Monday, December 10, 2012

'Life on the High Plains'


Hello Everyone! As promised this is the third of a series of blogs I mentioned doing many many months ago.
In August of 2011, after spending roughly the past 20 years scuba diving, I returned to the state of South Dakota, on the high plains.   The above photo was taken 37 years ago on my preferred mode of transportation.  Harley Davidsons.

I did this blog because some friends were curious as to what I am doing up and over this way and/or were curious about the life and way of life in this part of our country.

There is a sharp distinction and contrast in many ways between life on the high plains and life scuba diving in the Florida Keys. A cultural difference, yet people here on the plains have much in common with people in the Keys. Both seem to prefer wide open spaces, nature and wild life verses city congestion. Both like life simple and take enjoyment from the simple things in life.

During my years scuba diving, teaching it and doing underwater photography and showing others how, I unintentionaly abandoned activities that I call 'normal human being things'. I ate, slept and breathed scuba and UW photography.

A plus to being back on the high plains has been I have rediscovered these things and depicting these is a part of this blog and its accompanying photographs. Simple things like going to the movies, plays, concerts, cookouts and foods with friends, the county fair, visting a museum, a high school basketball game, the senior prom, events of sorts held at the mall, and road trips that criss-crossed the state and surrounding states that help comprise the high plains.

While I am not shooting much underwater, I have been trying to use my cameras to capture my experiences on the high plains and what it is like here. Most of you reading this have never been to this part of our country and most of you who haven't been in this neck of the woods have told me over the years that you would like to visit.

I created an on-line photograph album of my times, experiences and sites and include the link to it below. I hope the album gives you a picture of 'life on the high plains'! 

Here is the link:

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Return to Grand Cayman Island !

Hello fellow bloggers,

A couple months ago I learned that two friends, Michael W and Denise O moved to Grand Cayman Island a few months prior to that. As a joke, I asked 'what color is my room'. Their immediate reply was 'the Gates suite' is open and ready for whenever I and a travelling companion can get there!'

Well, I happen to have a friend who is a travelling companion and we happen to have a friend who is a travel agent so we booked our trip there and for a week in duration. This trip was a sudden and almost a last minute trip. As such neither I nor my travelling companion, Wendy, had any big 'must do while there' plans. My goal was to go to Grand Cayman and see Michael and Denise, enjoy the weather, eat seafood drink a few beers and do a little diving with my camera. I had not been to Grand Cayman since 1996 so thought it would be great to go back and see and dive it again.

Both Michael and Denise are scuba divers and Michael has an interest in free-diving and shooting video with his Gro Pro video camera setup. Denise is a wonderfull UW photographer and former scuba instructor. I met both in 2010 during the time they spent with me in Key Largo working with her as she just purchased a new housed dSLR UW camera system.

Wendy had never been to Grand Cayman Island so had no preconceived ideas about the place and her goals were to go to a warm place, meet Michael and Denise, do a little diving and eat a lot of seafood. The only diving goal I had was to make sure Wendy got to do Stingray City. This blog is kinda akin to a trip-report. It is not very well organized but I wanted to publish the blogpost as soon as possible, while things were still fresh in my memory. I also want it to serve as part of a huge thank you and debt of gratitude owed to Denise and Michael for welcoming us into their home and island.

Our travel agent and friend, Gloria, scored us a wonderfull airfare and great itineary. We flew American Airlines from the high plains to Chicago, Miamia, Grand Cayman Island and back in reverse order. AA had some mechanical issues and while we arrived on schedule our luggage did not make it until late the next day. This was okay as I enjoyed my first day just being in Grand Cayman, enjoying Michael and Denise's hospitality and their wonderfull home on the beach and water.

We also stocked up on some provisions at one of GCI's well-stocked grocery stores and more than stocked up on adult beverages. Most of the foods we ate, we ate out. We ate at the Sunset House, Cobalt Coast, Macaruba's, Morgan Harbor, The Prime (a Brazilean steakhouse) and Deckers (all the grilled lobster you could eat) to name some of these. Foods we ate included-Mahi, snapper, triggerfish, scallops, shrimp, salmon, fish (grouper) and chips, lobster, steak, rib, lamb, chicken and pork. We hardly starved.

