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!!
At the end of the third dive as I was headed back to the boat I saw something dart through the kelp ahead of me. Rounding a corner of one of the rock channels I saw a harbor seal laying in the sand. He looked up, saw me and darted away before I could get a picture. Excited because I haven’t seen a harbor seal under the water while diving as of yet, I continued on to the boat. As I neared the anchor chain, macro lens put away and camera set as wide as possible, just in case, I came across him again! He was slithering along the bottom, nose in the sand looking for something to dig up and eat I expect. Either not hearing me or just ignoring my presence he continued along before darting away again after a few minutes.
Surprisingly, he kept coming back! As one point he swam over and settled into the sand right in front of me, watching me fumble with my camera, hoping to get it into position and snap a decent shot. He never settled quite long enough for me to take a couple shots, so it was either you got it or you don’t type of situation. I was excited about this shot, though in order to have the background exposed properly I had the shutter speed set too slow to capture the seal crisply. The strobe froze him in place, but the longer shutter speed allowed him to blur after the strobe had fired. Next time, I ought to open up the aperture so that I can stop down the shutter speed in hopes of still having a well exposed background and a nice crisp critter!
One last try, before needing to give up and head back to the boat, but I guess I got too close (seriously was worried as I inched nearer and nearer that he might try to bite my camera or myself, but he just sat there watching me) and my flash was a little over powerful, he even had to squint!
Overall I found it incredible how inquisitive this guy was, and how huge! The seals always seem smaller compared to the sea lions, and they are a little bit, but they are still pretty huge! I got to sit and watch this guy cruise around the kelp and dig in the sand. I watched him chase a fish nearly catching it. It was incredible. Just wish the viz had been a little clearer, and the surge a little less so that there would be less sand and particles floating around in the water!