Ewa-marine Underwater Housing First Test | Mini Review

Tracie and I took the Ewa-marine underwater housing out for a first test in the swimming pool in my apartment complex. The video above should show you everything you need to know to get started with it... and know if it will work for what you want it to do. We will have more examples of photos and videos in future posts, but this is a quick review to show you all the features and our first use of the bag.

We needed an affordable underwater housing for the Hawaii Fusion Trip, and although I considered purchasing a point-and-shoot underwater camera to accomplish this goal I wanted better quality video and more control over the photos I'd be taking. Shooting underwater will degrade the quality of what you are doing already... first of all because of debris and light-loss... but also because it is mainly blue light that is allowed to travel through water... blocking out the rest of the visible spectrum quickly as you get further from your subject. We wanted to have the highest quality capture possible, so we went with the full housing. The Ewa-marine is actually the most affordable by far, yet it still performs very well within its own limitations.

One of the biggest benefits of the Ewa-marine housing over others, besides the price tag (just $269!), is the fact that you can use it on multiple cameras. Especially if you don't use it much... the housing will likely outlast the camera model you have... and all the hard plastic housings ($1,000 and up) are made with specific buttons to fit each individual camera model. The Ewa-marine is essentially a plastic bag, so as long as your new camera fits in it... you have full use of all the functions.

Pressing the buttons inside the bag proved to be a bit difficult, but with practice it ended up being just slightly slower than usual. Practice definitely improves your performance with this thing... and quickly. Underwater photography is difficult for a host of reasons, which I found out later during a snorkeling trip, but results can be amazing, especially when you have a fantastic video DSLR.

We made a few mistakes our first time out, and there are a few things to note:

  • You need googles if you plan on seeing the screen AT ALL. This might seem obvious... but I totally forgot to buy a pair.
  • Water magnifies everything... so if you have a plan to use a certain focal length, keep in mind that it will be "zoomed in" about 30%.
  • Keep the lens as CLOSE to the front glass of the housing as possible, or you can get reflections in your images of the lettering on the lens. Blacking this out with tape can definitely help.
  • If you have sunscreen on your face and chest... it's going to get on the bag, and will make it really hard to see through it, because it won't wipe off easily.
  • Light bends all over in water... mainly when coming through the surface of it, so direct sunlight will turn into lots of streamy bands of light all over.
  • Focusing isn't easy to do, and isn't easy to verify... but with practice autofocus still does a pretty good job if you can stay still long enough to lock
  • People like to breathe, and breathing causes bubbles, so coach your model in not exhaling while shooting, because bubbles coming out of their nose isn't attractive, unless you're going for that.
  • All-in-all I was extremely pleased with the initial results of the housing, and have a great full shoot to share with you soon!

    Shortly after tweeting about the housing, where I actually mentioned the full name "ewa-marine underwater housing", I got a reply message from a gentleman from Germany (I think) with the Twitter name @ewa_marine. It was a small exchange but very welcome and it shows that the company is looking at what people are doing and saying about their product, which is awesome. He even asked for me to send over a link to examples when I have them. How 'bout that?

    NOTE: in the video I mentioned that I didn't find the manual... it was actually in the front pocket of the case. I forgot to mention that I had found it!

    You can purchase an Ewa-marine housing through the following links, the first is for smaller SLRs (fits Canon Rebel series or Nikon D40 or D90) and the second is for larger bodies (up to the 5DmkII size). If you buy it through this link I get a nice little 4%, and will love you for it.

    Ewa-marine U-A Housing f/ small AF SLR Cameras w/ a built in Flash

    Ewa-Marine Underwater Housing for Large DSLR Bodies like EOS 5DmkII, 7D; Nikon D1, D2X, D300

    This post is part of the Hawaii Fusion Trip 2009.

    This video is brought to you by:

    Smug Mug LogoThe Bui Brothers Logo

    Special thanks to Know How Cafe for providing accommodations and tech for the trip.

Hawaii Photo Fusion Gear Bag

This video shows and explains all the gear I brought on the Hawaii Photo Fusion trip.

