View from the Blue
Summary: View from the Blue is a podcast feed offering original videos from our underwater world. See sharks, dolphins, whales, rays, shipwrecks and much, much more!
I've been filming with the GH4 since it was first released in the summer. I've got to say that using it has been a breath of fresh air. It is small and compact and a dream to travel with. I love the 96fps slow motion, the 200mpbs 1080p50 setting is as good as anything else HD out there right now and the 4K option produces some stunning footage. It does have some faults (its ok, but not exceptional in low light) but it is very hard to compare the GH4 with any other camera in its price range (and quite a bit higher!). In addition to testing the camera out underwater I've been working on a new short film which should be finished soon. In the meantime here are some links to test samples that I've uploaded to YouTube.
Skomer Island lies off the coast of Pembrokeshire in SW Wales. Skomer is a 'National Nature Reserve', 'Site of Special Sceintific Interest' and a 'Protected Area'. It is also one of only a handful of Marine Reserves in the UK and it has adopted a voluntary no take zone. Skomer and the islands around it host some of the largest sea bird breeding colonies in Europe. Gannets, Manx Shearwater, Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, Storm Petrels, Cormorants, Shags and the wonderfully charismatic Atlantic Puffin. Below the waterline Grey seals are in abundance and Porpoises, Common and Bottlenose Dolphins are regularly sighted. I spent a magical few days there in July 2014 attempting to film a Spider Crab mating aggregation. We missed the Spider Crabs, but nevertheless had a wonderful time! Underwater Filming: Sony PMW200 / Gates Housing BMPCC / Nauticam Housing Topside Filming Panasonic GH4
I know it is short notice but due to an opening in my schedule and the fact that I am increasingly desperate to see some Basking sharks again, I'm now running an informal filming workshop in the Hebrides from 28th July - 2nd August 2013. We'll be based in Mull and travel around the nearby islands including Coll, Tiree and Gunna which are possibly the best hotspots anywhere in the world to see Basking Sharks! It's not just Basking sharks either as Common & Bottlenose Dolphins, Minke Whales, Orcas, Grey & Common Seals, Golden Eagles, Sea Eagles, Puffins and a host of other wildlife are all commonly seen up there. In addition to your own filming equipment I'll have a host of cameras with me including the Sony PMW200, Sony FS100 and Canon 7D and of course I'll be around to offer any advice and support that you need. The trip is designed with filming/photography in mind, but if you are not interested in that and just want to come along on an amazing trip to get really close to the second biggest fish in our Oceans, then that is absolutely fine too! :) Please contact me for full details.
The Socorro Islands (Revillagigedos Archipelago) are an amazing dive destination that we had the good fortune to visit in February aboard the Solmar V. Often overshadowed by their perhaps more famous eastern Pacific cousins Cocos Island and the Galapagos, they are certainly a world class destination in their own right with some amazing diving and big animal encounters. Humpback Whales, Dolphins, Manta Rays, Tuna and Sharks (Hammerheads, Galapagos, Silky, Whitetip, Silvertip, Whalesharks) are frequent encounters and these islands can claim to have some of the most diver friendly animals we have ever experienced. The Dolphins and Manta Rays in particular appear to actively seek out diver interactions with the later basking in the jacuzzi created by divers bubbles. Unfortunately due to bad weather we didn't manage to visit Roca Partida which is one of the three main islands of the archipelago and where the Solmar V went on to experience 2 months of in water interactions with a Humpback Mother and Calf. Oh well, it looks like we'll have to go back again one day then doesn't it!! :) Filmed by: Simon Spear & Zoe Spear Edited by: Simon Spear Music: Requiem For Your Soul / Smartsound Royalty Free Music Note: This was our first trip diving and filming with the Sony FS100 and Amphibico Genesis housing. We experienced significant issues with both the camera and the housing which meant that 90% of the footage we shot was basically useless. This film has been made from the remaining 10% that was salvageable. The majority of the footage is from the FS100 while the surface shots and a couple of underwater clips are from the Canon 7D. If you would like to know the issues filming underwater with the Sony FS100 and the Sony NXCAM range in general then please feel free to contact me.
