Snorkeling Photography &
Shallow Freediving Workshop –
Cayman Islands Liveaboard

March 14-21, 2020
November 21-28, 2020

This very unique seven day snorkeling photography workshop is focused on helping you expand your photography skills as a snorkeler, so you can come home from your trips with beautiful pictures to share with family and friends.

No matter what your photographic experience level is, or what camera you use, you will gain a better understanding of your camera, underwater photography techniques, and post-processing methods for making your pictures pop. Renowned underwater photography professional, educator, and enthusiast Gill McDonald, will be your teacher.

Learn photography and shallow freediving skills in the healthy reefs of the Cayman Islands.

And you will also get training in safe, shallow freediving. Diving down will get you closer to your subject, in the best position to take interesting colorful pictures of the beauty you are seeing. The freediving will focus on shallow 10-15 foot depths (perfect for pictures), and will not go beyond 26 feet in depth. Emma Farrell, one of the world's leading freediving instructors will be on board and is excited to help snorkelers develop their skills safely.

Freediving gets you down to where you can get the best pictures.
Learn to take great underwater pictures of the beautiful life you will see.

It doesn't have to be all classes and learning. There will be lots of free snorkeling available to enjoy the beautiful reefs of the Cayman Islands, and leisure time and dining aboard the Cayman Aggressor V Liveaboard ship, that has been chartered exclusively for your snorkeling group.

During your week the ship will explore the three Cayman Islands, stationed in protected bays and inlets. The Cayman islands offer beautiful reefs and clear waters, with a variety of depth levels perfect for snorkeling, and developing your skills.

Soft corals, hard corals, fish and creatures are the beautiful subjects for enhancing your snorkeling photography.

You can also learn whatever you want. If you have no interest in shallow freediving, you can focus on the photography training. And if you just want to learn shallow freediving to enhance your snorkeling enjoyment, without learning photography, you are also welcome. Everything will be very relaxed and you can attend as much or as little as you want. The only mandatory session for freediving is Emma's day one Introduction to Freediving course, that covers some basic safety instructions.

The Cayman Aggressor V Liveaboard is your home base for this workshop snorkeling trip.

How This One of a Kind, Snorkeler Specific Workshop Came to Be

Boy are we jazzed about being able to offer this workshop trip, and Galen is equally excited to be attending this first-of-its-kind training (in March 2020), and meeting everyone.

Offering underwater photography training specific to snorkelers has been a long term goal of ours, and in our experience learning shallow freediving is one of the most useful skills for improving a snorkeler's underwater photography. And when we mentioned the idea to our trip partner Ben, he was already thinking about a similar idea and put in a lot of thought and work to make this happen.

Fortunately he knew two extremely experienced educators who will be on this trip with you. Gill McDonald, a professional underwater photography educator, and Emma Farrell, a world renowned freediving instructor. Both of these talented women are very excited to work with snorkelers to help them expand their skills.

About Gill McDonald & What Photography Techniques You Can Learn

Gill McDonald, your underwater photography instructor for this trip.

Gill McDonald will be available to help you get the best results out of your camera, and sharing her knowledge about a variety of equipment. She is experienced with all camera systems, from the Olympus TG5 and GoPro, to more advanced camera systems. You will also have the opportunity to try other camera systems out besides what you own.

She has experience guiding and teaching all levels of photographer from a casual holiday snap shooter, to a serious enthusiast. Her own photography has been widely published, she regularly contributes to several magazines and is currently the resident photography specialist at a Cayman based resort, and her knowledge of the local marine life is fantastic.

Here are a few of her pictures (click them to see them larger). Note these images are not from the Cayman Islands.

Underwater Photo by Gill McDonald
Underwater Photo by Gill McDonald
Underwater Photo by Gill McDonald

Gill will describe a range of different techniques including wide-angle, people, reflections, and macro and will also hold post-processing workshops so you can learn to give your pictures extra punch.

