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Digital Shootout Fiji Webcast 2004

Welcome to the Fiji Digital Shootout 2004 webcast!

Webcast Authors: Eric Cheng (text, photos) and James Wiseman (photos)
Digital Shootout Website: http://theshootout.org/

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Digital Shootout Fiji 2004
The Digital Shootout 2004 is sponsored by Backscatter, Light & Motion, Optiquatics, and Wetpixel.com, and is hosted at the Garden Island Resort on Taveuni, Fiji.

The Digital Shootout directors are Berkley White, Gayle & Richard Todd and Dan Baldocchi.  If you would like to contact us regarding future shootouts please email us at info@theshootout.org.

Coming up: the Monterey Shootout, Aug 13-15, 2004. Details at theshootout.org.

Also, check out Eric Cheng's journal from the event.

From theshootout.org:

"Splash into the world of underwater digital photography at the third annual underwater Digital Shootout in Fiji May 6 - 15th, 2004. Far beyond a standard photo safari, the Digital Shootout is an in-depth learning experience. Meet fellow beginner and advanced shooters and rub elbows with our team of professional photographers and industry experts for a week long program that includes free digital demo gear with professional assistance and critiques, and hands-on workshops.

"Our experts from Adobe will empower you with the essential skills of Photoshop image control and premiere video editing. Who knows, you might even win great prizes in our digital imaging contest. You don't want to miss this opportunity to shave years off the learning curve while blowing bubbles in paradise."

That's the official word on what goes on at the Digital Shootout, but it is so much more than that. Read on to see photos from each day out here in Fiji!


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Saturday, May 8, 2004
07:30 Travel to Taveuni from Nadi
12:00 Lunch
14:00 Resort Briefing
17:00 Photo/Dive Gear Setup
19:00 Fijian Buffet Dinner
20:00 Evening Show/Bar Party

Hello, from Taveuni, Fiji! Thanks to our chaperone extraordinaire Gayle Todd, all of the staff and guests have reached the Garden Island Resort safely, with luggage intact. After a short resort briefing, workshop participants dove immediately into setting up their underwater photo rigs; many of the participants are taking cameras underwater for the first time here in Fiji, so the Shootout staff split up into two gear-setup groups: one for digital SLR owners, and one for folks shooting consumer cameras. With leadership from Jeff, Optiquatics' Joe Wysocki, and Light & Motion's Dan Baldocchi, nearly all of the rigs were assembled and ready to go before dinner time. The chicken cooked in taro leaves was heavenly.

   

And finally, after dinner, Backscatter's Berkley White gave us an impressive slide show of photos from his recent trip to Komodo. The Shootout participants are all getting to know each other, and seem excited to get wet -- after a good night's sleep, that is. :)

- [click here for today's images] -
 

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Sunday, May 9, 2004
08:00 Two Morning Dives
12:00 Lunch
14:00 Digital Photo Techniques
15:00 Photoshop Session 1
17:00 Office Hours
19:00 Dinner
21:00 Slide Show + Critique

Wake-up calls rang throughout the resort between 6:30 and 7am, and an hour later, we were all gathered by the dock, ready to board our dive boats. The fifty of us have been split up into four different boats, each with two or three dive guides aboard, which means that there is approximately one dive guide for every four guests. The dive and hotel staff here at the Garden Island Resort have been extremely accomodating and professional.

Our boat moored up for the first dive, which was an easy spiral up a sea mount through clusters of lush soft coral. The top of the sea mount sat at an easy 15 feet below the surface and was dotted with sea anemones and their clownfish inhabitants. On our second dive, we spotted an enormous Napolean wrasse and a few white-tip reef sharks, but many of us were shooting macro and were buried with our noses in the reef.

   

After lunch, Berkley White gave an hour-long seminar on rudimentary digital photo techniques, which was followed by an entertaining lecture on Adobe Photoshop (Session 1) by Adobe Evangelist Julieanne Kost.

Every night, a slideshow of the day's photos is shown, followed by critiques of selected images by both Berkeley and professional photographer Jim Watt. The nightly event is a great way for participants see what other folks are doing with their cameras and to get feedback about what they are doing right and wrong. I'm sure that the quality of images we see every night will improve as participants learn from each other and from staff members, who are working hard to make sure that no question goes unanswered.

- [click here for today's images] -
 

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Monday, May 10, 2004
08:00 Two Morning Dives
12:30 Lunch
14:00 Organizing/Sharing Images
15:30 Advanced Composition
17:00 Office Hours
19:00 Dinner
20:00 Slide Show + Critique

It's pretty clear that some of the guests are starting to bond. Jokes and laughter are commonplace, and most of the participants seem to be psyched to learn as much as they can during their week here. The current out on the reef is still running pretty strong, but moral is still high, and participants are still coming in after the dives with some fantastic photos.

