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    Underwater Photography Workshop in Marsa Shagra

    By: Martin Pachmann

    The Egyptian coral reefs near Port Ghalib were my first contact with the beautiful underwater world with mask and snorkel. And because I have always loved taking photos, I wanted to capture this world on sensor and memory card and be able to look at it again at home. After a mobile phone case, actioncam and a crappy plastic housing with an acrylic dome (awful!), I wanted something "Now it's all the photographer's fault". Thanks to you forum members , (!) I ended up with Sony A7 IV, Nauticam and WACP-C and I'm totally thrilled. 

    My favorite dealer here in Germany offered a photo workshop in Marsa Sharga in one of his mailings, not far from our first underwater experiences. "Unlimited diving" on the house reef and learning how to use the camera better - wouldn't that be great? When it came to buying the underwater equipment, the contact with Roland from PanOcean was pleasantly calm and competent, so off we went. We were a little worried that this might drift off into technical discussions about diving and camera equipment rather than help in taking better pictures. But you can't judge what you haven't tried.

    Unfortunately, the nearest airport to Marsa Shagra, Marsa Alam, has hardly had any flights since the coronavirus pandemic, so we flew to Hurghada and from there took the bus to Marsa Shagra. The airport has the charm of a railway station waiting hall, and there is nowhere to buy food or drink after customs control. During the unfortunately somewhat longer wait for the bus, we Actually found something - the kiosk where the Egyptian bus and taxi drivers cater for themselves. Not aimed at tourists, but cheap and tasty. The bus journey was slightly adventurous due to darkness and wrong-way drivers - which is there probably not unusual. 

    Marsa Shagra itself was originally a very barren tent city for divers only, but has been built up into an Eco resort in recent years and offers good comfort and very good food. You can choose between spacious bungalows and sparse tents. A special feature is that after a short check dive at the diving centre, you can put together your own or rented equipment at any time you wish and then explore the reef either from the beach or from the Zodiac (runs at any time as required) by yourself. Of course, the usual excursions such as Elphinstone are also offered for a fee. 

    The workshop was very enjoyable. During the day either in the group or individually but always with the camera in the water, in the evening a few hours sitting together and discussing theoretical basics and doing practical analysis of pictures taken during the day. Of course, we always sat together at mealtimes and talked about diving experiences and photographic techniques in a relaxed and good-humoured atmosphere. Roland helped us with the equipment and gave us tips. I finally tried out macro and the EMWL with 160° optics live on the A7IV - thanks again for the uncomplicated opportunity! "Take this and try it out" - just like that. Great! (but I won’t buy one – too big and looks somewhat “interesting when holding the camera between the legs on the Zodiac – whoever has seen this knows what I mean) 

    In addition to the usual reef inhabitants such as turtles and normal life, the pleasantly healthy reef also offered us a large school of barracuda directly under the jetty: 



    nullAnd a few schools of mackerel, which of course make excellent photo subjects. It's absurdly difficult to photograph them from the front and up close. A big compliment to Alex Mustard - his picture is really unbelievably good, even if he didn't achieve perfect symmetry. 


    At the workshop, I learnt really a lot in that short time. Two of the most important messages are: "Include the water surface in the pictures, sun rays due to backscatter and natural light are your friends" 


    and: "Don't go too low, the most beautiful motifs are often close to the surface." 


    But of course, I was also lucky enough to have my conscripted model with me. Thank you me beloved wife! Again, the best pictures were taken while freediving, but then you have to be able to hold your breath a little.

    However, admittedly, there are also motifs deeper that would not have been possible without scuba diving. We were particularly taken with an octopus that had made itself comfortable on a coral block in an unusual manner.


    All in all: unreservedly recommendable. To quote Roland once again: "I was particularly pleased that at the beginning we only talked shop about diving, but as the workshop progressed, photography moved more and more into the foreground of the discussions". 



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