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Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - Etc.

Posted By: Jason Campagna

Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - Etc. - 06/17/07 09:59 PM

I was quite pleasntly surprised to find this forum! We are thinking about planning our first trip to Belize.

I'm a bit of a photographer - and my wife and I are headed to AC later this year. I'm curious about any advice you might give for us. We were thinking about Victoria House as a place to stay, and planning to visit the ruins as well as a little diving of course. And taking TONS of pictures...

Curious about a couple things from those that are native, or have visited extensively:
-Best place for some serious female form photography, waterfalls, etc.
-Requirements for novices to dive.
-Worth obtaining/bringing an underwater photography case for my DSLR?
-Suggestions on places to stay.

I know reading throught threads I will gain some of this imformation, but I really wanted some direct conversation about SP/AC. We aren't typical touristy people, and would rather get involved more when possible as more of a local.
Posted By: ScubaLdy

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - Etc. - 06/18/07 05:14 AM


Do you have a housing for your DSL camera?
Have you done any underwater photography?
Are you a certified scuba diver?

The answers to these questions are needed before any realist advice can be given. Then I can almost guarantee that you will get every thing you need
Posted By: Jason Campagna

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - Etc. - 06/18/07 05:32 AM

Sure thing. Thanks for the reply.

Yes. I have one I can use/borrow from a friend, but may just purchase one so I can use the camera I really want to.

Some with P&S camera, however not with any of my DSLR's yet. nothing proish underwater to date.

No. however, we are trying to get some of that out of the way here in the states before our trip. I grew up with having a parent that was an driving instructor, but amazingly never obtained any certification myself.

J
Posted By: Anonymous

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - Etc. - 06/18/07 05:32 AM

There's lots to photograph here, underwater as well as above. Don't know about female forms though (unless you bring your own) and there aren't many waterfalls on Ambergris Caye!

There are no requirements for novice divers other than the obvious. What are you thinking of? If you're certified you will certainly be allowed to take your camera down with you. But do remember that anything you take diving with you is expendable - if you aren't prepared to lose it don't bring it. Make sure you have insurance that covers flooding. If you don't already have a housing then maybe you aren't experienced at underwater photography, in which case it would be better to spend your money on a decent compact digital camera with housing before you spend a large fortune on an SLR housing.

One hotel that comes to mind for a photographer is Caribbean Villas. Very low density accommodation set in a wildlife sanctuary that has many birds, with an observation platform that looks over the canopy. Xanadu almost next door has a similar ambience. Or I'm sure there are lots of places well north of town that will give lots of wildlife photography opportunities. Victoria House is a good choice, but without the bird sanctuary.

We don't get many "typical touristy" people here - they tend to go to Cancun - and you'll find you quickly relate to the locals.
Posted By: Jason Campagna

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - Etc. - 06/18/07 05:46 AM

Looking for stellar places ahead of time to do a shoot with her at. Will travel for the right place, inland, whatever. Really the primary purpose of the trip is romantic, but we both love photography so it tends to have a central focus.

I'm definitely more interested in stuff like candid portraits, local life, etc.; scenery, sunsets. I'm no nature photographer really. We love people. Underwater imagery would be more of a sieze the opprotunity kind of thing. I'd say we do plan to also travel inland to another area to explore. Not totally sure really. We're adventurous, we tend to grab onto whatever hits our fancy.

We were also thinking 7-10 days maybe? Late August/Beginning of September a good time to come or no?

