Backscatter Digital Shootout Event

My dive instructor gifted me my first underwater camera setup a little over two years ago when he retired. During those two years, with the help of the backscatter staff in Monterey, I saw my photography slowly get better and better. However, during my time at the digital shootout, I saw my photography skills increase more in two weeks than in those entire two years. Not only that but I got the chance to learn videography surrounded by experts. I had never approached videography before but one of my professional goals is to work in wildlife filmmaking so I knew this was my chance to get started. Something that would have taken me months to learn, such as post-production skills, took me days to get the hang of with the help of the shootout staff. Not only did I get to learn and improve my technical skills in both photography and videography, but I was able to work on my creative skills as well. With the help of wildlife filmmaker Cristian Dimitrius, I learned how to follow and capture marine life in a way that tells a story to the audience. I was taught how to connect viewers to the underwater world and elicit an emotional response to the stories these animals are telling us. By the end of the shootout, I had produced some of my best wide-angle and macro images and completed my first short film.

Another massive learning experience was the equipment. Between the Backscatter, Isotta, and Nauticam crew, there was an impressive array of cameras, accessories, lights, and pretty much anything a photographer’s heart desires. As someone who had been working in stills up until now, it was incredible to get to try out some top-notch video rigs. I got the chance to try different operating systems, video lighting setups, tripods, different housing brands, and even some professional cinema gear such as external monitors. All these experiences allowed me to understand the behind-the-scenes of what it really takes to produce a good video. These experiences also helped me to realize my own preferences in terms of gear. Often times as photographers and videographers we will spend days or even months researching the best gear. But what works for one person might not work for another. Getting the chance to try out an array of professional equipment is a rare opportunity and something very special to the Digital Shootout. Using what I learned from trying many different setups I will be able to tailor my next rig to exactly fit my own needs.

I dove, I attended classes, I edited, I had the time of my life and after two weeks, it was time to say goodbye to Little Cayman. I was devastated to leave. If I could stay there floating in those turquoise waters forever, I would. Reflecting on how the Digital Shootout has changed me, before this experience I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I was scared to approach topics like video because of the steep learning curve and I just didnt know where to start. I had no idea how to get started with different types of gear systems, post production, storytelling, and advanced photography techniques. But thanks to the support of the Shootout staff I gained confidence in my own ability to learn. Through the classes, one on one support, and encouragement of those around me I now feel like I posses the tools needed to continue to advance my photography and videography skills outside of the digital shootout. The shootout gave me the determination to continue on with my learning and to not be scared of trying something new.

I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to learn from some of the best photographers and filmmakers in the industry, meet some incredible people, and have been given the honor of carrying on the legacy of Paul L. Schutt as the first Paul L. Schutt Underwater photography intern. I intend to continue on with my ambitions to become a wildlife filmmaker through more training, experimentation, and hard work. I would like to extend a huge thank you to the Backscatter crew for not only putting on such an incredible event but for inviting me into their community, and supporting the next generation of photographers and filmmakers through this internship.

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