Long Time.

Hello dear readers! There are apparently some of you that haven’t given up hope in light of my silence over the last few months… there seems to be an average of a whopping 3 views per day with weird spikes like 112 views on Sunday, April 7th. Perhaps that was because I was supposed to dive, but it was cancelled for weather. Regardless, thanks to the faithful, I hope to earn your readership back as I plunge forward once more.

I apologize for the silence… its been a combination of things that have kept me from updating, namely Ironman training. What’s that you ask? Just a small little race of insanity that has completely overidden my life. (you can read all about my previous IM adventure here). Due to the IM training I’ve been in the water only a handful of times this year, and I’m surely missing it. We’re 10 weeks out from the race and things are ramping up. Work has been super busy as everyone starts gearing up for their summer holidays, however this little blog, and my joy of sharing my underwater photography activities has always been in the back of my mind. I have a little catch up to play, and I hope that I can get a few posts up here over these next 10 weeks, to revive this little site and keep sharing my favorites! Here’s a little sneak peek of what’s ahead…. so for now, hello! Goodbye! I promise it won’t be so long next time.

BB-Goby

This Blue Banded Goby was hanging out at Casino Point in Catalina. I used a Sola 800 Photo light with the red light on to be able to sneak up on him. Took this on a day I was out diving solo testing three new lenses for the store. It was a perfect day, with great visibility, calm conditions and lots of little fishes for my macro tests.

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.

Swimming with Sea Dogs.

Last month, yes that’s how far behind on my pictures I am… anyways. Last month we headed out to Santa Barbara Island to hang with some sea lions in the large rookery on the island. I’ve never had good luck photographing these swift swimmers, but this day I was armed with a wide angle lens and two strobes and the results were… well… better than before, but still with lots of room for improvement. We ended up shallow, spending a good deal of time in 6-15′ of water. I was using the 8mm fisheye, a lens that I love, though I quickly found out that with such a wide lens, the sea lions needed to get extremely close, which didn’t always happen. After the day of diving, and upon talking with others on the boat and looking at my pictures, I also realized that I really should have tried some shots with just the ambient light. The 1/160 shutter speed on my E-PL1 isn’t quite fast enough to really freeze the sealions as the zoomed by, and I was shallow enough much of the time that I could have turned off the strobes and bumped up the shutter speed. Ah…well, something for next time.

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:

Here Be Giants.

Two weekends ago I went out with Bluewater Photo on the Peace dive boat to Anacapa and Santa Cruz Island. It was a great day, though we had a lot of wind and some building swell, so we got stuck at one site for the final two dives. This however was not a bad thing. There was a pretty decent current ripping down the island and the kelp was laying down which made the diving actually more adventurous seeming. One the first dive at Landing Cove Point Rob and I were nearing our turnaround time when I passed another friend underwater who looked at us, then threw his arms wide, followed by taking one hand in a swimming motion forward. Truthfully I had no idea what he was trying to say. Bat Ray? Huge Eel? Curious though we continued on for a bit more as I kept my gaze sweeping back and forth along the sand for something huge. Then out of no where it swam by. The largest fish I have ever seen. Immediately it clicked into place… arms wide, huge… swimming motion, fish… huge fish: Giant Black Sea Bass.

These graceful giants were hunted nearly to extinction in the 60’s and 70’s until they were protected under law in 1982. Since then the populations have slowly been recovering and small fish have had a chance to grow large. This fish swam right by us gliding with the current, then disappeared into the kelp. We waited for a few minutes hoping he would return, but then had to turn around and head back to the boat. On the second dive, we headed straight for the sighting spot then slowly moved up and down with fingers crossed. Again, the fish emerged, two of them this time, swimming down current then later back up past us. These three fish were giantic. The first solo fish was larger than me, and the two swimming together slightly smaller, but still at least 5ft long. It was impressive and incredible. Unfortunately they did not swim close enough to me for a good picture, but Scott, owner of Bluewater and my boss got some great video and a good picture. Take a look!

Two huge Black Sea Bass swim past Scott on our final dive of the day.

I know now why people are so elated to see these guys, and just how tiny in comparison the young bass were that I saw back in October. I nearly dropped my regulator from excitement and I totally flooded my mask from smiling so huge, which also probably explains why I didn’t get any good pictures!

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!

Vacation Time!