Everything was selected specifically for low-budget shooting. I was confident that even with the entry-level gear I was bringing that I'd be able to do everything I wanted to do as a professional.

Below is a list of all the items I describe in the video... with links where they can be purchased. The ones through Amazon will use my affiliate link and if you purchase I get like 4% (that's my disclaimer).

Gear List

This post is part of the Hawaii Fusion Trip 2009.

This video is brought to you by:

Smug Mug LogoThe Bui Brothers Logo

Special thanks to Know How Cafe for providing accommodations and tech for the trip.

Sailing Lanikai | Photo Fusion Workshop Live Demo

This video was edited (using iMovie), scored (using Magic Garageband) and uploaded (to SmugMug) during the Hawaii Photo Fusion Workshop in Honolulu in less than an hour!

The video and photos were shot with the Canon T1i and kit lens (18-55mm f/3.5-5.6IS) in an Ewa-marine underwater housing. It was my first attempt at shooting with the ewa-marine underwater housing, and it performed very well. I still need work in using it efficiently, but overall it was perfect for what I was trying to do.

More great video tutorials and fusion work coming in the following days!

This post is part of the Hawaii Fusion Trip 2009.

This video is brought to you by:

Smug Mug LogoThe Bui Brothers Logo

Special thanks to Know How Cafe for providing accommodations and tech for the trip.

DIY Dress Alteration | Wedding Dress for Hawaii Photo Fusion Shoot

Tracie shot a nice, simple and quick tutorial on how she altered the wedding dress that we will be shooting during the Hawaii Photo Fusion trip. This is the first of almost 2 weeks worth of daily videos we'll be posting. Enjoy!

Coming next, a first test of the Ewa-marine underwater housing in a regular pool.

This post is part of the Hawaii Fusion Trip 2009.

This video is brought to you by:

Smug Mug LogoThe Bui Brothers Logo

Hawaii Fusion Event | Shooting Professional Photos and Videos on an Entry Level Budget

First of all I want to preface this post with the magic word... FREE.


I often hear some of the same things when people see some of our (The Bui Brothers) work or the work of some of the other photographers currently producing great photo fusion videos...

"I could do it if I had nice cameras like yours!"

"On my budget it isn't possible."

"Video editing is complicated."

I don't blame people for thinking, feeling and voicing these things. Many of the recent technological advances have been so fast and sudden that people don't realize the quality of gear that is within their reach. They also have no idea how amazingly easy some of the recent video editing software releases have made things for the everyday person.

Photo fusion isn't even an everyday term yet (Lan and I recently had a discussion about what photo fusion is HERE). Many people have no idea what it is or what can be done with it. Here's an example of photofusion the way that The Bui Brothers present it... behind the scenes of the photo shoot of television and web celebrity (House, Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog) Felicia Day:


I teamed up with SmugMug and decided to create a project to show everyone JUST how easy it is to create beautiful work... with some of the most affordable gear available. I'm going on a one week destination photo fusion trip to O'ahu, Hawaii... bringing a camera and lens combo that's less than $1,000 and a set of accessories and gear that is also just around $1,000 (in addition to some home-made DIY items!). The point will be to not only show what is possible with this entry-level gear, but to detail how I do all of the shoots that I'll be doing during the week.

I'll be announcing the gear list in a coming blog post, but we'll basically be doing a variety of photography and video shooting using a consumer DSLR, natural light, wirelessly triggered small flashes, affordable underwater equipment and a few accessories.

