Monday, November 15, 2010

Birthdays, Scuba Diving, Underwater Photography, old and new friends

When I started this blog couple of years ago, I did so in part for the pure enjoyment of it. It sounded kinda fun.  Blogging about what I do. Quite a bit, well, to me at least, has occurred these past 'couple-three' weeks. I have been in the midst of my life's work, providing my diving and underwater photographic services to a wonderfull mother/daughter team of scuba divers, Joan and daughter Margo. They seemed to me to be among the epitome of those who can personify the spirit and fun of scuba diving. I've included some photographs of them in this blog as examples of what I write about. 

Since my last blog I also had the opportunity to work with an underwater photographer, Denise, who in a past life of hers engaged in the profession of underwater photography in the Bahamas. She moved away from that, becoming an attorney, but, recently acquired a housed dSLR camera system. Her fiance engaged me to help her learn these new ropes and as a birthday gift to her. Denise arrived as both an accomplished photographer and scuba diver, as she was an instructor in the aforementioned other life. My 'job' more or less, was to help her transition into her new camera system. I have included some of her images and hope you enjoy them.

During the course of my dives with Joan, Margo and Denise, an old friend appeared on the scene, Capt. Mike Brooks. Lots of water has passed under the keels of dive boats with he and I on their decks and it was a pure joy to have him as Captain again. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience and delivers among the best of dive briefings when on board. Mike is truely one of the old timers here having been raised here and living his life as a scuba instructor, dive boat captain, and now engaged in the boat survey business. Mike is pictured in this blog with Denise.

A few days ago my birthday arrived, and I will excercise discretion and not divulge which one it was. Within a day or two of my birthday, another, friend and diving legend, Dick Rutkowski, had his birthday. Dick is not sitting beside me, as I write this, so discretion is tossed aside and it was his 80th. Dick was literally the first person I met when I arrived in Key Largo 16-17 years ago and he, in my eye and mind, has not changed one bit. A nice party was held for him on the 13th. In addition to many other of his character attributes, Dick has a lot of charm and a photograph of this portrayed is below. Thank you Jennifer for the pose.

I received lots of well-wishes around and for my birthday from many friends, students, dive clients, and family. One example is what I characterise as a work of art, sent to me by Connie Z, one of my very best 'guyz'. She is continually taking her diving and underwater photography to newer and higher levels and is engaged in an extensive Photoshop for photographers course. She crafted a birthday 'card' for me while practicing some of her newly learned skills. I could not resist not displaying her work in this blog.

I will conclude this blogpost, written early this morning, over coffee, by thanking Everyone. Including my new friends, Joan, Margo, Denise, my long time friends, like Mike and Connie, and all others who wished me well during my birthday. I had a good birthday. I was scuba diving, with my camera, and with people I liked! I even managed a couple lucky grab shots (pictured below). I hope the images in this blog depict the good times to be had when scuba diving, engaged in underwater photography and with friends both new and old. To me, it is always an incredible experience!  Thank You.  lg

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Living on island time, I believe we are in the fall of our year.  It has been almost a month since I last blogged, and amazing how time, even island time, flies.  So, for what it's worth here are some dive and photo related musings!  Enjoy:

Business typically slows down a bit after Labor day and this year was, for me, no exception.  However it went from slow to slammed when October began and this was my first (though unobserved at the time) instance of some bipolar events to come.  The next was our weather during much of October.  While we have so far been mercifully spared any hurricanes, our weather has none the less been psycho-like.

We experienced periods of dry, calm summer-like conditions to dark, windy, rainy and dreary conditions atypical of our climate.  Both above and below the water.  And this shift occurred on a daily basis.  Pictured are four examples, two topside and two underwater of what I am writing about.

I've heard it said that Key Largo is where 'weird turns pro' and if true we are pretty good at dealing with it!  One way is to simply have a party and one was held by our local Divers Direct in appreciation of and for their customers (to my customers- don't get any ideas, I appreciate ya but...).  Pictured below is the food laid out for us one Friday evening.  Thank you Brenda, Pam and Mike, who speared, grilled and shared with us hogfish snapper and grouper.

The new month of October brought me new students of scuba and underwater photography.  I am a consumate tourist myself and when I have my camera am always snapping away.  Below are my 'new guys' hard at 'work'! 

