text and photos by Michele Hall, edited by Hergen Spalink
I’ve been through three major revolutions in my image capture technologies during my 40 years of underwater photography. I went from a Nikonos camera to an SLR (single lens reflex camera) in a housing. Next, capturing on film essentially died and my SLR was replaced with a digital camera or DSLR. Though digital, the DSLR still retained many of the characteristics of my old Nikon SLR including an optical viewfinder and a mirror that flops out of the way to expose the sensor.
I recently made a third major change in my image capture technology. I’ve moved from my DSLR to a mirrorless camera. Ironically, my reason for doing so was not to improve my still images, but to be able to capture high quality video.
One of Howard’s filmmaking colleagues had been testing the Sony a6300 for capturing 4K video. So Howard tested the camera, and learned it actually captures better 4K video than Sony’s flagship A7. He decided it would not only be a great back-up system to his professional Epic camera, but it would allow me to capture 4K behind-the-scenes video of him and our crew.
After purchasing the Sony a6300, the pros at Reef Photo and Video helped me organize a Nauticam NA-A6300 housing and appropriate ports and gears to make it all work. I equipped the system with the Sony 16-50mm kit lens, a Canon 8-15mm lens, a Canon 100mm lens, and 2 INON Z-240 strobes.
I’ve now used the new system in the Philippines and in the Sea of Cortez. The more I play with the system and delve into the camera’s very deep menus to tweak the settings, the more fun I’m having and the better the results.
I’m enjoying what this new system has to offer, not the least of which is it’s much more compact size… which has led to easier packing, easier getting my camera into and out of the water, and easier swimming with it and handling it during a dive. A Bonus is that switching from capturing still images to 4K behind-the-scenes video is now one button away.
After nearly 2 decades as a pediatric nurse, Michele entered the field of documentary filmmaking in 1991. While her underwater still photos have been published internationally, the focus of her work has been producing marine wildlife documentary films for television and theatrical release, including the IMAX features Island of the Sharks, Deep Sea 3D and Under the Sea 3D. She was also featured on-camera in the IMAX film Coral Reef Adventure and Shark Mountain (PBS series Nature), and has lent her expertise to several IMAX features including MacGillivray Freeman Films’ Journey to the South Pacific and Humpback Whales, and National Geographic’s Ocean Giants.
Michele strives to make family-friendly films that raise awareness of and increase appreciation for the marine environment. The films she has produced during the past 25 years have been seen by thousands of children and adults. She has received positive feedback from many who have said that her films not only increased their knowledge of the marine environment, but have also been the inspiration to turn their career choices toward marine sciences and / or environmental issues.
Michele is a member of the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Women Divers Hall of Fame, is a recipient of the NOGI, has been inducted into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame, and has received the International Wildlife Film Festival’s Outstanding Achievement Award for Marine Conservation & Media. In 2016 she and her husband Howard were named as honorees of the 2016 Hans Hass Award.