This is quite a short clip for "Magical Moments", but it is not every day that you get attacked by a shark is it?! Of course popular media would have you believe that if you jump into the sea then you will be devoured almost instantly, but despite their fearsome reputation these days there are just not that many sharks out there and they very rarely attack humans. Very rarely, but not never... So we were in the Socorro Islands recently, a wonderful place full of Sharks, Mantas, Dolphins and Whales which reminds you a little of what the ocean should look like without human interference. One natural phenomenon that they have been seeing a lot of lately are baitballs, which is when fish group together for protection as they are hunted by a predator or predators working as a team. The baitball that we encountered at Socorro was of juvenile Jacks which were being hunted by Tuna, Silvertip, Silky and Galapagos sharks. As soon as I'd entered the water I felt an almighty smack on my back and I was pushed underwater. I assumed that someone had jumped off the RIB on top of me, but when I turned around no one was there. I later found out from the guys on the boat that a Galapagos shark had literally jumped on top of me as soon as I'd entered the water! The action was fast! The bait fish were swimming everywhere in an effort to confuse the predators and make their escape. It's not advisable to get into the ball of fish themselves as sharks will often lunge through with open jaws hoping to snag a fish and if you are in their way you could get a nasty surprise. So when the fish start to congregate around you for protection you know it is time to try to move out of the way. The Baitball had broken up and I was backing away from a group of fish heading in my direction when the Galapagos shark from earlier made its return. It had obviously taken a liking for the electronics in my camera housing because rather than following after the fish it diverted towards me and as I pushed it away it proceeded to take a chunk out of my brand new Amphibico housing. It was the first time that the housing had been in the water and it was attacked by a shark! Believe me that is quite an achievement! So not really a shark attack on me, but certainly a reality check and a reminder that you can never become complacent when sharks are around and in hunting mode! And remember - sharks are in far more danger from man that we are from them!
During cold spells Manatees head in droves for the fresh water springs around Crystal River, Florida as the water temperature in this area remains a constant 72 degF. On one exceptionally cold winter day a few years ago I managed to film this incredibly friendly Manatee. They really are wonderful creatures and although it is illegal to pursue or harass or even touch a Manatee they will often seek out snorkelers and divers to interact with them and maybe get a belly rub. Sadly their numbers appear to be in a steady decline so it is unknown how much longer we will be able to share experiences like this one.
The west coast of Scotland is a truly magical place and it is one of the few places on earth where I feel totally at peace. Something about the light, the air and the lack of people no doubt! In June 2011 I spent a week sailing around the islands of Mull, Tiree, Gunna and Coll looking for Basking sharks. We had some amazing wildlife encounters and (Baskers aside) one of the most special was with a playful pod of Common Dolphins. Anyone who has spent any time out on the water around the UK knows just how unpredictable our weather can be. The number of days I have spent in harbour looking out at rough seas is uncountable and up until that point the spring and summer weather of 2011 had been atrocious. Yet occasionally, very, very occasionally we can chance upon perfect conditions and that day was definitely one of those days. As we were heading out from the harbour of Tobermory over totally flat seas we came across this pod of anywhere between 50 - 200 dolphins. I sat on the bow for an hour or more as the dolphins surfed the bow wave and played all around us. Most people wouldn't even believe that encounters like this were possible in UK waters. Truly Amazing.
For someone who is in love with water, watching your little boy or girl learn to swim is a joyful experience. We first introduced Oliver to the water when he was 12 weeks old as part of the same structured training programme which enabled his big sister Gracie to earn her 100 meters distance badge only a few weeks after she turned 4. From birth babies have a natural reflex to close their epiglottis whilst submerged underwater but unless trained they have normally forgotten this by the time they reach 6 months old. The Homo Aquaticus (Aquatic Ape) theory has now been largely discredited, but it is nice to let your imagination run wild for a bit and imagine that it was our ancestors interaction with water rather than de-forestation in East Africa due to climate change that set man on a different path to the other creatures on our planet.