It wasn't all work and we had some fun along the way, the psychoman-like weather notwithstanding.  I even learned a new trick or two and about trick photography.   We came across the usual subjects and one not so usual subject.  Pictured below is a rare sighting of a great Hammerhead shark.  Is it real or is it Memorex.  I'll let you decide :)


I am a wide angle guy at heart.  So, even I went a bit psycho when I flippantly abandoned my WA lens and descended to the depths in quest of the smaller subjects to shoot or shoot the usual subjects with my Macro lens.  Below is what I came up with: 

Don't worry, later I returned to normal (if there is such a thing) and reverted back to my old workhorse and familiar friend, my wide angle lens.  I've always loved the corals and their colours which inspired me to learn to dive.  I still do and never pass up a chance to photograph them.


I can't end this blogpost without saying a special thanx to my new guys, Donna, Cameron and Al.  We made the most and the best of the conditions during our time here.  I also think we were most successfull! We got to know each other and had some fun. Congrats to you 'guyz'.  One more parting shot, until the next time I blog my musings, lg

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Monday, September 20, 2010

SCUBA Diving Mega-Course!

 I am very happy and proud to write this blogpost.  I and several students of mine and of scuba recently completed what I coined as a scuba diving mega-course.  I doubt you will find that defined anywhere else, but, what it means (to me) is that several students participated in multiple scuba diving courses.   This 'mega-course' began about a year ago.  It involved students participating in their Open Water course, their Advanced course, their Rescue Diver course and their Divemaster course.  During these courses, students were oftentimes working toward their completion of their course with other students working toward completing a different course.  For example, Kelli worked on her DM course by working with Brandon and Angie.

This was some feat for this scuba instructor.  Only one student participating lives in Key Largo.  So, everything thing was planned from afar and it all came together during this past year. 

Students participating were:  Brandon G, Angie Z, Jenn M, at the Open Water Diver level.   Tara S, Steve W at the Advanced level, Tara S, Steve W at the Rescue Diver level, Tara S, Jeff F and Kelli Z at the Divemaster level. 

My main purpose in this blogpost is to congratulate, whole-heartedly, all of these students.  They did an absolutely outstanding job while reaching their goals.  I hope they are as proud of their accomplishments as I am and I proudly herald them here.

Pictured below are some snapshots taken during the mega-course.  They depict the studying, the pool session the equipment piles, the boat, and a fun moment after the result of a lobster dive!  There are pictures of the students in the mega-course.

Kudos to you 'guyz'!!

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I've taken the pictures, now what!?

Dear Fellow Photographers and Bloggers,

I wished I would have asked (and answered) that question almost 20 years ago.  Or at least 7 years ago or so, when I moved from film photography to digital.  Because I ended up with tens of thousands of photos that I took, but had no real idea what I was going to do with them even though I saved them. Instead I asked this question a few years ago, and, while I came up with the answer it was not until just recently that I did something about it.

Namely, scour through my many folders full of photos and edit them.  This editing process ranged from dumping (deleting) photos that when I viewed them, wondered why I ever kept them to begin with, to, full-on edits to enhance and bring out the best in others.  And then find something to do with these survivors.  

I recommend in this post that you do not wait years before you ask and answer this question.  Unless of course you want to go through what I just did.  Which was to spend days upon days sorting through thousands upon thousands of images.  Sounds grueling but it was fun.

And the job was made easier by my use of two resources.  There are many photo editing programs out there, and, I became kean on and purchased Adobe's Photoshop Lightroom (now in its 3rd version- to show you how far behind the curve I can get).  This program has 99% of the organizing and editing power that I find necessary to work with my photographs.  Here is a link to it at Amazon:
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 

I am still engaged in this process and thus far have worked with over 2400 of my photographs.  Those that I have finished beg the question- now what?  Well, I would at least like them presented so people could see them, and, even better, offer them for sale, and finally have an off-premises means of backing these up.  There are many services that offer these capabilities.  Over the years, I have now resolved to using Zenfolio as a repository for my stock of underwater photographs.  This is a subscription service (i.e 'not free') but, in my opinion, worth the annual subscription.  It costs $100 per year.  They offer a free trial period, so check it out.  If you use this link, you will get a $10 discount:  Zenfolio

As mentioned so far I reviewed over 2400 images and uploaded around 700 to my Zenfolio website.  While my task is not done, it has been made much easier and more efficient by my use of these two resources.  I guesstimate that I spent 90 hours in total and without Lightroom's power and speed, this task would have taken three times the amount of time.  There is a free plug-in for the program, that enabled me to upload direct to my Zenfolio account and into my web galleries there.  Zenfolio has themes that make it easy to get yourself set up, and, I was even able to build a custom theme to make my Zenfolio pages mirror those of my website.  

