – one of the most popular underwater photography workshops today, led by my dear friend Alex Mustard, then this is something that every underwater photographer at any time would wish. Clear water, unique coral reefs, living underwater world, a world’s famous “Stingray City” and shipwreck “Kittiwake”, “School of Silverside fish”, caves, and many more, make this place truly unique in the world.
My plan for this year was to spend whole 15 days in this magical place with the primary aims: scuba diving and underwater photography. Daily plan has always been to make 3 or 4 dives, and the final result of all this were incredible photos at the end of each day. Through diving and taking photos with Alex for years, I’ve learned that simple inspiration and creativity are very strong segments of every trip.
For me this was the first year to be during the summer (August) on the island and therefore it was completely different than in previous years – calmer water, better visibility, unique clouds over the water, different light, temperature and completely different lives of underwater world, led by the “Silverside” fishes that appear only during this period, and only then they can be photographed. It was also great to visit all the famous diving locations, where I was previous times and see that everything looks completely different from our usual trip in January.
If you are 24 hours a day dedicated to the underwater photography, then you have just enough time for completely new things and techniques, which in my case was indeed a priority. When you have enough time to try all you want under water, then the results in the end are guaranteed. For me working out and practicing new techniques was a priority during this trip because my photographic plans for next year are very large and very closely related to the water, “split level” photography and of course all of this together is related to extreme sports.
In most cases during these dives the biggest focus was on wide-angle photography. Good thing in the Caymans is that on almost every dive site, if you want you can choose whether to make a macro or wide-angle photos and that was really random. In the end of each diving day during the evening we were gathering by the pool of our resort when everyone had the opportunity to show their photos and comment on what was photographed that day and through Alex’s lectures and suggestions to bear the majority of new ideas with a special motivation for tomorrow’s dives.
With me there was my best man Zoran Skoric who is also my frequent companion on most dives that I make in a year. Otherwise, he’s one of my main underwater models years back. He understands all of my thoughts for a particular position during the modeling and he is completely fulfilling my wishes for the best photo. Sometimes the communication between underwater photographers and models is very difficult and demanding segment, so the common scuba diving and long experience are of great importance.
I literally could not choose a favorite dive because all of them were perfect. A variety of unique situations were followed one after the other, and thus the photos I worked days. If you have in your mind a photo before you create it, it’s already half way to the goal and in my cases it is often like that, because I’m thinking a lot on the subject, and often dream images that I intend to make. At the end when you get what you want with photos then you get it in the true sense that you really had a dream came through.
When you look up all the dives in those 15 days in Cayman Islands it is very difficult to choose the best photo or the best dive spot. Every location that I was diving on has its own charm and its wildlife that seems incredible, and plus it looks more mysterious and challenging looking through my camera.
Kittiwake wreck – “the ship with hundred faces” as the locals and anyone who dived there call it. Very few shipwrecks have so many opportunities for photos and so many options that provide both inside and out. An incredible number of exterior angles of view of the ship simply allow a large number of dives that are more interesting than every other time. Also, if you start to explore the interior of the wreck you’ll find that you get an unlimited number of spots, so you can use all the existing underwater photography techniques – from simple shooting, using ambient light to some special techniques such as “Strobe off” with one or more flashes, and the use of color gels with which you can create an unreal atmosphere under water. I simply enjoyed every dive at this dive site, which is located at the most popular beach in Grand Cayman – Seven Mile Beach.
Another one of many magical places on Grand Cayman is definitely the world’s famous location Stingray City – the heaven that divers, underwater photographers and snorkels can only dream of. A lot of beautiful rays are in this place and they simply pose for your photos. With a little creativity, which requires each unique image, you can create completely unimaginable photos of these beautiful and amazing creatures. If you add a bit of luck to all of this as I ‘ve had and you get an unreal summer hurricane with the black sky above you can get photos that will leave you and anyone who looks them breathless.
A variety of reefs and walls are the perfect places besides underwater wildlife that you can find in Caymans also as Reef sharks who will swim very curiously near you giving you the ability to create a real “close up” pictures with them – these incredibly beautiful animals. If you’ve ever dived with sharks then you understand very well what I’m talking about. Their design and their movement through the water just can not leave anyone indifferent, especially if you are very close to them as I was with extra adrenaline. Definitely something I will remember all my life!
Alex’s advices and suggestions that he has given to all participants during the workshop are surely something why people almost always come back to Grand Cayman and “Digital Madness “. Therefor I decided to share with every one many years of my work in extreme sports and some of the events that I photographed through most interesting stories and photos. Alex as my friend, companion and one of the best underwater photographers in the world just as all the people in the group deserved that story of mine because we all created incredibly positive and great atmosphere during those days.
My presentations or lectures usually last between three and four hours, so it was pretty hard to decide what I wanted to show them in 2 hours, but I think I’ve certainly succeeded. Through some of my best photo projects, such as Red Bull Stratos, Jump into the Volcano in Kamchatka, Antarctica Expedition and many others, I think I was able to introduce what I do and what is actually my specialty in photography. By the reactions of all participants after the presentation, I was sure that I have succeeded.