The last few months I dove in the Red Sea there was not a single (that I could find) hermit crab safe from me. Turn over the shell, wait, the legs and head would poke out to right the upside-down shell. They’d do it over and over. I just had to hang around long enough to wait to get the perfect shot. My dive buddies were swimming away. I would linger to the last second. The shot includes the eyes and the antennae in focus. You only get a moment. Once, I got a “mama” hermit crab with eggs. That was special. I think even my buddies were impressed. The crabs are only mere fractions of an inch big. Yes! Small! I’m used to shooting under (time) pressure. Traditionally, my companions are always moving on to something else as I linger behind. Yup, the Poky Little Puppy.
The holy grail of night diving around where we dove in the Red Sea? The Spanish dancer. You can see them. Lots of night divers have seen them. Right! But, it’s a rare sight. They look like the skirt of a Spanish dancer – duh! Beautiful! They are very large nudibranch. Not too sexy, huh? But the holy grail nonetheless. The feather star is also a coral that will shrink if the light hits it. You see them only on night dives. And you flash photo them. A flashlight will cause them to shrink. And the last animal with the tentacles was definitely a one-time shot for me. I was with Farid in the southern site we sometimes dove. Ugly and monstrous it spooked me and fascinated me at the same time. Whoa!
It’s interesting that looking at an image, I can recall the circumstances and location I took the shot. At other times I have completely forgotten the image until it showed up again in Lightroom. Memory is funny. It’s amazing what triggers memory recall. I especially like the images where, “I took that?” pops into my head.
Follow your buddy, shoot what they shoot. My friend Marie has the ability to find great “shit.” And she breathes slow! Way slow! She can get an hour and a half from a single tank. Newbies get about thirty minutes. I got an hour. After I learned to breathe more slowly and rhythmically from her (by watching her) I could get way more dive time. And more pictures! Meanwhile, she was taking pics of the male fish (see the teeth) with eggs in their mouth. And I did too! Yay! I once saw a fern in Jamaica whose leaves shrink when touched – sort of like scrunching up when a rain drop would hit. Coral does too – some types – as in you can write things in the coral. But once one coral shrinks the whole lot seems to follow. So, it’s a trick to write letters in the shrinking coral. Good luck.
During Ramadan everything (schedule) is turned upside down. Night dives! The guys would show up to break fast. Eat. Then dive. Yay! They did two or three! Night dives! Unfortunately, I was not privy to the schedule. No one ever tells you, nor do they bother to invite you. Ah well, I caught on to the rumor and showed up. The group all brought food to the communal break fast meal. They graciously fed me. (Free food!) We hung out way past sunset into night time. What the…? We were waiting for the late arrival of a friend. He was a thin guy whose wet (elastic) suit hung limply over his scrawny figure. He chain-smoked until he put his tank on and the regulator into his mouth. Yeah, nothing happens (explosion). It’s compressed air, not oxygen. I got to be his dive buddy. Oh great!? At the very end of the dive, after the decompression stop, when we were swimming in toward the pier, at the very last second; he pulled up short and started taking pictures like mad. It was a hermit crab on the bottom in ten foot of water. Yeah, sometimes your dive buddy has his moments.
Confusing picture? The hermit crab has green eyes. There are antennae. He has covered himself with shells in order to confuse you and to camouflage himself better. See?
I realize it’s not a good image. But it’s a good memory. Farid and I were swimming parallel to the reef. That would be north south. We are supposed to be able to navigate underwater. After all north south is south north going backward. Ha! It’s one way or the other. Keep the reef to your right or left shoulder. Done! Ah! No! If you swim into a cove you can swim in a circle and be right back where you started. Get it? We didn’t. I had a great laugh when Farid surfaced to see where the hell we were. Oh! I missed it too. I was just following the “leader.” Rays? Out in the “blue” were three rays just moving along the reef. Beautiful. We couldn’t get close. They swam effortlessly away from us. The “blue?” In the deep, with no reference for navigation, up, down and sideways, it’s all the same. You can be lost or disoriented so easily. We joked. Sudan is to our west and in the “blue.” Don’t go to Sudan.