The Cayman Islands can be a spendee place but due mainly to the exchange rate. A Cayman Island Dollar is worth roughly $1.25 USD. For example a fish sandwich listed at $10 CI on the menu is $12.50 USD. Tipping is accepted and the average is 15% for anyone who serves you in any way. The service we experienced everywhere was excellent. CI has a departure tax as do many Caribe Islands and theirs is $20 USD and already included in your r/t airfare. Grand Cayman has a good first world infrastructure with goods and services available there that we have in the US. The island hosts a lot of divers so it has whatever a diver may want or need. I wouldn't want to drive in GCI as they drive on the left hand side of the road. If you go there and are a diver you will likely stay at a dive resort and not need to. I, staying at the 'Gates Suite, GCI' had 'my man', "Wingrave".

I have good things to say about a dive store, Divers Supply (whose staff of this well stocked dive store helped with a regulator issue), Divetech, a premiere dive operation (that we did Stingray City with), Sunset House and Eden Rock two other dive operations whose facilities we used to do some shore-diving.

The weather was near perfect during our stay. We had one rainy afternoon, which we used to simply relax at Michael and Denise's beautiful home. The rest of the time it was sunny with a slight breeze if any. Daytime air temperatures were in the mid 80s or warmer, and I never needed long pants or a jacket during the evening. Water temperature was 82-ish and I was comfortable doing 50 minute+ dives wearing my 3mm shorty. The diving in Grand Cayman Island is fairly easy. In the sense that even if currents exist or waves are rocking, sites can be found and dove where there are no currents or big waves. Divers have been diving a long time in the Cayman Islands. They, like the Bahamas (and Hawaii in the Pacific) were pioneer islands back in the day when dive travel got its start. The Caymans have all the corals and aquatic life, large and small, along with super visibility that is found in other parts of the Caribe. The Caymans, in my opinion, are one of those diver-places that if you have not been there, you should go there, and, if you have been there, it is worth going back to.

Well, I hope I gave a good enough trip report in this blog and that some of it will help you should you go to Grand Cayman. I know in this blog I can't thank Denise and Michael enough. The trip gave me a nice break physically and spiritually from life on the high plains and a chance to see Grand Cayman and dive it again. Wendy had one of the thrills of her diving life with the Stingrays and travelling to a new place. So for these reasons and many others thank you Denise and Michael; we both had a trip and time of our lifetime!

Follow this link to some images, especially Denise's, taken during our trip:

Happy diving, lg 

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Roatan- finally!

Hello Bloggers- as promised in my last blog, here is the second of three blogs and this blog is (more or less) a trip report about a dive trip to Roatan.

After many years of dreaming and planning I finally made it to Roatan. I traveled there as part of and with a great group of divers and we spent the week of February 4th thru the 11th, 2012 scuba diving and doing UW photography there. For those of you reading this and are unfamiliar with Roatan, Roatan is one of three of the Bay Islands (Utilia and Guanaja-the other two) off the Caribbean coast of and part of the Central American nation of Honduras. It is a diving 'mecca' and its reef is part of the Mesoamerican Reef system. This reef system is the largest in the Atlantic Ocean and stretches from North of the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula to south of Honduras. The reefs of Belize and Cozumel are also a part of this reef system and are very similar to Roatan.

Roatan offers reef and wall diving, with depths ranging from 20 feet to those well below recreational diving limits. Its corals are relatively and comparatively robust, colorful and life-full. The visibility is good (from 60 to over 100 feet) and currents and surge are minimal and the seas are calm or when the wind is blowing, dive sites in lees are conducted. Water temp when we were there was 79 degrees and the air temps in the 80s. Some destinations in the Caribe are lacking quantities of marine life. This is not the case in Roatan. In my opinion, Roatan is a very easy place to scuba dive. Some destinations can be very challenging and the diving aggressive.