Here are some areas that Gill will be focusing on during the week:
1. Essential photography principles and the exposure triangle
2. Essential underwater photography
3. Camera settings and optimizing for shallow water use
4. How light behaves underwater and how to exploit it
5. Manual white balance, how to set it, how and when to use it
6. Observing marine behavior to maximize potential
7. Using 'magic filters'
8. Using underwater strobe light
9. Subject matter, wide-angle, macro, etc.
10. Post-processing to make your pictures really punch

Natural Surface Light - Near or on the surface the light is extraordinary. Photography is all about light and time, and here near where the sun’s rays first hit the water there are wonderful opportunities where the light dances and sparkles. Many reef fish are busily living just below the surface such as Sergeant Major damselfish, parrotfish and triggerfish and provide great subjects. Also the reef itself is a superb canvas to ‘paint’ photos on. By using the many features of today’s great waterproof cameras, beautiful images can be achieved right here at the surface.

Southern Stingrays could be your photography subjects in the Cayman Islands.

Wide-Angle - Coral and many marine critters need sunlight to survive, and thrive where the sun is strongest near the top of the reef, so there is no shortage of subject matter just because one is not deeper underwater. Soft and hard corals, sponges and marine animals all live near the surface as well as further down, so beautiful wide-angle panoramas are always possible with the right approach.

Macro photography is possible while snorkeling. Gill will help you learn how to do it.

Macro - It may seem that macro photography is out of reach of snorkelers. Don’t you need to spend a lot of time on one subject? Don’t you have to remain motionless for many minutes at a time to achieve rewarding macro shots underwater? Well, yes and no. Some tiny, supermacro subjects do require a very steady hand for a considerable length of time, and would not be possible to capture. However, this does not mean macro is ruled out. As long as we understand where and how a particular subject is living - a lot of underwater photography is about observing behavior - we can maximize our time with the subject and approach it in a useful way. Macro is definitely achievable.

People - Of course we can have fun with people shots in the water, jumping into the water, half in and half out of the water, face in the water only off the end of a jetty plus many more.

Using boats as subjects in your photography could get you some interesting new shots.

Reflections & Boats - Some truly creative shots can be achieved by the use of reflections and/or boats and other items in the water, alongside the natural reef and marine life. For example kayaks, paddle-boards, dogs, even divers as they descend.

Half and halfs - Not always possible as the topography of the reef is critical, but where a coral reef reaches the surface, especially with the added bonus of facing the sunset, this can be a really rewarding technique.
Spinning, panning and advanced techniques - Some wonderful effects can be achieved right there near the surface using sponges, moving fish and more. These are more advanced techniques for really upping your photography and creating exciting, different pictures to be proud of.

About Emma Farrell & What Freediving Techniques You Can Learn

Emma Farrell, your freediving instructor.
Emma Farrell, your freediving instructor.

Emma is one of the world's leading freediving instructors and author of the beautiful book One Breath: A Reflection on Freediving. She has been freediving since 2001 and instructs for RAID, SSI and AIDA. Her accolades are numerous and include competing on an international platform, training Olympians, writing courses, lecturing internationally and chairing the British Freediving Association, to name a few.

Emma will be running snorkel skills and freediving sessions throughout the week. Guests will be split into smaller groups of four and will have the opportunity to learn in-water skills over sessions as below:

The main focus for the first session is relaxation, safety, and discovering what each participant would like to work on improving throughout the week.

The focus will be on correct weighting for freediving and for taking photos underwater and exploring the reefs. Emma will help each individual with equalization, (clearing of your ears) body positioning, finning, duck diving, and overall technique.

Correct breathing both before and after the dive will be taught as well as techniques for relaxation in the water. All sessions will take place in shallow waters of up to 19 feet (six meters).

Everyone who is interested in learning more can have at least two additional sessions with Emma to work on achieving their goals as set out in the first session as above. In addition, throughout the week, Emma will offer masterclasses on equalization, sinus massage, breathing, and stretching and will also do a talk on deeper freediving for interested parties.

What Is the Cayman Aggressor V Liveaboard Like?

Your home base will be the Cayman Aggressor V liveaboard. She is a spacious 120 feet, and takes up to 18 guests + 2 tour leaders in her ten staterooms.