As per usual, my blog posts are late in coming, but better late than never, here we go! In the middle of June I traveled across the country to Key West for a week of relaxing in the warm humid sunshine, diving and treasure. Our trip was put on by the Mel Fisher group, with the main reason for the trip being two days of treasure diving along the treasure trails of the wreck of the Atocha. (sound interesting? click here for more info)

The week trip included lodging, reef dives, two days of treasure diving with the salvage crew, bbq, sunset cruise, museum tours and more.

Unfortunately our trip corresponded with the beginning of a big tropical storm, so Kendra and I arrived in Key West to wind, rain and high seas. This meant much of our diving was in jeopardy. (Enter big frown here).

We started the week off with a great welcome BBQ at the house (which by the way was GORGEOUS). We met the other awesome people in our group for the week and got prepped for what was ahead. Sadly, much of the prep meeting included “if” things calm down, and “hopefully” due to the unpredictable winds and the high seas. Right off the bat, our check out dives on some of the reefs off Key West was cancelled. Needing to get a check out dive in, they moved us over to the Florida Keys Community College Lagoon.

Tuesday morning we all geared up at the lagoon, which it turned out is pretty much like diving in California, only the water is warm. Green water, with a very silty bottom and poor visibility, the lagoon was fairly boring most of the time, but did offer me really good photo practice, attempting to remove backscatter from my shots with good strobe placement. Placed throughout the lagoon were different objects like a boat, a taxi, bicycle and barrels. The highlight of the dives, and in my opinion something that made the reef dive cancellation not a big bummer, was that they have several actual beams from the Atocha in the lagoon. It was pretty awesome to see and touch 400 year old wooden beams from a shipwreck that has yielded millions of dollors of treasure over the last 30 years.

After the lagoon dives, the rest of the day was open, so Kendra and I spent it wandering Key West, and well…. eating and drinking. As it turned out throughout the week we had quite alot of down time, and wandering the town helped fill it up. It was raining like crazy on the drive home and kept up through most of the afternoon. So much so, that streets around Key West were flooding. We discovered a couple pluses to the rain were, cooler weather and less people out and about to deal with!

Throughout the day our fingers were crossed for better weather on Wednesday, our day for the optional Vandenberg dives. The seas had been continually bad throughout the day but looked to be dropping. At the beginning of the evening we finally got some good news, the trusty dive operator Captains Corner was braving the 5′ seas and heading out to the Vandy in the morning!

Practicing back-scatter free portraits during the lagoon dive in 5-10ft viz!

Our tour of the lagoon included the many exciting sites, such as this bicycle, a boat, a taxi, some barrels and of course the Atocha ship beams

One of the few marine life sightings in the lagoon, I found this lobster chilling along the wall on our way back to the dock.

Part of the lagoon had an aeriator running along the bottom which made for a cool photo as the air bubbles rose up to the surface.

In the Nud(i).

Two weekends ago after our dive on the Midnight Hour, we headed over to a “secret” pinnacle spot that is a favorite of Sand Dollar Capt. George. I’d had a chance to dive this pinnacle before and it really is awesome. The visibility was still pretty good, but I wasn’t as worried about that, I was hunting nudibranchs. Unlike my day spent at Casino Point, this time I was not disappointed. The little slugs were everywhere, in all sizes, species and colors, swaying with the water as they clung to the rocks and plants on the pinnacle. I probably spent the full dive in about a 10′ square area on one side of the pinnacle, just moving from nudi to nudi as I looked for ones that were in good positions and places for photographing. I was able to play around with my strobes to try and create more creative lighting.

Of course I found a Spanish Shawl (Flabellina iodinea), a California Classic, and this baby was a big one. He was pretty much out in the open, allowing me to really frame him in a dynamic way, diagonally through the photo.

I found one of my favorite (because of the awesome blue color), Porter’s Chromodorid (Mexichromis porterae) which are vivid blue with two yellow stripes. Upon closer inspection I realized it was two, cuddled up with each other. I couldn’t quite get in there to be able to see the second guys’ head, but it was neat to see the two together.

I even came across a Hermissenda (Hermissenda crassicornis) chilling on a small kelp leaf.. the position you never see them in! It was facing away from me which was disappointing, but I figured it offered a good chance to try and practice a little back lighting through the kelp to highlight the little nudi. I lucked out as I started shooting the little guy turned towards me offering a nicely posed photo. The back-lighting plan didn’t work as well, but I think having one strobe behind the kelp did add to they way the kelp looks.

Lastly I got a nice classic shot of a San Diego Dorid (Diaulula sandiegensis) as he crawled across the weedy landscape.

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: