The Bali Muck Diving Experience

Patricia Gunderson
Macro Heaven with Unqiue Critters that should be on Every Underwater Photographer's List

The Bali Muck Diving Experience


Macro Heaven for Underwater Photographers

Text and Photos by Patricia Gunderson

 

boxer crab

Boxer crab (Lybia tessellata) with eggs.

 
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Bali was a dive destination I had never considered prior to my first trip - a prize for winning 1st place supermacro in the 2011 Ocean Art Contest. Looking back, it makes sense that the prize would be to a destination that was known for nudibranchs and supermacro photo opportunities.

 

My prize was a week in a private bungalow at Villa Markisa in Tulamben, Bali. I had heard about muck diving in Indonesia, but having done most of my diving in the Pacific Northwest I really did not know what to expect. I took the trip and finally experienced the wonders of muck diving in January 2013, intending to visit different places and dive other areas of Bali. Plans changed after experiencing the great diving and the wonderful relaxing atmosphere at Villa Markisa, and we stayed at the resort until we had to leave for the airport. The bungalow was beautiful and comfortable, with lots of room to relax between diving, the food was great and the Balinese outdoor bathroom was a real treat. Lush foliage next to the shower made rinsing off from so many dives a pleasure.

villa markisa pool

A view of the water from the pool at Villa Markisa.

 

            January is the low season in Bali and it rains in the afternoons, but I was very glad to have visited then and plan to go again at the same time of year when I get another chance. The conditions were wonderful for photographers. Since there were only a few people at the resort, the excellent service was made even better by the fact that often there were only two people diving. There was always something new to see and with the dive guides spotting critters there was no lack of photographic opportunities.

Much of the diving is muck diving because of the very fine consistency of the sand. Patches of life are everywhere on the muck slopes with chances to sight rare critters, which is incentive to keep your eyes open on every dive. There were many of the creatures I have only seen in photos and that are much sought after in muck diving. Here are a few:

 

A Skeleton Shrimp with an Interesting color.

 

The much sought-after Donut Doto.

 

golden mantis

A Golden Mantis Shrimp. This species of Mantis comes flying out of it's burrow and spears it's prey - a sight I would love to see.

 

tiger shrimp

A juvenile Tiger Shrimp with it's prey.

           

On every dive, the guides would point out far more critters and nudibranchs than I would ever be able to photograph on one trip. There were so many Opisthobranchs that it was difficult for me to choose a few to present in this article.

 

nudibranch

One of my favorites,Thecacera Sp. I have seen this species called Pikachu because of its appearance.

 

nudibranch

Cyerce kikutarobabai, not a Nudibranch but a Sacoglossa, which I am told is a rare sighting.

 

nudibranch

Chromodoris collingswoodi, with eggs.

 

nudibranch

Favorinus tsuruganus, with its spectacular rhinophores.

 

My favorite diving on this trip was night diving on the house reef at Villa Markisa. The macro and supermacro life at night is constantly on the move and there was never any lack of interesting subjects. On one night dive I had to leave my camera behind and watched a Jawfish dance in and out of its den. I also saw many other critters I would not have seen if I were focused on the viewfinder of my camera. I am glad that I had this opportunity and recommend diving without a camera (once in a while) to all photographers.

 

nudibranch

A Doto sp 7 surrounded by more Skeleton Shrimp than you can count.

 

nudibranch

A striking Cowry that contrasts with the dark sand.

 

cocunut octopus

Octopus were out and about hunting at night. This tiny Coconut octupus made a great subject.

 

shrimp

This tiny juvenile Marble Shrimp is my favorite critter from the trip. Our divemaster, Dharma, found it for me on my last dive, a night dive of course.

           

            I have to say that the wide-angle opportunities were also excellent in Bali, but I have chosen to showcase the tiny muck-diving critters and night diving. If you choose to visit Villa Markisa you will have many photographic opportunities, great service and meals, and the opportunity to walk down to the beach beyond the dive center to some great muck diving and some of best night diving I have ever done.

            My thanks to Christiane and Pedro who were great hosts at Villa Markisa, and especially to Christiane for making sure I had the opportunity to dive a variety of sights with fantastic macro photography opportunities. My only regret was that I did not have more time there to better learn the behavior of the creatures I saw.

 

 

About the Author

I have always loved the water and been fascinated with what lives in it. I've been diving since 1995 and began shooting photos shortly afterwards, but it was not until the world went digital and I bought a D70 and Subal housing that any of my photos were worth anything (aside from a sad memory of my diving). I thank the digital era for giving me a passion for underwater photography and underwater creatures of all kinds. www.sea-visions.net

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
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Socorro Workshop Photos & Report

Todd Winner
Incredible Photos: Sharks, Dolphins, Whales and Mantas!

Socorro Workshop Photos & Report


Sharks, Dolphins, Whales and Mantas!

Text by Todd Winner. Photos by Todd Winner and Workshop Guests

 

 

 
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Socorro is one of those magical underwater places like Galapagos, Malpelo, and Cocos Island. It is a premier big animal destination and one of the few places on earth where divers can easily interact with dozens of sharks on every dive - without the use of bait. There are three islands that are typically visited on a Socorro trip: San Benedicto, Socorro and Roca Partida.  

The only way to get to the islands is by boat. We held our Socorro workshop on the Rocio Del Mar liveaboard. The Rocio is a comfortable 110-foot vessel that can accommodate up to 20 guests, typically diving the islands from November through the end of May.

 


Getting There

The Socorro Islands lie 250 miles off Baja Mexico's southern shore. Guests arrive and depart in San Jose del Cabo, which conveniently has flights from many international destinations. After boarding the Rocio, it takes approximately 24 hours to arrive at the islands.

 

The Diving

We had anticipated Mantas to be the main attraction for this trip. Unfortunately, the water was unusually cold and the Mantas were not at their cleaning stations. Situations like this are one of the unpredictable things with underwater photography and big animals. There's always going to be some level of unpredictability. The cold water did have one advantage - the humpback whales were still around even though they are typically only sited in the winter months. We had a nice underwater encounter with them on one dive and got to see numerous breaches. Over the past few years, bottle nose dolphins have been interacting with divers in Socorro and everyone on our trip got a few great encounters. Sharks can be seen on almost every dive. White tip sharks are found sleeping in every crack and crevasse, and Galapagos and silky sharks swim along with divers in the current. Hammerhead sharks are more elusive but were still sighted on many of the dives.  

Water temps typically range 78-82F, but it did occasionally get colder on our trip. I used a 5mm along with a hooded vest. Currents can also be very strong around the islands. In fact, on the second day at Roca Partida, we encountered a vortex that was strong enough to hold onto one of our divers for six minutes.  This was a very rare phenomenon and probably not likely to repeat itself, but it is important to be a competent and fairly fit diver before going to destinations like Socorro.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Workshops

Every afternoon we had a short discussion on a particular topic, such as balanced lighting, Lightroom adjustments or any other subject the majority of guests were interested in covering. Throughout the week, there was plenty of time to get in some one on one time and review images. It is always a pleasure to be around other photographers that share your interests and to be able to swap knowledge.

 

 

Conclusion & Guest Photos

We got some great images and were lucky to have some fantastic snorkel encounters with mantas near the end of the trip. It just wasn't the cleaning station mantas we had expected. The humpbacks were incredible to witness and the sharks are always exciting to dive with.

Please check out the Underwater Photography Guide trips page for more of our upcoming workshops!

 

Photo: Drew Collins

Photo: Jeffrey Sheppard

Photo: Joe Morris

Photo: Jon Churchill

Photo: Michael Hardman

Photo: Michael Strole

Photo: Phil Symonds

Photo: Michael Hardman

 

About the Author

Todd Winner is a professional underwater photographer and cinematographer, PADI scuba instructor and owner of Winner Productions, a boutique post production facility catering to Hollywood's most elite cinematographers. Since taking up underwater photography in 1990, Todd Winner has won over 60 international underwater photo competitions. His images have been published in numerous magazines and online publications. His work has been featured in commercial advertising, museums and private galleries.  To see more of Todd's work or join him on an underwater workshop, please visit www.toddwinner.com.

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
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Alor: Indonesia's Secret Gem

Victor Tang
Epic Diving for Adventure Seekers

Alor: Indonesia's Secret Gem


Epic Diving for Adventure Seekers

Text and Photos by Victor Tang

 

 

 
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Indonesia is an undisputed scuba diving haven, with a vast archipelago comprised of dive destinations catering to every taste and budget. If you poll divers on the best Indonesia dive destinations, names like Raja Ampat, Lembeh, Bali and Ahe are bound to be at the top of the list. But many feel that Alor has a resident Mola Mola population sighted more frequency than in Bali, macro subjects every bit as interesting as those in Lembeh, reef conditions that are arguably on par with Raja Ampat and possible whale sightings at any moment. How is it that such a highly rated dive location be relegated to an afterthought among scuba divers?

