Magic in the Midriff Islands.

Last summer I lead a trip for Bluewater to the Sea of Cortez. An incredible week aboard the Rocio del Mar liveaboard diving these unique and incredible waters. Here’s my trip report from this fantastic trip (adapted from what I wrote up for Bluewater’s website).

Welcome to the Sea of Cortez. Dubbed by Jacques Cousteau as the “World’s Aquarium” this living sea definitely lives up to the name. Abundant life swimming through warm waters provides a unique diving experience where temperate and tropical worlds collide. From the tiniest skeleton shrimp to the giant whale shark, the Sea of Cortez offers a variety of marine encounters and incredible diving.

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The Stressful Short Life of the Pelagic Tuna Crab

The past few months the waters around the Channel Islands have been inundated with tiny little pelagic tuna crabs. These poor sea creatures are about 3 inches long, bright red and seem to live life within three feet of the surface. They float around just below the water’s surface, constantly working to evade death from above and death from below.

I got to see these little creatures on a dive last November, and felt so sorry for their stressful little lives. As they sink towards the bottom I watched fish flash up and and devour them. To escape that horror the little crabs would swish away towards the surface, where they’d get dive bombed by the circling sea gulls. There was no rest, there was no safety.

So here’s to the little pelagic tuna crab. May your short life be free from terrors above and below. May you ride the currents of the sea until that time when you become lunch.

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Interlude.

You know how sometimes life changes, bringing a halt to things you enjoy? Well, that’s pretty much what happened here. At the beginning of 2012 I started to work with Bluewater Photo, and I struggled to stay on top of my writing. I lapsed, came back Spring of 2013 and held on for about 8 months. Then I lapsed again. Its been more than 2 years now since I’ve typed for myself, as opposed to the reviews, blog posts, product pages and more I’ve been creating for Bluewater. I miss it, and I miss being able to share the stories that belong with my photos.

So now I’m back… (from outer space) and I have stories to share. I hope to spend the next few weeks… months… catching up on the many great adventures under the water (and a few topside) from the past two years. There’s at least a few folks still checking these pages, or happening across by accident, so I hope Dear Readers that I can capture you for a few moments each week and continue to delight and inspire through my words and my images. If this sounds enticing, then please come back soon, this interlude has ended.

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Award Winning!

I submitted my eight photos to the SoCal Shootout after the amazing weekend full of diving in the middle of September. To recap, i spent three solid days diving off the Los Angeles coast with probably the best conditions I have ever seen. It was amazing. I realize I am WAY behind in updating you all on my dive adventures, but instead of starting back at the beginning and moving forward through time, I’m going to jump ahead to the results of the contest. They were announced last week and much to my surprise and excitement I got third place in two different categories! Shooting on my new OM-D, a mirrorless camera I had to compete in the “Open” categories with all the big gun dSLR folks, so placing at all made me really happy. The first was a third place in the Wide Angle category with my photo of a female sheephead on one of the oil rigs off the coast of long beach. If you read my previous post, you can see just what amazing visibility we experienced that day. It was incredible.

The second picture that I placed with was in the Portrait category. I was swimming back to the boat after one of the dives off Santa Barbara Island when this huge lobster came cruising up from below. My guess, it was startled from a hidey hole by someone or something, and we crossed paths at just a perfect time. He shot past me into a growth of kelp and disappeared. Intrigued, I followed and found him clinging to a strand of kelp, upside down, just hanging there. The colors and the way he clung to the  strands of kelp. I really liked it because the lobster stands out, since you never find lobster in the kelp, and the blues of the water, greens of the kelp and reds in the lobster create a bold palette. Apparently the judges liked it too!

I came away from that weekend of diving with many good images, but these two were definitely my favorites, which furthered my excitement that they were chosen as winners. I’m working to get the rest of the pictures from that weekend up and shared with everyone, followed by a day of diving at Casino Point with a couple of the nice macro lenses for the micro four-thirds cameras and my latest adventure, another night dive (2) on the wreck of the Palawan… deep in the Redondo Bay. Too much diving and too little time to sit in front of a computer!

Up from the Deep.

I went out blue water diving with some friends a couple weekends ago and while we were shunned by any of the big stuff… no molas or other large pelagic life, we did see lots and lots of jellies. Small and transparent most of these would be hard to photograph on a normal dive. Since this was a blue water dive we were tethered to a line dropped off the boat and just floating along with the current. Drifting as such means that I only get about 30 seconds to compose, focus and shoot any passing jelly before the float past and out of my reach. This makes the dive more exciting as I tried to get a good shot, or even just a shot in focus. This was my second time out, and I was a bit more successful.

It’s Electric.

Hopefully you’re all now humming the Electric slide, as that’s what I first think of when I hear “it’s electric.” However, today I’m not talking about an old dance move. I’m talking about the Pacific Electric Ray (or Torpedo Ray). Last month out at Santa Barbara Island we hit a deep reef before going to play with the sand dollars. I had my wide angle lens on and was greatly rewarded with an awesome ray sighting. While I was practicing wide angle and admiring the rare purple hydro-coral, Scott pulled Shane and I over to where he had come across the ray which was slowly moving along the wall as it scanned for prey. I had seen pictures of these rays before but never actually spotted one while diving, so I was extremely excited. It swam along seeming casual, but in reality was using its electric field to scan for possible prey. I’m sure it was annoyed by us crowding around it and shooting pictures, but oh well.. it was only for a few minutes. Scott posed for me as I tried to compose some shots. Here’s the results:

Strobe for Sale…it’s TRUE!

