dives, trips

1000th dive

I logged my 1000th dive whilst on this trip to the Red Sea. I know that this is not an especially remarkable total, but it is still a large number of dives for a recreational diver. It felt as if that dive should have been accompanied by fanfares and mermaids (or maybe one of the local Dugong).

However, it turned out to be quite a low key leisurely shore dive from the dive centre at Marsa Shagra. I think it sums up what I love so much about scuba diving- it was in the company of a like-minded buddy; in this instance we had been strangers 24 hours before, but we felt like firm friends after a couple of shared dives.

During the dive, I didn’t notice any species I had not seen before, but it was a pleasure as usual to waft weightless through the water. It has to be said that it was most welcome to escape the English winter and drift over a Red Sea reef in the late afternoon sun, observing the fish going about their normal business and shooting images as I went.

I saw a Stonefish hauling itself across the sand, a Lionfish hunting for prey and flocks of Goatfish prospecting in the sand. The Anthias were pulsing in and out of the coral heads, whilst Groupers drifted across the reef, hoping to pick off an unwary small fish. Humbug dascyllus played hide and seek among the branching corals, whilst iridescent Pale damselfish rose high above the reef feeding on tiny particles in the water.

Here’s to the next 1000 dives…

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dives

Stoney Cove

The first dive of the 2017 season was in Stoney Cove, my dive site of choice for a quick dip in the winter. There is always plenty to see and there are lots of subjects to practice my photographic technique on. This time I was joined by two fellow divers from the Bristol Underwater Photography group, Kirsty Andrews and my regular buddy Trevor Rees. The visibility was quite good and we were treated to some bright winter sun, which contributed to some very enjoyable shooting conditions.

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dives

Salcombe Pea Soup

Sometimes called by divers “May bloom”, “snot” or terms less repeatable in polite circles,  there comes a time each spring in temperate waters when there is an explosion in the algae population. So it was in the Devon waters I dived with my club last weekend. Its not often a trip is a photographic washout, but my recent trip to Salcombe was almost so. Last time I went, early in April the water was clear (but very cold) and the visibility was excellent due to bright sun. That same sun, a few weeks later had caused the same stretch of sea (East Rutts) into murky pea soup, with countless green spheres in the water column from the surface to below 20m. Conditions were not helped by choppy seas and overcast skies. Still, a bad day’s diving is better than a good day in the office, as they say….

Red Fingers (Alcyonium glomeratum)
Red Fingers (Alcyonium glomeratum)
Hangin' out in the soup

dives, trips

Devon weekend

Oaten Pipe hydroids
Oaten Pipe hydroids
Sending up the shot
Sending up the shot
On the bottom
On the bottom
Waiting on the line
Waiting on the line

I greatly enjoyed a trip to Devon last weekend and, though the water was cold, the visibility was surprisingly good. I managed four dives- two reefs and a wreck (twice). The reef, East Rutts was a very pleasant place to spend an hour and this early in the season is covered in Oaten Pipe (Tubularia indivisa) hydroids. Those hydroids won’t be around for very much longer, as they are the food for nudibranchs (sea slugs). We saw many spiral swirls of eggs, but no slugs yet, but I would expect that by May the hydroids will be gone.

The wreck was called the Riversdale. It’s large and intact (except for the bow), with an impressive rudder and prop. It’s a while since I dived and took photos on wrecks at this depth (38m to the deck) and, photographically it was quite a challenge, due to the narcosis and the limited time. Even with good vis, lighting is difficult. We dived it twice, on consecutive days, as we could not get the shot line up after the first dive, so had to leave it in overnight and send it up on a lifting bag at the start of the second dive!

The vis was very good (about 8-10m), but I could see the beginnings of a “May bloom” of algae in the top few metres. Let’s hope that comes and goes quickly and does not spoil the view too much.

dives, musings

Stargazing

This hermit crab looks for all the world as if he's looking up at the stars!
This hermit crab looks for all the world as if he’s looking up at the stars!

 

On a recent trip to Scotland, we were dogged by poor visibility. This image of a hermit crab (Pagarus bernhardus) shows how much silt was suspended in the water. This site was actually one of the better ones (the shore of Loch Sunart, at a place called Camas Torsa) and I like the way the hermit crab seems to be looking up into a starry sky. I find hermit crabs endlessly entertaining and I have mused about them before, but it did make me smile. This particular individual had lovely iridescent hairs on it which have been picked up by the well-snooted strobe. I was shooting using the Nikon 60mm macro lens on my trusty D200. The critter was conveniently walking on an old crate in the water, which provided a fantastic stage from which I could take his portrait as he looked up and wondered if alien life existed out there…

dives

Loch Creran narrows

Exploring sea lochs, I tend not to dive in places with strong tidal streams, because currents and photography do not usually go well together. However, the part of Loch Creran we chose today was definitely scoured by current. We managed to avoid strong currents by diving at high water (though even at slack the water was eddying around) and boy was this site a find. The sea bed was so clean and the site abounded with species quite different to those seen just a few hundred metres away in parts of the loch not affected by currents.

A good example is this rather fine Flabellina pellucida (not to be confused with Coryphylla browni), which was present in large numbers and huge in size too(4-5cm). This image was captured using a Nikon D200 and 105mm macro lens, fitted with a 4T dioptre.

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dives

I wish I was a little otter

Today was my first salty(ish) dive of 2014. In what is now a tradition, my dive buddy and I find ourselves on the sea loch shores. This time, it’s Loch Creran. We couldn’t see a name for the location, either on the chart or the ordnance survey map, so we’ve called it Otter Rocks, after the pair of otters we watched swimming and feeding along the shore of the loch this afternoon.

Although the weather is quite mild (fine today, wetter as the week goes on), the water is quite cold. I’ve brought lots of layers for my under suit; let’s hope I’ve brought enough lead too!

Underwater, there was plenty to see: rays (and egg cases), clingfish, bib and the ubiquitous squatties, hermits, urchins, starfish. Even thought the site has that very fine silt characteristic of upper sea lochs, the creatures were quite clean, though the rocks looked pretty barren without kelp on them.

Today, I was trying my hand at super-macro (which I’m defining as better than 1:1), so the name of the game was to look for the tiny dramas. I chose my Nikon 60mm macro lens paired up with a Kenko 1.4x teleconverter. This gives me the chance of better than 1:1, whilst maintaining my working distance to the subject. It’s a trade-off really: too close and you spook the subject; too far and the water column steals the contrast and adds “snow”.

My 60mm (older, non-AFS version) has a close working distance, which suits the poor vis of this site, but does have a tendency to “hunt” rather. However, because this lens is comparatively slow focussing, it’s controllable though requires patience. I really enjoyed just laying still and watching all the tiny fish and crustaceans go about their business, just as soon as the giant invader with the camera stopped stirring things up. I only managed 50 mins before the cold got to me, though. I must be going soft!

Here’s a little clingfish I found. I’ve not seen many before, but their colour and somehow dog-like personality make them an attractive subject.

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