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Lembeh 2011 - Backscatter Trip Report

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Lembeh 2011 - Backscatter Trip Report

We just returned from a Backscatter group trip to Lembeh Resort, Indonesia where 30 of us focused our lenses on the crazy critters in the mucky volcanic sands of Lembeh Straight. Below is a small selection of video and photography from participants and a trip report by Jennifer Penner. We hope you enjoy the images as much as we enjoyed spending 10 days pushing our personal photo skills, having serious fun, and meeting new dive buddies. We hope you'll join us on our next trip!


This video by Berkley White (owner of Backscatter) was shot with a Canon 5D mark II in an Aquatica 5D Mark II underwater housing. Lighting was a mix of prototype Gates VL24 LED (flood) and Light & Motion Sola 1200 (spot) underwater lights. Lenses were a hybrid mix of Canon 100 IS macro, Sigma 15mm-C Fisheye, Kenko 1.4x-C Teleconverter, Kenko 2.0x-C Teleconverter, with Xit 404 Focus Gear. Camera buoyancy and stability was a combination of XIT404 Tripod & Video Light Bracket, Xit 404 Tripod Leg, and Stix Float Belt.

RUNTIME: 1:48 | 21MB


This video by Dan Baldocchi (UnderExposures, Light & Motion) was shot with a Sony HDR-CX550 in a Light & Motion Bluefin CX550 underwater housing. Lighting was a mix of two or even four Light & Motion Sola 1200 underwater lights. Lenses were the Light & Motion Bluefin Flat Port and the standard Bluefin Internal Flip Up Macro Lens.

Muck diving. It's all about the critters in Lembeh Strait. With visibility less than 30 feet and rubbly shallows turning into a vastness of sloping black sand, you descend on your first dive and think to yourself, "What am I going to see here in this underwater volcanic wasteland?" But once your eyes adjust, critters start popping out everywhere! Some are familiar and recognizable... colorful nudibranchs, stingrays foraging for food, puffer fish twittering by, sea horses of different sizes and colors, colorful clownfish with their host anemone. Some look otherworldly... flamboyant cuttlefish marching like a baby elephant, stargazers looking scary, wonderpus octopus gliding across the sand, mimic octopus changing its color and shape, mantis shrimp scampering back to its hole in the sand, ghost pipefish eerily floating by and frogfish that are either painted, warty or hairy. The list of critters that can be found in Lembeh Strait goes on and on, which makes it a top destination for underwater macro photography.

Group Photo Show
From compact cameras to high end SLRs, we all did our best each day and then shared our images in the nightly critique sessions. This show is a compilation of photography from all guests.

Seasoned trip organizers Berkley White, owner of Backscatter, and Dan Baldocchi of Under Exposures, led this underwater photography expedition of 30 divers to Lembeh, Indonesia, where after more than 24 hours of travel, we settled into the Lembeh Resort. Built into the hillside, overlooking the Strait with lush, scenic views, Lembeh Resort offers spacious, comfortable cottages which we called home for the next 11 days. Our hosts, Guillermo & Helen Gomez, pulled out all the hospitality stops for our group, always making sure our every need was attended to. Delicious three squares were served daily, an ample variety of western and local cuisines to suit every taste. And to keep our diving muscles in top form, the spa was open late each night, offering massage and other spa treatments to relax and pamper.

Diving at Lembeh Resort can be as relaxing or rigorous as you wish (and as your computer will allow). Boat diving. Shore diving the house reef. Mandarin fish diving. Night diving. You can custom-tailor your dive day to suit your mood, all with experienced dive guides who will find every critter on your wish list and more! Spacious boats whisk you to the numerous dive sites within 15 minutes or less, with so much variety that we never did the same site twice. To add some diversity to our diving, optional trips to Bangka Island were offered for wide angle photo opportunities. Hergen Spalink & Kerri Bingham's dive staff - Critters@Lembeh - are true professionals who have a combined experience of over 60,000 dives in Lembeh Strait... they definitely know the critters, where they reside and their behaviors. Their staff has also been trained to use extra care when transporting camera systems on and off the boats, a little peace of mind that goes a long way. Special thanks to the entire dive staff! Without their better than 20/20 eyesight and knowledge of the local waters, none of us would have been able to capture the images that we did.

RUNTIME: 4:25 | 60MB

Brad Brown normally focuses his efforts on stills. On this trip, he caught the bug and spent much of his time shooting video. For this video Brad shot the Canon 7D, Subal 7D Housing, Magic Filters, Tokina 10-17mm, Canon 100mm lens, and Sola 1200 lights. Camera buoyancy and stability was a combination of XIT404 Tripod & Video Light Bracket, Xit 404 Tripod Leg, and Stix Float Belt.

In addition to diving, informal seminars, taught by Berkley White, Steve Fish and Hergen Spalink were held on underwater macro photography, underwater videography, underwater snoot photography and digital imaging processing. While encouraged to attend whichever seminars were of interest, guests found that sweet-spot balance between diving, learning and relaxation. Participant's videos and photos from the day's critter hunt were shown nightly on the big screen to share their on-camera critter capture, or for critique for improvement. The nightly shows also doubled as the social hub, to compare notes from the day's diving adventures. Steve Fish, Lembeh Resort's photo pro, was instrumental during our entire stay, not only sharing tips on improving underwater imaging, but also repairing a multitude of gear to keep our group shooting all week long. Thanks, Steve, for keeping the wheels turning!

RUNTIME: 2:18 | 29MB

Backscatter web guru Joel Penner also directed his Canon 5D mark II on video. For this video Joel used his Subal 5D Mark II underwater housing, Canon 100mm lens, Canon 24mm lens, and Sola 1200 lights. Camera buoyancy and stability was a combination of XIT404 Tripod & Video Light Bracket, Xit 404 Tripod Leg, MacroMate, and Stix Float Belt.

Lembeh Resort and Critters@Lembeh are top-notch, professional dive operators that provide their guests with a high level of service, comfortable, well-appointed accommodations, delicious food and spectacular muck diving, all from a land-based resort. This is the type of establishment that is professionally run, and makes you feel like a long-time friend. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, and can't wait for the opportunity to return!


One of the many benefits of traveling with Backscatter and Under Exposures is that there is always a photo pro leading the expedition. Tips to improve your underwater imaging are shared, questions about using your underwater system are answered and if something goes wrong with your rig (unfortunately this does happen from time to time), chances are your trip leader can either fix it or will have a backup system for you to use. Out-of-this-world diving and artistic camaraderie are what these expeditions are all about. Want to dive some of the most sought after locales on the planet for underwater photography? Backscatter and Under Exposures will take you there!

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