During February 2008 we visited Aliwal Shoal in South Africa to film and dive with Tiger Sharks. The 'blue water' shark dive that takes place at Aliwal has become rather famous and it is certainly one of the most adrenaline loaded diving activities you can undertake. The dive is baited with drums of chum so admittedly this dive is not to everyone's taste, however as a shark spectacle it is hard to beat. You can see many dozens of Blacktips (C.limbatus) in addition to Dusky Sharks, Bronze Whalers, the occasional Bull shark and up to eight Tiger Sharks which is the most we saw on a single dive. Very, very occasionally a White shark could turn up, but this is extremely rare. I'm not afraid of sharks and I don't mean that in a bravado macho beating my chest kind of way. I'm fully aware that even a moderately small shark could quite easily kill me if it chose to attack, but they don't, well at least they don't attack unprovoked very often. Diving with Tiger sharks in a baited situation however was the most unnerving experience I've ever had in the water. They seem capable of lulling you into an almost hypnotic state and can come incredibly close to you before you are even aware of it. As this is a mid water dive at times we had three or four Tiger sharks coming at us from all directions which certainly appeared to be co-ordinated behaviour. Looking down and seeing a Tiger shark coming vertically up at you from below certainly gets your blood pumping and on more than one occasion I literally had a shark at the end of my dome port that needed to be pushed away relatively aggressively. Great for pictures yes, but maybe not so good for your life expectancy... In my opinion without dedicated safety divers this would be a very dangerous dive. I've heard lots of unofficial reports of injury, some minor, some fairly major. I've also heard of lax diving practices by some of the operators so this is definitely not a dive to be done lightly. However despite the warnings it has to be said this this is one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had underwater and deserves to be included as a very Magical (if slightly unnerving) Moment! Filmed: Simon Spear Music: Furnace (Smartsound Royalty Free Music)
The instant that a bunch of cells sparks into life and turns into something much more than the sum of its parts is a truly Magical Moment. We spent a couple of months during the winter of 2009/10 diving the famous Lembeh Strait which has become world renowned as a biodiversity hotspot. When diving there it often feels like you are in Disneyland as one strange creature after another can be spotted in your camera lens. A couple of days before Christmas 2009 we had been on a relatively uneventful dive by Lembeh's standards. That all changed however when I spotted an upside down coconut shell and turned it over to see if anything had been hiding beneath it. To my surprise I found the inside of the coconut shell packed with tiny eggs with miniscule baby cuttlefish inside, probably not much bigger than a grain of rice. I set my camera up, started to film and was stunned to see the baby cuttlefish moving around inside the eggs getting ready to be born. Truly remarkable. ** More footage of these Flamboyant Cuttlefish Eggs and newborn hatchlings can be seen in my film "Circle of Life" http://youtu.be/U_bcFEyTVFk
Our new conservation themed short film about our Ocean and just a few of the many challenges that lie ahead is now available to view online. Hopefully it will get the grey matter working!! As always best viewed in HD!!
Very occasionally while diving we are fortunate to experience a natural high so intense that it literally feels like it touches your soul. With "Magical Moments" I hope to regularly share some of these amazing experiences that I have been lucky enough to witness. All clips will be one shot unedited sequences - a moment in time never to be repeated, yet never, ever forgotten. First up is a very friendly Turtle that I met last year in the Red Sea Magical Moments | Friendly Turtle I spotted this Hawksbill Turtle on a reef outside Hurghada towards the end of a Red Sea Liveaboard trip out to the offshore marine parks in the southern Egyptian Red Sea. Due to the shear numbers of divers from the Red Sea resorts Turtles often get severely mobbed when spotted here. Today however at this rarely visited reef I was completely on my own, so I had the opportunity to spend maybe 30 minutes just watching and filming him from a distance while trying to make him comfortable in my presence. Eventually my patience paid off and he moved away from the reef where he had been feeding towards where I had been waiting for him in open water. I'd seen shots of Turtles coming right up to camera dome ports before and had always wanted to experience it. The reality was as good as I'd ever imagined it would be as he came over, put his head right up against the dome port and peered straight into the lens of my camera. A truly Magical Moment. Nearly all species of Marine Turtles are classified as Engandered. Who knows if this ocean nomad will ever encounter a human again. If he does lets hope it is a positive experience.
The Silver Banks are world renowned as a Humpback Whale nursery that lie midway between the Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Every year from mid February until mid April female Humpback Whales take up resident at the banks to nurse their new born calf's before a long and arduous journey north to their summer feeding grounds. During March 2010 we spent a magical week at the Silver Banks and we were privileged to spend nearly 2 whole days in the water with this mother and her calf. The mother will sleep much of the time and will surface to breathe every 10 minutes or so. However the young calf needs to breathe every few minutes and will surface much more often so if you wait calmly at the surface you will sometimes be rewarded with spectacles like this... Personally I still believe that the week I spent at Silver Banks was the most memorable of all encounters I've ever had underwater. At times you simply had to stop filming and just watch what was going on in front of you with an open jaw and when you got a chance to look closely into the eyes of these magnificent creatures you were certain that you were starring deep into their souls. ** These Humpbacks can also been seen in my short film 'hope' Filmed: Simon Spear Music: Prelude in Dreamtime (Smartsound Royalty Free Music)
I've been a little lax in posting any updates here of late, but I wanted to share a new film with you called "Solstice". Here is the blurb and the YouTube version: "Winter fades, Spring dawns and the seasons inevitably move on towards Midsummer, where an encounter with one of Nature’s true giants awaits...."
Hi all Just to let you know that I've uploaded a new short film called EPICENTER. It is an expanded version from the one first shown in Circle of Life that showcases Lembeh Strait, Indonesia and all the weird and wonderful creatures that can be found there. I've had this project in my 'Things to Do' folder for months, but I finally found a few days to finish it off. Enjoy! Cheers, Simon