What you'll see:

  • DIY tutorials - Before the trip I'll be posting videos of the preparation for the event, including how I make a number of Do-It-Yourself items that I'll be using during the week for both photography and video.
  • Photography Tutorials - We have 4 photo shoots planned and will be shooting behind-the-scenes fusion videos of each one. These will look in detail at the wardrobe, the locations, the lighting and even some of the camera setting choices we make.
  • Photo Fusion Videos - We're going to produce a couple photo fusion videos just to share. We'll have behind-the-scenes videos of these as well.
  • Video editing screen capture tutorial - watch how I edit a photo fusion video from start to finish.
  • Videoblogs - We'll be videoblogging daily from O'ahu... personal videoblogs that will allow you to follow our short adventure. Hopefully they'll be funny and entertaining.
  • Live workshop in Honolulu - We're going to be giving a live workshop in Honolulu to a limited number of people, and some of what we do there will be recorded and shared. (more info HERE)


We have a tiny two-person team for the trip... which is being sponsored (along with the fantastic entry-level list of gear) by SmugMug. All of the media we post from the trip will also be hosted by them, which is a really easy way to show you how cool their services are. I'm mostly excited about the HD video streaming, which is fantastic.

  • Vu Bui - photographer - You can see some of my work at The Bui Brothers Blog. We shoot photos and videos for professionals, and we create behind-the-scenes videos of almost everything we do. You can follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/vubui
  • Tracie Cotta - model - Tracie is a model and makeup artist from Orange County. She was the makeup artist on many of our recent high-profile shoots (including the Felicia Day shoot in the video above). You can see her model mayhem gallery HERE. You can follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/traciecotta

A quick video of us talking about the event:


The event (I'm calling it a mini-tour, even though it's only to one island) will be from September 20th to September 26th. The videos will be posted during our stay and will continue afterwards as we get everything edited and completed.

We will be staying in Kailua on O'ahu in Hawaii. We'll be shooting at various locations on the island, starting at one of the most beautiful beaches in the world... Lanikai Beach.

View Larger Map

The live workshop will be held in Honolulu and details about it can be found at the Hawaii Photo Fusion Workshop announcement page.


Sign up to receive email updates from me about this tour, future workshops and the video tutorials to be released in the future.

You'll also have the first opportunity to download the final tutorial pack which will include some of our $50 video editing and blogging tutorial videos for free.




Live workshop in Honolulu - get details about the live workshop which will cover the basics of creating photo fusion videos... everything from video editing to photo lighting.

More photo fusion from The Bui Brothers -

  • iJustine - photo shoot at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel with behind the scenes video.
  • Veronica Belmont - photo shoot in the basement of the House of Shields bar in San Francisco with behind the scenes video.
  • Micah Lee - photo shoot in Old Town Orange with behind the scenes video.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments at vu@vubui.com or you can use my contact form.

This event is brought to you by:

The Bui Brothers LogoSmug Mug Logo

O'ahu Hawaii Photography - Fusion - New Media Workshop

Tracie Cotta Fashion Photograph


I am visiting O'ahu for a week as I do the Hawaii Photo Fusion tour with the wonderful model and makeup artist, Tracie Cotta. We are being sponsored by SmugMug to come out and spend a week shooting photos and videos to create a series of video tutorials and behind-the-scenes looks at some of our lighting, posing and shooting techniques.

I did a small photography and lighting workshop in March of 2009 the last time I was out here... it was literally thrown together at the last minute at the request of a few people... and I was happy to have had 26 people attend and spend a few hours with me at Magic Island, Ala Moana Beach Park, as the sun set. This time I thought I'd go all out and cover everything I think is necessary to light and capture great photos AND videos and meld them together into what is now being called photo fusion videos.


The workshop will begin indoors at the ING Direct Cafe in Honolulu (map), light refreshments will be served and we'll spend a couple hours in-class. We'll then head outside for a 2.5 hour hands-on lighting workshop.

Bring your camera, we will have a live model (the gorgeous Tracie Cotta) and you'll be shooting her in various scenes using some natural light, some flash-lighting. (you can also see Tracie in the iJustine video above, she is the makeup artist!)

Fusion Workshop

"Fusion" is probably a term you've heard a lot recently. With the proliferation of DSLRs with video features it's now easier than ever for photographers to capture GORGEOUS video while shooting photos without worrying about taking along an additional device. This allows for the simple "fusion" of photography and video for wonderful videos of weddings, events and photo shoots.