One plausible reason could be that information about Alor remains hard to find on the Internet. Most info comes directly from local dive operators, which some might view skeptically until they have actually dived there. Dive operators paint an interesting picture on rustic accommodations offering intermittent access to electricity - an essential lifeline for underwater photographers. This perception of Alor sounded exactly like the place that I thrive on, so I decided to head south and check it out myself. (Disclosure: I “cheated” and dived with the only dive operation out of Kalabahi, the only urban oasis on Alor, so I had 24 hour electricity for all my camera needs)

 

Origins

Alor has been on the scuba diving radar for longer than one expects, and a significant moment on my Alor adventure was to be able to meet the man who discovered Alor’s riches more than 18 years ago: Donovan Whitford. While running a dive operation in Kupang, West Timor, Donovan ran exploration trips around the Nusa Tenggara Timor Islands (which incidentally encompass Komdo). On one of these trips to the area around Alor Island they reached the southern part of the Pantar Straits and ended up staying for the rest of their expedition. Donovan has been organizing trips to Alor since then. The Pantar Strait, which is in between 2 islands collectively termed the Alor Archipelago, has yet to be fully explored. On every return trip there are new sites to dive, recently discovered by the locals.

 

If you thought traveling to Raja Ampat was tough…

I’m lucky to be based in Singapore, the undisputed hub for traveling within Southeast Asia, and there are flights aplenty to the Indonesian capital Jakarta, which has the best connections to Kupang - the only gateway to Alor. Even then, reaching Alor will take 2 days of travel, as one reaches Kupang in the evening and flights to Alor only depart in the earlier half of the day. But at least that flight is only 45 minutes!

 

Alor Underwater

The diving map of Alor can be broadly classified into 2 main areas: Kalabahi Bay for macro photography and the Pantar Strait for wide-angle.

Alor

Kalabahi Bay

KALABAHI BAY

Kalabahi Bay is a long and narrow bay, flanked on both sides by mountains. The boat takes about an hour to get across the bay, which would be a good chance to catch a quick nap before the first dive, however the resident pod of dolphins and juvenile yellow fin tuna keep you awake with their daily duels. Alor is essentially an extinct volcano jutting out from the ocean, and all the dive sites in Kalabahi Bay are muck dives in black sand. The bay plunges to more than two hundred meters, which tricks whales into entering several times a year.

 

Kendi Bay

The abundance of soft coral strikes the diver when entering Kendi Bay and gives the site its name. Pause before getting in close to scout for macro subjects, because you might come eyeball to eyeball with one of the enormous Longspine Lionfish that use Kendi Bay as a resting spot between nocturnal hunts. Some of these lionfish are estimated to be as long as thirty centimeters! And while this is a great muck macro spot, the lionfish offer great Close Focus Wide Angle photo opportunities for those armed with mini dome ports.

 

Alor

Fire Dartfish. Taken with twin Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at F14 and 1/250s. Tamron 60mm.
Note:  All Photos shot with Nikon D600.

 

Alor

Synchronized Feeding by Porcelain Crabs. Taken with twin Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at F22 and 1/320s. Nikon 105VR.

 

Alor

Harlequin Sandperch. Taken with twin Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at F3.5 and 1/320s. Nikon 105 VR.

 

Pink Forest

Muck diving sites are generally stereotyped as “deserts” relatively devoid of coral compared to their white sand counterparts, but this muck dive promises to debunk that stereotype. A gentle slope that evens out at twenty meters, the site filled with pink soft coral for most the dive. On one dive Murphy’s Law caught up with me when I learned my macro lens was set on manual with no focus gear, so I decided to enjoy looking for new critters on the dive, seeing species new-to-me like the Harlequin Swimming Crab and the Yellow Sea Cucumber. Rare nudibranchs are often found as they come out to bask in the sun, with crustaceans lurking in almost any crevice you care to look into.

 

Alor

Yellow Spotted Anemone Shrimp.. Taken with twin Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at F32 and 1/250s. Nikon 105 VR. Subsee +10 Diopter.

 

Alor

Needle Cuttlefish. Taken with twin Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at F22 and 1/160s. Tamron 60mm.

 

Ferry Harbor and Bus Station

Ferry Harbor operates as the only nautical gateway out of Alor, and the Bus Station is named for the sunken bus that was there for years until it was recently salvaged for scrap. Any dive at these places features the weird and the wonderful. Spanish Dancers are sighted very frequently at both sites, with the Ferry Harbor singled out as a great nursery, its large pylons and ample rubbish offering the perfect refuge. Sea urchins are huge; their long spines used for protection by juvenile devil fish and pufferfish. The silt at the bottom is as fine as it gets, so an errant whisk of a fin could mean losing sight of your dive buddy’s light even though he or she is just beside you.

 

Alor

Commensal Shrimp. Taken with twin Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at F4.5 and 1/320s. Nikon 105VR.

 

Threesome

This site is very special, for its name is attributed to the first divers to enter its waters that day: my guide, dive buddy and I. Threesome is a classic muck diving site, its creatures well camouflaged among the black and well hidden under the nooks and crannies. Patience is the key here, for if you stay still long enough little movements seize your attention, and dragonets start to come out to feed. There are lots of shrimp and lobster to be found here, tending to stand their ground against the invader (you), allowing you time to plan and frame that perfect shot.

 

Alor

Bicolor Parrotfish. Taken with twin Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at F22 and 1/250s. Nikon 105 VR.

 

Alor

Coleman’s Phyllodesmium. Taken with twin Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO400. Manual mode at F22 and 1/320s. Nikon 105 VR.

 

PANTAR STRAIT

Sailing out of Kalabahi Bay and into the Pantar Strait, the underwater landscape changes dramatically. Diving the sites around the Pantar Strait revolves around a central theme: coral cover, fish life and more coral cover. Fed by incoming currents from the Indonesia Sea and the Pacific Ocean, visibility did not fall below twenty-five meters on any of the dives in the strait during my trip, at times reaching forty meters or more. All this, along with cloudless skies and a relenting sun, makes for some glorious diving. Below are some of the sites not to be missed.

 

The Edge

My first taste of diving in the Pantar Strait was at a site called The Edge. Situated on the northeast of Ternate Island, diving at The Edge starts with a gentle slope packed full of soft coral down to ten meters and an abrupt drop off that plunges beyond one hundred meters. Strong and unpredictable currents here mean average individual coral sizes stay relatively small, but in unbelievable densities and varieties. There seems to be no end to this steep wall, and as the dive computer reminds you it’s time to leave, you ascend knowing this site has much more to offer. I thought I had seen complete coral cover blanketing a seascape, but that was before visiting Alor. This is one of those times where one has to have been there to really understand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo left: Reefscape Photo-ops Galore. Taken with twin Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at F16 and 1/320s. Tokina Fisheye at 10mm.
Photo right: Fleeing the Scene. Taken with twin Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at F18 and 1/320s. Tokina Fisheye at 10mm.

 

Babylon

On the south side of Ternate Island lies Babylon, named after the overhangs on the wall, which feature combinations of hard and soft coral that inspired the name. Most of the action is between fifteen to twenty-five meters, and with thirty-meter visibility and a strong sun it is possible to be bathed in sun rays for the entire dive. This is a site where both wide angle and macro opportunities are abundant, as many nudibranchs can be spotted basking in the daylight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo left: Coral Tower. Taken with twin Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at F16 and 1/320s. Tokina Fisheye at 10mm.
Photo right: Alor is sunburst heaven. Taken with twin Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at F18 and 1/320s. Tokina Fisheye at 10mm.

 

Kel’s Dream

This is the marquee site of Alor, for it promises a lot of big pelagics and large schools of fish. A submerged pinnacle starting at five meters and buffeted by currents most of the day, this is one site where local knowledge is absolutely crucial. Most liveaboards that make stops here do not have the best timing and the dive conditions aren't ideal. When the currents are ripping the waters surround the pinnacle resemble a druid’s cauldron, and even calm conditions on the surface bear no indication of the conditions below. Even when conditions are right to visit Kel’s Dream the anticipated pelagics may not be there. The risk is worth the reward because when you hit the jackpot it could be the best dive of your life. Here is what I saw on one of the dives:

  • THREE 2-meter long napoleon wrasses
  • A school of about 200 surgeon fish
  • A seemingly endless train of 1-meter long rainbow runners (1 meter you say? One of the boatman caught one while we were diving below)
  • Giant trevallies
  • One fearless dogtooth tuna

Diving can get very good at Kel’s dream, but if the party doesn’t show up the pinnacle itself is a very great consolation, the coral cover and variety no less impressive than other sites. Macro is also pretty good with nudibranchs precariously hanging on and blennies popping out to have a look at the commotion.

 

Alor

Crystal clear waters. Taken at ISO200 in ambient light. Manual mode at F3.5 and 1/1600s. Tokina Fisheye at 10mm.

 

Alor

More than just fish life at Kel’s Dream. Taken with twin Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at F14 and 1/125s. Tokina Fisheye at 10mm.

 

The Bullet

A channel that lies between the pinnacle at Kel’s Dream and Alor Island itself, it is called The Bullet because the water that gets compressed through pinnacle and landmass can get very swift, bringing along some big photo subjects. The site is a good backup if Kel’s Dream is not dive-able. It is the one place where hammerhead sharks can be reliably seen, which draws divers who will brave the currents. No hammerheads on my dive but a there were a couple of large black tips and turtles drifting with us. Do not just focus on the blue water on this dive, for behind you is arguably one of the prettiest reefs anywhere on earth. It has just the right balance of hard and soft coral with fish life so picturesque it might literally take your breath away.

