The last time I…
September 16, 2016. … the last time I dove. Underwater, Red Sea. The Red Sea dives. It was a week before I left Saudi forever. Good? What? Which? Answer: Complex. On many levels. Let me be obtuse and confusing.
As Carol says, ‘feral cats.’ Two, I had to leave them behind. Were it otherwise, I would have braved the red tape to bring Lulu and Casi home to the USA. But they were Arabic speaking cats…
The last dive shot? Hmmmm…. I have a dive log. It says 9/16/16. And my catalog? No pictures – no dive pictures for that day. What!?!! Somehow, there are – pictures of diving on that day.
The absolute last dive picture? Nudibranch, nothing special, yet, it was. Special. Last. Out with a whimper. The shrimp is almost too small to see with the naked eye! Blenny poking out of the coral? Dragon nudibranch! Hermit crab ‘en’ shell? Flying ‘whatever!!’
Oh boy, despite my failing memory, these shots are embedded…. I’ll never do it again. I was good! Oh, the skill! Wistful? Regret? Do I miss Lulu and Casi?
It was but a chapter in my life. I have moved on. You cannot go back. I am glad I have the memories. Colleen is glad I am home every night safe and snug in our bed. She worries a lot. This is one less thing to worry over.
Last picture of the last dive. Thank goodness it was a real subject and in focus.
From the pictures and the dates, it would appear that I last dove only a few days before I departed Saudi. Decompression protocol says you don’t dive 24 hrs before you (fly) leave. It looks like I got on a boat dive with the Filipinos. Nice! I learned this trick in my last few dives. All the nondescript shells on the reef harbored hermit crabs. Turn over the shell and voila! A hermit crab! Isn’t that a neat trick? Well, I guess the hermit crabs weren’t so amused. … giant clams, Christmas tree worms, clown fish, and pajama nudibranch numbered among my photographic subjects. One two three nudibranch, unusual to see them grouped, they are loners on the reef. Bright colors mean, danger, eat me and you will be sick. The details are what standout in these last images. My dive days are pretty much over, now.
Turning the page
At this point I have a goal: to teach Colleen to dive. It probably won’t happen. There are too many things going on in our lives. Once upon a time I taught Dave to dive. Jules, Dave, and I had a magical New Year’s in Saudi, where we dove and the kids did their first night dive. First time: it was a thrilling introduction and a memory we uniquely collectively share forever. For a time, I dove every weekend. I still have my dive gear and the camera housing. Likely, I will not use it again. Sad. But, I saw and recorded some amazing things – a hermit crab laying eggs? That’s not something you see – about as rare as hen’s teeth. Nowadays, in retirement, I’m shooting flowers, pets, and people. I still subscribe to a Dive magazine online – free! The photographs are stunning. It reminds me that I will probably not dive every weekend and that my photo underwater skill is static in the face of so many new developments. Wistful? No: one door opens as another closes. Change is inevitable and things never remain the same. I love my life; it rhymes with loving my wife… and cats.
Jen came up with the term ‘Bee sting’ look. Well, she taught the term to me. Purse your lips. Ok! Look. Try it! Bruce does not play along. Constipated? The generations are changing. The gen above us is gone as we will soon be. This summer’s hope is to imbue our kids with the desire to return.
Hey! I got experience. I have experience. I had the fortunate experience of diving in the Red Sea. I have hundreds of dives recorded. Lucky!! And I have photos that are one of a kind. I have a hermit crab in the act of laying eggs. How cool is that? One of a kind!! I was there at the right moment. Yes, sometimes I impress myself.
How do you tell one clown fish from one another? They all look the same to me. Male or female?? Ha ha, good luck with that. But here are fish eggs. They are a rare sight to capture underwater. I am indeed fortunate that I was there when it happened. I missed the moment the eggs hatched. That would have been special. I suppose there are always some regrets we have until the next time.