I am including two screen shots which show Lightroom on my computer's monitor and one of my photo pages on my site hosted by Zenfolio.



If you've used any of Adobe's editing programs in the past you will find Lightroom to be easy to adopt and adapt to, as it is very intuitive.
Similarly, if you've uploaded photos to any photo sharing site and created a photo page, Zenfolio is a snap to work with.  I can also vouch for the customer service at Zenfolio.   I had several 'dumb questions' and all were answered promptly in email.  

So, if you ever get around to making the above statement and asking the above question:  "I've taken the pictures, now what!?" remember these two helpfull resources in finding your answer!  I've also added links to both of these in my blog's sidebar for future reference.

Lightroom and Zenfolio are the best I've found.

Good luck with your photographs, both taken and those yet to be taken, and finding some thing to do with them afterwards!  I urge you to not let your photographs stack up on you as I did.  My goal now is to deal with my photos ASAP !!


PS:  if you look hard enough at the screenshot of LR, you may see a reference to photos and 'book II' (but keep it a secret..)
PSS:  Oh yeah, check out some of the results here:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hans DeJager: June 9, 1949 - June 22, 2010

On June 22, 2010, we who knew Hans, lost a very good and dear friend.  The world lost a good and decent human being. 

On August 6, 2010 we friends and family placed Hans's ashes where his spirit lives. 

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Information about Watershot Inc's housings for Canon dSLR cameras:

Unless you are a regular follower of my blog, you landed on this blogpost by following a link to it found on my website's Watershot page ( ). Welcome to this blogpost about the Watershot housing system.

Early in 2009, I was offered the ability to become a dealer for Watershot, Inc. and their housings for select Canon dSLR cameras. I accepted and doing so proved to be most beneficial to my own underwater photography. I began using the Watershot housing system before deciding to represent the product. Because I am not in the business, per-se of selling either scuba or UW photographic equipment. So, I wanted to make sure if I took that step forward, the product I would offer to 'my guyz' would be of best quality and of the greatest value. I believe the Watershot housing meets both of these requirements and have been using and marketing the Watershot housings for over a year.

Watershot makes housings for Canon's 500D, T1i, and this housing will also nest Canon's XSi.  This housing is sold as a kit and comes with the flat port and zoom ring gear for the EF-S 18-55mm lens.  It retails for $2300.  During DEMA in 2010 Watershot introduced their housing kit for Canon's 550D, T2i.  The T2i kit is offered with the WS tray and handles at a retail price of $2500.  Watershot also makes a housing for the Canon 5D MK II dSLR camera. The retail price for the Watershot Canon 5D MKII housing is: $3300. 

The 500 series housings come with a bulkhead (a second is an option) to accomodate synchronization with the strobe via a Fiber Optic cable.  The housings can be ordered with bulkheads that accomodate the use of traditional electrical synchronization cords.  These options enable the housing to marry-up quite nicely with an array of strobes manufactured by Sea and Sea, Inon, Ikelite and others.

Watershot offers a standard flat port ($199) and both a 6 inch ($899) and 9 inch dome port ($1799). These ports are made using aluminum bodies and optical quality AR coated glass. They mount to the housing using the tried and true bayonet mounting system. Also introduced during DEMA of 2010 was a 203mm Acrylic dome port ($999). Watershot has an array of port extentions to accomodate several lenses made by Canon, Tokina, Sigma and Zeiss.

Ports, port extenders/extentions, zoom ring gears or focus gears are available for the following lenses: Macro- Canon's EF-S F/2.8 60mm Macro, EF F/2.8 100mm Macro, Sigma AF Macro 50mm F/2.8, Sigma AF Macro 70mm F/2.8. Zoom- Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS F/35.-5.6, Canon EF-S 10-22mm F4/5.6 USM, Canon EF 24-70mm, Canon EF 16-35mm, Sigma AF 10-20mm F/4-5.6 ESX DC, Sigma 17-70mm DC Macro, Tokina AT-X DX Fisheye 10-17mm. Wide Prime Lenses- Canon EF 15mm F/2.8 Fisheye, Sigma 15mm F/2.8 Fisheye and Sigma 10mm F2.8 EX DC. Watershot supports the following Zeiss lenses: 18mm, 21mm, 50mm, 80mm.

Pricing for zoom ring or focus ring gears is $99, and between $149-$249 for the various port extentions.  