I got the urge to go and dive there several years ago after hearing about it from friends of mine, Jan and Don McGarva who used to own Pleasure Diver in Key Largo. They made several trips there and stayed at a 'couple-three' different places during those. I booked the group trip through Doris Pfister of Caradonna Dive Travel and highly recommend using her and Caradonna should you book a dive trip anywhere.

We all flew direct, non-stop to Roatan using Atlanta and Houston as gateways and Delta and Continental, respectively as air carriers. I recommend flying direct. While it can be more costly, you And your things will arrive in Roatan once you depart the US. Our group stayed at one of several all-inclusive properties on Roatan, the Henry Morgan Resort. Some other all-inclusive resorts are: Fantasy Island, Anthony Keys Resort and Coco view. Our package included, airport transfers, lodging, meals, snacks, bar-consisting of local beer (Salva Vida), house wine and well drinks, including those foo-foo types and five days of three tank diving and a night dive for 16 dives. Saturdays were our travel days and we dove Sunday through Thursday. Honduras has a 16% tax on these packages and there is a $35 departure tax.

The HMR is a very nice property and its staff were friendly and courteous and at times fun. The rooms were clean, fresh and tended to daily by maid staff. The property's infrastructure (electricity, hot water, etc) was functioning, save one night when two of our group had no hot water for a shower. Of course this was after the night dive. The property is situated on a beach that runs to land's end. The diving operation, on property, was ran by TGI Diving (Tropical Gangsters International). This operation was, in my opinion, a very well run and managed and professional diving operation. I've seen better, but, I have also seen worse. TGI was good at what they did and fun.

As mentioned the meals were part of our package. They left something to be desired, and though no one lost any weight, most of our group ended up eating off-property beginning on Wednesday, only eating breakfast on property. The food was okay, it is just that it could have been better and our group's experience in such things was in harmony. For this reason and one other, I would not recommend the Henry Morgan Resort. The second reason is, the resort is not a 'dive (dedicated) resort' per-se. Rather it is a real nice resort that offers diving. My experience is that dive dedicated resorts have fewer guests and all of them are there for diving. Please don't get me wrong here, our group had a fantastic time and trip. In fact, a blast! This 'food thing' was the one negative. IF HMR did something about that, I could recommend the place.

As mentioned we had nice rooms and the bar-tab was part of our package. We had a good dive op and were in one of the dive meccas of the world. In short, we had a good place to sleep, lots of diving, some of which were breath-taking and stunning and many happy hours- including live-entertainment dancing on property and on the beach. We also had the good fortune of having great weather the week we were there.

Roatan has lots of subjects for UW photography and many that are commonly seen where they are not typically sighted in my stomping grounds, the Florida Keys. This was one reason why I wanted to go there. I went there 'mission-orientated' from an UW photography stand-point and my mission was to photograph specific subjects, suited to Macro lenses. This, and I should know, was a huge mistake, because whenever I do that, those subjects are the last thing I will see, if at all. This proved to be the case on this trip and 'mission'. I shot wide angle the first couple days diving and then shifted my focus to Macro per my mission. The accompanying images will show a good example of what we did see and what was not photographed (by me on my mission) were Seahorses and Frogfish. Oh well, such is life in UW photography and mother ocean's whims. I and we still got our shots!

We had a great trip. With great people on it. Among us were long time friends and new friendships were formed with bonds made and strengthened during our time in Roatan. We are all hoping to do another trip together some where and some time. Some of you reading this missed this trip. I have your contact info and will keep you in the loop for the next trip. Hope this trip report was fun to read and informative. And that the images do a fair job portraying it. Thanx to Cj, Steve, Alan, Anne, Rich, Marc and Wendy for sharing some of your photos here! And for the luxury of the time we spent together diving and the happy hours. I think I could plan a dive trip to a golf-course pond and I would have a great time with all of you there.

If anyone I know reading this is planning a trip to Roatan and wants any additional information or elaboration, please email me. If Roatan is not on your bucket list as a diver or UW photographer, I think it should be. For me, it was a great experience and I am lucky and happy to have made it to Roatan, finally!  lg


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