Red Sea Photoshoot for PADI and the launch of the new PADI Eco Center

Back in March, I flew over to Marsa Alam, Egypt as the lead photographer on a special PADI brand shoot. It was a really amazing week with some awesome humans. The ocean blessed us with dugongs, tons of turtles, beautiful coral reefs, and so much more. Plus, the topside was just as beautiful with great weather, stunning sunrises (check out my shot below that was used for the Eco Center launch), and even getting a behind-the-scenes look at an incredibly sustainable dive resort. Our project had essentially two primary goals: capture the incredible beauty of diving in Egypt for the PADI brand’s marketing and shoot some awesome conservation-focused content for the launch of the new PADI Eco Center rating. And we totally rocked it! I often get asked what it’s like working on commercial shoots or what gear I bring with me, so I thought it would be a great idea to do quick recap articles of some of the projects I’m involved in to give a glimpse into what it’s like working as a commercial photographer. Sound good? Let’s rock!

PADI Eco Center with Green Fins and Reef World. Sunrise in Egypt photo by Jay Clue
Diving through remarkable coral caverns in the Red Sea near Marsa Alam, Egypt

What’s the day-to-day like?

I met up with my new buddy for the project and a fantastic cinematographer, Scott Smith, on a layover in Istanbul before our flight into Hurghada. Scott was the lead videographer on the project, so we got right into kicking around ideas over some delicious Turkish food. Side note – If you’re flying through Istanbul Airport, do yourself a favor and get access to the Turkish Airlines lounge; you won’t regret it! It’s one of the best airport lounges in the world.

After getting out of Hurghada airport around 3am, we caught a quick few hours of sleep at a hotel, then hopped in the van for 3-hour ride down to the beautiful Red Sea Diving Safari Marsa Nakari Village outside of Marsa Alam. Soon as I checked in, it was time to start setting up the cameras and equipment. For this shoot, I was planning to start before sunrise each day to grab some beautiful golden light topside images before we head out diving. After a quick lunch break mid-day, it was either back to the water for more diving shots or grabbing some more topside shots. Then wrapping the day up with more of that gorgeous warm Egyptian light before sunset. Followed by a quick stop to rinse and break down my gear before dinner. Then comes every photographer’s favorite part – data management! I probably don’t say this enough, but when you’re shooting commercially, you need to ensure everything is downloaded off your cards and backed up at least twice to be extra safe! So after dinner, I’d sort through all the images and videos from the day, cull whatever was garbage, send a couple of sneak peeks to the directors, then back everything up to two separate drives. For production work, I highly recommend G Drive ATD SSD drives. They’re incredibly fast and super durable. Plus, since they’re solid state drives (SSD) they can take a beating.

Then it’s basically rinse, wash, and repeat for the next week. Our awesome directors on this shoot, Julie and Sam from PADI, had everything planned out and ready to rock so that we were hitting all different dive sites and locations and even checking out other dive resorts throughout the project. It’s a testament to how great directors can really create the perfect environment for us photographers to do what we do best.

What Gear Did I Use?

Since this shoot was a mix of underwater and land, as well as both photo and video, coupled with not wanting to travel with an entire cargo container of gear, it took a bit of planning. For camera bodies, I decided on my go-to camera, the Sony Alpha 1, as well as the Sony Alpha A7S III. Lens wise, I brought the Sony 24-70mm f2.8 G Master II and Sony 100-400mm GM for topside as well as the Sony 16-35mm f2.8 GM for both topside and underwater. With those 3 lenses, I can basically cover almost every potential focal length needed for a shoot like this. By only packing 3, it makes my job easier because I won’t need to spend time trying to decide which lens I need for which shot and so on. For underwater, I brought my Nauticam housing and Nauticam’s Wide Angle Conversion Port, aka the WACP-1 , which uses a Sony FE 28-60mm F4 lens. This thing is a beast for wide angle and lets you zoom from almost fisheye into a nice rectilinear crop. It’s kind of like having 2 lenses in one. I also packed my Sony 90mm Macro f2.8 G lens to catch some of the small critters around the area.

Then grabbed my Slik Carbon Fiber Pro CF 834 tripod, a DJI Ronin RS 3  gimble, 2x Sea & Sea YS-D3 Lightning Strobes, 2x Keldan 8XR 20k Lumens video lights and all the other fun hardware and gear that goes with me on shoots. Now to get it all there, I carried on my cameras and lenses in my Atlas Packs Adventure backpack, and all the rest was checked in Think Tank roller bags, so it would arrive nice and safe. If you’d like to learn more about the gear I shoot with click here!

Scuba divers at Elphinstone reef in the Egyptian Red Sea. Photo by Jay Clue
PADI Scuba Diving photoshoot in Marsa Alam, Egypt Red Sea. Photo by Jay Clue

That’s a wrap!

All in all, it was an amazing week out there. The entire team at Red Sea Diving Safari welcomed us in like we were family. I have to give a very special shout-out to Ellie and Sarah from RSDS for helping out so much during the project! Plus, our awesome models Sharanya, Gazar, Taghrid, and everyone else that jumped in. For those that are looking at getting into commercial photography, give me a shout and let me know if there’s something else you’d like me to include in the next project article!