Photofriday – ‘High Tech’

This week’s Photo Friday entry: ’High Tech’

As a photographer the diving part of underwater photography often slips our minds, its just something we do in order to take photos in the ocean. At the end of October I went to the NEC in Birmingham for the annual dive show, I’m doing an assignment on photo essays of events for my degree so I took photos that I might not otherwise have focused on – to illustrate my trip to the show. This theme today has me reflecting on just how high tech all of our diving gear really is. We trust this gear to keep us alive at 30m under the water! Above shows dive computers that come in all different colours. They tell you all sorts of life saving info and we totally rely on them. Who here still does the tables anymore??

These, I assume, are compressors for getting the compressed air we breath into the bottle:

Stab jackets, BCDs, call them what you will they are essential for our modern diving experience in warm water. Recently the trend towards wings had been marked on our trips but I didnt see many on display at the show – not sure why.

People trying out rebreathers, I don’t expect to ever own on of these myself – until they are lighter and much less maintenance anyway.

Blast from the past – This is what they wore in the old days!

If you want to see my underwater photos from various places then check out the collection of galleries in my Reef Beasties Gallery.

To see all the other photo Friday entries (and submit your own) for ‘High Tech’ here.

Talking of high tech – Please check out my used Nikon Gear page, I’ve swapped over systems and I’m trying to raise money on my previous gear.

Schooling Jacks video

So here is my first underwater video (well the first one I got around to processing). I did take some footage of the whalesharks in mexico but I’m get to go through that. This is from Bali and its just Jacks…. schooling Jackfish at Coral Garden. I hope you like it….

 

 

If you cant see the embedded version (or just want to see it bigger HD) the link to it on vimeo is here:

http://vimeo.com/55734500

I’ve called it just Jacks because I took some footage of other reef life and next up is to see if I can make a video from that too. Thanks for watching.

Mexican Cenotes: Taj Mahal

Continuing on from yesterdays mexican cenote post here are the photos from Taj Mahal Cenote.

WOW. This was some place. We had to wait for ten or so mins in the half dark before the sun came out from behind some clouds but when it did it was breathtaking. The photo above is Mario swimming through the sunbeams. The photo below is Eleo:

While Alex & Eleo were mucking about posing for each other I swam up to the surface and took some split level shots – it was amazing that you could still clearly see the blue watery sunbeams still so brightly even from the angle at the surface:

We had a little tour of the inside too ater we were done playing in the sun…

The stalactites (above) were less impressive than those at Chac Mool but the haloclines (where the salt water creates blurry layers of water) were still amazingly cool. You can see the layer more clearly in this photo but it doesnt do it justice.

Since its so dark in the caves you really need an underwater tripod like this one here that Alex is setting up and also preferably a camera that goes to high iso with little noise.

This was the entrance & exit to the cenote… most of them have some form of stairway or natural rocky steps to help you in and out.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my photos from the Taj Mahal Cenote, next up Eden….

Whats in my dive bag?

What’s in my dive bag?

Well after prompting from some of my dive peeps on twitter (@divemistress & @iarediver) I’m going to join in the #scubagearchallenge, this is a very geeky post so for those who are not interested in gear you can tune out now!

I’m not actually sure what makes most of the actual scuba gear in my bag is so I’ll list what I can remember.

Dive gear:

1 BCD (sea quest maybe?): inside the pockets are 1 SMB and 1 whistle. Attached to D rings are: 1 shaker in a little custom diver pouch (to attract my buddies attention). Also attached are several tags from old trips (Raja Ampat tags and Kittewake tags from Cayman). I have a big metal clip to attach my camera lanyard in deep waters (in shallow waters I don’t bother because I can just swim down and get it if I drop it). 1 airhorn (when I remember to put it on).

1 weight belt, my bcd has integrated weights but I dont like them. I like my weights slung low on my hips and around the front.

1 Reg/Octopus/1st stage/gauge/inflator combo (soon to be replaced with Apex Flight regs because they are super light! And a button gauge and air integration).

1 pair of Tusa Liberator fins (in blue) & 1 pair of small neoprene shoes (much lighter than booties but useless for shore diving).

