Friday, August 21, 2009

And in the meantime, 'back at the Ranch' Key Largo

After my having 'run away from home' to the Blue Star and taking an imaginary exotic dive trip to Indonesia with Rob; I thought I would check in back at the 'ranch' and see what I had been missing!
I found I almost missed a lot of great diving and with my guyz and right here in Key Largo.
Had I not been here last week, I would have missed out on diving with Cj and his daughter and Bill and Karen, who all happened to be in Key Largo to scuba dive and do some underwater photography.
While the Blue Star is nice ( an understatement) and Indonesia the latest 'hotspot' to go diving, neither are the norm for most of us scuba divers and underwater photographers. Day in and day out, I really like scuba diving and doing my underwater photography right here in Key Largo.
We have a wide variety of diving from shallow coral reefs to deeper wrecks. From tranquil waters to the sporty diving the Gulf Stream's currents can present us. Over the years I have ran away from home, but, always seem to find my way back.
Glad I did because I had a couple of real nice dives last Thursday with four of my regular guyz and right here at home.
Thanx Bill, Karen, CJ and Andrianna for the great dives and day.
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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sulawesi and Rob

Hello all!
I just finished a fairly substantial undertaking and that was to review over 2000 images that one of my underwater photography students took during a trip he made to Sulawesi. Rob and I first met when we were both shooting film, and, 'back in the day...'
This spring Rob contacted me and had questions about his migrating to digital and he did migrate by sticking with his Nikon / Ikelite scheme. After Rob bought his new housed dSLR system he managed a quick trip here to Key Largo, in May, to do some familiarization dives with it.
This was all in preparation for an ambitious trip to Sulawesi this summer. He made the trip, and got along famously with his new underwater camera system; as a sampling of his images posted here demonstrate.
These are a very small sampling of the many wonderful images that Rob took and brought back with him during his trip. In my review I was constantly overwhelmed by the myriad of subjects, most of which I do not know by name, that Rob encountered on his dives. Rob says- 'each dive'!
Rob shared the photographic results of a wonderful dive trip with me and I am taking the time to share a small part of it with all of you.
Congrats Rob, on your trip and successful outcome with your new camera system. I for one am extremely green with envy! Thanx too for taking and wearing my logo-ed tee-shirt!

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Blue Star- a day at the office

Last Tuesday morning I received a call from Capt Mike Beach, a long time friend, who owns RJ's Dive Charter in Miami Beach. ( ) Mike had been contacted by the captain of a 144 foot long motor yacht, the M/Y Blue Star, who was motoring the vessel to the Key Largo area and needed the assistance of a local scuba diver and underwater photographer. My job would be to find suitable dive sites and to assist the yacht owner's son, an avid UW photographer, with his UW photography. Mike gave me the phone number and name of the Blue Star's captain and I made contact with him and we made the arrangements to dive Wednesday.
The Blue Star is too big to get into our canal so we scheduled a pick-up (me and my scuba and camera) to be made by a Blue Star crewmember in one of her three launches.
Molassass Reef day in day out is our best dive site for UW photography and I suggested we conduct our diving operations there. It also affords plenty of deep water, from 45 fsw to over 100fsw just off the reef proper where the Blue Star could hover if necessary as she needs ten feet of water under her to float. However we were able to moor on one of the deep mooring balls at Molassass at the reef's seaward edge. We staged our dives from the Blue Star but conducted them by shuttling from her onto Molassass Reef proper in a tender.
Arriving on the boat I found the owner to be absent. According to the crew I talked to throughout the day, he is a very active and passionate scuba diver and is most times on the boat. As such he, eight years ago, bought Blue Star for scuba diving and completely refurbished and re-fitted her for scuba diving. The boat can make Nitrox using the membrane method and can mix Trimix. Being very beamy, it had a very spacious cockpit, and when I stood on its full width swim platform it felt like I was on solid ground. These Blue Star 'guys' do some serious diving. Here is an example: I was on the boat with Watershot's new UW housing which they completely fell in love with. Until they asked me how deep it could go and I told them 200 feet. They said that was not deep enough for them! They needed something that could go to 300fws! The Blue Star, flagged in the Cayman Islands, had spent the last couple years in the other hemisphere diving in the Solomons, Australia, the Marshall Islands, and Micronesia. Their plan is to keep it in our region, the Bahamas, and Caribbean for a year or two. Then I suppose off to other exotic and remote dive destinations.