Posted By: Barbara K

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - Etc. - 06/18/07 07:04 PM

Great waterfalls in the Cayo district in the Mountain Pine Ridge. I did a trip for a photographer who photographed the movement of water, water/light interplay, etc. He was thrilled with the Cayo area. Stayed at Black Rock Lodge and traveled all around the area with a guide. Email me for more info. I will look for his website info to post it so you can see what he did with it. Hidden Valley Inn may be a good choice for lodging too. Lots of waterfalls on site.
Posted By: Jason Campagna

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - Etc. - 06/18/07 08:13 PM

Is it worth getting PADI certified here in the states prior to our trip?
Posted By: Anonymous

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - Etc. - 06/18/07 11:10 PM

If you're not certified then definitely see about that near home. You'll have far longer to learn and you'll meet people you may want to hang out/dive with later on after you're back. It doesn't matter what agency the dive shop works with, as all certifications are recognised here. If you want to do just the class work at home and all the water work here, or (more usual) the classwork and pool work there and just the open water dives here, then that can also be accommodated. Again, it doesn't matter whether the two shops are affiliated to the same agency or not, though it does simplify things a bit if they are. PADI is by far the most common agency world-wide and dominates here.

A variant is to do the theory at home but not with a dive center there but on your own, either by private arrangement with a dive center here of your choice, or to use the new PADI on-line learning facility which you can find details of at www.padi.com. Despite the hi-tech aspects this doesn't really add much over the older distance learning system, under which you buy a manual locally, read it, and send tests etc by email to your chosen dive center.

Otherwise you can leave everything until you get here and that can work, but it's not the best way to learn and it'll eat up a chunk of your vacation.


Should have said - if you aren't currently a certified diver then DON'T buy a housing for your SLR. You won't know what you're doing and you'll waste a lot of money. If you already have a compact see if you can get a housing for it, or maybe think about getting the two new together. You shouldn't think of taking a camera down until you're at least reasonably competent underwater.
Posted By: Jason Campagna

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - Etc. - 06/18/07 11:31 PM

Originally Posted by pedro2
If you're not certified then definitely see about that near home. You'll have far longer to learn and you'll meet people you may want to hang out/dive with later on after you're back. It doesn't matter what agency the dive shop works with, as all certifications are recognised here. If you want to do just the class work at home and all the water work here, or (more usual) the classwork and pool work there and just the open water dives here, then that can also be accommodated. Again, it doesn't matter whether the two shops are affiliated to the same agency or not, though it does simplify things a bit if they are. PADI is by far the most common agency world-wide and dominates here.

A variant is to do the theory at home but not with a dive center there but on your own, either by private arrangement with a dive center here of your choice, or to use the new PADI on-line learning facility which you can find details of at www.padi.com. Despite the hi-tech aspects this doesn't really add much over the older distance learning system, under which you buy a manual locally, read it, and send tests etc by email to your chosen dive center.

Otherwise you can leave everything until you get here and that can work, but it's not the best way to learn and it'll eat up a chunk of your vacation.


Should have said - if you aren't currently a certified diver then DON'T buy a housing for your SLR. You won't know what you're doing and you'll waste a lot of money. If you already have a compact see if you can get a housing for it, or maybe think about getting the two new together. You shouldn't think of taking a camera down until you're at least reasonably competent underwater.


Good information.

Locally I can get certified for $240 (classword and pool) and another $125 for the 4 open water dives. They take the group to an interesting spring nearby.

How are the open water dives priced there in AC? Worth bothing with the open water part of the cert here in town?

I'm all about doing it right.
Posted By: Jason Campagna

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - Etc. - 06/18/07 11:32 PM

Time...

Would you visit Belize in late August or in late November if those were your choices?
Posted By: RNdiver

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - Etc. - 06/18/07 11:36 PM

for the prices it depends on who you dive with. also if you got your cert at home, then you can dive less expensive while you are in San Pedro. I would get cert at home then just enjoy your dives on the Caye. you wont 'waste your time' doing the demonstrations in this beautiful place. compleat your c-card and enjoy the dives on holiday. Belize was my first dive trip after cert, and Im glad I was able to fully enjoy myself diving while there. not worring about taking my mask off under the water and such..
Posted By: ArtZ SmartZ

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - Etc. - 06/19/07 01:18 AM

I agree with Barbara K. Black Rock Lodge is absolutely beautiful, nestled in the middle of the jungle on a mountain side along the Mecal River.
http://www.blackrocklodge.com/home.html

"Great waterfalls in the Cayo district in the Mountain Pine Ridge. I did a trip for a photographer who photographed the movement of water, water/light interplay, etc. He was thrilled with the Cayo area. Stayed at Black Rock Lodge and traveled all around the area with a guide."
Posted By: Anonymous

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - Etc. - 06/19/07 01:52 AM

Expect to pay somewhere around $250-$300 for the four certification dives, including all equipment, taxes and (if it's PADI) certification. You may get deals on this, but you won't save a lot. So if you can do all four dives as cheaply as you say then do them there.