1 5mm wetsuit (my 3mm one is more like 1.5 through wear & tear so I just use my 5mm everywhere now). 1 thermal rash vest. 1 4th element super thermal vest (in case 5mm isn’t enough). I have a shortie that will go over the top but I dont take that unless it’s going to be cold – in which case we probably dont go (only worn this configuration once – snorkelling with Manatees). We dont like water that anything under 25 degrees C ;)

1 mask (with prescription) – I think this is sea vision. I prefer the glass ones so you can toothpaste them. My boyfriend got a plastic one and it took 50-odd dives before it wouldn’t constantly fog.

1 stripy hairband (so my hair doesn’t float in my eyes and scare me underwater)!

2 dive computers, 1 Suunto vyper (that I put on my camera as a backup) and 1 Suunto D6i (and most recently air integration for that, new toy for the nest trip)

Custom made dive pages (to log the bits of the dives that our computers dont log) & a pen, dive certification & DAN insurance cards. Print out of last couple of dives we did.

Extras I take but never seem to use:

Two Mini Q40 torches for night diving (not very bright so they dont scare off the fish, although recently I tend to use my strobe light & take the torch in my jacket as back up).

1 flag, some strong elastic. 4th Element hood & some other brand of gloves.

1 wrench (quite large) just in case regs need tightening or something. Small bag of spare bits for regs. Allen keys of a couple of sizes.

Camera equipment:

Dry: 2 Nikon D300 bodies, 60mm lens, 105 VR lens, Tokina 10-17 FE lens, 18-200 VR (for land only), CF cards, batteries & charger. 16 (at least) enloop batteries and two chargers (for strobes). Air blower. Card reader, laptop (macbook pro) & charger & WD passport hard drive. Magic filter.

Wet: Subal ND30 housing, flat port for 60mm, 105VR port, large dome port & cover (for tokina) & extension ring. Orings for each port and housing, Oring grease and cleaning cloth. 2 Ultralight 5inch strobe arms, 4 Ultralight clamps, 4 Ultralight ball connections (2 for housing and two for strobes) 2 Inon z240 strobes (with diffusers). 1 carry handle (in pink lanyard), two sea & sea sync cords (to connect the strobes). 1 gorilla pod (for off camera strobe) with ball head attachment. One remote strobe sync cord. StiX floatation for strobe arms and a collar for my 105 port.

Spare: oring grease, dual sync cord, 2 strobe arms & 2 clamps, a three clamp (in case I want to attach a torch to my set up). Instruction books for strobe, camera, dive computer etc in case of brain malfunction. Cable ties, useful for loads of things.

Head ache tablets for when I dive on air and accidently skip breathe :(

Hmmmm… I think that’s it. All our dive gear has to fit in our bags on the plane so we have to keep it light. Add a few clothes to that list, some sunglasses & an ebook and there you go.

Ultimate Indonesia – Raja Ampat

Well, what can I say but what a holiday! There was laughter, there were tears, there was awe, there were men with guns and there are photos. We stayed on the seven seas liveaboard with Alex Mustard and Graham Abbot for 12 days and nights of fantastic diving in Raja Ampat. Raja Ampat is a marine protected area in Indonesia west of Papa New Guinea.

Alex Mustard

Most people in underwater photography circles have heard of him, author of a couple of books (I really liked reefs revealed), numerous articles and judge on some major underwater photographic competitions.  In person, Alex was friendly and relaxed. This was a group-lead photo tour rather than one of his specific photo workshops but he was still happy to give advice when asked (which I think we all took great advantage of) and he seemed to genuinely like sitting going through peoples photos with them. I found that it was fascinating to watch a professional photographer at work, from ideas, to subject selection, to shooting technique and finally image selection and rejection. It was good fun to dive with him, he and I almost missed lunch because we were mucking about for too long in the mangroves! As a tour lead he did a great job, especially in the airport to and from Sarong to Manado (the only place where we checked in en masse).


Graham Abbott

We were lucky to have Graham from diving4images.com as our dive guide throughout our stay on the Seven seas (I didn’t actually get to dive with the seven seas dive guide, Tommy). Graham planned the route we would take and what dive sites we would go on and in what order to get the best of our photographic time in Raja Ampat. He has a fish & critter Id book inside his head and is an amazing spotter with eyes like an underwater hawk! He showed everyone what they wanted to see and was very patient when everyone took turns to take photos of the same tiny things. He is a very funny guy, I know that Lena was especially impressed with his underwater modeling and eye crossing techniques.

