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!

Back to the Rigs.

At the beginning of February I went back out to dive the rigs on the Sundiver Express through LA Dive and Ride. The trip was a blast and we encountered midsummer-like calm weather. The ocean was flat as a pancake, the sun was shining and the water was very clear! To top off the great day of diving, we were visited by a school of young Mola Mola on the first dive. I counted up to 10 at one point, and while somewhat skitterish, they hung around just off the rigs for the entire dive. One the second dive, the sea lions were as curious as ever, cruising down to the divers and zooming around as we waited during our safety stop. All in all, a great day of diving!

Pea Soup.

Saturday morning, I excitedly drove down to Long Beach to board the Sundiver Express bound for the oil rigs, one of my favorite places to dive in Southern California. As I’ve mentioned previously (here) the rigs are unique because of their three dimensionality. There’s no bottom, and the entire structure is covered with life, so you can dive along, across, up, down and around each beam and support. I’ve been on two trips previously, both of which were fantastic with great visibility, and calm seas. As we motored out to the rigs, the day appeared to be just like before, the sun was shining and the sea was flat as a pancake. Unfortunately, once we’d plunged off the boat and into the water, we discovered that the ocean was not going to be as clear as the cloudless sky. There was a ton of crap floating along, mucking up the visibility and choking out all the light at depth. Unfortunate, but not the end of the world.

This was my first real chance to use my new strobe that I had recently purchased, so regardless of the viz, I was eager to test it out. Overall the strobe worked beautifully…it fired properly, and I found that by loosening my clamps a bit I could easily move and reposition the strobe as needed. The auto focus on the camera can still be finicky, especially in the low light we had at depth, and when using the close up lens I discovered that there is a pretty small window of focus available which can make it trickier to get the focus locked. However I feel that with time, I’ll get better at it. Despite having some focus trouble in the beginning I really do love the new close up lens, the shorter depth of field really helps your subject pop out in the picture, and the ability to get a more true macro is fantastic.

The upper 50′ of the Eureka rig had been stripped last August when I last dove the oil rigs, but slowly life is starting to come back. One little critter than has come back and is thriving are the Hermissenda crassicornis, a beautiful and easily identifiable opalescent nudibranch with brown and orange cerata covering its back. Its got two oral tentacles that extend like probes off the front, and of course the two rhinophores that stick up like rabbit ears on the top of its head. Between the two rhinophores is a bright orange stripe that runs the length of its body bordered by an electric blue stripe on either side. These guys were everywhere, which made exploring the stripped section of the oil rig rather exciting. I also came across two other nudi’s; a San Diego Dorid (who had his head stuck into some coral making him impossible to photograph well, and a couple Triopha maculate, though none of my shots came out in focus.

The second dive, while still fairly poor visibility, was really a trip. There were a group of sea lions lounging on the rig near where the boat dropped us off, and apparently our group was very exciting. Throughout the entire dive we had several sea lions diving down and around us before darting back up to the surface. It was fantastic and aggravating at the same time. They were great to see, and fun to watch, but trying to get a picture of one is darn near impossible because of the speed. Half the time they were gone before I even had a chance to move the camera, and more often my camera would not focus in time. I did manage (mostly luck I’m sure) to snap one shot in focus as a sea lion zoomed towards me.

His large, comical eyes are nicely in focus and he’s staring right at the camera. Add in a bit of a current wanting to pull us all off the rig structure and out into the sea made for a bit of a struggle when trying to keep the camera steady and pull of some macro shots.

Despite the poor viz, as always diving the oil rigs was a blast, and I thoroughly enjoyed practicing with my new set up. I’m really looking forward to more chances to hone my skills and start to really improve my photography skills now that I have the gear that will allow me to do so! Here’s to many more posts with better and better photography as the year progresses!

Mystery Solved.

I’m sure its been bugging all my, what 2? 3? constant readers just like its been bothering me. In August, on our fantastic Oil Rig dive my group of divers happened upon a mysterious and see thru creature I had never seen before.

I attempted the usual google searches, but not really knowing how to classify, or even describe the creature in ways that a search engine would be able to key into the specific animal, I didn’t find the answer. Friends on Facebook did not know, and I gave up, and let it slip from my mind.

Then just the other day while perusing through some images for the website I’m slowly working on, I came across it again and a new idea struck. Scubaboard.com! They must have a creature ID forum, if not perhaps posting in the main forum would illicit an answer. Lo and Behold, they do have a whole sub-forum just for helping people identify those mysterious and beautiful creatures that often float by us on our underwater adventures. This one, happens to be a snail. Yep…a pelagic snail, most likely Carinaria japonica.

More information: http://tolweb.org/Carinaria_japonica/28750

So many thanks to the folks over on scubaboard, mystery solved, and now I know where to go for any help with my creature ID questions!

Champagne Toast (and more oil rigs!).

As I mentioned in my previous post on the second dive of the oil rigs Jessica brought along a little bottle of champagne for an underwater toast to my 100th dive! She just finished editing an awesome video of the day, and it includes a shot of my taking a nice swig of champagne while getting checked out by a curious sea lion. I’m not going to lie, while a bit salty, it was really entertaining to drink a little bubbly underwater with a sea lion! How many people can say they’ve done that? Enjoy the video, its fantastic! (Thanks to Jessica for letting me share!) The champagne toast is at the end of the video, but watch out for her amazing shot of one of the Salp colonies, its my favorite!