Joe Valencic: Digital Photography & Video Workshops

Lia Oprea

Joe Valencic: Digital Photography & Video Workshops

Lia Oprea

Last December through this past February, I had the good fortune to be on board Le Ponant for a series of adventures. Not only were these voyages special for their breath-taking scenery, but they also featured Onboard Digital Photography and Video Workshops run by photographer and marine biologist Professor Joe Valencic.

During my years in expedition travel, I have been on ships with many great photographers. I often watched as they sat on deck for hours, lining up the perfect shot of a polar bear and her cubs or capturing that once-in-a-lifetime photo of howler monkeys or scarlet macaws.

Compared to the pros, my own photos were disappointingly mediocre. After developing five rolls of film, I would have one or two shots in which you might barely discern the subject. If you, too, have become frustrated, trying in vain to take at least one good picture during your travels, I have some encouraging news. With Digital Photography and Video Workshops, that will change.

When I walked into the onboard workshop, I knew something special was up. Joe had set up five laptop computers, and people were already clustered in small groups, three or four to a computer. A few people were obviously well versed in digital photography and had brought their own cameras, but for these hands-on workshops, it is not required that you know how to use a digital camera, or even own one. For many of us, this was our first time delving into the digital world; several of the cameras in the room were still in their original boxes.

Joe showed us cameras we would be able to experiment with — tiny digital cameras, the size of a cigarette lighter, that would take and store up to 60 high-resolution images — then he familiarized us with the basics. We learned the meaning of such mysterious terms as pixel, resolution, dpi, and megabyte. He then showed the difference between the various e-mail-ready images as he defined tifs, gifs, jpegs, and bitmaps.

By our second workshop we had already started taking pictures with our various cameras, and we were ready to frame our shots, position our subjects, and use focus and lighting to get some super photos.

In between the sessions, the computers were available for use, and we helped each other download photos onto our personal rewritable disks. By the third seminar we were ready to edit our photos, and with Joe's simple instruction and printed handout, we easily mastered the digital photo-editing program Adobe Photoshop. Once we saw the possible results, the excitement level on the ship escalated to such a degree that everywhere you looked you saw someone with a camera, eagerly snapping away.

For the final workshop, Joe brought out his secret weapon. We watched, rapt, as Joe took one of our classmate's CD of photos and, in three easy steps, downloaded the shots into an "album" complete with an index, ready for e-mailing, storing on a disk, or showing as a slide show straight from the computer.

In one week, we had learned a wonderful new way to document our travels and show them off to friends and family. We returned from our journey with a CD of photos, and, with our newly acquired knowledge, will soon create our own digital presentations.

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Joe Valencic
Joe is an expert on marine life and ecology who has taught courses in oceanography, marine science research, and research diving techniques for the past 18 years. Joe has extensive experience, including three research seasons diving under the Antarctic ice shelf. His research team from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography holds the record for the world's southernmost scuba dive. Joe has produced several award-winning underwater video programs as well as live underwater programming. He recently completed work with PBS and KMET Hawaii on the ten-part series Reef Quest, and is currently working on Ocean Quest, an eight-part follow-up program that is being broadcast to 1.5 million students nationwide. Joe is a Fellow of The Explorers Club and many diving and marine research organizations such as the American Academy of Underwater Scientists, the Institute of Navigation, the PADI, and the National Association of Underwater Instructors.

To learn more about the expeditions featuring digital photography workshops -- in Central America and around the world -- contact ExpeditionTrips.com.