Eric Cheng gave a seminar on the basics of organizing and sharing digital images, a talk that detailed all of the steps between shooting a digital photo and sharing it with friends via e-mail or the web. After Eric's talk, Jim Watt gave a fantastic talk on advanced composition techniques. Jim contrasted photos demonstrating "typical" amateur composition with photos that a professional would take, highlighting features like the Rule of Thirds, secondary subjects, separation using blurring, negative space, and more.

   

We also had over 100 images submitted today for the photo competition and for the evening slide show! As before, Berkley and Jim gave thoughtful critiques on selected images.

Tomorrow, we will announce the details of the Digital Shootout photo competition! Normally, the Digital Shootout staff likes to wait a few days before announcing details because by then we will have a better sense of the interests and skill level of the participants.

- [click here for today's images] -
 

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Tuesday, May 11, 2004
08:00 Two Morning Dives
13:00 Lunch
14:00 Photoshop 1 Review
15:00 Photoshop Session 2
17:00 Office Hours
19:00 Dinner
20:00 Slide Show + Critique

Before tonight's slideshow, Adobe Evangelist Daniel Brown stood up to give a special award to one of the Digital Shootout participants. Wiping away tears, Daniel explained, "In the history of all of the digital shootouts, nothing like this has ever happened. Someone was ... actually... reading the manual!" With a guilty smirk on his face, Evert walked up to the front of the seminar room to accept his prize: an Adobe baseball cap. We are learning very quickly that prizes can be won by doing things like reading manuals and asking questions during seminars.

The images that are coming in for our nightly slideshows are improving at an impressive rate. Many of the submitted images today were fantastic, and Peter, one of our Aussie participants, turned in a photo of a white-tip reef shark having the inside of its mouth cleaned by two cleaner wrasses! Jim Watt took one look at the image and said, "I'm diving with you, tomorow." Shootout participants are clearly thinking about many of the things that we've presented in the daily seminars. Composition and in-water technique is improving, and fewer images are coming in looking like they came directly out of the camera, which means that Julieanne's excellent Photoshop seminars are being absorbed.

The Shootout staff have also finalized photo contest details. There will be four categories:

Traditional Wide-Angle
Traditional Macro
Unrestricted Wide-Angle
Unrestricuted Macro

The "traditional" categories allow for the adjustment of brightness, contrast, color, and sharpness. Cropping, cloning, and other digital manipulation is not allowed in the traditional categories. This restriction on digital manipulation will enable folks who aren't as savvy at digital manipulation to compete on more-or-less even ground with those who are more experienced. We had considered a category wherein only images straight from the camera would be accepted, but as digital photographers, we feel that basic digital imaging methodology (properly) involves some amount of post-processing.

"Unrestricted" categories have no such rules regarding manipulation. May the best image win!

   

Note: I hope to start getting some of the submitted images uploaded soon, but most likely they will not be online until after I return home.

- [click here for today's images] -
 

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Wednesday, May 12, 2004
08:00 Two Morning Dives
13:00 Lunch
14:00 Digital Video Techniques
15:00 Adobe Premiere Seminar
17:00 Office Hours
20:00 Dinner
21:00 Slide Show

"Hey. Did you know that there are bats outside?"
- Jim Watt, Day 5

As we were leaving the dock this morning, we noticed that someone was flying a kite from the Lelewai (it is one of the slower boats, so they have to do *something* to keep themselves occupied while motoring from site to site!). Later on in the day, we found out that Art was flying his modified kite, which has a servo-controlled digital camera attached to it. The kite's camera can be panned in four directions and has a remote shutter release! There are some photos below that were taken from Art's camera kite.

The current is lessening a bit as we stay here, and we actually had a dive this morning with absolute none at all. Shootout participants are starting to become more confident in their photo taking abilities, and many of them have started to experiment with different lens configurations. We also have also started to explore the surrounding area; a few of us wandered off during the afternoon to slide down a natural water slide located not far from the resort.

   

After lunch, Richard Todd and Adobe Evangelist Daniel Brown gave seminars about digital video techniques, covering everything from capturing video with digital camcorders to producing and editing a finished product.

It's been rewarding to hear that so many people have learned so much this week. It's definitely been apparent from the images we're seeing in the daily slideshows, and even the hotel staff has commented on the improvement. Speaking of hotel staff, they've been absolutely wonderful, and have actually learned all of our names in the short time we've been here so far!

An optional night dive was also offered, which was followed by a slideshow containing a shocking image of Peter Mooney wearing nothing but an eight-inch dome (photo below). Be afraid...

