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April 29, 2008 I am back in the office after a great weekend spent with family and friends, doing what I love. Shark Diving. This weekend the good people at Landry's Downtown Aquarium in Houston allowed us access to their shark tank to collect photos and video. Seven species of sharks are in this tank; sandtigers, whitetip reefs, Pacific blacktip, sandbar, zebra, nurse, and a couple of sawfish.
The sharks were a bit amped up because they are not used to all the attention, camera lights, and strobes going off in their tank. The sandbar sharks were zipping around and were not really sure how to treat our visit. A couple of them were pretty curious, but the other two decided they wanted nothing to do with us and tried hard to avoid coming around us.
Image by Paul Spielvogel
The zebra shark in the tank was super friendly and decided to take a nap right next to Paul Spielvogel's legs. This was the first time the keepers have ever seen her do that.
Image by Janet Spielvogel
The more time you spend in the water the easier it is to see the different behaviors and personalities of these sharks. I also learned something about sandtigers, they will spy hop just like white sharks, and tigers do. I have had this discussion and have read about how experts say that the white shark was the only shark in the world that would spy hop on humans. Which is where the shark will stick its eye out of the water to get a good look at us. But I have seen tigers do it, and now I have seen sandtigers do this. Had it been only once, I may not have been convinced, but they did it over and over again.
We just missed the spy hop here, and I didn't think to capture it till towards the end of the day. I have a new goal for a return visit. (Paul Spielvogel)
This turned out to be a difficult shoot, one of their cleaning filters was down so there was so much crap in the water, which murked up the visibility. It felt like true ocean conditions in there. But we have plans to go back for their summer shark week promotion. This time I will be returning with the new XD camera so I will be able to record some amazing true HD footage of the sharks.
Editor with our dive masters, Mike and Janelle. FYI, Janelle is a writer and will be writing up an article for us in the next issue
A huge thank you to all the staff and dive masters at Landry's Aquarium for allowing us access to their tank and for the great food and hospitality. Looking forward to this summer!
April 25, 2008
Today I pack up my dive gear, because tomorrow my friends - I am going shark diving. The first dive of the season begins for me tomorrow, and I am stoked! It is only a tank dive at the Houston Aquarium, but it is still cool as shit. Sandtigers, sandbar, Pacific blacktips, whitetip reef, sawfish, nurse and a zebra shark. (7 different species on one dive)
I have dove their tank before but I was not very happy with the footage I came home with, so I am getting a second chance to capture what I have been envisioning in my head. The crew at the Aquarium are super cool people, they are allowing us to get in, which is something that is very rare. In fact we have been the only outside visitors ever allowed in their tank, other than the staffers who work there. Power of the SDM press, you got to love it. So as much as I would love to keep writing today, I just can't. I am packing up mags, and camera gear, and dusty dive gear, oh yea, I may even bring an extra shirt or two to wear.
I will blog you all tomorrow night after the dive...
April 24, 2008 After all the repair work I did to my u/w housing, 'Sheila', me and Steve Pavon dunked the housing in a rinse bucket to check for any leaks. So far so good, she passed the first test - no leaks. Of course the real test for any leaky housing will happen out there in the real world as your dropping in. I am not worried about it leaking in the shark tank in Houston this weekend. But in North Carolina, we will be diving down to 100 plus feet this summer. The pressure is pretty intense at that depth, so if there are any leaks, I will find out pretty quick.
Onto mag business;
Work has already begun on our next issue. Issue 18 - I get chills writing that. Damn I can't believe we have put that many issues out already. I know some of you are probably thinking, its only 18 magazines, whats the big deal. Those 18 magazines represent 6 years of my life. 6 long years of head aches, long hours, stretched shoestring budgets, months on the road, days on the boats, hours in the water, and so many great times with good sharky friends.
I know there are plenty of our readers out there who love this magazine dearly, and do more with us than just read the mag - you live the life we talk about in this magazine. So to everyone of you out there - I say "THANK YOU!" I could not do any of this without you guys.
The first few pages of the new issue are already in the works, again the mag will feel different. I am really focusing on lifestyle in this one. The deeper I get into this sport, the more I am trying to bring out the soul of this sport. So in this issue expect something new and totally unexpected. I know I always say that, but just watch... the mag will be really cool. This issue will have more images, lifestyle, conservation (sharks need us bad), and more hope for our future. Keep an eye out for an editorial piece I am writing called the Tiger Tax.
Film updates tomorrow!