 

Alor

Alor In A Nutshell. Taken at ISO200 in ambient light. Manual mode at F3.5 and 1/640s. Tokina Fisheye at 10mm.

 

Alor

Xenia Soft Coral. Taken with twin Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at F22 and 1/320s. Tokina Fisheye at 10mm.

 

The Cathedral

One of the most southerly dive sites in the Pantar Strait, there is a swim-through at thirty-five meters that exits at twenty meters. Entering it at the right time means the sun dominates the view at the exit, lighting up the reef in a sea of sunrays and creating a somewhat ecclesiastical experience. The reefscape is unique from other sites in Alor, with reefs covered in kelp resembling a savannah, combined with dense coral cover and fish life so rich that at times the anthias block the view. This site is special personally, for while preparing for the dive a huge fin emerged from the water and seemed to wave at us. It was my first time seeing a mola mola sunning itself! It stayed on the surface for a good ten minutes before disappearing. Upon further investigation this appears to be common at the Cathedral, and there is an estimated population of slightly more than a hundred mola mola that inhabit its deep waters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo left: Nowhere To Rest. Taken with twin Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at F14 and 1/250s. Tokina Fisheye at 10mm.
Photo right: Gorgonian Creativity. Taken with twin Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at F13 and 1/320s. Tokina Fisheye at 10mm.

 

Diving Alor – Not for Beginners

I have included this little section as a moral duty to divers that do want to go Alor. Diving in Alor is not easy. The currents can be strong and direction unpredictable, and there is never a dive in the Pantar Strait where the water is still. One can safely assume that any dive in the Pantar will be akin to Crystal Bay in Bali. Even in Kalabahi Bay while muck diving there will be a slight drift depending on the tides. Water temperatures can plummet at any time due to the expansive thermoclines that rise from the deep. To fully enjoy the beauty of Alor, divers must have a high degree of water confidence and safety equipment like a Surface Marker Buoy. A Russian instructor looking for somewhere exotic to bring his students scrapped the idea after one dive, so Alor is recommended for highly experienced divers.

 

Conservation Efforts in the Alor Archipelago

Commercial fishing, which has been so destructive to many other dive destinations in Indonesia, is not existent here. The main methods of fishing employed by the sparse population are hand lines and traditional underwater fish traps. This means that the fisheries are entirely sustainable. Overall conditions in Alor create an amazing rate of coral growth. Mr. Whitford relates to me a story about how an errant anchor from a tugboat created a one hundred meter-long scar on one of the reefs, and upon returning two weeks later the scar was almost unnoticeable. A tremendous recovery rate.

The area has been declared the “Alor Marine Park” by authorities, making it arguably one of the least visited marine parks in Indonesia, and we hope it stays that way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo left: The Fishing Industry In Alor
Photo right: Future Workers of the Tourist Trade

 

Alor

A Fish Trap

 

Alor: You Could Have a Change Of Heart, If Only You Change Your Mind

I knew from the outset that exploring Alor would be an epic adventure, and it did not disappoint. The journey there was filled with potentially crippling sagas, but thankfully the diving was epic. Alor has undoubtedly one of the most pristine marine environments with organized scuba diving in Indonesia. The absence of commercialism makes it relatively inaccessible, but I have a feeling it is precisely this halcyon environment that makes Alor such a wonderful diving paradise. On my final boat ride back to Kalabahi my mind advises that I should try my best to ratchet up the negatives and keep Alor to myself, but my instinct compels me to shout out, “Come! Come before the crowds eventually do!”

Alor

I Will Come Back

 

About the Author

Victor Tang is the founder of Wodepigu Water Pixel, an adventure dive company and photography consultancy with a nose for off the beaten track dive destinations.  When not stranded on shore with other pursuits as a musician and TV producer, Victor is on the prowl around Southeast Asia searching for new pristine waters to explore. His sister will always tease him for taking an oath never to take a camera underwater again after his first try in Malapascua, but lately he carries a camera anywhere he goes.

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
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Inspiring Photos from the Sea of Cortez

Todd Winner
Sea Lions, Whale Sharks, Seahorses & more from UWPG's Sea of Cortez Workshop!

Inspiring Photos from the Sea of Cortez


Sea Lions, Whale Sharks, Seahorses & more from UWPG's Sea of Cortez Workshop!

Text and Photos by Todd Winner

 

Sea Lion

 

 
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This was Bluewater Photo’s second year running the Sea of Cortez workshop on the Rocio Del Mar, and once again it proved to have some unique photo opportunities. We had excellent encounters with sea lions, whale sharks, jaw fish and amazing blennies this year. One of the highlights for me was the opportunity to shoot humboldt squid - something I'm looking forward to doing again as soon as possible!

 

Getting There

The Rocio Del Mar runs Sea of Cortez trips out of Puerto Penasco, Mexico. The most convenient airport is the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport in Arizona. From the airport it is about a four-hour drive to the marina. “Head out to Rocky Point” has handled all our transportation needs for the past two years, efficiently driving us to and from the boat.  Once on board, the Rocio sails to the Northern Midriff Islands for six days of diving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Diving

One of the main attractions of the Sea of Cortez is the chance to dive with big animals.  Sea lions can be found on almost every dive and this is the time of year when the big male bulls are out patrolling their territory. Snorkeling with the whale sharks in the bay of Los Angeles was the highlight for everyone on the trip. We made arrangements for the workshop to spend extra time with them and this year we swam for close to six hours.  Accompanying the whale sharks, we had a number of mobula rays and some small schools of fish, presenting excellent photo subjects. We spent part of one day looking for sperm whales and pilot whales but didn't have any luck. We did jump into the water a few times with hundreds of spinner dolphins but they just were not interested in playing with us.

At night we often had feeding pelicans, flying fish and other visitors attracted by the lights from the boat, and on two occasions humboldt squid showed up and we had a great time shooting them. Other wide-angle opportunities include huge black coral gardens and sea fans that make nice foreground subjects. Macro this year was off the charts with nudibranchs, blennies, jaw fish, octopus and more! Over the trip, we sighted six different sea horses and I lost count on how many giant jaw fish I saw, including one with eggs.

 

whale shark

 

The water temperature can vary greatly in this area, between 60-85 degrees Fahrenheit, with lots of thermoclines. For myself, I am comfortable in a 5mm most of the time. One of the reasons the whale sharks and other large animals are there is to feed on the plankton. The nutrient rich water is great for attracting animals but it can also lower visibility. Average visibility is around 30-60 feet and occasionally better. It still is very workable for photography - just don't go expecting 100' plus and you won't be disappointed.

 

Photo Workshops

We had a wide range of shooters, beginners to advanced, and huge variety of cameras.  Inevitably, some camera parts are always left at home and it's always fun to try and MacGyver something together. My drinking straw fiber optic strobe cables failed miserably, but we were able to put something else together that worked. Every morning we reviewed guest images and tried to suggest improvements. In the afternoon we would have a short discussion on a particular topic, like balanced lighting, Lightroom adjustments or any other subject the majority of the guests wanted to learn about. Throughout the week, there was plenty of time to get in some one-on-one sessions. There is always a wealth of knowledge that can be gained just from being around other photographers that share your interests.

 

whale shark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rocio Del Mar

This has been my third trip on the Rocio Del Mar in just over a year, and each time they have made improvements. They just redid all the cabins, extending the length of the beds and adding new memory foam mattresses. The captain and crew have always worked hard to make sure we have a great experience, and the chef does an excellent job at keeping everyone happy with a variety of meals. Everyone enjoys fiesta night up on the sun deck.

 

Conclusion

The Sea of Cortez offers some incredible dives and I experience something new every time I dive there. For many divers, it is very unique, with sea lions and other large animals being the main attraction. From the USA, especially the west coast, it is incredibly easy to get to. No matter where you’re from, it’s a fun dive trip with countless photo opportunities.

 

humboldt squid

 

About the Author

Todd Winner is a professional underwater photographer and cinematographer, PADI scuba instructor and owner of Winner Productions, a boutique post production facility catering to Hollywood's most elite cinematographers. Since taking up underwater photography in 1990, Todd Winner has won over 60 international underwater photo competitions. His images have been published in numerous magazines and online publications. His work has been featured in commercial advertising, museums and private galleries.  To see more of Todd's work or join him on an underwater workshop, please visit www.toddwinner.com.

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
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Palau Workshop Report - Epic Diving!

Todd Winner
UWPG's Recent Philippines & Palau Double Workshop was a Great Success - Read Why this Location Rocks

Palau Workshop Report - Epic Diving!


UWPG's Recent Philippines & Palau Double Workshop was a Great Success - Read Why this Location Rocks

By Todd Winner

 

Palau

 

 
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Palau has to be one of the most picturesque places on earth. With hundreds of mushroom shaped rock islands covered with lush green foliage surrounded by turquoise water, it's a “postcard” location. Underwater, Palau offers exceptional dives with shark-filled adventures at Blue Corner, unique dives at Chandelier Cave and Jellyfish Lake and some good WWII wrecks. The Bluewater Photo workshop was held on the Palau Siren. This was a combo trip, so the guests had already spent a week aboard the Philippines Siren with workshop host Mike Bartick.

