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Indonesia: Manado & Lembeh on a brand new Canon G7X Mark II and a doomed DJI Mavic Air

Published on 2018-07-01 18:28:37

After multiple attempts at the Caribbean, the waters around the islands of Hawaii, our local (depleted) kelp forests and a few trips to the Sea of Cortez, a big trip to the South Pacific, the Indian Ocean or the Yellow Sea was overdue.

Armed with not much more than a brand new Canon Powershot G7X Mark II (just the name feels like it could make you sound smart in society) and an even newer DJI Mavic Air 4K UHD drone, I decided it was high time to pick a dive destination that would deliver enough subjects above and below water to fill the (also new) memory cards of aforementioned photographic and video equipment, so I started preparing (again) a trip of a lifetime to Tahiti and Rangiroa to dive with sharks, whales and dolphins and see the beautiful shades of aquamarine waters of the lagoons. But my buddy and I decided to go to Indonesia with a group of friends instead...

Now, Indonesia is quite a journey in itself. Ten hours or so to Japan, seven more to Jakarta, a twelve hour layover at a cheap (but very nice) hotel near the airport and up again for five more hours to Manado. Then a one hour bus ride through the jungle to reach the Grand Luley Resort near the famous Bunaken National Park, at the North-Eastern tip of Sulawesi, an Island that used to be called the Celebes. The trip was organized by our friend  Evan, videographer extraordinaire  and G.O (definition here) from Seasick Production. He has quite a few trips going on over the next years or so,  check them out!

We spent about two weeks in Manado, diving Bunaken almost every day and did one day trip to Lembeh for quite a different diving experience, looking for weirdass fish and other critters in the muck.

Contrary to Lembeh, Bunaken  is known for its stunning wall dives and its strong currents. No big animals there, just beautiful healthy reefs with tons of fishes of all sorts.

Photography with the new Canon was, to put it mildly, freaking challenging. Even with full manual settings 1/125s, f/9, forced flash, most of my macro shots came out very soft. I realized (too late) that the camera for some reason would default to 640 ISO, which makes the pictures  grainy and not very sharp. I will have to try again, no that I have forced it to 125 ISO.

Same thing goes with wide angle shots, even with an additional external light (I know, heresy right) I stole from my buddy's GoPro setup, I was not really able to get clear shots. It seems the depth of field on that camera is ridiculously short. I can't believe Canon would come up with such a shitty underwater camera, so it must be the photographer. It has to.

The external video light came very handy on the muck dives in Lembeh to help focus or to get clear video. It was still a pain to get the macro subjects in focus, especially the minuscule flamboyant cuttlefish or the elusive hairy frogfish we found there...

Notwithstanding the lack of camera mastery, this trip was awesome when it came to seeing stuff I had never or seldom seen before: squids (I know, we get these here in California, but I've never seen them!), cuttlefish including the flamboyant model, mantis shrimp (which I found myself after losing the rest of the group), giant devil scorpionfish (which I almost landed on), snake eel burrowed in sand, snake eel in old tire, a wide variety of colorful nudibranchs, twinspot lionfish, harlequin pipe fish, banded pipefish, ornate ghost pipefish, Oriental flying gurnard, stargazer (my favorite and #1 on my list, found 1 minute into the first dive in Lembeh, took a bit longer for the hairy frogfish), seahorses, crocodile fishes, fire urchins, Pegasus sea moth dragonfish, and probably more...

Top side, I experimented with the new drone. Quite a nice little piece of engineering this guy. Crystal clear smooth 4k videos or 120fps 1080p, very easy to handle... Except it did not like trees and the mangrove when I took it for a spin on its third day out. It must be the pilot though. It has to. 


And the short video 



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