April 22, 2008 I purchased my sony HDV camera, and Equinox underwater camera housing over 2 years ago. Me and 'Sheila' have racked up the film hours, travelling together and filming sharks in many different places. We have been through ocean storms, aggressive sharks and gnarly travelling conditions. So far we have always come back, in one piece, and always with the story.
This was a night snorkel with reef sharks - one of the scariest shark dives me and Sheila have ever done.
This weekend we kick off our 2008 shark diving season. We are headed up to Houston to dive the shark tank at Landry's Downtown Aquarium. I have been itching to get back in the water to film some sharks. For the purests out there, I know this is not an ocean dive, but it is a chance to see some sharks up close, get wet and have some fun with my good friend, shark photographer, Paul Spielvogel. We are doing a story about the Aquarium, so we are collecting more photos and images of the sharks. They have a couple of rare sawfish in the tank so I am really eager to get in there and have some fun.
The reason I brought up Sheila is before the 2008 season kicks off I felt like she needed some TLC. She has been treated pretty rough by the road and my beloved sharks, I felt it was time to show her some love. So I have taken her apart, sanded her down, washed her up, and repainted her...
She looks so pretty, all nice and clean like this, but I know it won't last. The hard road this shark diving season is calling, and she is ready for more brutal ocean beatings, bad airline service, and irate sharks.
The 2008 shark diving season is here my friends... I hope you all are making your plans as well!
I'll see you out there! Eli Martinez
SHARK DIVER magazine
April 21, 2008 It is Earth Day today! So try and do your part to hug the planet, anything from recycling, to walking to work instead of driving, to stopping on the side of the road to pick up some trash. Every little bit goes a long way, of course I wish this from everyone- everyday, not just one day a year, but it is a start. So say a prayer for the earth, give thanks for your blessings. And not just the earth but to the animals that desperately need your help. Animals are amazing creatures and we learn new things from them everyday. I just hope that enough people ban together and will save our pretty little blue and green planet before its too late...
The things animals are still teaching us!
Happy Earth Day Everyone!
April 18, 2008 I finally watched Sharkwater last night, and I have to tell you... this film is a must see for every shark lover out there. This movie is important to the survival of sharks and for flat out awareness of what is happening to our sharks globally. I have supported this film from when I first heard rumors about the film, and now that I finally have seen it, I am proud to have supported it. Rob Stewart has done an amazing job getting the word out to the plight of sharks.
am not getting paid to say all this. This is me telling you, that you have to watch this film if you have not seen it... it is so important that you buy this DVD and show it to everyone who will watch it. Sea Shepherd has again made some major headlines and are the heroes of this movie. Captain Paul Watson is truly a pirate and the oceans biggest friend, and will be regarded as a hero when his time on earth has passed. Movies will be made about his life, of that I am certain.
Now if I need to be skeptical and tell you the things I din't like about this movie, the only things I can say are it could of been a few minutes shorter to have more of an impact on the viewers, and the scenes where Rob Stewart is swimming around with sharks in a speedo should be deleted all together. I am sure the women like it, but I could of done without those scenes.
April 16, 2008 We filmed some interviews for our documentary this past weekend of regular everyday people, asking them questions about sharks. The interviews turned out real good. We asked a bunch of surfers and beach go-ers the questions. It is amazing how very little is known about sharks. One question that was asked was how many different species are out there, the average answer was 20. The correct answer is 400 plus. The sad reality is if we do not protect sharks soon, they will be right.
A local surfer off of South Padre Island, TX.
Our film is scheduled for picture lock at the end of this month, and all of May will be spent working on color corrections, sound quality and music score. I was over at Rusty's studio all day today working on the film. I have to tell you I am stoked, the film is going to be so much fun to watch. Of course I am biased because it is my film, but it really is cool.
We will have an open screening the first week of June. This is so we can get the general publics opinion about our film and see if they like it. We will then ask them what they would change, what they think needs to be shortened, or lengthened, and if there is any part that does not make sense. In early May we will get the film's official website up and running. www.summerofthesharks.com Its not up now but it will be early May. It will have production stills from the shoot, as well as media info, our official trailer, and any additonal info regarding the film and where it will be shown. There is no release date on the DVD yet, but that too will be available soon. Me, Rusty, and Steve will be blogging on this site as we prepare for the upcoming Film Festival circuit, what we went through to get this movie made, and the adventure we experience in the making of this film.