 

Palau

 

Sam's Tours

I arrived a few days early so I could get a chance to dive with Sam's Tours, one of Palau's premiere dive operations in Koror. Sam's Tours is located in Malakal Harbor and the Palau Siren anchors right out in front. Sam's is very comfortable to dive with. They provide transfers to and from whatever hotel you are staying at and they have a well-stocked rental department and pro shop. They offer shower facilities that are clean and have large separate rinse tanks for gear and cameras. Most importantly, all of the staff is friendly and many of the dive masters have been with them for years. After a day of diving you can relax at the Bottom Time Bar & Grill, located inside the Sam's Tours facility. With a great atmosphere, it's an excellent place to get some good food, drinks and to swap some fish stories. Another plus: the break-wall right in front of the restaurant is one of the best places to see and photograph mandarin fish.

 

Palau

 

S/Y Palau Siren

The S/Y Palau Siren is one of the newest ships in the World Wide Dive and Sail fleet.  Launched in July 2012, she was built in Indonesia as a traditional “gaff rigged Phinisi”. She is 131 feet in length, can accommodate up to 16 guests and is built from ironwood and teak. It is a very luxurious vessel! The crew was attentive to all our needs and prepared some very delicious meals. All of the diving was done from one large covered skiff. These are the typical boats used in Palau and they are well suited to Palau's shallow reefs and can easily pick up divers if they get separated due to currents.

 

Palau

 

Diving

Even though this was the off-season we had very nice weather. We had a few rain showers but the wind did not present a problem until the last day. For the most part we had more sun than we knew what to do with. Many of Palau's sites feature steep walls on which soft corals, sea whips and fans can be found. Almost all of the sites have large formations of hard corals. We dove the majority of the well known sites including German Channel, Ulong Channel, Shark City and of course, Blue Corner. Blue Corner is a world-famous site known for sharks. And while a good place for sharks and large schools of fish, the real highlight for me are the friendly napoleon wrasse. These guys will come close enough to let you pet them. We got a chance to dive a few WWII wrecks including the Iro Maru and the Jakes Sea Plane. Then it was time to dive what I consider to be some of the best underwater photo opportunities in Palau, Chandelier Cave and Jellyfish Lake. Chandelier Cave features four large air filled chambers with stalactites hanging down into the water, and is a great place to capture reflections. Jellyfish Lake is filled with harmless jellyfish that have lost their stinging ability. You can only snorkel but it is a really unique experience and offers many photo opportunities.

 

Palau

 

Palau

 

Workshop

Because this was a combo trip and all of the guests had already spent a week with Mike Bartick in the Philippines, I did not spend much time covering a lot of the basics. Most of the workshops were dedicated to post processing and Lightroom workflows as well as strobe positioning and wide-angle techniques. We had a lot of individual and small group discussions about how to take particular types of shots and on maintaining underwater camera equipment.  All in all I think we came away with a number of quality images and hopefully everyone learned a few new tips. To join us on one of our upcoming Blue Water Photo workshops please check out the trips page.

 

Palau

 

Palau

 

 

About the Author

Todd Winner is a professional underwater photographer and cinematographer, PADI scuba instructor and owner of Winner Productions, a boutique post production facility catering to Hollywood's most elite cinematographers. Since taking up underwater photography in 1990, Todd Winner has won over 60 international underwater photo competitions. His images have been published in numerous magazines and online publications. His work has been featured in commercial advertising, museums and private galleries.  To see more of Todd's work or join him on an underwater workshop, please visit www.toddwinner.com.

 

Further Reading

 


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Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
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Philippines Diving Hot Spot: Moalboal (pg 2)

Philippines Diving Hotspot: Moalboal

By Victor Tang

Page 2

 

Moalboal - Off the Wall

Moalboal Bay

Marking the end of the mega-wall, Moalboal Bay marks a sharp departure from a typical dive site in Moalboal, for instead of steep walls it features a shallow sandy area. The marine life contained within Moalboal Bay is also markedly different from those on the wall. This is where you can find marine creatures like Pegasus fish, leaf pipefish, stargazers, dragonets and most uniquely, a resident dog-faced water snake that loves to take a nap in the area.

Moaboal Bay livens up at night if one has the opportunity to arrange a night dive there. Juvenile bobtail squid love to hang out among the dead coconut leaves, and the once lethargic dog-faced water snake starts to hunt. A great site for long dives with a maximum depth of seven meters, one has time to observe cowry shells as they slowly dig their way into the sand - a pretty interesting sight to see.

 

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Urchin Clingfish. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at f22 and 1/320s. Tamron 60mm.

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Photo left: Dog Faced Sea Snake. Taken with 1 Sea & Sea YS-110a at ISO80. Manual mode at f8 and 1/250s.

Photo right: Blenny. Taken with 1 Sea & Sea YS-110a at ISO80. Manual mode at f8 and 1/250s. Dyron +7 Diopter.

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Network Pipefish. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at f22 and 1/320s. Tamron 60mm.

 

Pescador Island

Three kilometers west of Panagsama Beach lies Pescador Island, the jewel of Moalboal diving and considered one of the best dive sites in the Philippines. With a landmass big enough to warrant a lighthouse, Pescador Island resembles a vertical rod and plunges down to depths of seventy meters.

It gained further prominence a few years ago when a large school of sardines decided to make Pescador their home. With estimates as high as nine hundred thousand sardines, this sardine ball started attracting pelagic fish to hunt them around the clock. It even caught the attention of thresher sharks who would dart in and out of the bait ball energetically hunting - a contrast to their relative calm when seen gliding around Monad Shoal further north in Malapascua. This mini “sardine run” proved very popular in Moalboal and earned Pescador a name in the dive community.

The hype of the mini “sardine run” proved to be a distraction from the great diving at Pescador Island. After all, there was a good reason the sardines showed up in the first place. Situated perfectly to catch the currents of the Tanon Strait, Pescador was always going to welcome wary marine travelers making a pit stop, as evidenced by frequent sightings of whale sharks and manta rays. The currents also bring with it the nutrients needed to support life, from plankton to the large pelagics.

 

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Porcelain Crab. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO80. Manual mode at f22 and 1/320s. Nikon 105mm VR.

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Photo left: Starfish Couple. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO80. Manual mode at f10 and 1/320s. Tokina 10-17 Fisheye.

Photo right: Mega Sea Fan. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO80. Manual mode at f11 and 1/160s. Tokina 10-17 Fisheye.

Every dive on Pescador aims to explore its sheer vertical dropoffs, and the life found on its walls does not disappoint. Hundreds of Anthias accompany you every step of the way, while schools of fusiliers and snappers can be seen on any part of the dive. Pescador supports a very healthy population of lionfish; with Sergeant fish lurking around whip corals as they stand guard by their nests. Survivors of the last El Nino stand proud from the walls, with huge gorgonian fans still prominent features of the landscape.

Pescador is mainly a playground for wide-angle enthusiasts, but plenty of macro life can also be found. Frogfish are seen often, and there are 2 large pale purple ones that have made Pescador their permanent home – always perching themselves on the same sponge corals. Nudibranchs emerge from the crevices from time to time, and skeleton shrimp have recently been found. The more adventurous can opt to go deeper to seek out the schools of Jacks and white tip reef sharks that lurk there. Huge pairs of trevally have been seen divers logging enough time in the water are likely to spot the resident two-meter long giant barracuda.

 

moalboal

Elvis is In the Building. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO80. Manual mode at f13 and 1/100s. Tokina 10-17 Fisheye.

moalboal

Whip Goby. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO80. Manual mode at f4.5 and 1/320s. Nikon 105mm VR

 

Conservation Efforts In Moalboal

Being a pioneer dive destination in the Philippines also means being the first to discover and face environmental issues that are pertinent to the survival of the local scuba industry. The resulting underwater environment degradation (either scuba-related or by inadequate fishing practices) led to an alliance between dive centers and the local government to better manage marine resources. The Moalboal Dive Center Association (MDCA) was set up with the auspices of the Municipality of Moalboal to manage the marine sanctuaries set up at Savedra, Basidot, Tuble and Pescador, which essentially covers all the dive sites in Moalboal, and charges divers a fee to dive its waters. Proceeds from the entrance fees are used to finance a range of initiatives, including setting up patrols to enforce the ban on destructive fishing practices and marine conservation education programs for the locals.

Whale sharks have also become a common site at Oslob, just a ninety-minute drive from Moalboal (compared the three hours from Cebu City). Hundreds of people flock to the beaches of Oslob to see these gentle giants and many tour operators have sprung up. However, there is a distinct difference between other places in the Philippines like Donsol or Sogod Bay who also feature whale shark tours: In Oslob the locals keep the whale sharks close to shore by feeding them everyday. Nobody moves from a guaranteed food source, so these juvenile whale sharks happily stayed. As a result, marine conservationists are protesting against such an unnatural practice and I had a chance to see its effects for myself. Klemens Gann, who was the lead videographer engaged by Philippine national television to film a segment when this issue was still in its infancy sums it best: “When we first came to film them they were swimming around in a natural horizontal attitude. Now these whale sharks mainly adopt a vertical position to get food - they are like dogs.” I agree with him.

