Beneath the Surface…

Every year we travel to Roatan for a week of SCUBA diving at CoCoView Diving Resort.  Rustic and simple, you couldn’t ask for a better dive setup.  The dive boat captains are on top of your every need, and the resort is mapped out for simplicity.  Accessed only by boat, it is also a quiet place to hang out.  There are no phones, and no television.  All the entertainment is beneath the surface of the ocean that is right at your doorstep.

I became SCUBA certified in 1992 when we lived in New Orleans.  We went to Mexico where I did my certification dive, and I had the opportunity to marvel at the amazing coral and sea life that was Palancar Reef.  Six months later, my husband and I obtained our advanced SCUBA certification where the check out dives were done off the coast of Florida.  This was my first experience with sea sickness, as well as the night dive that not only heralded SCUBA divers, but spear fishing participants.  Following a day of semi unconsciousness from the effects of dramamine, there was a dip in a naturally fed spring where the temperature was 53 degrees and we were required to stay down for 45 minutes.  So far, my perceived value of obtaining an advanced certification was roughly nil.

Shortly after, we moved to Virginia where I promptly gave birth to three adorable little boys in eleven months, and the wonderful memories of Palancar reef and the amazing sea life were relegated to the distant past.  Then in 2001 my husband was introduced to a gentleman that taught SCUBA diving as well as organized SCUBA trips, and suddenly life beneath the surface became forefront for us again.  It was another two years before we took another trip to SCUBA dive, this time to Roatan to dive with the group from Holladay SCUBA.

It wasn’t love at first sight with me.  My biggest complaint then is still my biggest complaint now.  The water around Roatan, and CoCoView Resort are fairly rough, and it’s a struggle for me to enjoy getting on a boat because of this.  I’ve tried every seasick remedy known to man, finally settling on Scope Patches.  They aren’t perfect, but the best resource for me.  This first trip after a hiatus of roughly 10 years was like starting all over, and I didn’t enjoy it.  For some reason, we saw little sea life, I was uncomfortable, and I left not only wondering what I had ever enjoyed about it to begin with, but also thinking it wasn’t something I wanted to do again.

Then a curious thing happened.  Our oldest, when he was 14, expressed an interested in SCUBA diving.  He took lessons, and my husband took him to Roatan.  I secretly thought is would be a disaster, because of my recollection that there just wasn’t a lot to see there.  But when they returned, they had pictures from a simple point and shoot underwater camera that my husband had invested in that showed a variety of sea life I simply couldn’t believe.  Eventually, his twin brothers became certified, and we’ve taken all of them to Bonaire and to Roatan.  The oldest accompanied my husband to Indonesia for ten days on a live aboard (seeing that I don’t do boats very well), which turned out to be the trip of a lifetime.

I enjoyed Bonaire the most, simply because of the water factor.  Smooth and easy, I did every dive and never got sick.  The downside is, it’s fairly expensive, whereas Roatan is more reasonable.  There is one dive site in Roatan that provides a fairly smooth ride and that is French Cay Cut.  Located  between the reef and shore, this is a muck dive; the boat drops divers in a sandy muck bottom–teeming with micro life, but little else.  You can make your way however, through the cut and along the wall of the reef for an excellent exploration of larger sea life–even a turtle or two, but be prepared for fairly large surge on top of the coral.

So I made my return to SCUBA diving in 2010.  Only this time my hobby of photography coalesced with SCUBA diving, and an entirely new horizon opened up before me.  A horizon of maddening moments, sheer frustration, and epic failure that only hardened my resolve to prove to myself that I wasn’t really as stupid as I felt with a camera in my hand below the surface.  In my extremely humble opinion, underwater photography is not only the most difficult photography to practice, but it seems to contradict so many rules of land based photography.  It is it’s own world.

So without going on too much longer, here are the first of three years of underwater photos that I’ve felt halfway decent about.  If you would like to see some of the top photographers in this realm, check out these links:  Todd Winner or Scott Geitler.  You won’t be disappointed.

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Fascinations of the Deep

Yesterday I talked about White Balancing photography in the shallows, with full sunlight while Scuba Diving.  Once you get below 30 feet or so, the white balance doesn’t work quite as well, and you really need to switch to flash.  This proved to be more difficult than it seemed if only because my aging eyes couldn’t judge distance very well underwater.  And if you are too far away, the flash is ineffective, whereas if you are too close, the image is lit up, but blurry.  The following is coral that I was 3-4 feet from.  But being as large as it was, the flash only lit up the bottom and side portion to a pale green.

I swam in to get closer, and this was what happened on my second attempt:

And my third, that shows it’s true color, and the fact that I probably was not 3-4 feet from it like I thought, judging from the size…

This guy was just hanging out at about 70 feet, just watching us swim by…

As was this guy…

DH found this guy (he does have bifocals in his mask), who was about 1-1/2 inches long, and not happy that we were flashing lights at him.  Out for a nice walk at the end of the coral, he scurried back the other way towards the reef when we started taking pictures.  I am to understand he is some type of shrimp, I think.

And of course, this beautiful Butterfly-fish…

Are We Having Fun Yet?

The first day and a half didn’t go so well, but a fresh nights sleep, a great breakfast and I was ready to go again, although with some trepidation.  Some of the others in our group were having sea sick issues as well, so I didn’t feel quite so alone.  I tried a neoprene hat to combat the hair issue.  But that didn’t prove to be quite the fix.  What I ended up with was one of the cotton head covers that my husband wears, goofy as it looks on me.  It’s completely practical and does the job quite nicely.  One problem solved.

The next problem was my mask.  New masks need to be treated to remove the factory coating that causes fogging.  We’d treated it before we came, but it needed another treatment.  A couple of drops of anti fog, and some quick pulls to tighten it, along with the new head cover, and another problem solved.  I just don’t know how women keep masks on with their hair in a cute pony tail.  Wish I did.

The next dive was a major improvement even if I was diving with intensely colored chili peppers on my head.  But I was still having trouble with buoyancy control, and my regulator adjustment never seemed to be right.  Air wouldn’t come out easily or it was free flowing, but there seemed to be no in-between.  We finished the dive, but not before we saw a few creatures.

This little guy came swimming up over the wreck of the Prince Albert and met me head on.  Was nice of him to smile for the camera, don’t you think?

The flounder was hidden in the sand right below the fish on the left.

Beautiful Corals were everywhere.  Tank low, time to come up.  Next stop, Buoyancy class, and after that, photography class.  Tim Blanton does underwater photography at Coco View, and also does scuba diving. He has amazing skill, and is a really great guy.  I highly recommend his photography class to learn how to get those really great photos underwater.  And on that note, I’ll leave you with one last photo taken by my husband.  Underwater he is a much better photographer than I am.