We (The Bui Brothers) also use it in other ways. The last few high profile photo shoots we've done we're accentuated by behind the scenes videos that have actually gained more attention than the photos themselves. We actually attribute more than half of our recent photo business to these videos. When watching them, potential clients are able to see not only how we work but also who we are.

Here is the behind the scenes video we shot during our photo shoot of iJustine at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Beach:


  • photo editing workflow
  • basic video editing software (iMovie)
  • video editing techniques
  • how to create simple music for your videos (Garage Band)
  • how and where to find legal free music online
  • how to publish your content on SmugMug and share it on your blog or other sites

Photography Workshop

The questions we get most often from people are regarding the lighting techniques we use in our photographs. We typically do outdoor shots using a combination of ambient and flash lighting supplied either from small flashes or Alien Bees lights.

On this trip I'll be shooting with two Vivitar flashes and a brand new set of Radiopopper JrXs. They are all as affordable as it gets! I'll also be using some homemade modifiers to properly control the lighting, and will spend a couple hours setting up multiple sets for you to photograph.

In this part of the workshop I will show you exactly how to light your subject and why I make certain choices to get the effect I want. You'll have the opportunity to photograph Tracie in each set with the lights I set up.

Tracie Cotta by Vu Bui

Micah Lee

Brigitte Dale by Vu Bui


  • choosing your location using the available light
  • using flashes to fill against the sun
  • using a single light for portraits
  • posing your model
  • using direct sunlight to backlight your subject
  • using light modifiers for complete control
  • a bunch of other stuff that will come up as we work


Fusion workshop (1st part of the workshop) ING Direct 1958 Kalakaua Ave. Honolulu, HI 96815

View Larger Map

Photography workshop (2nd part of the workshop) Fort DeRussy Park right across the street from ING Direct


The photo fusion workshop will be held:

September 24th - Thursday 2:00 PM - 7:00pm (it may go a little later)


In keeping with the low-budget nature of my trip and this workshop... I'm pricing it at an absolute no-brainer $35.

Due to the size of the venue and in the efforts to keep this workshop reasonably small and intimate, seating is limited. Click to reserve your place now:

Add to Cart

Note: Purchase is non-refundable.


Sign up to receive email updates from me about workshops and video tutorials I'll be releasing in the future. I don't email very often because I hate annoying emails as much as you do.




Visit the Facebook event page Visit the upcoming.org event page

Hawaii Photo Fusion tour Ritz Carlton Photo Workshop The Bui Brothers shoot Felicia Day

This workshop is brought to you by:

The Bui Brothers LogoSmug Mug Logo

10 Reasons to Upgrade to Snow Leopard | Review

Snow Leopard is cool. Like snow. After using Snow Leopard for less than a night... these are the reasons I am actually happy to have spent a whopping $29 on the upgrade.