As to when to come, we are now in the early part of hurricane season. The weather at present is a bit rough but not remotely like a bad storm, just a bit windy, and in fact during hurricane season the weather is generally calm and diving conditions excellent. Either month would be good, with August being hotter.
Posted By: Marty

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - E - 06/19/07 04:43 PM

another vote for the pine ridge and cayo. i recommend doing all but the open water dives back home. unless you live in florida!
Posted By: seashell

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - E - 06/19/07 05:45 PM

I recommend completing your certification at home, if you have the time. While completing your open water portion in a warmer water environment has its appeal, the experience you will gain from a slightly more harsh environment will serve you better in the long run.
Posted By: World Traveller

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - E - 06/19/07 05:48 PM

I tend to agree with Marty here. First dives should be fun! :-) In fact I did the same thing - I found a local dive shop that I trusted and got the class & pool training at home (where I could get lots of detailed instruction) and then did my check out dives in Florida. Interesting aside: my local instructor's day job was to do underwater training for astronauts at a nearby NASA installation!

As far as photography, I have done limited underwater photography myself and the best shots I ever got were in shallow water where there is ample light. If you're really serious about taking photographs in deeper water then you want to buy or rent a good underwater flash. One caveat if you're a beginner diver: bringing all that equipment down might make your first diving experience a bit more cumbersome than it should be. But capturing memories of your dives in photographs or video is priceless.

Can't wait for //ambergriscaye.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/ubb/showflat/Number/240871/page/0/fpart/1 to A.C. in July :-)
Posted By: ScubaLdy

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - E - 06/19/07 08:02 PM


I’m happy to see your responses to my questions and the wonderful feedback you have received.
I had specialized in black and white land photography before I became a diver. Once I saw the beautiful underwater world I knew I needed a camera and needed to switch to color. My first camera was an Aqua Shot that takes throwaway cameras.
Now they have throwaway underwater cameras.
Please do not spend any more money than that as a beginner diver. As already mentioned – you will loose a few.
Absolute minimum you need to know to shoot underwater. Your flash will not travel more than 5’. Everything looks bigger and closer than it is – so you must get close – very close – to your subject. Do not shoot down. Most critters are colored so that they blend in with their background.
Use the mantra: Get down – get close – shoot up.
I think you will be surprised at how well you can do with a throwaway and you will not be worried all the time about loosing or damaging an expensive outfit.
For a lot of people it takes many dives to get your buoyancy controlled. The reason so many divers get angry with u/w photographers is that they (we) tend to damage the environment while struggling to get THE shot. Please start out being a conscience diver by not touching anything.
Good luck.
Posted By: Jason Campagna

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - E - 06/20/07 03:25 AM

Originally Posted by ScubaLdy

I’m happy to see your responses to my questions and the wonderful feedback you have received.
I had specialized in black and white land photography before I became a diver. Once I saw the beautiful underwater world I knew I needed a camera and needed to switch to color. My first camera was an Aqua Shot that takes throwaway cameras.
Now they have throwaway underwater cameras.
Please do not spend any more money than that as a beginner diver. As already mentioned – you will loose a few.
Absolute minimum you need to know to shoot underwater. Your flash will not travel more than 5’. Everything looks bigger and closer than it is – so you must get close – very close – to your subject. Do not shoot down. Most critters are colored so that they blend in with their background.
Use the mantra: Get down – get close – shoot up.
I think you will be surprised at how well you can do with a throwaway and you will not be worried all the time about loosing or damaging an expensive outfit.
For a lot of people it takes many dives to get your buoyancy controlled. The reason so many divers get angry with u/w photographers is that they (we) tend to damage the environment while struggling to get THE shot. Please start out being a conscience diver by not touching anything.
Good luck.


