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Alex Mustard Underwater Photography Reboot

Photography Experts have had the pleasure of hosting many people from all over the globe on Alex Mustard's Reboot Masterclass Course - they are not only an incredible learning experience but a great social event with new friends and close bonds formed. I get the pleasure of have a chat with everyone logging in before Alex gets started , it's hugely enjoyable meeting photographers from all corners we have had people joining from Australia, Japan, the Maldives,Russia, Kazakstan, Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, all acros the Uk, Ireland and Europe across to North America (East and West coast), Hawaii, Chile , Brazil amongst others.

A great community is growing and growing.

On the last event of Group 4 one of our alumni Charlie Gill mentioned her writing and conservation aspirations.... I asked Charlie if she wouldn't mind doing a blog post on her experience of the Charlie's own words........

My name is Charlie Gill, an aspiring conservation communicator from the south west of the UK. I am a graduate from the Marine and Natural History Photography course run by Falmouth University, and my aim is to combine my love of writing and photography in order to tell powerful and engaging conservation stories that inspire people to take action to protect nature. I am particularly interested in underwater photography, as the marine world is my specific area of passion.

Many people do not get to experience the awe-inspiring variety of life found in the ocean first hand, and so I want to produce work that will generate empathy whilst trying to strike the difficult balance between showing the beauty of the natural world and the threats facing it. Rather than creating single ‘pretty pictures’, I am now focusing on creating image sets which show the full breadth of a story, in order to maximise the amount of information the viewer gets. Empowering people with the full picture allows them to see what threats the ocean is facing and what they can do about it.

Course feedback

Within the last year, like so many people, I have taken part in online courses in an attempt to keep busy during lockdown. ‘Underwater photography reboot’ seemed like an opportunity that was too good to pass up, as it takes an in-depth look into four essential aspects of underwater photography; macro, wide-angle, composition and lighting. The aim is to refresh and reinforce key skills in order to provide a foundation from which to build strong, standout underwater photography.

Initially, I was unsure about how exactly this course would play out, as I was heading into the unknown with an unfamiliar online platform and an entirely new group of people. However, any apprehension I had was immediately eased once the first session began. Dave and Alex were friendly and encouraging, and conversation soon flowed between the eclectic, international members of the group. Everyone got the chance to introduce themselves and mention their field of interest, allowing common ground to be established and opening up conversation about areas that people perhaps did not know so well. The introductory session also covered the technical support provided, subscriber features and tools of the website, including how to use the forum to aid learning in between classes.

The quality of the course content is incredibly high, and the online format really works for the amount of information covered. Alex has said that he would never normally try to cover this much in an evening session in the field, but due to the modules being recorded and available to re-watch, he is able to really go into detail about each topic. The aspects covered are described as fundamentals, not basics, as the material is vital to being able to create engaging images; something that is invaluable when trying to convey the importance of conserving the marine world.

Both technical and artistic components were discussed, and were held as equals in terms of creating high-quality imagery. As the module overviews state, Alex covers equipment choices and configuration, optimal settings, subject selection, lighting, framing and composition, and a great deal more. The course is designed to give photographers maximum control over their images, so that technical and artistic decisions become second-nature, and high-impact photographs can be made.

Group calls and forums have proven to be a really informative place to network with likeminded people, even though we can’t see them in person. There was a rich exchange of experience and information across the group, and the small size allows for a high level of contact. Alex always provides detailed answers, whether that be over a zoom call or on a forum thread. We were actively encouraged to share knowledge and to ask questions, providing a very interactive masterclass. New threads can be created to discuss any area of photography, whether that be gear, favourite destinations, or feedback on an image. With access to the forum for a year after the reboot is finished, it continues to be a place where we can support and speak to one another long after the initial meetings are finished. For me, this is a really exciting opportunity to stay connected with people who I know will give high-quality feedback on whatever we happen to be discussing, to get updates on everyone’s work, and to potentially collaborate on projects.

Since completing the course, I can clearly see the areas in which my images could have their potential maximised. Alex encouraged us to practice critiquing images; looking at what we think does and does not work within an image. This has re-enforced my confidence in my ability to reflect upon my own work and think about where there is room for improvement, a vital skill when it comes to trying to create the most engaging work possible.

I came away from this course feeling both technically and artistically empowered; I believe that I have a solid base from which to build moving forward. The course combined with Alex’s book ‘Underwater photography masterclass’ has also given me the confidence to make informed decisions about what kit I should consider to get my desired results. The in-depth knowledge communicated has been extremely beneficial, and I have really enjoyed getting to know fellow underwater photographers from across the globe. It has been great to see the diversity of styles and locations, as well as what suits each person individually. I am excited to take part in future discussions and bonus events that alumni of the masterclass get to be involved with.

'How I would improve some of my own images after learning from the course'

Dahlia anemone, taken in Cornwall, UK: I enjoy the contrast of colours between the pink and green, however this image could have been made more engaging through getting even closer and shooting from a lower angle; providing more context of the environment in which the anemone lives.

Spider crab, taken in Cornwall, UK: I am quite happy with this image, however if I were to re-shoot, I would re-position my strobes to avoid the harsh shadow in the foreground, allowing more attention to be given to the subject. I would also perhaps give it more room to breathe in the frame, as I feel the crop is slightly too tight.

Anemone and clownfish taken in Bunaken, Indonesia: If I could re-create this image, I would get much closer and lower, and use flash to make the anemone and fish stand out against the background. I was restricted in this case by the absence of strobes, which is a large part of what makes this image struggle to stand out.

Favites coral, taken in Bunaken, Indonesia: I really enjoy the abstract colours, patterns and textures that can be found underwater. Again, in this case, I did not have strobes that could illuminate this wonderful coral and show its colour, so I would re-shoot one this with flash and a macro lens.

Check out Charlie's work at

Instagram: @c.e.g_photography


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