- [click here for today's images] -
 

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Thursday, May 13, 2004
08:00 Two Morning Dives
13:00 Lunch
14:00 Extended Office Hours
17:00 Night Dive (Optional)
20:00 Dinner
21:00 Staff Slide Show
 
Friday, May 14, 2004
08:00 Optional Morning Dive
08:00 Free Day/Judging
18:00 Staff Dance/Sing
19:00 Dinner
20:00 Final Slideshow

Yesterday was like any other day here in paradise, except that there were no afternoon seminars. Instead, workshop staff wandered around helping participants prepare their images for submission in the photo contest. There really isn't anything like a one-on-one Photoshop session with Julieanne. What more could you ask for?

In the evening, Eric Cheng, Jim Watt, and Julianne Kost presented short slide shows of their photographs and art. Julieanne's work is really cool (and dark, sometimes). I really liked her melted wax paintings (which incorporate found objects) and her digital illustrations.

The shootout week is nearing its end, and I'm certainly going to miss a lot of the people I've met and bonded with. Today was a free day for participants, who were free to explore the surrounding villages, natural water slide, and waterfall.

   

In the evening, we had a last-day celebration featuring a fantastic traditional dance-and-song event by some locals and our resort staff, followed by dinner and a final presentation by Berkley, Gayle, and the shootout staff. All of the participants have been working hard for the past two days preparing images for submission into the photo contest, and after a day of difficult choices by our group of judges, we presented the winning entries, accompanied by a slideshow of all of the images entered. Backscatter, Light & Motion, Adobe, and the Garden Island Resort here in Fiji all donated significant prizes, including copies of Adobe Photoshop CS and Premiere Pro, gift certificates for credit at Backscatter, Light & Motion housings for Olympus and Nikon cameras, and a 7-day trip for two back to the Garden Island Resort!

The Shootout staff would like to congratulate...

Art Haseltine
Bob Widman
Ellen Blumenfeld
Eric Moon
Evert Nels
Greg Bang
Ken Bailey
Marc Hannigan
Melika Betley
Mike Roberts
Okie LoPresti
Peter Mooney
Rand McMeins
Ruth Chofre

... for placing and receiving honorable mentions in this year's Digital Shootout contest! Remember, as Berkley says, "You're all winners; some of you are just prize challenged."


[click here for 1600x1067 version of image]

Noreen, Brandon, the Garden Island Resort/Aqua-Trek staff and the Swiss Fiji Divers staff have been amazing. I've never felt more welcome at any other resort; nearly all of the staff members know each of the 50 participants by name, and it's been a lot of fun to hang out and joke around with them. For example, I mistakenly wandered onto the wrong side of the buffet table tonight and was promptly chastised by Silio, the self-proclaimed "buffet sheriff". No staff member at any other resort is going to call himself a "buffet sheriff". :)

More bonding (and live music) followed this evening's special dinner, and I'm finally back in the staff room after spending some time around the kava bowl with a few of the late-night folk. Most of the participants will part ways tomorrow, but we all hope to be in the water again at next year's Digital Shootout. Stay tuned for details!

- [click here for today's images] -
 

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chaos in the judging room

Contest Categories:

Traditional Macro
Traditional Wide-Angle
Unrestricuted Macro
Unrestricted Wide-Angle
Digital Video

The "traditional" categories allow for the adjustment of brightness, contrast, color, and sharpness. Cropping, cloning, and other digital manipulation is not allowed in the traditional categories. This restriction on digital manipulation will enable folks who aren't as savvy at digital manipulation to compete on more-or-less even ground with those who are more experienced. "Unrestricted" categories have no such rules regarding manipulation.

Backscatter, Light & Motion, Adobe, and the Garden Island Resort here in Fiji all donated significant prizes, including copies of Adobe Photoshop CS and Premiere Pro, gift certificates for credit at Backscatter, Light & Motion housings for Olympus and Nikon cameras, and a 7-day trip for two back to the Garden Island Resort!

Digital Shootout Contest Winners

- Best of Show -


Digital Shootout Best of Show: Greg Bang

- Category: Traditional Macro -


Traditional Macro - 1st Place: Ken Bailey

Traditional Macro - 2nd Place: Bob Widman

Traditional Macro - 3rd Place: Peter Mooney

Traditional Macro - Hon Mention: Art Hazeltine

Traditional Macro - Hon Mention: Melika Betley
 

- Category: Traditional Wide Angle -


Traditional Wide - 1st Place: Ken Bailey

Traditional Wide - 2nd Place: Marc Hannigan

Traditional Wide - 3rd Place: Rand McMeins

Traditional Wide - Hon Mention: Art Hazeltine

Traditional Wide - Hon Mention: Erik Moon

Traditional Wide - Hon Mention: Ruth Chofre

- Category: Unrestricted Macro -

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Unrestricted Macro - 1st Place: Marc Hannigan

Unrestricted Macro - 2nd Place: Evert Nel

Unrestricted Macro - 3rd Place: Art Hazeltine