That’s right folks, now is your chance to own a piece of history… Kelli’s strobe! Ha, as if I were that popular. But seriously, I am in fact selling my gently used Inon Z240 Type 4 strobe. This strobe was great, awesome, powerful and easy to use, the only reason I’m upgrading is I’m using the new Sea & Sea strobe with my job at Bluewater, and I hate to see my poor little Inon Strobe wasting away in storage. This baby wants to go diving!

Here’s the details:

Gently used Inon.. if you love reading my blog (and c’mon who doesn’t?!) you’d know I purchased it Feb 2011, so its practically still new! I was mostly teaching last year, so its only been used on a handful of trips and still looks great. It has a few cosmetic tiny scratches on the outside casing from use.

Brand new the strobe is $800.

To make things even better I’m including all the accessories, spare o-rings, grease AND the Inon fiber optic cable ($80), Ultralight Control Systems Inon adapter ($25) and a fantastic large red knob ($25) that makes it easy to adjust the strobe underwater.

Total for the package would be: $930

I’m asking a measly $700. That’s basically like getting $100 off and all the accessories for FREE!

If you’re interested please just leave a comment, or shoot me an email: kelnkelp@gmail.com

Now for Pictures:

dSLR Adventures…

Back in April.. yes I know, that’s how far behind I am. So. Back in April, my boss let me borrow his Nikon D7000 camera with Sea & Sea housing and dual YS-110a strobes for a day of diving on the wreck of the Olympic barge (San Pedro, just outside the harbor) and the Oil Rigs. This was my first time using a dSLR underwater and I was a bit nervous. The rig is huge compared even to my Olympus EPL1, which I feel is on the big side, but he has it set up so perfectly that once in the water its nice and neutral. I was impressed by the ease that I was able to use it, and especially with the speed at which it can focus and take pictures, that is definitely something you can’t beat with any smaller type of camera. However… for the first time using a dSLR AND using two strobes, I would not have picked two advanced, deep dive sites. I didn’t feel like I was able to really just relax and mess around with the camera, the Olympic sits at about 110ft and the rigs extend as deep as you’d like to go.

He set me up with the Tokina 10-17 fisheye to practice wide angle, so there was another new thing added to the mix. I definitely had trouble keeping the strobes positioned far enough away and many of my pictures ended up with glare/ backscatter on the sides from the strobes. I also discovered upon importing my photos to my computer that just about every one of them was not really in focus. The dark, deep dives and the change from looking at an LCD to peering through a small viewfinder for the first time took its toll.

Despite having some technical difficulties, the first dive was fantastic. The Olympic sits just outside the San Pedro Harbor in an area that is not known for good visibility. We descended not expecting much, but were surpised with nearly 40ft viz on the wreck. It was fantastic, and the Olympic is a large barge with some great columns still intact, overall a very cool dive site. After that we motored over to the oil rigs, the highlight of the trip, only to find a ripping current (which by the way is not fun with a large camera rig!), and tons of stuff in the water mucking up with visibility. It was a pretty unanimous vote after that dive to head back and do a second dive off the wreck. The viz was not a good as dive #1, but still much better than the rigs, and no current. Overall I really liked using the dSLR, but would want my next attempt to be on a peaceful, easy, shallow dive.

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Published?! I say YES.

While I’ve been blabbing away here online, for the last two years, there is no one but myself to really look over or decide if my ramblings are worthwhile or just more mindless internet blabber. Not anymore! I have my first article up on another website. Its a short review of my test day with the new Olympus E-PM1 as I posted about back in March. I was able to test this camera and the Panasonic 8mm fisheye lens through Bluewater Photo, when we went out to Anacapa Island.

I was asked to write a short article about using the camera and the lens underwater and share some of my photographs for the Underwater Photography Guide, which I did, and they just published it. It feels pretty cool to have my writing up on a “real” website… and the gal that posts the articles referred to me as a “Photographer” which makes me feel distinguished…even though I’m not really.

If you want to check it out, go here: http://www.uwphotographyguide.com/olympus-e-pm1-underwater-review

Poke around some, the UWPG is a great website with tons of valuable information for underwater photographers!

The Big News!

Remember my last post… I mentioned that I was back… no? Really?…oh yeah, that’s because it was a month ago. Like dangling the little toy in front of a kid and pulling it away again. (Since I know so many people are out there just wishing I’d post… right? Right? Anyone… Bueller?) ;o)

Seriously though, its been a crazy month. Why you ask? Well, because after four long, but good years at Run & Gun Production Services I have found a new job!! Even more exciting, its in the scuba industry! Two weeks ago I started working with Scott at Bluewater Photo Store. So far I’m loving it! Its a great change, and will be offering me new challenges and adventures in the future. Apart from helping out with the store, I’m in the process of setting up some cool events, and building upon the foundation that he has set up over the last year. It’s keeping me busy as I learn all about his business and start upon the path to organizing things I’ve never really done before. I like the challenge though and am hoping that I’ll succeed and we’ll create a good strong photographic base in Southern California!

If you want to keep up with all the news and fun things we’ll have going on this year head over to Facebook and “Like” our page: http://www.facebook.com/BluewaterPhoto