From the imposing shadows of the Kittiwake wreck to shimmering circles of silversides sheltering in caves and caverns, the Cayman Islands’ underwater landscapes present an intriguing set of study subjects for underwater snappers.
Photographers from eight countries, including resident Cayman Islanders, sharpened their skills during a series of workshops in East End with British professional photographer Alex Mustard.
Mr. Mustard, who is also a marine biologist and author, hosted two week-long sessions at Ocean Frontiers.
He said the sessions were a huge success, with high quality images produced by many of the students.
“It was fantastic. Everyone at Ocean Frontiers, myself included, puts in a huge amount of effort, but it is lots of fun and when you see the quality of the photos, you definitely feel it has all been worthwhile,” he said.
“I am always proud that my photo workshops attract people from all around the world. But the first week was unusual even for me because I didn’t have anyone from my own country, the U.K., attending.
“The group size is limited to just 12 photographers per week and we had eight nationalities over the two weeks. And all these people go home and tell people how great the diving is here,” he added.
Mr. Mustard said the Cayman Islands is a world-class destination for underwater photography. Many of the tourists and locals in his Digital Madness course have gone on to win major international competitions, he said.
“People are always amazed at the quality and variety of images that the groups produce. For me, the aim of the workshops is to send the groups home with both wonderful images, but also as better underwater photographers.”
“It is not about just teaching formulas that will allow them to get specific shots in Cayman, but to understand how and why we make the decisions that go into producing memorable underwater photos.
“At the start of every week, the group is always nervous,” he said, “because they can’t believe their shots will live up to the high standard from the previous year. And almost every time they top what has been done before.”
He said tourists came from all over the world to take part in the workshop.
“I run workshops in other places, too, which is great because people often do their first workshop with me in places closer to where they live and then travel farther afield. We’ve even had people from Hong Kong and Kazakhstan come on my workshops in Cayman.”
The diversity of subjects makes Grand Cayman one of his favorite spots.
“The groups always love the stingrays and the Kittiwake wreck, which we’ve nicknamed the wreck of a thousand faces because there are so many angles to shoot this most photogenic ship from.
“Also, there is great backup here,” he said, noting that if something goes wrong with their camera gear, they can get assistance from a local photography shop “and be back in the water shooting again later that day.”
Cayman Islands-based photographer Ellen Cuylaerts said her passion for underwater imagery had taken off on the 2012 Digital Madness course.
“I first attended this unique workshop in Grand Cayman in January 2012, six months after starting with underwater photography and I’m certain this immersion with other people as passionate about it as I am helped me getting my underwater photography to a higher level.
“This second participation was even more precious because now I envisioned my goals more consciously and worked my way to them. I’m already booked for next year.”