April 10, 2008 You know the best part about shark diving, the true heart and soul of this sport is the brotherhood. There are some people that you meet out there on the road that will stay with you for the rest of your life. I see some people every year out there, or every two or three years, and when I see them it is like we never left, we just pick up the conversation right where left off. That is when you know you have found truly special friends, when you can do that. I am sure I would find friends like that in any sport I was interested in, but there is something special about a Shark Diver and this lifestyle of ours. It brings so many different worlds together.
Sorry for getting mushy, but the new shark diving season is here and I am getting pumped up about it. Yesterday I began tearing apart my video camera housing 'Shiela.' She is getting a big face lift for the 2008 diving season. After 2 years and almost 100 hours in the water - getting banged around by sharks, I felt it was time to give her some major TLC. I am also upgrading my camera this year, I am going to get one of the new XD cams for this shooting season, currently the housings for this camera don't exsist yet, so I am customizing 'Shiela' to fit the XD cam. It will be a few more months before that housing is ready. So my goal is to get the white balance working and the on/off record button. I do not think that I can get anything else to work but as long as I have those two functions going I know I can get some EPIC footage.
Its funny, I had a conversation the other day with Andy Mitchell, a National Geographic shooter, and we were dicussing the zoom ring on the gates housings, he was talking about the P2 camera, and how shitty the zoom ring was. I sat there listening and thinking about zooming and focusing my camera. I realized that I did not zoom in on a single shot at all in the 2 years I have been shooting underwater.
I felt like a total amature because Andy is a pro and he zooms in quite a bit. To be honest, I never really even thought about zooming in. I guess it is important when your shooting macro, but I have always shot sharks. So to fill the frame, I always just charged forward and tried to get in close. After talking to Andy I felt like maybe I was doing something wrong, but after seeing my footage yesterday on our film, 'Summer of the Sharks,' I was very happy with my footage. There was one shot that involved a horn shark where I wished that I would of zoomed in to get its details in better while filling the frame, but other than that I was very happy with all my shots.
It all comes down to shooting styles and what your comfort zones are when shooting big animals. I have a shark diving friend who always fires off his still shots when the shark is still far away, and at that distance the shark is not going to fill the frame. But his comfort level will not allow him to wait that extra few seconds for the shark to get in close before he pulls his eye from the view finder to bail out of the sharks way.
To me the water absorbs too much color on far away shots, and most sharks do not have much color, so I need to be as close as possible to really get the details. In fact the issues I have is often getting too close and having sharks bump, rub and bite my dome port. So polishing my camera's dome port has become a routine for me on many of my trips. I know it is not good for the camera gear, or the sharks but the footage is always insane fun. After two full shark diving seasons of this, I think I can actually fill a 5 minutes segment of nothing but bumps and bites from sharks.
In one sequence I had a tiger shark bump me multiple times. She swam straight into me and banged my camera, then circled me and banged me again, then again, and again... for six straight bumps. At that point I was worried that she was going to scratch my dome port so bad that my shooting day would be over, so after the sixth one I put my hand out and gently pushed her away.
April 9, 2008 Yesterday was spent at Rusty's studio watching the first cut from our upcoming film, "Summer of the Sharks."It was fun to watch, and it brought me back to those great adventures that me and my SDM mag crew were on. The film was fun to watch. Talk about a roller coaster ride, with some truly EPIC shark dives.
It is still in a rough cut stage, but the story has taken shape, and now what is left is to fine tune it and smooth it out. We are looking at having final picture lock on May 1. Which means when May 1st hits we will no longer make any changes to our film, so that all of May can be spent working on sound, color, and music.
In June we will have a test screening of our movie, to test out the audiences reactions before we begin submitting it to film festivals, and that begins in August. No official date has been set for that yet.
Of course our readers will all get to see it on our SDM reader trip shark diving tour this July and August. After that, the movie will hit the film festival circuit and hopefully - make it into quite a few of them. We will then post the dates and times as to where and when it will be shown.
I have regained the filmmaking bug again. We sort of slumped for a while because it felt like it just kept going. Like we were spinning our wheels, never really going anywhere with it. Now, LIFE is back in the vains again, and watching the film really got me pumped up. This film will show another side to the sport of shark diving, one that has never been seen before. You Shark Divers will love it, and your wander lusting souls will want to pack up and hit the road less travelled... I promise you that!