  1. It's friggin' $29! (or $25 if you buy HERE)
  2. Space savings - While a 6GB or so savings doesn't SEEM like a lot... it can make a big difference on a laptop, especially a laptop used for photo and video editing. I have a 320GB drive and with all of the apps and support files I have I average only 80GB free space when I'm keeping it CLEAN. I regularly run out of space when working on projects, but now I'll have 6GB more!
  3. Quicktime - Wow. It LOOKS cool. And it plays with no borders. There is no longer a Quicktime Pro. This is cool for most people. There is a new share menu and you have your standard iTunes-Mobile Me-YouTube options... but you are limited to them and the save for web (which is great for quick iPhone exports). The downside is that there are no professional output options... luckily during the upgrade you can choose to keep Quicktime 7 for that stuff.
  4. Screen Recording - Yeah this is another Quicktime feature but it's AWESOME and thus deserves its own place on the list. You can do screen recording now, so making simple tutorials, etc is a lot easier. I use Screen Flow for the more advanced stuff but sometimes I just want to do a quick capture, and now I can use Quicktime instead of iShowU.
  5. Wake up FASTER! - Although I had little to complain about Leopard's wakeup time... Snow Leopard is twice as fast. I pretty much never shut down my laptop, I just close the lid and open it to use... sometimes to use quickly... so this is great for me. Shut down time is also faster, though I don't really care.
  6. iChat in Hi-Res - I use iChat for lots of things... not usually chat. I share smaller files, talk to people via video chat, and preview documents and videos to clients and colleagues. This is a big upgrade for me because I was previously limited to crappy video quality when video chatting or especially when sharing videos and images through iChat Theater. Now it's 640x360, and that's pretty sweet.
  7. Finder - Yup, it's faster. Not so blazingly fast that I was as wowed as when I first used the iPhone 3GS after the sluggish-in-comparison 3G... but you can tell it's a little more zippy. You can also customize your Spotlight searches... which is something I've wanted for a long time... and you can undelete items straight back into the folder they came from... instead of having to figure it out and drag it back.
  8. Stacks - One thing I used to hate about stacks from the dock was that it would only show so many files... then you had to click the arrow to see more, and it would just open a new Finder window. It sucked once you had lots of files in your Downloads folder, and weren't looking for something recent. Now you can scroll right in the stack!
  9. Expose - I use active corners on desktop and all the wonderful multi-touch features of the pad on my MacBook Pro, but it's nice to have new options... and now by clicking and holding the dock icon for an app you can see just the application's windows in Expose. Small but cool feature.
  10. Faster Time Machine - Time Machine is cool, and Time Machine is slow. While a REAL upgrade would be the ability to actually travel through time with Time Machine... Snow Leopard supposedly runs 80% faster (I haven't timed it). That's cool, cuz until they build a real time machine... time is pretty short.
  11. Automatic printer driver downloads - Ok so this is number 11, because I've already got everything written for 10 but Lan just showed me something cool, and everyone likes a freebie, right? When you install you can choose to install NO printer drivers, which saves almost a GB, then when you connect to a printer the drivers will automatically be pulled for you. This ain't Windows!

While I've heard a few reasons NOT to upgrade just yet due to incompatibilities with software by some 3rd party companies who haven't updated yet... as long as you're not using any of those you should cough up the cost of a basic lunch for two and upgrade to get your mostly-small-but-much-appreciated new features.

EDIT: There is a wiki set up with a compatibility/incompatibility list of apps for use with Snow Leopard here: Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Compatibility List.

NOTE: If you are using a 3rd party hard drive or a replacement drive you may need to update your partition map scheme before you can install Snow Leopard. (you'll know if you get an error saying ""HD" can't be used because it doesn't use the GUID Partition Table scheme") If you have your original Apple-installed drive on an Intel Mac you will be fine, those come with a GUID partition table. If not then you'll need to reformat your drive, which means you need to back everything up first, format your drive, then install. Or do what Lan did and back everything up using Carbon Copy Cloner, reformat the main drive and change to GUID partition scheme, then restore your carbon copy clone, and upgrade to Snow Leopard normally. Takes a few hours but is clean and fairly simple.

If you buy Snow Leopard on Amazon by clicking the little banner below, you'll save $4 and pay only $25 AND I'll get like $2.23, which will make me much happier than you'd think $2.23 would.

Fashion Photography | Tracie Cotta Photo Shoot One - part 2

Video by Tracie Cotta

In part 1 of Shoot One we shot in Tracie's front yard, her bedroom, downtown Fullerton, Disneyland and at a local park. That left 2 days... which took us to San Diego and back up to the OC Fair for part 2.

San Diego "secret" location

Years ago I saw some photos on flickr that were really cool... they had very dynamic lighting... and the location was outstanding. I'm not usually a big fan of girls in bikinis just for the sake of showing skin... but these were really good shots otherwise. I was about to do our first photo shoot of Paul Dateh and I wanted a really cool place to shoot... so I contacted the photographer and asked about the location.

"It's a secret."

Oh. Well that sucked. I sorta understood because if you have a cool location that you use often you may not want it to be swarming with every kid with a DSLR and a cute girl at his disposal... sooner or later that will cause problems with the owners/tenants/neighbors... someone. But I couldn't just give up... so I plead my case a little harder... and he finally relented... but only after I promised not to share the locale with any other photographers. And I haven't. So... don't ask where these were done. I made a promise and I like to keep those. When I can.