Good stuff. We are going to try and get *everything* out of the way including the open water dives here in town. Also, the local dive shop here has a photography-oriented program coupled to the PADI cert and some National Geographic cert. Figured that might be a good plan to get used to the SLR underwater prior to being where it really counts. Not too worried about its saftey guys - we are using one of the backup bodies for this. Besides, insurance would cover it.

Thanks for the great feedback everyone! Any more opinions on late August versus late November around thanksgiving?
Posted By: Marty

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - E - 06/20/07 06:59 AM

awesome pics worldtraveller!

to do my open water dives at home would have required diving in oregon = wear a sleeping bag basically to keep from freezing, plus see nothing. well maybe six feet visibility.
Posted By: Otteralum

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - E - 06/20/07 02:12 PM

I would recommend November over late August, but I'm a snowbelt wimp when it comes to 92 degrees and 100% humidity.
Posted By: World Traveller

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - E - 06/20/07 05:19 PM

Marty: Thanks! Yeah same here: northern california. I'm averse to cold water :-) lol

Jason: in late november I think there is a lower probability of a hurricane coming through so that would be my choice between the two.
Posted By: ScubaLdy

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - E - 06/20/07 06:05 PM

August and September are months that many of the businesses in town close down to take their vacations, clean house or renovate. Myself, I prefer to be gone those months but did not have a choice this year. So, I’m looking forward to high electric bills as I will be forced to use the A/C which I really don’t like.
The downside to November is that the prices will have gone up. If you can, do October. That is my favorite month to have visitors come down.
Of course my first time to Belize was October 28, 1998. How many of you are laughing? Yeap – we got evacuated for hurricane Mitch. You pays your money and you takes you chances.

Jason – did I miss it or did you never say where it is you live?
Posted By: Jason Campagna

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - E - 06/20/07 10:00 PM

Originally Posted by ScubaLdy
August and September are months that many of the businesses in town close down to take their vacations, clean house or renovate. Myself, I prefer to be gone those months but did not have a choice this year. So, I’m looking forward to high electric bills as I will be forced to use the A/C which I really don’t like.
The downside to November is that the prices will have gone up. If you can, do October. That is my favorite month to have visitors come down.
Of course my first time to Belize was October 28, 1998. How many of you are laughing? Yeap – we got evacuated for hurricane Mitch. You pays your money and you takes you chances.

Jason – did I miss it or did you never say where it is you live?


We live in downtown St. Louis.
Posted By: ronw

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - E - 06/20/07 10:40 PM

Originally Posted By: ScubaLdy
August and September are months that many of the businesses in town close down to take their vacations, clean house or renovate. Myself, I prefer to be gone those months but did not have a choice this year. So, I’m looking forward to high electric bills as I will be forced to use the A/C which I really don’t like.
The downside to November is that the prices will have gone up. If you can, do October. That is my favorite month to have visitors come down.
Of course my first time to Belize was October 28, 1998. How many of you are laughing? Yeap – we got evacuated for hurricane Mitch. You pays your money and you takes you chances.

Jason – did I miss it or did you never say where it is you live?



We live in downtown St. Louis.

Top

Jason

I'm in the Crestwood area. I was in San Pedro for a few hours as part of a crusie excrusion a couple of years ago and went nuts over the place just walking into town. You are going to have a ball.

Keep changing plans for return trip, hoping for July may have to wait until later. Girlfriends mother has seriou medical problems.

Ron
Posted By: DitchDocDiver

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - E - 06/21/07 12:22 AM

I'm sure many will disagree with me, but when I was teaching scuba, I would not let a new diver take a camera on their first trip. Both require skills to do correctly, and it’s easy to get distracted while you are taking pictures underwater. As others have said, the number of new divers/photographers that destroy coral and /or sea life is quite high. Add more controls on a underwater camera and it even goes up.

