Saudi is a beautiful country? Hot desert sand, no rain, every day over 100 degrees, strict religious rules… yes, uniquely totalitarian. Good?! Hmmm… let’s say I am happy to be home again. Did I mention everything stops for “prayer time” five times a day?
Dave learned to dive in Saudi. His sister joined us and we adventured together. They did their first night dive together with me. Scared of the dark? Nah, they were just holding hands because…. Yes, Jules had to wear an abaya! It’s a man’s world in Saudi.
No matter what, my kids can say they visited Saudi and experienced the culture for a brief time. I feel fortunate to have given them this opportunity. What memories!
I realize that most people will not necessarily appreciate this image. Let me explain it. It is of a diver wearing his tank on his hip – Armand. It’s a style of diving to allow the diver not to bump things if he were wearing his tank on his back. We are approaching the landing dock, hence the waves. There is action with serenity. I appreciate the moment in which the dive is ending and the next to come. Peace.
Okay, back to diving… I’m editing some images for a presentation next March. Ha! I was never known for advance planning. But…. So, I’m looking through roughly 60,000 dive images. Many, most, are not any good. You take a lot and most are out of focus or poorly exposed. Got it? I’m looking over a night dive. The exposure is awful. But? Well, I ratcheted up the exposure and lo and behold… not one, but, at least four shrimp! I’m lucky to see one. But four! They like to hide behind urchins. Protective? I can count four. This is a complete surprise to me. I must have edited when I finished the dive. I guess? I don’t remember. Meanwhile, serendipity, I found something new. I know you might not be impressed. The Planet Earth series is full of amazing shots. We see amazing shots day in and day out. I’m just an advanced amateur. I am humbled to get these shots and to have had the opportunity to do so. Hey! Four shrimp, one shot! They are notoriously shy. You should know. You’d eat them if they were on your plate. They know this too!
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.
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.
Look closely and you see the reef exposed. Nothing is ever canceled for weather. There is no weather except hot and sunny. Ok, two things happen, rain and sandstorms. These hardly ever happen. It rained one day last year. It was not a dive day. And sandstorms of the Laurence of Arabia type are a rarity too. But sandstorms do happen. We had one the past few days. It merely obscured vision like a fog. So the buildings on the horizon were sepia toned and a bit fuzzy. But the winds push the seas and that makes waves. That’s good for surfers. But it does not allow divers to enter the water safely. And, it makes it hazardous to get back out of the water. Got it?
Today was a sandstorm day. The waves were noticeable. And then they were hazardous. Several expert divers had problems emerging. And others had to be pulled out of the water with assistance. My dive buddy and guru shook his head. He was convinced it was not safe. It not diving for fun if the risk is greater. Normally the water is covering the reef nicely. And the waves do not pull you back out. Notice too, that the adjacent resort is not closed. Divers are on the stairs. Risk is relative. I saw two of the dive staff dive in to save some swimmers. I’m good. I’d like to have challenged the conditions. But, as my kids would disapprove, I listened to the little voice in my head. I’ll try tomorrow. Today this picture will suffice to remind me that it’s better to be lucky than good.
I am a diver now. In fact I made rescue diver recently. When I started, I was impressed to be diving with a rescue diver who assisted my instructor. He seemed so knowledgable and experienced. I am that now. It doesn’t seem so much of a deal anymore. I just keep an eye out for the less experienced and lend a hand when I can. Jules and I are on a dive boat headed to see the whale sharks at the blue hole in Belize. This is a world famous dive destination. At this point Lisa had arranged a nice beach resort vacation and part of the package included a snorkel outing. So here we are on a boat full of divers, and, Jules and I don’t dive! Not yet, it would be some years for me to realize how close we were to a dream come true and we didn’t see the whale sharks. We just happen to be sitting in front of BCD’s ready to go. I also fried my point and shoot camera on this dive as well. It was eventful for what I didn’t know and what I came to know later. Looking back i can see so much of what meant nothing to me at the time Lisa snapped this image.