Cruising Catalina.

Its always nice to escape with friends on a relaxing dive. Jessica and I hopped on a last minute boat out to Catalina for a couple of advanced dives, hitting some new sites I hadn’t had a chance to dive before. We started at Blue Caverns, though sadly were not pointed in the right direction and did not find the awesome large cavern. After that we spent a long dive at Bird Rock, one of my favorites with varied terrain. Lush kelp, a large wall drop off and shallow rocky reefs surround this low lying bird crap encrusted island. Lastly we dove Sea Fan Grotto with the small room with sea fans descending from ceiling. I enjoyed a really nice day of diving, and despite not really devoting the dives to photography came away with a few shots that I liked.

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Valiant Voyage.

In February I revisited a wreck I had dove once before, and discovered just how much some added valiant2experience can change a dive adventure. The first time I hit this wreck was with a friend in 2010, visibility was limited and neither of us felt extremely comfortable wandering far through the site. We happened upon part of the wreck, but did not realize it extended deeper down into the depths and was as large as it actually was. Three years later, with much more diving experience under my belt I found myself at the wreck of the Valiant again and experienced an entirely different wreck. A long sprawling body with a huge sweeping hull, the Valiant was a 162′ yacht which sank due to fire just off Catalina outside Avalon Harbor.

Visibility on this second dive was a bit better allowing us to see more of the wreck, and after realizing just how much we had missed the first go round, I’d love to get back over there and dive it again!

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Stellar Visibility.

I have dived the Oil Rigs off the coast of Long Beach several times now. In fact it is one of my favorite dives. The three dimensional structure differs from any reef or kelp forest. Its a mix of a bluewater dive and wreck dive. There is no floor (at least not one that you can see within the recreational limits), and you can find all sorts of pelagic life that floats or swims through the rigs. The beams themselves are covered with soft corals, anenomes and a variety of macro life. Fish and Sea Lions call the rigs home, so there is never a shortage of awesome things to see.

Last weekend I dove the rigs again, and experienced probably the best rig dives I’ve ever had. The visibility was amazing, more than 60ft… could even have been up to 80ft. I saw one Mola Mola swim by outside the rigs, and near the surface we were completely surrounded by a giant school of small fish. Often the rigs are cleaned near the surface, sometimes all the way down to 50ft, but this was not the case here. The growth on the upper beams was less, but there was still growth. The weather was warm, the sun came out, and when one of my strobes died on the second dive I decided to take some video. With only 1 light, the color is not the best, but the OM-D takes great quality video and I was very pleased with how this turned out. Enjoy the glimpse of my latest great diving adventure!

Victorious on the Vandenberg.

Let me rewind a little before I jump into the next part of my recent Florida vacation. Last December I visited Key West for the first time, and we were supposed to dive the Vandenberg, but the dive was cancelled due to strong winds and high seas (does anyone else see a pattern here?). After returning with similar weather, I was so bummed when it looked like the dive was going to be scrapped…again. Waking up Wednesday morning knowing, that despite the rough seas, we were headed out to finally dive the Vandenberg!

The boat ride out was rough, no doubt about it. As I am prone to sea sickness I prepared, but even that wasn’t enough. I made it just about to the dive site, before having to lean over the side and dry heave. *sigh*

But we were there! Time to dive the Vandenberg. The boat tied off to the mooring buoy, dropped a line at about 15′ off the stern of the boat so that we could giant stride off the side of the boat and descend from the stern, traveling to the mooring under the water, vs battling the big waves and strong current. Seriously, this was the best idea ever. It made the descent and ascent so much easier.

Once off the boat (and feeling much better underwater, as usual). We descended into the rich blue water as the shipwreck slowly materialized below us. The current was ripping, but once we hit the wreck, we could hide in the lee of the current, blocked by the massive size of the Vandenberg. Unfortunately due to the turbulent water the viz was not as awesome as we had hoped, but still good, in the 30-40ft range. I had a blast with the 8mm fisheye lens on the wreck and my good buddy Kendra often made a perfect model. Sadly there were not as many fish on the wreck as I had hoped, we saw several large barracuda and a small school of another fish I didn’t know, but that was about it. Possibly the weather and current played a roll in the scarcity of life on the wreck.

While it was easy to jump off the ship, getting back on after each dive was “interesting”. It was a game of quickly move forward and hand the DM my camera, back off onto the down-line and remove fins. Shove arms through fin straps and move forward on the line to the ladder. Wait for a lull in the waves and grab ladder, then hang on for dear life as it bucked beneath you like a mechanical bull at a bad country bar. While fighting the ladder, attempt to hook feet into the first rung, also… becareful of the even larger rogue wave that causes you to face plant into the ladder. Once you get your feet in, scurry up as quickly as possible, sit down on the bench, remove gear. Breathe. Needless to say, we had a few bruises on the legs after this day.

Enjoy the photos! Next up… the meat of our vacation: The ATOCHA!

Midnight again.

Last weekend I went back out on the Sand Dollar to the wreck of the Midnight Hour again. Jumping into the water we discovered there was a fairly good current ripping along the island. Unforunately one of group fell prey to this getting pulled away from the descent line into the deep green sea. (He was fine, just surfaced away from the boat, got a lift back from the little whaler and missed the nice wreck dive).

Once I descended to the sand at about 110ft the wreck swam into view. The visibility was pretty good and at depth the current had disappeared. The overall growth had not changed much, but you could tell people have still been cleaning the wreck. All of the netting around the bow of the ship was gone as was the piles and piles of dead squid that had been tangled inside. It was neat to see the wreck again, as its not a large ship, originally it was a squid fishing boat, you can easily swim around the whole wreck on the dive. This time I spent more time at the bow, and this time I had a wide angle lens. Unfortunately this time one of my strobes would not work…due to me putting in one battery upside down. (Remember always test your camera before getting in the water!)

Since it was pretty dark down there, and the single strobe wasn’t working well with the wide angle lens, I tried to do a couple longer shutter / no strobe shots which overall came out pretty well. Being so deep, it was a short dive, but a good one and a good start to what was a nice day of diving.

 

PEACEful Day.

On Saturday I had my first trip with Bluewater Photo. We went out on the Peace dive boat to Anacapa Island, for four fantastic dives. Once again, in what is starting to be a really nice trend, we had summer like weather. It was sunny and warm and the visibility was upwards of 50 feet on average! To top it off I was testing out a new camera, the Olympus E-PM1, the latest in their line of mirrorless cameras. In addition I was using the Panasonic 8mm fisheye lens with Precision dome port. This was my first time getting to actually shoot wide angle, and let me just say… I LOVE this fisheye lens! I was still using a single strobe, and that made it difficult at times; I can definitely see how two strobes are basically necessary for such wide angle shots. Half the time I had a nicely exposed foreground and background, but black in the middle… or only half of my image would be properly exposed leaving the rest very dark. It was hard to work around, but really got me to appreciate the importance of strobe placement! In addition to practicing some lovely reef shots I also practiced with silhouettes and got a great shot of a harbor seal! We dove with sea lions at one of the rookeries, hit up Landing Cove where I found the awesome swim through, stopped at Rat Rock, with a floor covered in brittle stars and lastly dove Channels where a friendly family of harbor seals hangs out. I had a great day mingling with the new group of divers on the Bluewater charter and can’t wait for the next one! Here is hoping this warm weather, calm seas and awesome viz trend sticks around for awhile!!