Saturday, February 18, 2017
by Steve Ratts
The Digital Shootout is an annual event that bills itself as "The world's best learning event" for underwater photography and videography. It occurs every year in June, and rotates through a short list of great destinations. In 2015 it was in Roatan, in 2016 it was in Little Cayman, and this year it's headed for the diver's paradise of Bonaire at the Divi Flamingo Beach Resort!
A good friend of mine and all-around excellent underwater photographer, Greg Sherman, talked me into going in 2015 when I asked him what I could do to really up my game. He told me he'd been going there for years and that was the quickest and most fun way to improve yourself as an underwater photographer. You'll probably learn more - and improve more - in one week at the DSO than you would in a year of diving without the aid of staff and pros like they have.
Not only that, but there are prizes to be won including some awesome gear and fantastic dive trips! And with their prize policy it's not unusual for first timers to win some nice prizes. You might think that only the most experienced or luckiest divers will take all the best prizes, but it's not so! Each diver is only allowed to keep one prize, so if you happen to win more than one you have to choose which one you want to keep and anything you don't keep gets raffled off at the end to those who entered but didn't win. In my first year there I won prizes in two categories and turned down a $2000 dive trip package in favor of some gear I wanted more, so someone else got a free week on a liveaboard in the northern Caribbean!
Speaking of gear, there is always a lot of fun and interesting demo gear available to try out for free while you're there, and at the end of the week they make screaming good deals on the demo gear if you want to buy some. I got my 45 degree view finder that way saving myself literally hundreds off what it would have cost new, and I got to "try it before you buy it" with no obligation to buy.
But the flat out most valuable part of the whole week in my opinion are the seminars. Every day, after the boats get back and you've had lunch, there are new topics presented by real pros who not only know how to do it - they know how to teach! No matter what it is you want to work on, there will be a chance to learn from some of the best and nicest underwater photography and videography pros in the business. The tips and tricks they'll share with you will have you shooting better than you ever have before in no time!
Plus, this year being in Bonaire you'll get unlimited shore diving in addition to up to three boat dives every day (2 morning, 1 afternoon). So if you're not interested in a particular seminar topic, hop on the afternoon boat or grab a buddy and head for the house reef (Calabas Reef). Or grab a buddy and do a night dive - but you may miss out on the evening's slide show review of shots you and others have taken that day.
If you're interested in joining me and a bunch of other divers who can't imagine going in the water without their camera, there may still be room. The warm-up week is June 10-17 ($2000), and the event week is June 17-24 ($2399). See the page linked above for more details or to register.
Down Under Dive Club