Seven seas

The liveaboard was one of the most luxurious we’ve been on. The rooms were quite large (for a boat) and ours had ample space underneath the tall king-size bed to store the baggage and useful drawers for clothes and gadgets. The food was very nice, they seemed to have no problem catering for peoples dietary requirements (Alex and I dined on chicken when they served up seafood meals for example) and I never went hungry as there was a steady supply of snacks throughout the day. It seemed like there was a lot of space, it never seemed like there were too many of us. There were several spaces for us to spread out and attend to our cameras on without having to take them down to our rooms.

Diving

The diving operation was very slick. All managed by a lovely American guy called Stuart. He took video throughout the trip that we could buy at the end. The were crew great with handling the cameras and the diving gear. We had three dive boats to dive from (two tender boats and one rib). The tender boats were easier to dive from (they had ladders) but the groups on them were large. There was only ever four divers on the rib – maximum, so I was glad to be on that one with Alex, Mike and sometimes either Stuart or Graham.

The crew were very dedicated, sometimes sitting in the boats in their bright yellow rain macs waiting for us for over an hour. They seemed to know where we were at all times and when we ascended they were there on hand to help us up into the boats. Seeing how ludicrously bad I was at getting into the rib they supplied a little ladder for it which I thought was very sweet :-)

Critters

Well, this holiday certainly had critters galore! I’ve never seen so many fish and such lush and amazing coral in one place. The few days in Lembeh were supposed to allow us to get the macro out of our system. Raja Ampat is billed as a largely wide angle paradise, and while that is most definitely true (I took more wide-angle shots in those 12 days that I have in my life) it didn’t stop the macro lenses creeping back on throughout the week when the two words ‘pygmy’ and ‘seahorse’ were mentioned. I didn’t get to see the Denise ones but I’ve never seen weedy pygmy sea horses before so was especially please to see them. It was also a nudibranch hunters dream, with all different varieties on each dive.


Also, it was the first time Mike and I had ever seen manta rays! It was very exciting to see them and they came so close and they are so big! I think I must be the only person in the world to be intimated but such a gentle creature but they are very, very big.

Mangroves
I loved the day we had in the blue water mangroves. It was such a different and special environment (I wish we’d spent a little longer really). I haven’t processed all the photos from the mangroves yet so I will do an additional blog post later on for that.

Men with guns
We travelled overnight sometimes to get to a new area. One particular morning we had arrived at a new spot, the sea was very calm and it was just past dawn. Speeding across the water was a small boat with 3 or 4 men in it, one toting a rather large machine gun. Not something that one usually sees over breakfast so it made me sit up and take notice. They pulled up and boarded, pirates I thought? Apparently not. Stuart told them to leave the gun in the boat (which they did). Apparently we were rather too close to their pearl farm and they’d had some robberies, they thought we were pirates and had come to check us out lol. Satisfied that we were just a bunch of tourists and not stashing a large oyster string on our boat they moved us on.

Tears
Well almost, I got bitten by a large angry trigger fish that snuck up on my while I was photographing soft coral in the shallows of the ‘The windows’ divesite, his shallows apparently. I was very glad I was wearing wetsuit that day! And no I didn’t take his picture, I was too busy trying to smack him with my camera while he menacingly swam at my head – eek! Luckily for me he didn’t break the skin and a got away cleaning with a massive bruise on my knee and the fright of my life.

Topside

While on a trip such as this one you don’t expect there to be much to shoot above the water (well I don’t anyway), however the landscape was so beautiful I just had to get my camera out of that housing once in a while. Stuart gave us a couple of excellent opportunities for tender boat rides around the small islands between diving. The landscape was just so very green and lush. When I looked carefully I saw a fleeting glimpse of a bright green bird and a brilliant pink bird high up in the trees. We stopped for a minute or so on a small beach with a hut, although I don’t think anyone actually lived there. It did give me a change to try my hand at another 360 panorama but when I loaded all 31 NEF files into photoshop to try and stitch it, it unsurprisingly crashed! ;)

With thanks for a great holiday to Alex, Graham, Stuart & the crew of the Seven Seas, Divequest and everyone on the trip.

click on the following to see the full set of images in each galley:
:: Raja Ampat underwater images ::
:: Raja Ampat Mangroves ::
:: Topside ::
:: Mikes Topside photos :: EDIT: Mikes cancelled his pbase so this gallery may no longer work.
:: Lembeh Strait underwater images ::

All images in this post are clickable to see larger versions and all images are copyright Suzy Walker or Michael Toye.