I’m a few weeks late on this post, but I’m always thankful for my dive buddies. While I often end up diving solo on many local boats with my nose to my camera screen, it’s always fun to step back from those serious photography dives and just cruise around with a couple friends.
After Thanksgiving this year myself, my husband and a couple friends went out diving for the day on the Peace off Anacapa. We caught the tail end of this beautiful summer here in California (and yes I mean tail end of summer when we were diving on November 29th!!) We’ve been experiencing some crazy weather here in SoCal with extremely warm water temps which have unfortunately killed much of the kelp around the local islands, but also brought clear visibility, comfortable diving temps and unique sightings. This dive at the end of November hearalded the beginning of classic California season, as the water temp had dropped at least 10° from my dives a month prior and the viz was diminishing.
Regardless, I had two great dive buddies keeping me company underwater and posing as models (whether they realized it or not!) It was a blast to swim with friends and just enjoy a laid back day of diving!
The beauty of Anilao is found in the diversity. When your eyes get tired of hunting for the minuscule among the sandy muck or hiding within the folds of a crinoid you can simply change lenses and open your eyes to the full scene. Lush coral reefs abound around the area offering colorful fish by the hundreds and incredibly scenes to try to capture. Here are a few of those scenes from my first trip to the Philippines back in 2013.
A lionfish swims over a beam on the shipwreck.
A school of Cicular batfish or spadefish hang out under the wreck of the Daryl Laot while they are cleaned by little wrasse.
A colorful Crinoid sits atop the reef.
My dive buddy Ron sets up a shot with our guide silhouetted against the background.
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.
In February I revisited a wreck I had dove once before, and discovered just how much some added experience 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!
One of the diving best days on Farnsworth Banks, off the back side of Catalina Island – clear skies, warm weather and water, with visibility stretching on and on and on! Among the many wonders this large ocean pinnacle holds we enjoyed a sighting of a Pacific Electric Ray – or Torpedo Ray. This guy was lazily swimming along and allowed us to approach, swim near and snap a few pics. These guys usually hang out at Farnsworth, in deeper water and can offer a bit of a jolt if you get too close!
A Garibaldi protecting the nest of eggs as another passes in front.
Moments later the passerby was angrily chased away.
Farnsworth Banks, Catalina Island, CA
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.
The next set of pictures from my trip two weeks ago were more wide angle practice. I’d settled myself nice and low and was once again waiting, hoping for a fishy friend to swim through as they had been all around. With not much happening, Scott swam over and taught me a very useful trick. He took a rock, and banged it against another a few times and presto! Sheephead and Garibaldi started swimming towards us, zooming back and forth around and in front of me, right in the perfect position. I think if I had a slightly faster shutter speed the fish, especially on the sheephead, there’s a little bit of shadowy blurring where the strobe froze the fish, but the slightly longer exposure blurred him a bit.
The last picture I like, but once again the focus is just a bit off. This Garibaldi came zooming right for my lens, and I was able to snap a shot before he turned away. Unfortunately he swam through my area of focus before I could get the shot, but its still pretty cool looking!
The next picture in my line up was from the second dive last Sunday. We were still working on wide angle, and I’d learned the key trick of banging rocks to attract fish. I had a sea star that I was using as a foreground, waiting for a nice fish to swim through, and had a pretty decently exposed background of rocks and kelp. When the Garabaldi swam through, I captured him nicely, though on closer inspection I realize he’s not quite in focus. What I really like about this photo, is the variety of color, and the legs of the diver in the background. I feel like it adds some action as we captured another diver exploring the kelp forest while a small school of fish swim by, with the bright orange Garabaldi in the foreground. Its a bit busy, and of course the focus could be sharper, but despite all that, I really like this photo. Enjoy!
Olympus EPL1, Focal Length 14mm, F8, 1/30
Welcome to the beginning of my week of photo analysis!
We started Sunday morning by working on wide angle. The goal of the first dive was to get used to changing shutter speed in order to get the background properly exposed, then using the flash to light the subject. Flash position was not worked on as much this dive, we just kept in mind to try and keep it as far from the camera as possible to eliminate backscatter. I spent most of my dive with my feet in the air (perhaps time to start wearing my ankle weights), laying on the sand, or even on my back as I tried to get low and shoot up. With the 14-42mm lens on my EPL1, getting a real wide angle shot is difficult, but I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of backgrounds I was able to get. While many of my shots were plagued with backscatter on the first dive, where visibility was only between 10-20ft, I did end up with one photo that I really liked. There was just one problem… no subject. I found a large rock, that had some nice tall strands of kelp in the background and a school of blacksmith cruising mid water. I got down on the ground, twisting to get my camera angled up as much as possible (barely able to see my lcd screen), and tried to wait for the ever present Garibaldi or Sheephead to come swimming through, but alas, none came. It wasn’t until the second dive, when I watched Scott grab a small rock and bang it on the rock next to him, that I learned the ever valuable trick of attracting fish! Incredibly, several Garbaldi came zooming straight towards his camera as he banged away.
So back to dive one, here I sat, with no subject coming to visit me, so eventually I moved on. What I was left with though, was a really nice set up, and for once a properly exposed background! Had I waited a few more moments, hopefully the kelp would moved aside again and would not have been intruding on my foreground, but all in all I’d say a pretty good start to my wide angle adventures!
14mm, F8, 1/60