We’ve been back from Myanmar for 2 months now but still have many more images to process. It really is a land of wonderful photographic opportunities. From the intensity of Mandalay and Yangon to the peace of Inle lake and the mystical awe of Bagan.
Filming in Myanmar was a joy partly due to the willingness of its people to be photographed, indeed many locals insisted their photos were taken, making my job so much easier than having to ask permission.
Shooting the sunrises at Bagan was dependant on certain factors such as getting a perfect sunrise and finding a vantage point that wasn't over crowded. We were blessed with both and came away with some very pleasing images. We had a tremendous experience taking a balloon ride at sunrise over the archaeological zone in Bagan. Floating low of the temples is and experience never to be forgotten. We used Oriental Ballooning who we can heartily recommend for price and professionalism. Our pilot Johnny made for a fantastic, personal experience.
Using a micro four thrids kit meant I could mean could carry a wide range of lenses whilst keeping the weight down. My kit comprised of:
LUMIX GH5 Body
LUMIX GH4 body
Zhiyan Crane 2 Gimbal
Manfrotto Be Free tripod
All the best images are still in the process of the being uploaded to the galleries. Below is one of two films shot in Maynamar in ultra high definition 4K.
It is with great pleasure I can announce that I have been made a Panasonic LUMIX ambassador.
I have been using LUMIX cameras exclusively since 2010 when I first discovered the now classic GF1. An awesome little camera that was pocketable but incredibly powerful that I started to take everywhere. I first used it with the the Panansonic 20 mm f1.7 and found it a great combinatifor street photography. The image to the right was taken with this set up.
Soon after, I began to use the incredible Panasonic 7-14mm f.4. This was the lens I had always been looking for. A lens that would allow me to get those Stanley Kubrick/Sergio Leone ultra wideshots. I’ve always been more influenced more by cinematographers and directors rather than photographers so this lens was a dream come true. Light, small enough to put in my pocket but with stellar performance, being quick to focus and razor sharp. This lens was practically welded to my GF1. I never took it off.
The 7-14mm allowed me the creavity I craved and I never became bored with it. I was always amzed at the images it produced. I shot everything with it, its only limitations being its relativley slow speed and being soft in the corners. The image to left entitled "Lonely" was shot with the GF1/7-14mm combination and was exhibited amongst others of mine in an art gallery in London's Mayfair.
The limitations of the GF1 were becoming obvious as it became dated and I moved onto the Panasonic GH3. This was a huge step up in stills quality but the video features were where it excelled.
I bought an Ikelite underwater housing from the excellent guys at Cameras Underwater in Devon and began to use it underwater with the 7-14mm. I first used it in the Egypian Red sea onboard the wondefful M.Y Juliet. The video results from that trip in 2014 won the LUMIX experience Videographer of the year I and was runner up in the Rough Guides Travel Photographer Of The Year for the shipwreck image below right.
I moved on to the GH4 in 2014 and once again this was a huge leap forward in stills and in video with the arrival of 4k. The body size was indentical to the GH3 which allowed me to use my existing underwater housing. Panasonic moved this more into pro territory with weather sealing which was a welcome addition for me on the extremes of a dive boat.
Coupling the GH4 with the other-worldly Leica Nocticron f.1.2, was a great advantage for me. This lens is one of the finest lenses out there available on any system.
Using this combination I am able to get portrait and fashion shots that would be unatainable on other systems or would cost a fortune with a full frame set up. The image below was taken with the Nocticron and the GH4 along with off camera flash and a 4 stop ND filter.
I have recently moved on to the new Panasonic GH5. This is a game changer with its new sensor, 10 bit internal recording, 60p in 4k and dual memory card slots to name just a few new features. That annoying 4k crop has now thankfully gone that was on the GH4. It is built like a tank, looks like a stealth bomber and is a pro camera in every sense of the word. I will post a full review at a later date on this blog.