Watershot housing for Canon EOS 5D MK II (above)
Watershot Dome port, a port extender and zoom ring gear (pictured above)  

These housings were very well thought out and are as compact as can be and are very ergonomical. I have one-handed this housing with  strobe and made images in the portrait mode. The housings were designed with simplicty in mind and are simple to assemble/disassemble. No tools are required and a shooter can set up the housing/camera/lens/port system in a bit over 5 minutes time. Lens changes can also bemade in minutes and there is no wiggling or jiggling of pieces to make it all come together and function. The teeth on the crown gear and focus/zoom ring gears are large and provide very robust operation when meshed. The union is strong with no slippage.

The shutter control and zoom/focus controls are large and very smooth, and, all the other controls work as they should. I.E. you press or move one, and something happens!  Some examples of how well thought out the housings are:  Watershot used shallow engraving to label controls that are not obvious as to what they do.  Watershot machined grips into the leading edges of their ports and extenders making installation and removal of these easy.  They also use index marks on the ports and extenders along with one on the housing to make installation and removal of these a virtual 'no brainer'.  The other controls and knobs are also large with ample spacing between them and this facilitates their operation while wearing diving gloves.

The housings are made by machining a single billet of 6061 T6 aluminum and hard anodized and has a lustre satin finish. Great quality with sex appeal! All the metal buttons and control shafts and springs are made from 316 stainless steel. A metal considered best for underwater use as it contains no iron and will not rust. All high use buttons and knobs are double o-ring sealed, as well as all shafts unless not practical. Any other components used, seals, o-rings, etc are made using materials that meet, or beat, the industry standards.

The service when needed has been excellent across the board. Timely and effective. Not only by Watershot to me but also to my Watershot clients. Over my years in underwater photography I have grown very kean on the service standard set by Ikelite. I rate Watershot's service its equal.

The photographs below were taken by me using the Watershot 500D housing, flat and dome ports, with Canon's 500D (T1i) camera and Canon's 60mm Macro (Flamingo Tongues), Canon's 18-55mm IS (Trumpetfish portrait) and Canon's 10-22mm ( Turtle with diver) lenses:


While a relative newcomer to the market, the Watershot housings are well travelled.  They have helped photographers come home with keepers from Indonesia, the Bahamas, Bonaire, Belize, Roatan, Cozumel, the Florida Keys, the green waters of South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota, the cold waters of the California coast and the frigid waters of Antartica. 

The Watershot housing and system is very high quality product at a comparatively low and competitive price point. I have been using it for over a year and during 100s of dives, in three countries and imaged using Macro, midrange zoom and ultra wide angle zoom lenses with it. It is a dream tool to use to do the job of underwater photography with. 

I can help you put together a complete system, housing, strobe and necessary components such as camera trays, handles, strobe arms and clamps, synch cables/cords.  Contact me if you need any additional information or have any questions.
Good diving and shooting to you all.


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Friday, May 7, 2010

Belize: a very special trip diving and witnessing shark research

Hello Everyone!  This is a very special blog for me as I was offered a once in a lifetime trip to travel to Belize and to see and photograph shark research that has been and is being conducted there and at Glovers Atoll.

I travelled to Belize with Ellen Pikitch, PhD a world renowned marine scientist and one of  'my guyz', underwater photographer, Connie Z.  I was invited there as their guest and to be a dive buddy and backup underwater photographer.  The trip planning started many months ago and we left Miami on April 26th and returned on May 4th.  

w/Dr Ellen Pikitch and underwater photographer Connie Z.

Dr Pikitch runs the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science  and more about her and her work can be learned by following the link.  The New York Times ran an article about her shark research at Glovers Atoll coincidentally on the day of our departure.  Her shark research is the longest running research of sharks in the Caribbean. 

Our trip was multi-faceted and there was much on our plate and itineary.  We flew into Belize City on American Airlines and from there caught a Maya Air flight to Dangriga Town much further south.  Very exciting and the beginning of this wonderfull adventure.

From Dangriga we took a 40 minute shuttle van ride to Hamanasi resort where we spent 3 days getting acclimated and organized and did some diving and attempted to see and photograph whale sharks as this is a peak time of year for them to show up.  Hamanasi is a jewel of a resort with wonderfull staff, food and accomodations and a professional dive operation.  Our hostesses there were Jan and Stephanie and if ever we wanted anything their reaction was:  'no problem'.