 

Wall Diving Paradise

Moalboal has been on the Philippine diving map as long as most of us can remember, and continues to provide an underwater world teeming with life. The easygoing vibe and lifestyle, combined with all the conveniences of modern life convinces divers to return year after year, and I have met divers who have been going back for fifteen years or more. The effects of shark fishing are keenly felt here, but pelagic fish still ply these waters and its walls are still full of dramatic reefscapes and amazing macro subjects. The Tanon Strait is deep and currents are strong, so you never know what the next tide brings.

 

moalboal

 

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About the Author

Victor Tang is the founder of Wodepigu Water Pixel, an adventure dive company and photography consultancy with a nose for off the beaten track dive destinations.  When not stranded on shore with other pursuits as a musician and TV producer, Victor is on the prowl around Southeast Asia searching for new pristine waters to explore. His sister will always tease him for taking an oath never to take a camera underwater again after his first try in Malapascua, but lately he carries a camera anywhere he goes.

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
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Philippines Diving Hot Spot: Moalboal

Victor Tang
Exciting Photos & Best Dive Sites in one of the Philippines' first Hot Spots

Philippines Diving Hot Spot: Moalboal


Exciting Photos & Best Dive Sites in one of the Philippines' first Hot Spots

By Victor Tang

 

moalboal philippines

 

 
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The Visayas region of the Philippines has long been a mecca for scuba divers, with enthusiasts arriving from all over to savor the teeming underwater realm beneath its waters. The focal point of all this diving activity is squarely on the island of Cebu, since Mactan (just next door) has the only international airport and hub for all sea-lanes serving all the Visayas. Cebu Island attracted tourists because of this proximity. Moalboal was a sleepy fishing town with bountiful harvests until dive explorers from the western hemisphere discovered it in the 1970s – one of the first places on the island to be developed primarily for scuba diving.

 

moalboal philippines

 

Moalboal - On the Mega Wall

Moalboal faces the Tanon Strait, a deep channel that separates the Islands of Cebu and Negros. Its coastlines are characterized by sharply sloping drop offs, so the vast majority of dive sites in the Moalboal area are wall dives along the coastlines. With the exception of Pescador Island, the dive sites combine together to form one huge gigantic wall: the diver enters at different points to explore different sections of wall. Each section of the wall has its own distinct flavor, each with its own unique sightings. All the dive sites lie along a known whale sharks migratory route, so sightings of these gentle giants, though infrequent, have been recorded all year by various lucky divers.

 

Saavedra Fish Sanctuary

Situated right at the northern limits of this mega-wall, Saavedra Fish Sanctuary seems unremarkable at shallow depths – nothing more than a gentle sandy slope with sporadic outcrops of soft coral. After descending past the vertical drop-off at 22 meters, however, the diver is greeted with a vertical canopy of giant gorgonian fans that are the wide-angle photographer’s dream and nightmare at the same time, for these gorgonians will truly test the limits of your wide- angle lenses and strobe power.

As if that wasn’t a large-enough “problem,” these gorgonians host colonies of one of the holy grails of macro photographers: the skeleton shrimp. With the really huge and extremely small living together, this is a site that is definitely worth more than one dive to take advantage of the opportunities presented.

 

moalboal philippines

Gigantic Sea Fans. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-110a at ISO80. Manual mode at f8 and 1/1000s. Dyron 8mm fisheye.

 

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Pregnant Banded Pipefish. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at f18 and 1/320s. Nikon 105mm VR.

 

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Lionfish. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at f11 and 1/320s. Nikon 105mm VR.

 

White Beach

Picturesque White Beach, the lone sandy beach in Moalboal, is so exclusive that you need to pay an entry fee.  But beyond the sand a wall of macro opportunities awaits.  This site is one of the more fruitful areas for nudibranchs and crustaceans, with some truly strange macro subjects popping up when u least expect.

White Beach is home to a resident school of Razorfish that plies the shallow waters among the hard coral gardens, creating enjoyable safety stops as they sway among the coral in strange but wonderful formations. I had the suprise of spotting a lone Mandarin Fish popping up in broad daylight from among the hard coral at the start of dive, but alas it retreated before I could even react.

 

moalboal philippines

Orang-Utan Crab. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at f22 and 1/320s. Tamron 60mm.

 

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Photo left: Hypselodoris Tyroni. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at f22 and 1/320s. Nikon 105mm VR.
Photo right: Lone Razorfish. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at f9 and 1/320s. Nikon 105mm VR.

 

Tuble Point

Always keep an eye on the open blue water when diving here, for Tuble Point comes just after Pescador in the number of recorded whale shark sightings.  Some unique coral formations dot the seascape here, with schools of yellowtail barracuda darting in and out of your field of vision. Turtles are regularly seen here resting on the wall or just gliding by.

This dive site also has many mature whip corals, with some supporting up to three whip gobies. The Xenon Crab can be spotted regularly here if one looks hard enough.

 

moalboal philippines

Pipefish. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at f22 and 1/320s. Nikon 105mm VR.

 

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Photo left: : Soft Coral Habitat. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at f13 and 1/250s. Tokina 10-17 Fisheye.
Photo right: Patient Jaws. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at f4 and 1/320s. Nikon 105mm VR.

 

moalboal philippines

Sergeant Fish Eggs . Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-110a at ISO80. Manual mode at f8 and 1/500s. Dyron +7 and Subsee +10 Diopters.

 

Panagsama Beach

This is the site I have dived the most in Moalboal, for this is the house reef of my partners Blue Abyss Dive Shop. This is the dive site where I first learned the dynamic nature of a reef and the surprises that the deep waters of the Tanon Strait can bring. Many different types of frogfish have visited the dive site over the course of my visits there, with occasional sightings of blue-ringed octopuses and the occasional pygmy seahorse hiding out in the tiniest of sea fans. In short, this is a truly good site for spotting macro subjects.

Night dives are a must in Moalboal, especially for divers who love to spot critters. If you dare turn off your dive torch for a moment you’ll see the reef dropoff glittering from the reflection of the critters’ eyes. There is a resident pair of mandarin fish just before the dropoff, though they tend to be very shy. It was on one of these mandarin fish hunts that I spotted the scene that I would never forget: a fairly large bobtail squid relaxing on the reef bed, preying on a prawn.

 

moalboal philippines

Feeding Bobtail Squid. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-110a at ISO080. Manual mode at f8 and 1/250s.

 

moalboal philippines

Good Morning Moalboal!. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-110a at ISO80. Manual mode at f8 and 1/250s.

 

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Healthy House Reef. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at f8 and 1/160s. Tokina 10-17 Fisheye.

 

moalboal philippines

Mandarin Fish. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at f18 and 1/320s. Nikon 105mm VR.

 

Tongo Point

This dive site could arguably be one the best places to capture images of the flame fire shell, for three of them seem permanently anchored to the walls of a small cave just eight meters deep. Macro opportunities abound, with walls covered with large sea fans.

Some huge Scorpion Fish live at Tongo Point, and it is one of the more reliable places to spot pygmy seahorses. The shallows here are great for spotting critters especially if the dive is later in the day.

 

moalboal philippinesmoalboal philippines

Photo left: Flame Fire Shell. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-110a at ISO80. Manual mode at f8 and 1/250s.
Photo right: Laomenes Amboinensis. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at f22 and 1/320s. Nikon 105mm VR.

 

moalboal philippines

Emperor Shrimp on Spanish Dancer. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at f22 and 1/320s. Nikon 105mm VR.

 

moalboal philippines

moalboal philippines

Photo left: Pair of Whip Gobies. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at f22 and 1/320s. Nikon 105mm VR.
Photo right: Predators of the Reef. Taken with 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1 at ISO200. Manual mode at f11 and 1/320s. Tokina 10-17 Fisheye.

 

 

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A Guide to Mixing Business with (Scuba) Pleasure

Ron Watkins
World Class Wreck, Reef and Muck Diving on a Business Trip

A Road Warrior's Guide to Mixing Business with (Scuba) Pleasure


World Class Wreck, Reef & Muck Diving on a Business Trip

By Ron Watkins

 

 

 
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The Dream

When avid scuba divers and underwater photographers aren’t in the water, they are often dreaming about that next great dive vacation. Maybe it is a place that has been on your bucket list for a long time (like Palau) or the latest hot spot for diving that you keep seeing in amazing photographs (like Papua New Guinea). The dream may be a great land-based dive resort like Wakatobi or that Socorro Islands liveaboard everyone is talking about. No matter how long that list of places you dream about has become, the realities of working for a living and family responsibilities limit your ability to check destinations off that list. Many of us, particularly Americans, work way too hard and only get to go on one or two major dive trips on a good year. Vacation days and budget are usually the two dream-busting constraints that stand between you and your dream dive trips.