From looking at your portfolio, I don't think you would be happy with a "PHD" (Push Here Dummy) camera , so I recommend that you get as much bottom time as you can before you toss a camera in the mix. I was a pro photographer before I became an scuba instructor, so I know what you are talking about. I'd also suggest that you get a specialty underwater phootography certification.

Can you do it? yea, lots have..but I'd venture to say a very small percentage do it while being in control 100% of the time. Don't be a person that can't see the forest for the trees.
Posted By: Marty

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - E - 06/21/07 10:02 AM

i think that is super wise
Posted By: Jason Campagna

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - E - 06/21/07 04:36 PM

Originally Posted by DitchDocDiver
I'm sure many will disagree with me, but when I was teaching scuba, I would not let a new diver take a camera on their first trip. Both require skills to do correctly, and it’s easy to get distracted while you are taking pictures underwater. As others have said, the number of new divers/photographers that destroy coral and /or sea life is quite high. Add more controls on a underwater camera and it even goes up.

From looking at your portfolio, I don't think you would be happy with a "PHD" (Push Here Dummy) camera , so I recommend that you get as much bottom time as you can before you toss a camera in the mix. I was a pro photographer before I became an scuba instructor, so I know what you are talking about. I'd also suggest that you get a specialty underwater phootography certification.

Can you do it? yea, lots have..but I'd venture to say a very small percentage do it while being in control 100% of the time. Don't be a person that can't see the forest for the trees.


I'd agree. Plans:

The local dive shop has their regular open water course coupled to the National Geographic Open Water Diver certification and the PADI Digital Underwater Photographer certification. A little of all of the above, it includes the classwork, pool work, 4 dives for the PADI cert, then another extra pool dive and two open water dives dedicated to the photography end of it.

Figured that would be a good start.
Posted By: Anonymous

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - E - 06/21/07 05:18 PM

Yes, a good start. The most important single thing is to have good buoyancy control before you take a camera underwater, and it's rare for people to get good enough before they have a few dives under their belt. I'd get say 20 dives and then think about it.
Posted By: ScubaLdy

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - E - 06/21/07 07:56 PM

Pedro 2 - I second that - I usually suggest 50 but then it was me that had such a hard time learning bouyancy control - and I had a camera in hand. I feel bad about the mess I made back then.
Posted By: DitchDocDiver

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - E - 06/21/07 09:04 PM

I have given this a lot of thought since I saw the initial post on this subject, and even more since my postings. I have tried to come up with a good analogy to relate a new diver and underwater photography. Stick with me, and see if this makes sense. Try to remember the first time you rode a bike or drove a car. While I am sure that some actually tried and succeeded at taking pictures and riding/driving, I am sure that it was some what overwhelming. I also assume this your first time you drove was say in a residential area, without a lot of traffic. If you haven't tried taking pictures, riding/driving, I am sure you can remember your first experiences of driving a care or riding a bike. Even with the point n shoot cameras, this would be risky. Now make that initial trip on a six lane freeway. Maybe a little exaggeration, but just consider it food for thought.

When I took students out for photography lessons underwater, we would find a sandy part in the shallows with a little structure. A place where if you hit the bottom, you just kicked up the sand a bit. In fact, kneeling or laying down in the sand at such structures is a great place to get started. Take your time and look around, I think you would be surprised and what you will find.

Some rules of thumb for underwater photography, especially when starting out:

"If it is close enough to touch it, you should be close enough to take a picture of it."

Normally, you can't get to much light underwater for pictures.

Be safe
Have fun
Posted By: playabees

Re: Trip Advice - Photography - Victoria House - Etc. - 06/22/07 04:20 PM

(Not to hijack...)

Jason, I live in Webster Groves now but spent a year on AC managing the Tradewinds part of Paradise Villas. Feel free to email me at [email protected] for more island info (unrelated to diving or photography as I'm unqualified)like where to stay/eat/drink/dance and generally act like an idjit.

Have a great time!
Stephanie
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