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The Summer Workshop

Lesson 6 of 8

Cenotes: Concepts

Alex Strohl

The Summer Workshop

Alex Strohl

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Lesson Info

6. Cenotes: Concepts

Lesson Info

Cenotes: Concepts

(camera clicking) This is my favorite chapter of the workshop because of how it all went. I talk a lot about expectations, and this is one of the rare cases where everything came true. This part of Mexico is super famous for it's Cenotes, which are these pristine turquoise fresh water pools that scatter the landscape. You'll see what my approach is in terms of angles, gear, framing and story. Seriously, these are some of my favorite shots I've ever taken. And it's mainly due to a bold, spontaneous idea that I had in the Cenote, and that I'd follow through. If you only take away one thing in this chapter, just one it's be bold and don't be afraid to act. (inspirational music) We woke up super early this morning and drove to the Cenote San Lorenzo which is an hour and a half from Tulum. Very excited because it's iconic. It's a big round hole with blue water at the bottom, and just massive cliffs on the side. It's just right here actually. Two rope swings. One here. I don't know if it's...

rope swing or not. It's 60 feet down here. But there's one lower, where actually I want to have somebody jump. That'll be you Will. Do you want to do it? Yeah, sounds great. To get soft light, I could've come here early in the morning. But I decided to come at 11, just so the Sun is above the Cenote. The water's gonna be this explosive blue. And it's gonna work out perfectly for the photos I wanna take. Try to have some form of shot list. Doesn't have to be super fancy or advanced. Just the tree shots you wanna take, the two shots you wanna take here. I wanna get somebody to jump in from the rope swing, like I said earlier. That'll be you Will. Somebody jumping from the rope swing shot from underwater with the under water housing, so like a split. And the last one is Andrea floating in the Cenote. It's the entrance to the Earth. The mouth of the Cenote. It's actually 73 stairs leading into it. And the Sun should be ready in about hopefully 20 minutes. So let's get set up. (cap screwing) May even got me spinning on it. Excited about that. There's the mushroom, the atomic mushroom. (host spitting) This is the best shot. Rub it. (host spitting) You should do this before leaving. It's good to rinse it every time you put it into ocean water too after shooting in the ocean. A little rinse in the shower. (host spitting) You gotta be generous with your spit. I'm checking the light here. And it looks to be pretty. We could wish in clouds and Sun up there. So you can see the super bright, and then soft. Before I put this in the underwater case, I wanna have my right settings. (camera clicking) This one of these places where you have to take a bunch of test shots because the light meter is so overwhelmed. The internal light meter, it just creates this sort of spiral of gray light. That's how it calculates the exposure. Just makes this spiral, and averages everything. That and that and that. So it's just within the scene. It's not always ideal for this. Will, did you see the rope swing. I just saw it now. (host laughing) Do you wanna jump? I don't think Andrea just wanna do it. We'll start with that. Get fresh, and then. I'm pretty sweaty. Okay. Let's do it. Before Will jumps, I wanna scout the best spot for the rope swing. (calming music) I went down the platform, I went up. And I think it's better to be up cause the higher I am, the less I see the outside. So I can have my camera more like this, instead of like this. And the outside is very bright. So let's try from up here first. I think we're gonna try first off angle, not straight down, just to the side. So the person who jumps is actually in the light. Yeah, for here is straight down. Will, who's gonna jump is gonna be in the shadow. But if you just move to the side a bit, then boom, you're in the light. The Sun is actually gonna be hitting Will. On the other episode about the ruins, we were talking about expectations. Well, sometimes things happen, and this is exactly what we expected. So I'm super happy. (camera clicking) (host cheering) (camera clicking) (water splashing) Make sure my seals alright. (camera seal latch clicking) Camera's in the housing. Got my settings on shutter speed priority, ISO auto, and I'm gonna shoot Andrea jumping in the water. Before I go, I'm gonna check my seals. They're pretty dark. Hope you can see. So I'm pretty dark, tight. Double check these latches and a test shot. Works. Shooting photos underwater has become so important for me is that it is new world that appears under the surface because I can go somewhere, bring a drone, and get aerials. And then boom, go underwater and then shoot another perspective from it. That helps me build sets. And I always strive to build sets in a shoot because they tell a deeper story than just one iconic shot. If you're looking into shooting photos underwater, you probably wanting to get splits. The first half of the image underneath is underwater, and then the other half is over the water. So you see inside outside. It makes this cool effect. And to get them, you need a special dome for your camera. The bigger your lens port, the easier it is. That's why I have this gigantic mushroom there. Cause it makes domes easy. That's from AquaTech. But if you have a camera housing, get a bigger dome. And if you have a GoPro, get a special port. The other tricky part of shooting underwater is the focusing. You have to be careful cause there's distortion underwater. If you're focus almost at infinity outside of the water, as soon as you jump in, it's all gonna be blurry, even if your subject is super far away inside the water. You have to pick your battles. Do you want the outside to be on focus, or the inside to be on focus. We convinced the guys from the Cenote to make some fog. Hopefully the Sun peaks through and make rays. This was one of these moments where we have this idea and you know you have to make it happen. The Sun coming in through the Cenote, and I was just like, "Man, I wished we had some fog." From the last shot, just wanna get Andrea floating in the middle of the Cenote. We just waiting for the Sun to cloak through and get it. (camera clicking) Little sneak peak. Yep. Gonna set the place on fire. They're not stopping, they're just getting more. (camera clicking) I'm seeing lots of smoke on the surface of the water. I'm gonna head down and shoot it. Don't be afraid to alter the environment and change it to your advantage. If you have an idea, just ask. The worst thing that they can say is no. I could have just stayed at the idea stage. I be like, "What've not been cool to do that." But making it happen feels so good. You own these photos, they're unique to you now. You bring your own touch there. These maybe the best ones from Mexico so far. When it came out, I was just like, "Man, I'm missing something." And I saw Andrea just drying out in front of the Cenote with the smoke in the back, and I was just like, "What if I take some close ups of these." When you think you're done, you probably not. You can always get a couple extra photos. That's just a happy accident. So now matter how much you plan things, it's good to be open and let these things happen. (calming music) That was a blast. These are some of my favorite photos I've taken in a while. I still can't believe these guys smoked up the whole Cenote for us. I mean, when I look at the photos, I can see it was worth it to go through all these efforts to smoke it up. But, I still have to paint a visual picture for the guys there, get them excited about it. So again, when you're going on a trip, and you wanna come back with photos that are unique to this place, make sure to pick things and go to places that are iconic. And don't get me wrong, it doesn't have to be the most touristy spots where everybody goes, but just places that you think represented and are iconic. It's your trip, it's your photos. Have your own path.

Class Description

Summer is the most active time of the year. Everything is more accessible, it’s nice outside, the perfect time to go shoot new work and have fun. Alex Strohl is bringing his course to CreativeLive to get you ready to confidently make the most of your summer.

You’ll learn:

  • Camera gear, tech gear and accessories to pack
  • Setting yourself up for the iconic sunrise and sunset pictures
  • Light, Lenses and Composition
  • Utilizing a drone
  • Underwater techniques
  • Editing techniques in Lightroom and Photoshop

This summer set yourself to have fun, explore creatively and expand your photography portfolio. 

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