But what if you could minimize those two constraints and go on 8-10 dive trips a year? Sound like that "get rich" infomercial scheme that is too good to be true? Well it isn’t and for the last several months, that has been my goal and I have been averaging about 1-2 dive trips per month.  

 

The Reality

My job requires business travel and I have looked at each trip as an opportunity to dive and enjoy my passion of underwater photography. Even if your job doesn’t require frequent travel, there often is the annual convention or user conference that gets you on the road at some point during the year. And what about those family reunions each summer, or the holidays spent at the in-laws? Whatever the reason or destination, look at how you may add a few days at the beginning or end of the trip to squeeze in some diving. Since your company (or you) are already planning the time and money to get there, make the most of it. Below is an example of how I maximized this approach on a recent business trip.

 

The Planning

I had a two-day sales meeting scheduled in Fort Lauderdale, FL and decided I was going to turn it into a dive trip. My company had planned for me to fly out on Monday for the meeting, so I decided I would fly out late Friday afternoon instead, using the long weekend to get in some diving. So with airfare booked and paid by the company I started my dive planning. Fortunately, Florida has ample opportunity so I contacted my long time dive buddy, fellow photographer and Miami resident George Ordenes, to see what he recommended. He first recommended Blue Heron Bridge (BHB) which sounded fantastic since I hadn’t been there in awhile, and then suggested we take a drive down to the keys and dive the Spiegel Grove. Unable to decide on just one site, I decided to try and squeeze them both in. That would allow me to do some world class wreck, reef and muck diving all in one long weekend.

A few days before the trip, I planned out my packing, which included my dive gear, camera equipment, and business dress for the sales meeting. I packed the business attire separately since I wouldn’t be touching it until later in the trip and stuffed my dive bag with minimal dive equipment. I threw in a few t-shirts, shorts, a pair of flip-flops, bathing suits and other bare necessities into my dive bag. I squeezed my DSLR wide-angle setup into a 36 pack AO cooler bag which I could carry on. The macro equipment went in my work backpack with my computer and the remaining miscellaneous items fit in the dive bag. A packing list always helps to make sure nothing critical is left at home. Fortunately for me, I was flying an airline that allowed me two free check-ins, a carry on and a personal item so there was no extra expense for baggage.

 

Dive Trip Packing

Two Checks bags and two carry-ons (Dog not taken on trip).

 

The Execution

After a 5 hour flight I arrived in Fort Lauderdale, rented my car and checked into an inexpensive airport hotel. In the morning I picked up George and we were in Key Largo before noon on Saturday. We checked in with Conch Republic Divers, with whom George had dove with in the past and highly recommended. The plan was for two afternoon dives on the Spiegel Grove as well as two reef dives Sunday morning. We boarded the spacious and well laid out Republic Diver boat with ample room for large cameras and dedicated rinse buckets. 

The USS Spiegal Grove is a 510-foot (almost 2 football fields) landing ship dock and was intentionally sunk in 2002. She rests in 130’ of water, but is reachable at 60 feet and with the majority of her decks resting at between 80’ and 90’. The visibility was about 70’ as we descended the bowline to her hull and entered the wheelhouse to begin our exploration.  We then proceeded to her bow and explored the vast deck, which was full of colorful growth and several barracuda, large jacks and scrawled filefish. On the second dive we explored the stern of the ship and the large horizontal tower structure which was densely covered with sea fans and sponges. On the back deck we found the American flag and a dive flag that was fully extended in the slight current. A 6-7’ Goliath Grouper and large barracuda patrolled the stern as well as several large schools of jacks. This was truly an amazing wreck dive!

View as we race out to the wreck on the Conch Republic Diver boat.

 

speigal grove wreck

George exploring the massive bow of the Speigal Grove (F8, 1/200th).

 

speigal grove wreck

A large cleat encrusted with growth (F8, 1/250th).

 

speigal grove wreck

One of the many large barracuda patrolling the Speigal Grove (F10, 1/250th).

 

barracuda

Large 6’ barracuda with a fishing hook in tow (F9, 1/160th).

 

speigal grove flag

Dive flag flowing in the current on the stern of the Speigal Grove (F9, 1/320th).

 

Sunday morning we woke up early and Captain Gary took us out to a shallow patch reef called Molasses Reef. I decided to shoot macro on the reef but regretted the decision as soon as I backrolled and saw the 100’+ visibility with large schools of snapper and healthy coral. We spent much of the dive exploring the spur and groove channels of the reef in awe of the density of marine life. We saw trumpetfish, parrotfish, filefish, nudibranchs, bearded fireworms, and large schools of yellowtail snapper. On the second dive I found a friendly scrawled filefish that approached quite close and allowed me to take several macro shots of his intricate blue and black patterns. After two long dives at the shallow Molasses Reef, we sped back to Conch Republic Divers where we rinsed our gear dockside then hit the road for Miami, dropping off George and continuing my journey up to West Palm Beach. Read more on tips for fish photography.

 

blue striped grunt

Blue striped grunt portrait (F11, 1/125th).

 

bearded fireworm

Bearded fireworm on a sea fan (F22, 1/250th).

 

sedna nudibranch

Red-tipped sea goddess super macro (F32, 1/250th, with diopter).

 

Tritonia hamnerorum nudibranch

Tritonia hamnerorum sea slug on a sea fan (F29, 1/250th, with diopter).

 

scrawled filefish

Close-up of scrawled filefish eye (F16, 1/100th).

 

My next dive stop was in West Palm Beach at the famous Blue Heron Bridge (BHB) and its shallow muck dive site. I had planned ahead and checked the tide charts because it is best dove around slack tide for better visibility and less current. It's critical to get a parking permit from a ranger or dive shop because it is required to park at Phil Foster Park at night.  I entered the water just before dusk and explored the East side bridge structure area for nearly two hours at a max depth of 22’. The visibility was only about 10’ at best but the diversity of life was amazing. There were multiple octopus, tropical juvenile fish, crabs, shrimp, stingrays and scorpionfish.

 

juvenile bottom dweller

Juvenile bottom dweller (F22, 1/250th).

 

Pair of juvenile fish (F22, 1/320th).

 

hermit crab

Close-up of Hermit Crab eyes (F22, 1/320th).

 

Octopus on the move at night (F16, 1/250th).

 

At 6:00am on Monday the alarm clock woke me from a dead sleep and it was time for one more dive at BHB before I started my workweek. This time I explored the many columns of the larger West side bridge area. The visibility was less than 10 feet again and the current was a little brisk but I still managed a bottom time of 105 minutes. The East side had many of the same critters that I had seen the night before, but I found a large colony of jawfish, one of which was brooding eggs. I also found a couple of shy mantis shrimp and a colorful juvenile wrasse, along with more juvenile tropicals. BHB never disappoints with diversity and is a must dive when in the area.

 

Blue Heron Bridge

The large columns of the West side BHB Bridge.

 

jawfish eggs

Shy Jawfish with eggs (F22, 1/250th).

 

juvenile wrasse

Colorful Juvenile wrasse (F16, 1/250th).

 

octopus in bottle

Octopus in a bottle (F20, 1/250th).

 

The Summary

After my last dive at BHB on Monday morning, I showered, rinsed my gear and then went online to attend a web meeting and focus on my day job. The next day when I arrived at the sales meeting that brought me to Florida in the first place, I was well-rested and ready to focus on business. When asked when I arrived in Florida, I shared with my team the fun filled weekend I had enjoyed. One of my coworkers commented that he has been traveling so much over the past several years, but never takes the time to enjoy the places he travels to for business. I just smiled and said, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!” 

In addition to my Florida adventure business trip, I have also been diving in California three times this year on separate business trips. All of this diving was done without using a day of vacation and minimal expenses while on business trips.

I hope this article has inspired you to look at your next business trip as an opportunity to dive or do something you love. We all need to work towards a better work/life balance.

All of the above images were taken with a Nikon D300, Sea&Sea housing, dual YS-250 strobes, Tokina 10-17mm (at 10mm) or Nikor 105mm.

 

About the Author

Ron Watkins is an international award winning photographer and writer. He has been passionate about underwater photography since 1996 and his photography has appeared in magazines, websites, juried art displays, national aquariums, libraries and private collections. More of Ron’s photography may be viewed at www.scubarews.com and www.allwetportraits.com, which features his unique underwater portraits of children.

 

Further Reading

 


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Malpelo: A Must-Visit for Big Fish Photographers

Mikhail Kisin
Dive a Unique Eastern Pacific Island with Hammerheads, Mantas & Pelagics

Malpelo: A Must-Visit for Big Fish Photographers


Dive a Unique Eastern Pacific Island with Hammerheads, Mantas & Pelagics

Text & Photos by Mikhail Kisin

 

 

 
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Many divers go a long way to the Galapagos to see whale and Galapagos sharks. Many visit Cocos to swim with hammerheads, or Socorro to play with giant mantas and enjoy the immense variety of Pacific fish. The small Colombian island of Malpelo has it all and still remains practically unknown among North American divers.