This was the quintessential image that “hooked” (ha ha) me on night dives. Night dive? Sharks are out there in the dark?!! No. They don’t like the light. They think it’s a big eye; they don’t come near night divers. Hmmm? Who had a conversation with a shark and found that info out? I consider that bright flashing light a dinner bell, “Come one, come all, dinner is served!”
My first night dive during my “advanced” course was totally forgettable. I wasn’t allowed to take my camera. Drat! And double drat! We didn’t see much. It’s surprising how boring things are when you don’t carry a camera. But this image was taken during a boat dive and a night dive. We actually had a guy on the boat who was afraid of the dark and didn’t go into the water. Funny. But near the end of our dive, there it was – a stonefish on a platter. My! Everything was right (including the stars!) – I got this shot. Perfect! Well, for me it was so special to see this as I edited. Wow! You might be jaded and fail to see the difficulties that all culminated in this image. Me? I was just so impressed with everything that came together in that fraction of a second. What an image! Night dive? I was there ever after. We did not do many. It was not a thing that folks wanted to much wait around to do. Generally, we did a couple day dives and then moved along with our day activities. It was even rare to do a third day dive. I’d have gone (diving) morning till night. I appreciated the special moments and that they could end any time. Alas!
I got some “art” shots. Unintentional! Really! The kissing fish? It’s a true picture. I was swimming over a rise in the coral. Voila! They were kissing. It lasted for a single frame. No! No Photoshop! No one believes me. It’s too easy to manipulate an image. But! Yup! Kissing! Omar blew bubbles. He liked Jules. So, he latched on to us and did a few dives with us. He was showing off his skill at the decompression stop. Bubbles! Free diver. There are guys who dive without tanks. Free divers – duh?! They hang weights from a float and dive to depths. Hey, it’s something to do when you have mastered basic diving skills. This diver was waiting for his compatriots. I got my balletic shot. Beautiful.
Shrimp! Alas, it was in an aquarium. It’s striking how much glass will degrade the image. When I shot through water directly it was so much better. But… it’s fish again. Yay!
I’m not posting new from the Red Sea. But there are fish. We were buying pet food. Petco is a big box chain store. They sell fish. I was stunned to see a sad display of betas. They are solitary and will fight any other fish in its habitat. So there was a stack of bowls with single fish. The fish were lethargic. They can breathe air; there was a tiny hole in the top of the container. Stacked up row upon row the fish were waiting to be sold. It is enough to make you want to reconsider owning a pet. Who thinks this is good advertising?
Selfie. It’s a wrap. I’m not bragging. It’s been an incredible journey.
Dives: 399 – Minutes: 25877 – Hours: 431 – Images this year: 21834 – Total four years: >50,000 images
I have logged 399 dives. Darn, just one short of 400. I did not log early dives nor training dives. That would be about six months until I got a dive computer. Some dives were short, maybe 30 minutes. And the longest was in excess of 100 minutes, 109 on a recent dive. I got better at air management. The average dive was about 64 min. This year I dove a lot and took 21, 834 images with a Canon G7. I have used a Canon G11, two Canon G12’s, and three Canon S100’s. Basically, I used three housings. I have two strobes. Redundancy was a must. Saudi has very limited access to equipment and supplies. All my stuff was largely brought from the US. I traveled with extra everything – batteries, memory cards. I always had a flashlight for unexpected night dives. I often had an extra camera housing – just in case. I have had about any camera problem you can think about. So be prepared. Everything fails. It’s a bit like wedding photography. You have two of everything. It’s a rule. Something always happens. I saved my buddy the other day. His memory card was full. I have forgotten to load my memory card. It’s better than forgetting to turn on your oxygen. But, I’ve done that too. (Ask your buddy to turn you on.)
There were three fantasy things I wanted to do in life. Dive. Fly. (I flew with a buddy in a Bell 47 helicopter.) And parachute. Two out of three ain’t bad. And I got to do both extensively. I’d have liked to have done one more night dive. And there are pictures in my head that I never got to image. Four years on the reef and I still saw something new on the last dive. I went into the water never expecting to make statistics. Fun, learning, pushing my personal limits – when the fork in the road came, I took it.