What a beautifull boat the Blue Star is. A Captain and crew of nine serves her and her owners and guests. An Engineer, a head steward, a 'diver' David, two or three petite asian/indo/pacific looking stewardesses, the third was the assistant to the chef, a chef, named Chris, who cooked a kick ass lunch of fish fingers, pasta with pesto, tossed salad and home-made french fries (that appeared to be individualy cut from a potato), which he simply called: 'Fish and Chips'. The crews loves Chris!! LOL. On crewmember, Brendan who picked me up in the launch and another and I don't remember his name but he was well, just there. I think he was a, like, well, a 'spare' crew, so if anyone ever needed or wanted anything, they had plenty of crew to make things happen! I also learned that most of the crew were Australian and most had been on the Blue Star for several years or longer.

I was treated and served like royalty and at one point, for example, I believe I had three crew ask me if I wanted anything to drink. Bottled water, a soda, anything? I was a bit embarassed and found myself continualy thanking, as best I could, them for anything they did for me. Which was everything, including helping me care for my camera and rinsing my scuba.
They waited and dolted over me as if I was the owner's best friend. Which was totally unexpected, and, I felt like some sort of prima dona. Once I told them that I had worked yachts and boats, they kinda 'got it' and, I hope they knew I was embarassed by being waited on hand and foot, because, I like them was there 'working'. But it was and is their habit to provide such a level of service, so I suspect they could not help themselves, even though I told them I can more or less take care of myself and to use their energy to tend to Iliya, which of course they still easily managed to do. Other than that, I did not mind all that much being spoiled rotten!!

I did not take as many pics, particularly of the Blue Star herself, as I would have liked to. In part because I thought it bad form to go on to someone's boat, when they live on the boat and start photographing their 'home'. Additionally, my job was to take Iliya diving and give him any photo tips he may ask for. I wished I could have taken a lot of photos of Blue Star. Especially once on board. Its engine room, bridge, heck, even the crew's quarters, which had its own galley and it was full-on. The main Galley, you know me and food, was huge and all the fixtures, stoves, ranges etc etc, were stainless steel. I don't recall ever seeing so much SS in one place.
I am presenting the few I could manage in this blogpost.

So, my day at the office was spent on the Blue Star, diving with Ilya and his wife and 'diver' Dave, doing UW photography during optimal diving conditions. Near flat calm seas, no current, no surge, 100 feet of visibility and swim-trunk's only 87 degree water. Totally catered to and taken care of by the Blue Star's outstanding crew. If any of them read this blogpost, thank you all again!
Because I hade not dove with The Blue Star crew or on the boat, nor did I know anything about them I took the time beforehand to do a bit of research on the yacht, the "Blue Star" and came up with this interesting story:
All in all a great day.
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Monday, August 10, 2009

Making an Image: 'Reeflections!'

I once read that there are 'picture takers and image makers'. Once every so often I get a chance to try to become an image maker. A few months ago I came across a pose that intrigued me and began to wonder how the photographer made the image. My rendition of it is featured above. How the picture was made is explained below.

You can see the photograph captures a reflection of the model and was taken in a swimming pool. Once I figured out that the photographer did not stand the pool up on edge, I figured I could make this image. I needed a model and engaged Aja Vickers who at the time owned Pleasure Diver Dive Charter services here in Key Largo. We prevailed upon the hospitality of the Marina Del Marr Resort, also in Key Largo, for the use of their pool.

I showed Aja the pose the evening before and she, fortunately for me, had studied it well and had already thought through what she needed to do to make the pose. I loaded a Canon dSLR into a housing, grabbed a mask, and we met on a Sunday morning and began making the image.

To make the pose, Aja would drape her legs over the edge of the pool and then lean back down into the water and next would raise her hands to just barely touch the water's surface. I perched myself on a small poolside table weighted underwater with softweights. We did this while breath-holding and spent a bit over an hour at it.

To me capturing reflections is a cool technique. Both in underwater photography and topside photography. The camera settings I used were: ISO 100, Auto White Balance, 1/200th of a second for shutter speed and an aperture of F-16. The lens's focal length was 18mm in front of a cropped, DX, sensor.. But that was just half the shot. The other part was the headsup position the model, Aja, ends up in. How was 'that' to be accomplished?

In the digital paradigm of underwater photography we are also the developer of our 'film'. The rest of the image was made in Photoshop and by simply 'rotating' the frame 90 degrees counterclockwise.

I try to teach to my students of underwater photography that when they see an image that intrigues them to ask how that image was made rather than ask 'what type of camera' was used. While I detailed the camera and its settings in this blog, you can see that the type of camera used had little to do with the making of this image.

It was great fun working with Aja, thank you Aja, in making this image and I hope it was fun for you to read about it here in this blog. And that you enjoy the image!


Oh, I almost forgot; to order a print go here:

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