 

The Region

The Tropical Eastern Pacific is unsurpassed for interactions with big marine life. The west coast of both North & South America is washed by two grand oceanic currents: the California Current from the North and the mirroring Humboldt Current from the South, which makes the west coast a classic upwelling zone. Near the Equator, the collision of two gigantic streams is further mixed with another upwelling produced by the stable, low-pressure system of the Tropical Convergence Zone – the place where the ever-in-zenith sun heats the air, and easterly trade winds of the Northern and Southern hemispheres converge into high-towering clouds and thunderstorms. Strong ocean upwelling feeds a huge pyramid of marine life, and there is no better place on Earth to see the top of that mighty pyramid than the remote volcanic islands of the Tropical Eastern Pacific.

 

Malpelo shark

 

The Island

Malpelo island is unique to other islands in the Eastern Pacific. First of all, it is only eight square kilometers. Barren and nearly vertical cliffs of the island expose the summit of the three-hundred-kilometer-long volcanic ridge rising from the ocean floor at a depth of nearly 3 kilometers. With such a small island size and the entire ocean abyss encircling, the concentration of pelagic life in Malpelo waters is enormous. The spacious Galapagos and Socorro (Rivillagigedo) archipelagos pale in comparison. Even Cocos, solitary but still a larger island, does not have the geological advantage of Malpelo. At Cocos, divers have to visit deep-water pinnacles located well away from the main island to admire schooling hammerheads. At Malpelo, sharks are abundant near the island itself and as a result, hammerheads are often encountered in very shallow waters. The advantage for a photographer is obvious – more chances to run into your model and more bottom time to take advantage of the opportunity.

 

Malpelo island

 

Another advantage for Malpelo divers is provided by the Colombian government, not nature. Access to Malpelo is very limited. As of writing this article, only five liveaboards are permitted to go to the island and only one boat with a max of 16 divers is allowed per day. The presence of small Colombian marine outpost and the very short wide open shoreline of the island help keep away the poachers.

 

The Diving

Unbelievable. Period. The best way to describe Malpelo is not through individual stories about individual dive sites, because Malpelo is one big dive site.  You can encounter many animals pretty much anywhere around the island. We're talking about a genuinely wild place and truly wild animals. No sitings are guaranteed, but the chances of unique encounters are very, very good.

 

bluefin tuna

I wouldn’t recommend Malpelo for novices. The diving isn't too challenging, but if your first trip is Malpelo, you will have serious problems finding your next destination.  Most other places will look dull and boring. That is how I felt after Cocos and how I found Malpelo.

 

yellowfin tuna

You don’t need to be a really advanced diver to dive Malpelo, but nitrox is a must. Eastern Pacific diving without nitrox is just not a good use of hard-earned money. You also need to stay very conservative in Malpelo because the “nearest” decompression chamber does not exist - plain and simple.

 

whale shark

In open ocean diving your safety sausage should be big - about six feet. A smaller one might be obscured by the waves, and once deployed your next stop might be Australia. For Malpelo I prefer long stiff fins like the Cressi Gara - clumsy in the panga but indispensible in currents. Whale sharks do not pose for photos so you'll need to exert a lot of effort swimming next to them. Since there is not much coral around, damaging the reef with long fins is not a huge concern, but divers should still be aware of sealife around them.

 

eel

When diving shallows near the wall, divers shouldn't brace themselves against the rocks. In high swells it is safer (and more fun) to move with the water. The same rule applies when taking photos in the grotto - do not grab the rocks. There are plenty of nasty eels in Malpelo. Free swimming morays are a trademark at Malpelo, and lots of fun to watch.

 

fish

There are many different fish species in Malpelo, but don’t be entirely absorbed by the reef. You can admire Pacific fish in other places on much cheaper dive trips. Look into the blue. The most interesting stuff swims in from the open water. Beware though - if you look for too long to the right, you are surely missing something on the left.

 

shark malpelo

Look for thermocline. Large sharks huddle there. If the shark is below you, never swim towards it as it will dodge deeper. Wait. Sharks circle around and will probably come back towards you. Whale sharks are an exception.

 

hammerhead shark malpelo

Hammerheads fear strobe flash. If one comes toward you, remember that you have a single photo opportunity. Wait patiently for the best photo opportunity. If you don’t have an external strobe the best option is video. If you have a compact camera, get a wide-angle conversion lens.

 

hammerhead sharks malpelo

The cleaning station is the place to be when a school of hammerheads is nearby. Approaching the school will get you deeper and you will lose time and light. The school is best watched from the side, and at the cleaning station large singles will often swim within hand distance. Patience is key in order to get close to the sharks.

 

whaleshark in malpelo

Fish are your key to finding cleaning stations. Besides the regular barber-fish, there are two other cleaners in Malpelo, Clarion angel fish and juvenile rainbow wrasse. Get to know them. Black jacks often accompany whale sharks and seem to be hitting the shark sidewise, which is another form of cleaning.

 

manta in malpelo

Big mantas here are not as abundant as in Socorro but they do show up. Watch for rocky outcrops in the current, since these create an upward water flow. Mantas are heavy and love those upward currents.

 

malpelo pelagic fish

A common misconception is that bubbles scare away pelagic fish, but actually it's the direction of your movement that causes fish to flee. If there is large pelagic nearby, ascend slowly, moving away from the fish and it will come closer. This trick works as long as you avoid the eye contact.

If the current is manageable, ask the DM to end the dive by ascending in open water. There might be interesting encounters with pelagics away from the island. If you end the dive near the wall, pay attention to the foamy surge and you might be surprised with what you see.

 

Photo Tips

I have only one comment on photography in Malpelo: forget about macro. Be prepared for big stuff, non-stop action and fast-changing conditions. All pictures in this article have been taken with a compact camera, fixed 1/125s exposure and God's help. Even with simple settings I was able to capture only a meager fraction of what I saw. That said, the beauty of the animal encounters at Malpelo stays with you regardless of photo documentation.

If at this point you are still reading this article, you should indeed consider visiting Malpelo. And if you have not safely stopped yourself, well, you are facing two major questions – how to get there and when to go.

 

The Boat

Due to limited access to the island, your options are few. First of all, no operators targeting North America go to Malpelo, and I believe this is the main reason for the lack of promotional information in the US. Secondly, out of five liveaboards operating at Malpelo, three come from Colombia. Unless you want to make your trip a true adventure, you would be better off staying with either of two German-owned Panamanian vessels: Yemaya or Inula. Both operators advertise primarily in Europe. Even in Russia, believe it or not, we have a web domain malpelo.ru. Check it out. At least out of curiosity... unless you read Russian.

Out of two vessels, Yemaya is the boat of my choice. I'm sure Inula (a catamaran) is no less respectable and is a reliable operator, but MV Yemaya is just much larger and more comfortable, with a great upper deck to hang out on after the dives. Yemaya will pick you up directly from Panama City, while you would need another local flight to David when diving with Inula.

The Yemaya is run by Coiba Dive Expeditions.  Coiba Island, by the way, is yet another perk and will be your first dive stop on the way to Malpelo. Truly, I’ve never had so much fun as I did diving Coiba, but that island needs its own article!

Yet another valuable bonus with Coiba Dive Expeditions (which isn't promoted on their website) is that they pair up with an equally excellent tour operator who will gladly fill your arrival and departure days with Panama Canal or Old City tours. Both places are a real treasure-chest for photographers.

 

malpelo

 

The Weather

In short:  The winter is a sunny and windy dry season while summer is calm and rainy.  Summer is generally considered the high season but there is no guarantee in the Eastern Pacific. Thermocline and visibility can change fast and dramatically. Even in high season you are better off with your luck than with the weather forecast.

In detail:  This might be a little tricky. Remember the Tropical Convergence Zone from the intro? The hot humid air rising from the ocean near Columbia will move to the north, drying and cooling down, and will finally descend on Southern California bringing us blue skies. Thank you, Panama. The same air mass will then head back to Panama in the form of Trade Winds, thus closing the circle. To understand the Panamanian seasons, imagine that during the winter time the Tropical Convergence Zone with its ever-in-zenith sun would naturally move south (remember, we are still in the Northern hemisphere) leaving the Panama and Colombia region exposed to dry Northern Trade winds. Drop in the collision of two main ocean currents and two types of upwelling and the result is relatively unpredicatable dive conditions.

In conclusion, to answer the “when should I go” question I would say go as soon as you can afford it. Unlike Galapagos and Cocos, Malpelo is still well off the beaten path. How long will it stay that way? Will you see it before it changes?

 

malpelo

 

A Last Word of Advice

Beware: Malpelo is addictive. On my last trip to Socorro I met a guy who patted me on my CoibaDiveExpedition t-shirt and nodded:

 – "Malpelo?"

 – I replied, "Yes, ever been?"

 – "Fifteen times."

He was Colombian.

 

About the Author

Mikhail Kisin is Russian physicist struggling to match his tightfisted vacation time to generous travel opportunities of the New World. He writes for two Russian dive magazines. If your liveaboard is booked by Russians, blame him.