                                                                  w/Jan and Stephanie
While at Hamanasi we did some tune-up dives and quested for the whale sharks.  Whales sharks are in these waters to feed on the spawn of Cubera Snapper.  The snapper collect at a location named Gladden Spit which is a bit of a hike by boat from either Hamanasi or later Glovers Atoll.  The snapper release their spawn and as it rises to the surface the whalesharks appear and filter feed upon it.  We could and did simulate the spawn by gathering in a circle and our exhalation bubbles provided the simulated spawning.  Cute trick but in our case it did not work!  However, we did see dolphins, Cubera Snapper, Trevally Jacks, Horse-eyed Jacks and Bull sharks all on the same dives and layered upon one another.  Oh, I almost forgot that we also saw Loggerhead, Green and Hawksbill turtles.  The corals in Belize are all dense and very much alive and splendid with color.  I had one of the best wall dives ever while there.  Later during the trip Dr Pikitch and Connie returned to Gladden Spit from Glovers Atoll and did see one whale shark!!
simulating spawn

From Hamanasi we travelled by open boat with luggage under a tarp to Glovers Atoll which was an adventure in itself!  We arrived at dive resort on an island located just a few minutes by boat from the Wildlife Conservation Society's research center, the Isla de Marisol, which is owned and operated by 'Eddie'.  Photo above, and Eddie and I in the photo below. 

Photos of the research center below
We used Marisol as a headquarters and from there travelled by boat to meet up with Dr Ellen's research crew who were housed at the research center.   In addition to Dr Pikitch's shark research there are other marine science related research programs being conducted at the center.  Alex Tilley (working toward his PhD) is conducting research on Southern Stingrays and there were two young marine scientists studying sponge growth.  One other project involved the study of algae and currents, and cages were made using PVC to cover small coral heads from the foraging of algae by parrotfish.  Cages were placed on heads of corals on both sides of the Atoll where currents fluctuated.

                                                              sponge study
PVC cages
This was all very fascinating to me.  I never dreamt I would be anywhere near any marine science studies much less be along during it all!  As mentioned the trip was multi-faceted with much to accomplish on our plate the main focus was Dr Ellen's shark research. 

Her research officially began in 2000.  Her shark studies and surveys are conducted in a protected 'no take' zone.  As we all know sharks, an apex predator and a key element in the oceans' food chain, are under increasing pressure from fishing.  My personal take on her research shows that while shark populations may not grow where they exist within protected areas, none the less, the population does not diminish in numbers either.   Sharks existing in protected areas have a chance to thrive or at least survive.  I witnessed this in Key Largo where we are now seeing small numbers of sharks in our Sanctuary Preservation Areas (SPAs) which are also 'no take zones'.

Her and her research team would during the day and at night venture in an open boat and upon open ocean to set baited lines to catch sharks.  They employed long lines in shallower water with 50 hooks and employed deep water lines vertically to depths of 800 feet with 5 hooks on these.  They were very meticulous in not leaving these lines soaking too long.  This was to avoid injuring, due to fatigue, anything that they caught.  This aspect of the trip was a lot of physical work and long hours.  I was glad I was just there to photograph it all. 

Once a shark was caught the team would bring it to the surface and from there:  measure it, determine its sex, take a small slice of its dorsal fin for a DNA sample and tag the animal.  I want to stress that great effort was made to not harm the animal.  In one instance one gray reef shark appeared very tired so it was released immediately and no data was collected.  We caught two types of sharks on this trip.  Caribbean Reef Sharks (which I oftentimes just call 'gray reefs') and Nurse sharks.  The gray sharks were small 'pup's and my loose guess measured them at up to 3 feet in length.  The Nurse sharks caught were larger and one caught was at least 8 feet in length.   Dr Ellen put together a great team.  Captin Nolan a great boat handler pictured above and to the left and the 'team' to his right and heading out to haul up the long-line.  Just under are Connie and Dr Ellen prepping hooks.  Below that photo is a shark alongside the boat. 

The following photos hopefully tell the story better than I can in writing:

I could write thousands of words about the exhileration of this trip and experience.  It was a very wonderfull opportunity for me.  Hopefully pictures are indeed worth a thousand words.

Thank you very much Dr Ellen and Connie for the invitation and opportunity for me to have this marvelous experience!   lg

PS: I would also like to thank the following people for their help, support, kindnesses, generosity, and friendship:  Jan, Stephanie, Bert and Troy at Hamanasi.  Eddie, Darren, Chad and Kitty at Isla de Marisol.  Nolan, Damion, Alex and Buc at the WCS research center.

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