Underwater Happiness

Never one to dwell on the negative…

My last couple of diving trips have been really sublime. My guide has had an open schedule on Mondays, so we’re diving with just the two of us, or with other guides on their days off. This has meant that we’ve been taking trips down the ‘paths less travelled’, and getting out to see the parts of I.O.P. that are too much effort for most people. Effort is usually defined as anything involving a surface swim, or 10mins ploughing along at 15m… my favourite points require both.

From a dive earlier this month, not exactly the same route as described here, but close enough. First dive in red, second in blue.

Yesterday we were diving with another instructor on his day off. They really should put this in the PADI manuals: when your guide tells you that another instructor is tagging along, and asks if it would be alright to use 14litre tanks (we usually dive with 10litres), you should be afraid, very afraid.

The usual pattern recently has been to dive to the second point, requiring a surface swim to the first point, descent, and then a 5 minute slog to the northern wall of the second point (at about 20m), crossing over to the southern wall, and moving to the eastern tip at about 35m. Then the long swim back to the exit. With a 10litre tank you’ve got about 45mins to do this (if you want to get out with a safe amount of air in your tank), with a 14l tank you can stretch it out to over an hour…

The second dive, after a suitably elongated break, is a longer surface swim, followed by a longer slog at about 15 – 20m over the sand to an outcrop called ‘buri machi’. All the interesting things happen down past 30m, and it’s an ‘all or nothing’ sort of place, sometimes it’s crawling with things, sometimes nothing. Yesterday was a nothing… on the upside, visibility was terrible, the water was cold, the currents were strong, and the soft corals looked like something out of an H.P. Lovecraft novel. So, not all bad! And then the long slog home. Again, with a 10l tank this is a 45min affair, with not much room to spare, with a 14l tank it’s an easy hour. Which is good, because after the first dive your computer is pretty much screaming at you that you’re close to your limits, a sign that you need to take your time coming up to the surface. Dutifully long safety stops were taken.

After two plus hours of that i was ready to call it a day. These instructor types, despite being a few years older than me, were off for another dive. If you dive most days you obviously build up some serious stamina for it. It was interesting that i used quite a lot less air than either of them, but was obviously far more tired.

This recent pattern of challenging dives has been really good for me – my fitness (from swimming) is currently good enough that i can really enjoy pushing myself and not feel like i’m taking stupid risks. For the rest of the warm season i’m going to try to keep up a routine of diving twice a month… maybe even when dry suit time rolls around.

Underwater Frustration

You’d be rather hard pushed to know, but there is a rather pretty anemone shrimp hiding in that picture. It’s taken with a Canon G9, that quite frankly, has become the bane of my underwater photography existence. Mostly due to the housing, it’s actually a step back from the little Ixy 800 IS that i started out with. That thing could at least get the shot

The real answer is obviously to stop messing around with this junk, spend the money, and get a proper step. In my mind this would be defined as a 5D mk II, a decent housing (good down to 60m… just for that little extra insurance), a lens port for the EF100m ƒ2.8 USM Macro, and a pair of Inon strobes. Easy. I even know what to buy! Given a few dives to practice, it’d be possible to get exactly the shots that i’ve always wanted! There are two problems…

First, such a setup is going to set me back something like ~$10k; $2k for the 5D mk II (not so bad, i’d probably buy one eventually), $5 for the housing and port (ouch), $2k for strobes. That’s rather a large investment for something that is only going to get wet a couple of times a month, and given the number of people out there shooting, isn’t very likely to pay for itself through picture sales / licensing.

Second, it’s all very well diving off the back of a boat, being handed your $10k camera setup, and gently descending into crystal clear, blue tropical waters… but the majority of my dives just aren’t like that! For me it’s a beach entry on a rocky shore, usually through surf, and often with enough swell that getting thrown about it a bit by the waves is what you should expect. And, that’s just the entry – an exit can often be like going through the spin cycle of a washing machine!

All of which leaves me with a bit of a dilemma: i’d really like to take better (much better!) underwater photographs, but i can’t justify spending the money, and any insurance company would probably drop me after i’d ruined the first couple of housings in the surf!

Oh, and i’ve looked into housing / strobe rental, but it seems to be mostly limited to a few dive shops and professional stuff (broadcast, etc), and i’m not sure they’d be too keen on the trip to 35m to get my dream shot of some nudibranch that may, or may not, still be there…

The thought of some halfway house, where i buy a housing for the G9 (if they’re still even made…) and a couple of strobes, really doesn’t appeal anymore – i’m so sick of the damn thing, that ‘doing it right’ feels like the only alternative.

All of which leaves me thinking that i’m just going to grin and bear it. But i really do wish i wasn’t coming back from 2hrs of diving with ~5 decent(ish) shots!