 

 

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
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Photographing the Wrecks of the St. Lawrence River (pg 2)

Photographing the Wrecks of the St. Lawrence River & Eastern Lake Ontario

By Jo-Ann Wilkins

 

Page 2

 

Many wrecks, mostly wooden boats or schooners, date back to the 1800s.  One of the most popular is the wreck of the Lillie Parsons in Brockville.  Turned upside-down on the side of a cliff with her belly still filled with coal and her enormous masts pointing downward, she is a pretty wreck to visit.  Other wooden wrecks worth diving are the schooner A. E. Vickery, the wooden barque Robert Gaskin and the schooner-barge Kingshorn. There are also steel ships such as the very popular wreck of the Keystorm, which sank in 1912, and the Henry C. Daryaw, lying upside-down on the riverbed.  Other steel ships worth diving are the Oconto (although this is a technical wreck), the drill barge America, the highly damaged barge John B. King and the Muscallonge (a very damaged wreck but worth diving mostly for the impressive amount of fish on her).  Noteworthy wrecks in the Eastern Lake Ontario area are the Wolf Islander II, the beautiful Comet with its sidewheels still relatively intact, the dredge barge Munson and the three mast schooner George A. Marsh.

 

st lawrence river scuba diving

The schooner A. E. Vickery. This wreck has strong surface current but once on the wreck, divers are shielded from the current. St-Lawrence River. F 9, 1/50, ISO 800. Nikon D300 Tokina 10-17mm.

 

st lawrence river scuba diving

Experienced divers can explore the hold of the  A.E. Vickery. St-Lawrence River. F 4.5, 1/60, ISO 800. Nikon D300 Tokina 10-17mm.

 

st lawrence river scuba diving

The schooner-barge Kingshorn with its unique ship’s wheel. F 6.3, 1/100, ISO 400. Nikon D300 Tokina 10-17mm.

 

There are also more recent wrecks that lie in these waters.  The most popular is without any question the Roy A. Jodrey, which sank just off the coast guard station on the south shoreline of Wellesley Island in 1974.  This large freighter (640’ x 72’ x 40’) now lies in 140 to 242 feet of water and is open to only technical divers.  Another recent wreck is the Eastcliffe Hall, a 343-feet bulk freight motor vessel that sank in the Morrisburg area in 1970.

 

st lawrence river scuba diving

The upside down steel freighter Henry C. Daryaw. There are plenty of photographic opportunities on this wreck. St-Lawrence River. F 7.1, 1/100, ISO 400, Nikon D300 Tokina 10-17mm.

 

st lawrence river scuba diving

The damaged bow section of the work barge Robert Gaskin.  This ship was relatively intact until a few years ago.  High diver traffic on this shallow wreck has damaged the fragile 1863 hull.  St-Lawrence River. F 5.6, 1/30, ISO 500, Nikon D300 Tokina 10-17mm.

 

st lawrence river scuba diving

Exploring one of the many submerged locks of the old canal. Most locks are accessible from shore and are popular local diving destinations. St-Lawrence River. F 9, 1/80, ISO 640, Nikon D300 Tokina 10-17mm.

 

Closer to the Massena area (Cornwall Ontario), divers can explore many structures that were submerged by the construction of our modern seaway in the 1950s.  Whole villages were lost when dams and locks were erected in the area and caused massive flooding.  Most homes, churches and other constructions were either displaced or demolished prior to the flood but many structures still remain.  For instance, we can still dive on the former lock system of the old canal.  Locks 21, 23 and 28 are easily accessible and are very popular dive sites.  Another noteworthy site is the ancient Mille Roches Power House.  Her roof and walls were removed in preparation for the St-Lawrence Seaway flooding, but her water turbines, wheel chamber and exciter reservoirs are still intact.  Submerged structures such as swing bridges, paved roads, water pipes and building foundations are common in this area rich in history.

 

Underwater Photography in the River

Most of the wrecks in the St-Lawrence river have one thing in common: current.  The river is relatively narrow and current is present on every dive site, although it can range from unimportant in some areas and quite strong in others.  Generally, divers can expect a current anywhere from 0.5 knots to 3 or 4 knots.  But don’t let that scare you away!  The current is mostly felt at the surface and on ascents and descents.  On the bottom, it is often negligible and is easily managed.  It is important to attach your camera gear securely on you with one and preferably two clips so you can let go of the gear if the current gets too strong on descents and ascents.  I personally always carry my neoprene dome port cover underwater just in case I need to protect my dome if both hands are needed for descent or ascents. Photographers want to try to shield themselves as much as they can from the current and staying close to the bottom helps.  There is very little to no current in the Eastern Lake Ontario area.

 

st lawrence river scuba divingst lawrence river scuba diving

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo left: Boiler inside the old abandoned steel ferry Wee Hawk. This wreck sits in very shallow water and is interesting to photograph.  Visibility can be stirred up pretty rapidly inside the wreck.  Divers have reported seeing beavers inside the wreck! F 8, 1/250, ISO 400, Nikon D300 Tokina 10-17mm.

Photo right:  One of the most popular wrecks amongst local divers, the Conestoga.  It lies in shallow water close to shore.  It offers many photographic opportunities, with its enormous upright engine sticking out of the water.  F 11, 1/50, ISO 400, Nikon D300 Tokina 10-17mm.

 

The sediments on the riverbed are easily disturbed and a careless diver can whip up a ‘silt storm’ pretty rapidly, so photographers must be very careful in these conditions.  That said, the advantage of the strong current is that it moves the silt and restores visibility fairly quickly.  However, if a silt-out occurs inside a wreck where there is little current, the silt can remain in suspension for hours.  When we get to a dive site, I’m always the first one in the water, ready to go as soon as the boat anchors.  This allows me to photograph the main attractions of the wreck before fellow divers, even if they are really careful, mess up the visibility.  General visibility varies a lot in the river.  Late summer, fall and winter offer the best visibility, while early spring offers poor visibility and is not really good for photography.

Mastering strobe positioning to light your subject is of utmost importance.  Since there is a lot of sediment in suspension, you really need to spread your strobe arms as far out as possible and to point them outwards a little.  You definitely want as little light as possible to hit the particles between your lens and your subject.  If you have extra strobe arm extensions, this is the place to use them.  From many years of doing photography in the river, I find that using your strobes at half power rather than at full power gives better results (less backscatter and less of a bluish-white spotlight effect on the sides of your image, especially on deeper darker dives).  You need to get as close as possible to your subject to get good results.  Of course, this is general underwater knowledge but I would say that in the river, it is even more relevant.

Using a diver in your pictures helps to provide perspective on the size of the wrecks.  However, be sure that you coach your model before the dive.  Ask him to remain away from the easily disturbed bottom.

Shooting upwards to capture surface light is a must.  Ambient light vanishes rapidly as you descend and pointing your camera upwards will bring natural light into your picture.  The water has a glowing green color to it and it is interesting to incorporate it into your image.  You will find that you will have to work at higher ISOs and slower shutter speeds to capture the ambient light in these conditions.

Photographers will find that wide-angle photography is usually the best choice because of all the beautiful large wrecks.  Points of interest on most of the wrecks in the river are the props, the anchors, wheel, windlass, bow and stern.  On the wrecks of eastern Lake Ontario, you can still find beautifully preserved wooden deadeyes, tools and artifacts.  Some wrecks even have intact canned goods on deck.  Besides the wrecks, there are plenty of other interesting things to photograph, such as a large variety of fish, lily pads, tree roots, etc.  Sure, the fish are not as colorful and plentiful as you would find in tropical destinations, but they still make interesting subjects.  Furthermore, photographers shouldn’t leave their macro ports at home!  There are plenty of zebra mussels, freshwater sponges and other smaller organisms to photograph too.

Even though most underwater photographers will naturally travel to tropical destinations, Eastern Lake Ontario and the St-Lawrence River, with their rich maritime history, warm water in the summer and an abundance of photographic subjects, are definitely destinations worth discovering.

Divers who would like to learn more on the wrecks of the St-Lawrence River and the Great Lakes should read The Great Lakes Diving Guide Enlarged Second Edition by Cris Kohl (2008).  This well documented reference guide is a must read for anyone interested in discovering the area.

 

st lawrence river scuba diving

Mooring line on one of the many wrecks. F 9, 1/250, ISO 200, Nikon D300 Tokina 10-17mm.

 

st lawrence river scuba diving

Shallow dive from shore. St-Lawrence River. Rockport area. F 10, 1/250, ISO 400, Nikon D300 Tokina 10-17mm.

 

st lawrence river scuba diving

Lily pads are common in the St-Lawrence River. F 11, 1/250, ISO 400, Nikon D300 Tokina 10-17mm.

 

Back to Page 1

 

 

About the Author

 

Jo-Ann Wilkins is a Canadian underwater photographer based in Montreal.   Passionate about cold water diving, she photographs the historical shipwrecks of the Canadian Great Lakes and the St-Lawrence River and documents the diverse marine life found in these waters.  Jo-Ann also specializes in underwater portraits.  Jo-Ann’s work has been featured in Canadian and American publications and has been recognized in international photography competitions.  Jo-Ann is also a contributing photographer for the photo agency In Transit Images and her work is featured in the innovative and unique underwater exposition Aquart.  She is an underwater scuba diving and photography instructor and runs a commercial dive charter operation on the St-Lawrence River with her husband.

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
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