Unsafe in a shell
I learned this trick in the last months I dove in the Red Sea. Hermit crabs. They live in shells. I would see shells as we dove. I turned them over and waited. If there was a crab, it emerged to turn it’s house back – right side up. My dive buddies would laugh at me. No crab on the reef was safe from me. Mostly I would get or not get a satisfactory shot. Everyone else lost interest and stopped taking pictures of the crabs. I persisted. Look!
Eggs! Not once, but more than once. Actually, it happened more. But, in this instance you can see that the crab is in the act of laying its eggs. I think.
At least that’s my story and I’m stickin’ with it. You should be impressed. This was not easy. Really? The timing !!! I was there, I will readily admit purely fortuitously. But there!!
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.
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?
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.
Move Fast…Or Die
Fast. The shells were moving like a three card monte shell game. They are active at night. New houses – shells – are a premium. Poor snails. I wonder if they move out or are eaten. The adults move slowly and deliberately and cautiously. The little guys scuttle. I mean they move fast enough that I have to actually catch them and hold them. I could not see this one. He was translucent. Early. Juvenile. And I guess a morsel. So the faster you are the better your chance to survive to adulthood. The shell is so tiny. First home! One bedroom, no room to expand. Starter place. My kids live in small apartments. I have a five-bedroom villa for the cats and me. It doesn’t seem fair. I’d share but they don’t want to live here. Location, location, location.
Those guys in the last post – the ones taking their night dive specialty – one of them found this at the dive platform. I find the tiny ones. You’ve seen my pictures. No matter. The guy pointed this out with his light. I knew immediately what it was. It’s nothing to look at – a gnarly shell moving on the bottom. But large! How large? The size of my fist. Well, maybe I exaggerate a bit. But it was large. This is nice. It’s a lot easier to see the crab. And so I got a nice shot or two.
A crab this large is not seen much on the reef during the day. And if it already has a shell, why does it carry around a second shell on its back? Meanwhile it’s my mission to photograph all the hermit crabs I come across. In order to do so you have to turn them over. That would be messing with the wildlife. Sorry kids….
It seems everyone knows about hermit crabs. Where have I been? But they are a ready target for macro photography practice. I find a shell and turn it over. The crab senses his world is upside down and emerges to turn himself upright again. We do this dance over and over. I get ready aim and fire. I’ve learned some crabs are not bright red and photogenic. I’ve learned that some crabs are faster than others. They turn over quick and then it’s a trick to be ready with the camera in time. I’m getting better. I am using super macro now. I zoom up with the digital zoom. I thought you can’t do that. But it looks like I can. So I do. Naturally. Show me a rule I can bend and I’ll do it every time. I’m still not to the level where I can image just the eyes yet. I working on it.
I have a buddy who keeps showing me that there is a higher bar. You still have to be in the right place at the right moment.. But when that shot comes, I’ll be good to go. He’s been giving lots of folks lessons. He is the local guru of photography. His big rig Canon is quite impressive. It’s a massive housing and two flashes with double arms. The thing weighs about 25 lbs out of water. Underwater, it’s set to be neutrally buoyant. I have not taken a lesson. Cheap! But no.
When I learned to snow ski, I took a lesson. Exactly one. For four hours one morning. Mount Snow. Vermont. The instructor was busy hitting on all the girls for the four hours. I learned zip. I was married and did not need tips in meeting women. So the afternoon lesson was skipped and I learned to ski by putting on mileage. It worked. I can ski. I’m good enough to be at the bottom. In one piece. I may not look great coming down. But I sure have fun with my near escapes. How good? I’m good enough to ski down and video my kids as they go. Try looking at the slope thru a viewfinder as you go. Or to ski backwards as they come toward you. The real trick is that they would ski between and under my legs as they came by. The only caveat: “Do not under any circumstances, lift your head!” I got the video to prove it and it’s hilarious. Mileage baby.
I’m taking many many images and I keep practicing on these poor hermits. No, it’s not the same one. I got one good image. Quit? Lisa would not see the insanity. You know? Insanity – doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. Me, I never claimed to be playing with a full deck.