Being a LUMIX Ambassador is a role I am honoured to have and I look foward to continuing my relationship with the camera system that suits me so well. My heartfelt thanks goes to Anand Narayanan and Adam Higgins at Panasonic for making this happen.
When diving in the northern Red Sea my first choice is always the M.Y Juliet, a boutique liveaboard sailing from Sharm.
The atmosphere on board a liveaboard is very important to me because although the focus will always be on diving, if the experience above the water is lacking then it can make for a less than enjoyable experience. I have, in the past, spent time on liveaboards that were more akin to supermarket chains than dive boats. Sterile, with no spirit and little interest in ensuring that guests had memorable dives. Just get them in and get them out.
Diving on the M.Y the Juliet is different. It’s a boutique liveaboard looking after a maximum of fourteen guests with one of the the Red Sea’s most experienced guides on board who has well in excess of 17, 000 dives and who arguably knows the area better than anyone else. On my numerous stays on the Juliet I’ve dived with, and got very close to; bottle nosed dolphins, scalloped hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, bull sharks, manta rays and even sailfish to name just a few.
The experience on the Juliet is unique and highly personalised and they cater well for my camera gear and ensure I get the shots and footage I need.
The atmosphere on the Juliet both topside and underwater is, in my view, one that few other Red Sea liveaboards can come close to. If you want a unique, tailored diving experience to remember then check out what the Juliet can offer you, you won't be disappointed.
You can contact the owners directly at either email below or follow their facebook page.
Below is a video I shot onboard the Juliet last year.
Diving on board the Red Sea liveaboard MY Juliet is always the most wonderful experience and the very best way to enjoy the northern Red Sea. We made a different itinerary for this dive trip sailing northwards from up to Dahab taking in the stunning marine parks of Abu Galum and Abr Bint before heading southward to the world class dives sites in the straits of Tiran.
After the safari we drove back up to Dahab for a few days to relax in Dahab. A desert town full of stunning views begging to be photographed.
As well as photographing the underwater world I was also shooting a model onboard the boat for her portfolio. Below is a small selection of the photos both underwater and topside from the trip.
Bedouin on Camel in Sinai Desert
Woman on Horseback in Sinai Desert
Lion Fish In Red Sea
Diver Over Fan Coral In Red Sea
Model On Boat at Night
Model at Sunset on Boat
Its always wonderful to visit my good friend in south Devon and decompress from the stress of London. It's a photographer's dream down there with rolling hills, rivers, picturesque villages and stunning coastlines. This visit I missed the good weather by a week so the light was rather flat for photograhs. However, the overcast conditions did contribute to a dramatic feel down at the liitle coves. The photo below was on a beach with stunning slate cliffs and slabs, almost like an art installation.
South Devon Coastline
If you fail to neutralise the blue in your underwater photography you will end up with amateurish photos that have a horrible cast to them where the whole image is a blue mess. The best way to achieve this neutralisation is to manually white balance the camera and use a red gel. I use the a red gel which give me consistent, stella results.
When using red gel (use a blue gel if diving in green water) there are many ways to attach it to the lens. Some lenses have provison to front mount filters and while have some holders at the rear of the lenes allowing you to rear mount it. I have used lenses that have neither front or rear mount options. My work around for this is to cut the gel to the size of the rear element and to simply sellotape it in place. It works perfectly.
You will need to manually white balance you camera every 4 or 5 meters anytime you change depth. I like to save a white balance setting for 3 meters depth the as I enter the water simply select that setting. I can return to that setting as I ascend or on a safety etc. This is particularly handy when you ascend in the blue and there is nothing to use a white balance reference. On the subject of using a reference for your white balance, I have used everything from a grey card, a white t-shirt tied around my thigh, air tanks, my hand etc etc.
One of the most effective things I have found to use is off-white coral sand or coral itself. It really is trial and error and somethings work better than other at differing depths. When you get it right, you’ll know as your monitor with burst into life with rich vibrance and crisp contrast.
