Word and Image

Red Sea

Ray (s)

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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.


Platter – night dive

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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!


Fan Coral

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I’ve posted this before. Amr, a senior photographer and dive buddy shot/made a poster of it.  It hung as an admonishment at the dive center. The Saudis are pigs. Ha, they don’t eat pork. Pig is a relative term I suppose. Someone (maybe not Saudi) destroyed this coral. They knocked it over. It looked like “shit” after it was destroyed. It was out about 15 minutes from the pier at 65 feet. It was beautiful and gorgeous once upon a time. Then someone came along and messed it up forever and for everyone else to come. Bastards!


Art

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.


Let’s Do Fish!

Let’s do fish! It’s been more than a year since I last dived. (hmmm? dive, dove, diven?) It’s like anything else – skiing – you don’t forget. Right now – it is just something I did – once upon a time ago. The water in the Atlantic is way cold. I shall wait for warmer water – Hawaii or the Caribbean. It doesn’t mean we can’t do a retrospective. My fish pics are my screen saver. I see them daily. Retrospective? Yeah, I got some really nice pics. Red Sea, with camera equipment adequate but not high end. I had camera envy and not. There’s no way I was going to fry a $5000 rig. I was pushed to my limit mastering technical details in order to come away with good images.

Let’s start with my kids. Jules (nickname) doesn’t allow me to use her real name when I post. Her students find her when they are searching the web. Dave’s cool. (That will “fry” his sister.) He learned to dive in the Red Sea. Jules learned in the Caribbean. She held his hand like a “big sister” would. They were worried about their nutty dad. Remember the times I took you (kids) skiing down Black Diamond trails before you could read? I take embarrassing pics of my kids. They had a great time! We all did! And, I taught them the basics of underwater photography.

I was fortunate to have both of my kids come dive with me in the Red Sea. Saudi Arabia does not allow tourists. Visas are strictly regulated. There was one magical week in which we did a series of dives together. We did a night dive. (I fooled and cajoled them into it.) We had a magical turtle encounter. Moments in life come and go. Before you realize it, the moment has passed. Only in retrospect do I really now appreciate how special it was to have had this experience with the kids. Our lives have all changed and it’s unlikely to ever occur again.


Stats

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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.)

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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.


Follow up

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It took two days to go from not too much to see, to eyes and mouth. We actually returned to the same spot. This is a neat trick – to return. It’s not easy. Everything looks similar. In the forest one tree looks about the same as any other. Here’s how I figured it out. I used my dive computer. I saw we were at 50 feet and about twenty minutes in the dive. So, we retraced our path. It worked! Tomorrow the eggs will be hatched. We know this from the last find. Once hatched, the tiny fish will be chaos and I would never get an image. And, we weren’t waiting to see the hatching. Too bad.

I imagine being there to image the hatching. It would indeed be a rare and special thing to witness. That would be for someone way more OCD than I can admit to being. But… No! It’s not my day job and I don’t have the time. But at least for the next diver, it’s about two days to eyes, and one more to hatching.


Eggs

Damsel fish lay eggs and the guard them. This one moved in and brushed against me as I swam by. I knew it was guarding something. Eggs! It was too early. Nothing had developed yet. The eggs are tiny. You need very high magnification. How high? Enough that I can’t see the eggs by myself. I wear glasses now. There are no corrective lens in my mask. So I shoot and then wait to see what’s on my computer. I am fascinated that I can technically get images like this. And even more special is that finding this is so rare!


Dumb Move Buddy

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I never said I wouldn’t post another fish. I just said, “last dive.” This is one weird shy fish. Weird or shy? Both. Picasso trigger fish, the coloration inspired its name. It swims on the reef and usually is speeding away from my camera. So, I was just a second late to shoot a feather duster worm. And this fish flashes past my vision and burrowed into the coral crevice. What the…? I never knew the stripes on the back were raised. And I bet you did not either. I poked him. …sorry! And he burrowed farther. He did not bolt! In this case he would have had to back out. Do fish have a gear for reverse?


Missed

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Today (a few weeks back) was my last dive for a while. So there will be no more wondrous finds for a bit. I have quite the treasury of images by now. And yet, there seems to always be that one elusive image…. This is a popcorn shrimp. It was nestled in the middle of an anemone. It was there for an instant. Amr got these shots with my camera. I’d have had a go. But it was gone. I’d have never seen it myself. Are you seeing this? After he focused and pointed it out, it was still a challenge to see. It blends in. It does not want to be eaten. It doesn’t care that all I want is a picture. Just hold still for a second. Please!

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Is it my image? If you shoot it but did not find it, is it yours? Is the challenge the hunt or the shot? Technically it came from my camera. But no, the shot is not mine. I credit my dive buddy and give thanks. We found it together. He was gracious on my last dive. A good friend. Thanks.