Can you top this? Does lightning strike twice in the same place? Who knows? Well, I found this second hermit crab with eggs inside the shell. Pretty neat! This was actually the first I saw of this phenomena. I guess it’s common place for hermit crabs. But I’m still tickled to find this when I find it. To me it’s still wondrous.
Hey! It’s spring and things are in bloom. So eggs are getting laid. If you know where to look you can see it everywhere. I’m just not that good yet. No, don’t ask. I wonder where the tiny hatchlings go? That would be a hell of a photograph. Meanwhile lightning struck me twice. Not literally…figuratively, silly.
Ah! One more. Same dive, I actually unknowingly got three images with eggs. Am I good or what? Nope! Just lucky.
Raise The Bar
So, you saw yesterday’s post. I got some good images. And now!? My dive buddy took my camera and shot a few. This is what he got. It’s not blown up. It’s full frame. At this magnification, it is very hard to get a sharp image and detail. Things go blurry for lots of reasons. Everything is moving, photographer and subject, and current, and camera, and focus point, and it’s pretty near impossible…for me. Credit this to Amr. He just raised my bar. I think I’m good. He shows me I still have a way to go. This is fun. I’m better, not great, and not as good as I will be. At this point in my life it’s pretty nice to be challenged to do better. Good equipment helps. The right lens at the right moment helps. Luck! But it’s the photographer too. I just discovered that my equipment is fine. …and my hands shake. Not really…shhhh, I do brain surgery just fine. But I’ve been doing my day job for a long time. And I know what to do and I’m good at what I do… day job.
Served: Three Ways
This hermit crab is too tiny to eat. Someone I know loves crab…to eat. That antenna is as small as a fine hair. So! Yes! This is a small morsel. Not even a tidbit. I took the liberty of cropping horizontal and vertical.
Each image has its merits and you are left to choose which you like. And always, the question, “Which do you prefer?” You have to have a favorite.
That would be like asking me which of my two kids do I prefer. And to that I just smile. Okay, back to the post. Do you see the detail? Are you getting some enthusiasm here. Great images are too easy to find? Someone always has a better one. But! This one is mine!
Wow! Yeah! I’m Impressed and You Might Be Too
I got eggs! Be suitably impressed please. I don’t think anyone has this shot. And if they do, great and good luck to them. I have another somewhere. I’ll post it when I edit it later. But this was an unexpected find from the dive I made this past weekend. The senior and more experienced dive photographers as making fun of me. I have discovered what they have known about before me. I just discovered how to find hermit crabs. Ho hum. No big deal. Right! I’ve been tormenting all the hermit crabs that will come out to play on the reef. The others just shake their heads and photograph something else. I’m old. My vision is not what it was once. Add motion, and blurring with a dive mask, and then a gentle current pushing you around, and finally a subject that would rather you leave it alone. You cannot stage this. You can’t even know what’s going on. You certainly can’t see the eggs when you shoot the image. This crab is small. The eggs are miniscule. Yeah, wow! I have to say that this is pretty good. Right place, right time, luck is a great thing. Or as our neurosurgery departmental motto went: “It’s better to be lucky than good.”
Don’t Try This
I’m behind. You’d never know it. A day late and a dollar short… So this is what I did yesterday. Maybe I’ll catch up to myself soon. Diving. Tax day and other significance…. Shhh! It was the big one. Yeah, alone, but not really. But I did this selfie. My dive buddy thought I had nitrogen narcosis or that I’d run out of air. Fortunately, it was just insanity. He kept on going with just a nod to mania.
I decided to do a selfie. It ain’t easy with this rig. And it was a matter of lighting and…. Well, shoot, it worked. Those are bubbles not blemishes. And the wide-angle does nothing but distort my appearance. And the mask and the regulator don’t help either. So off with the regulator. Don’t lose track of it; or you’re gonna have trouble on the very next breath. I’m writing so I managed to do it. Auto focus does a lot. Got the exposure on the first try.