A lot of people ask me about my set up and rig for underwater photography, often looking for suggestions for their budget. Before answering, I always ask how many dives they’ve done and I recommend that before venturing underwater with a serious rig that they have a good 100 dives under their belt.
Underwater photography requires that you should be completely comfortable underwater, your buoyancy should be excellent and you should be aware of your surroundings at all times. If any of those are lacking, either you photographs will suffer or your safety will be compromised. It’s often the case that with a good rig, both of your hands will be occupied and it will seem at the beginning as if you need a second pair of hands to inflate your BC, deploy an SMB, give hand signals etc.
With experience though, it will seem weird when you don't have a camera in your hands underwater.
My personal rig comprises the Panasonic micro four thirds system (m43) and Ikelite underwater systems for the housing with an 8 inch dome. I choose the Panasonic Gh4 for its for its size, robustness, excellent stills quality, outstanding video and the 4k photo option. Being effortlessly able to switch between stills, video or 4k photo (the latter I’ve assigned to a function button for quick toggle use) allows me a huge flexibility in choosing video or stills on the fly.
The m43 system comprises a huge choice of world class optics to choice from such as the Panasonic Leica 42.5 f1.2, a stunning lens that offers other-worldly results that are in a league or their own (see the model photographs for examples).
Underwater photography is different however. For the very best results you are limited to 2 options; wide or macro. That’s not to say that you can’t venture underwater with other lenses, you certainly can, but to get world class photographs underwater it is imperative that you minimise the amount of water you shoot though. And that means getting close, really close to your subject. And when you think you're close enough, get closer. The less water you shoot through, the sharper the photo, the more vibrant the colours. Hence the only serious choice for good underwater photography is macro or wide angle.
My underwater photography is all ambient light, meaning I do not use strobes. I flirted with a pair Ikelite strobes 2 years ago but I quickly realised my own personal photographic style is not suited to artificial light. This is simply a personal choice and you may decide, as the vast majority or serious underwater photographers do, to go down the strobe route. So, that being said please bear in mind that all my comments on underwater photography pertain to ambient light photography only.
Whatever camera system you decide on, whether compact camera, DSLR, mirrorless etc, it is vital that you are able to manually white balance the camera underwater. White balance is critical in underwater photography. I repeat, white balance is critical in underwater photography. In your topside photos you can adjust your white balance in post production but underwater it’s different. Auto white balance will not give you stella results and the trick is to neutralise the blue in the water (or green if diving temperate water). I’ll go into this in more depth and detail in the next blog post.
Leicester band Gazelle used a Narcosis Pictures image for their new single "Where Nothing Ever Happens".
I've shot Gazelle frontman Ryan Dunn before in his previous band the Tennysons at numerous venues around the UK and it was a pleasure to work with him again and see the photo on the new single.
I worked with him in choosing an image that fitted the single and after narrowing it down he decided on the photo you see on the left.
The original image was shot on the beautiful Baildon Moor in West Yorkshire on a stormy morning full of dramatic, moody skies.
Band photography was an early passion of mine since I was 15 when I started photographing bands such as the Sid Presley Experience, The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen and Billy Brag etc in London venues around '85.
You can check the single on itunes here: Gazelle
Welcome to the Narcosis Pictures photo blog. Narcosis Pictures is the photographic art of me, Matt Jacobs MSc., award winning photographer and videographer from London, England.
It's been a busy few months here as the summer heats up. Individulal model shoots, assignments for a fashion house in Singapore and 4 bookings for wedding photography taken for next summer.
Not long now until July where I'll be off to Egypt to photograph the stunning underwater world of the Red Sea once again onbard the M.Y Juliet. In November I'll be off to Thailand and Myanmar and hopefully get the chance to catch the beautiful light so typical of that part of the World.
Over the coming weeks I'll keep the blog updated with news and exciting new projects. In the meantime, please browse the site and enjoy the images.