April 7, 2008 April is here. The week begins with news that our Whale Shark trips are full. I have one spot on our second trip and then they will be officially sold out. That is going to be a busy, busy trip. I am looking forward to it, Holbox is one of my favorite places in the world. I always said that if I were to just give up this rat race of a life and disappear to some remote island, I would move to Holbox Island, Mexico.
One of the roads that leads into the town square
It truly is the land of Manana. I'll do it tomorrow as the saying goes. Beautiful sandy beaches, a laid back lifestyle, and quiet friendly people. Not to mention it also harbors the largest aggregation of whale sharks in the world. How would you go wrong?
The best part of the encounters is their intimacy
So Holbox is calling me, and it also signifies the start of our EPIC reader trip Summer of the Sharks tour. I have been getting ready for this tour, because it also means I will be editing in full force issue 19.
Each encounter is unique, and different... here a whale shark is battling with a pesky remora. The shark is twisting and turning to try and rid itself of the annoying animal
This is why I have decided to cut together an issue that is live from the road. Our first annual road trip journal. I am not sure how I will lay this one out for sure, because this truly is going to be edited 100% while we are out there on the road. Photos and stories will all written on the boat, in the hotel rooms, and at the bar. The readers will be the writers and shooters for this issue... talk about a gnarly, fun experience.
Speaking of Summer of the Sharks, I am trying to finish up here to head over to my film editor, Rusty Armstrong's studio to go over the edits for our film. They have been working overtime and have gotten the film down to 90 minutes already. I thought the first cut was going to be 3 hours long, but they have already cut it down to 90 minutes, which is great. This means I can concentrate on the final interviews and shark footage needed for the film.
April 3, 2008 SDM has a new sports gear sponsor it is Amphibious Warrior Scuba Wear. They are a new clothing company that is super pro sharks and conservation. SDM is proud to have them as part of our team, so you will be seeing us out on the road and on some of our shark trips wearing their gear. Their website is still getting built but you can see some of the gear they offer on it already.
A little bit of SDM history here. One of our readers, Cris made the journey to visit our office this past week. I have been talking to him via email for quite some time now. He is a shark junky and loves the mag and our blogs and the images on our site, and hope that when he is old enough, he can join us for on e of our SDM reader trip adventures,(he is 17). Well his family was vacationing a few towns away and so herefused to leave town before stopping in to say hi... I am glad you did brother!
My buddy and your fellow SDM reader, Cristobal, - check out the shirt I am wearing!
My buddy Shark researcher, Dean Fessler first told me this, "we are all just brothers with different mothers."
April 2, 2008 The month begins and I kick it off by creating plans for our summer. The list begins with what will go in the next issue- # 18. I am adding 8 more pages to it, which means a couple more stories for you all. The last time I had 56 pages in our magazine was back in issue # 5. Then we dropped down to 48 pages, and I have kept it there ever since. But it is time to bring it back up and the next issue is the one to get it going. I am also back on a cover hunt for the next issue, I do not have any idea what cover I plan to use. I have a few ideas for a cover, but I am not sure. More on that later.
This will be the last issue done in the office before we hit the long shark diving road this summer, on our reader trip tour. That issue will be done 100% entirely on the road. It is going to be themed "Notes from the Road." Now as an editor, that issue is going to be so much fun to create. Our readers will be making almost all of the contributions to the editorial content as each day unfolds.
I also get the first cut of our film, "Summer of the Sharks" at the end of this week, I think? Either that or it will be ready early next week. This film has been such a labor of love for everyone involved with the project. Rusty Armstrong, our director and chief film editor has really put everything into making this film good, and Steve Pavon, assistant editor and chief Music composer for the film has also been great at getting the sound right.
Back in 2003 on SDM's very first shark adventure I wanted to cut a DVD together about our adventures. I even hired a guy to film it for us. That project went to the way side right away. He started cutting together a DVD that was designed for tourist divers. Something that large Dive Operations offer to their guests at the end of every dive trip, complete with the latest sounds, and elevator music. I just said forget it, lets scrap the project. It was the wrong guy, with the wrong time. It wasn't till 2-3 years later that I began to toy with the idea of making a film again.
Our Director, Rusty Armstrong, Filming on Capt Al's boat - Dusky Sharks - Venice, LA
But this time, I decided I was going to hold a camera and be a complete part of the creation process. It was during that whole process that I met Rusty. Rusty was fresh out of film school and itching to get out there and make a movie... the rest is SDM history! Maybe, I'll get Rusty to write up an article for one of the upcoming issues of SDM? He can pencil what it was like to make our shark film.