You will enter the water and exit directly from the stern of the ship for all of the snorkeling and training, from big stable stairs. There are few ocean currents in the locations where the ship will be stationed so it is a very easy ocean entrance.

Ladders from the boat will provide your access to and from the water on this liveaboard snorkeling trip.

The boat has a comfortable sundeck with hot-tub, lounge and deck chairs, as well as a shaded bar and grill. There is also a covered cocktail deck with comfy seating for those wishing for shaded comfortable relaxation.

A complete camera preparation and editing room is available for guests to use. A comfortable and spacious salon on the lower deck is a fantastic place to relax and share stories of the days activities in the evenings, or read a book between snorkel sessions.

Cayman Aggressor V Ship Layout
Covered cocktail deck on the Cayman Aggressor V.
Shaded bar & grill

The large air-conditioned dining room is on the upper deck and serves a variety of American foods, barbecues and local cuisine. Breakfasts are made to order, while lunches are served buffet style. Dinner is served seated and also includes a wide variety of food over several courses. Dietary restrictions can be accommodated.

The salon is complete with an entertainment center where movies can be watched, and evening talks on marine life and snorkeling will be held.

Comfortable and spacious lounge
Air-conditioned dining room

There are three different cabin types available, each with a private bathroom, as well as individual temperature control, and 110 volt outlets.

Each cabin has a private bathroom
All rooms except the twin standards offer the option of a king size bed.
Every room option offers separate twin beds if they are desired.



Trip Details & How to Sign Up

This is a small group trip and we expect it to fill quickly. Your spot is reserved with your deposit of $400 US per person. Contact Ben below for deposit instructions.

Trip Dates:

2020
March 14-21 - One female share space available.
November 21-28 - Available.

Price:
Twin Standard Cabin - $3,795 US per person
Twin/Double Deluxe Cabin - $3,995 US per person
Premium Twin/Double Cabin with Balcony - $4,195 US per person

Individual travelers - Ben will happily find someone of the same sex for you to share a room with.

Inclusions:

  • Airport transfers
  • 7 nights accommodation and full board (all meals)
  • Complimentary soft drinks, juice, local wine and beer
  • Services of photography expert, freediving instructor, and snorkel guides
Exclusions:
  • International flights (booked 11 months prior to travel)
  • Port and marine park fees
  • Snorkel equipment
  • Gratuities and sundries
  • Travel insurance

Trip Organizers
Ben and his U.K. based team are the organizers and leaders of this trip (more about them below). Galen & Nicole from Tropicalsnorkeling.com are promoting this trip, but all signups, trip organization and payments are made to and managed by Ben's team. TropicalSnorkeling.com does receive a referral fee in exchange for promoting the trip, at no extra cost to attendees.

How to Sign Up or Learn More?
Use the contact form below to contact Ben and his team to request more information about them and express your interest in signing up. They will get back to you shortly with full details.

Contact Ben's Team for More Information

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More About Ben & Our Partnership

Ben and Nicole heading out on the snorkel boat in Alor, Indonesia.

Ben (pictured with Nicole) is our friend and snorkeling trips partner.  He and his team are based in the U.K. and have around twenty years of experience guiding in Asia and beyond. He has been running his own business since 2010 that used to be primarily diving. He started offering snorkeling specific trips because he was aware that snorkelers often get the short end of the stick when thrown in with divers. He and his team love the freedom and low stress of snorkeling, and are very aware of the different needs of snorkelers versus divers, in terms of the reef depth, and calm surface conditions needed.

From our experience going on one of his snorkeling trips we found it very well organized, the guides were fantastic and very helpful, and the underwater experiences were exceptional. Snorkeling groups really get the benefit of all of Ben and his guides' years of experience in the water, and with different resorts and liveaboards.

All of his trips are small groups of 12-18 guests, or with a similar ratio of snorkelers to guides. And for where they visit, and how packed they are with experiences, they are affordable.

His company is licensed and insured. They have never cancelled a trip, and all funds are held in a trust until the trip is completed giving you 100% financial security if they or any of their suppliers go out of business before the trip happens.

Learn More About the Liveaboard

Cayman Aggressor V Liveaboard


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