We got to the location about an hour before sunset... we planned on getting through two outfits... I hadn't even seen the first one, but LOVED it. Tracie knows how to put together an interesting ensemble, that's for sure.

And she knows how to look fierce.

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

For the final shot, just after the sun dropped below the horizon, Tracie quickly changed and we took this final photograph... and then, like teeny tiny vampires... a flock (or is it swarm?) of blood-thirsty mosquitoes chased us back to the car.

Tracie Cotta

The OC Fair

In the 16 or so years I've lived in Orange County... I think I've only actually been to the fair like 3 times. Once to shoot a Noodle Scar episode and twice just for fun.

This year Tracie and I decided to go on the last day it was open... and we ended up having a lot of fun and not shooting very many photos... but two stood out as ones I loved. The fair really is a good place to capture color and lights... kinda like Vegas. But with barn animals and carnies.

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

Holga Portrait Photography | Brigitte Dale

The wonderfully funny and beautiful Brigitte Dale contacted us a few months ago to do shoot some professional headshots, so we met up and spent an afternoon shooting in Downtown Los Angeles. We ended the shoot at the Disney Concert Hall where we did some not-headshots as well. (these will all be published on The Bui Brothers Blog soon) Not one to pass up an opportunity to try and shoot something a little different, I popped off a roll of Tri-X with the Holga... out of 11 shots these were the ones I liked.

Brigitte Dale Holga Portrait

Brigitte Dale Holga Portrait

Brigitte Dale Holga Portrait

Brigitte Dale Holga Portrait

I am currently shooting Tri-X in my Holga and having it developed at and scanned at a lab... but I'll likely be transitioning to a home-based system. I used to develop and scan my own black and white film... and might get back into it. I suppose it depends a lot on how much I end up shooting with the Holga and whether or not I decide to pick up any other old film cameras.

One thing I really love about my Holga (well, the one I shot these with... I have another that is completely different) is the fact that it has a unique signature. Some of them really do... and this one's is very strong. There are two main things I've noticed so far... they are imperfections in the manufacturing of the camera that make for a unique experience pretty much every time you pick up a different Holga camera.

If you look in the bottom right corner of the photos above you'll notice that they have a slight double image... that's not a double exposure but some trick of the cheap plastic lens. The other thing, which is VERY noticeable on some photos (the shot with the trees in the background) but not so much on the others is a huge light leak. It's there in every photo... though it only matters in ones where the upper area is already dark.

I think everyone should try out a Holga at some point, it'll give you tons of unexpected fun. There are still lots of labs that will develop the film and scan it for you... so just buy one. Do me a favor, though, and DON'T spend $45 on one at Urban Outfitters... go to Freestyle Camera and get one for $28 or click the photo below to buy from Amazon (it's the same price as Freestyle but I'm gonna get like $1.20, which is cool) and have some FUN.

Buy a Holga on Amazon

My Self Portraits

In 2008 I started a slightly-too-ambitious project of shooting a creative self portrait every day of 2008. I got through 31 days... then sorta failed. The problem was I hadn't left any room whatsoever to even miss a single day... or a single minute. The photo HAD to be taken between midnight and 11:59:59pm. That was... dumb. Once I had missed a day... the project was immediately a failure... and I just stopped. So... I've decided to bring back my self portraits... but this time without the necessity of them being daily... or really any restrictions. I just want to start shooting and posting them again... and this time I'll bring it to my blog instead of just flickr... especially because this new blog does such a good job with categories. New category... Self Portraits.

Here are some of my favorites from back in the day:

Self as Not So Well Hidden Body - January 31st, 2008

Self Backlit in the Hyatt - January 4th, 2008

Self Walking Through Toronto Hilton Parking Lot in the Cold

Self In Chair Through Mirror In Toronto

Self and Paddle About to get Violent - January 27th, 2008