And then the pose. Well, you can’t do much better. Hey, it’s a selfie.
And what else did I do while diving? Why, I found more hermit crabs. I got the hang of it now. I find them all the time, almost at will. Imagine that. I’m a hunter. I’m a tracker. I just discovered nature. Neat So, this is out of the box and unedited. Really, no enhancement as in no plastic surgery or photoshop stuff.
I can do this but it’s still a work in progress. I need better focus technique. My subject is very small, shy, and does not wish to be disturbed no way no how.
Night Dive, Hermit Crab, Shrimp
Here is an example of how pitiful things can be. See the eyes? I was pretty clueless. And this was only this past summer.
I got these images on a night dive. That would be diving under water in the dark. No, silly, we use flashlights. This is an entirely new and different experience. Yes, your imagination runs wild. I have friends who are afraid of the dark. Really? Yup! The usual, a shark will get you. He sees the light and comes for dinner. Well, you know that I have been told that the shark sees the light and thinks you are a bigger fish. So they stay away. To which I ask, “Whoever spoke to a shark to find out? And did all the sharks read the same rule book?” My strategy: Always dive with a buddy. Duh! Basic diving 101. And…if a shark comes along, turn off your light. You might have to explain how your buddy was eaten…. So, I got a hermit crab. I saw a shell tumbling. In the dark! And it was a hermit crab! Neat! I got a really bad picture which I was pretty proud of until now. Yes, it’s a pitiful picture considering the luck I’ve had lately. He read the same rules about sharks that I suspect is closer to the truth. Be ready to turn off the light….shhhhh.
And then there was a shrimp inside a coral. Their eyes reflect the flashlight. The problem is that they retreat from the light. So you’ve got to play peek a boo. Well, about all I got was the glowing eyes. Yes, it is only a matter of time before what you thought once was good, was not so good after all.
Hermit Crab Again, Again, and Again
So what are the odds…in the very same next dive. You know the second dive from yesterday’s post. Following along here? Yes! Ali found this at the end of the dive. Oh! Ho hum…ahem.
Another? Yes! And red! And feisty. We’d turn the shell over and this little one held onto the coral! Yes! My exposure and focus were good. And we were at the end of the dive again. How much luck can one have in a few dives. I don’t think I’ll see this again. But wait!
Oh well, the next dive I did see another hermit crab. No shot. Drat. They all look different if you’ve been following and paying attention. No doubt there, right? But my dive book is woefully poor at distinguishing the names. So for now we’ll just go with generic hermit crab.
Hey, it’s about the image, right? I got color, focus, action, exposure, detail, what more? Priceless. I know. I’m congratulating myself. It has been a wild sequence.
Hermit Crab Again, Again
So the very next week, gee, it’s like an epidemic… yup, the very next week. Well, I just got lamenting my lost opportunity. And….whoa!
Another shell appeared and there was another hermit crab! Wow! It was the end of the dive again. I carried that sucker back to the safety stop. Farid was frozen.
Ali, my other dive buddy, was hovering patiently overhead. I was down till my air was nearly depleted. And I got the shots. I took the shell with me. Sorry kids. And then on the next dive, Ali got to stage his own shots of the crab. Neat!
Yes, I played with the wild life. Sorry! He survived and we put him in a nice cozy new place. And he will live happily ever after….
Hermit Crab Again
So what are the chances? The very next day. Another shell fell and tumbled and I found another hermit crab! We were headed back to home. The dive was nearly over. Cold and nearly out of air… My buddies had headed toward the safety stop. I snagged this shell. The hermit inside was not very active nor accommodating. Drat! I placed it on a background coral and waited. It peeked a couple times. Mostly it was reticent. So, I did a bad thing. Sorry, kids. (Mine hate me to play with the wildlife) I took the shell to the pier and planned to bring it back on the second dive and continue the shoot. Unfortunately, the weather was a problem. A storm…the one I wrote about….that sandstorm….well, it was blowing about and the second dive never happened.
I had Mr Hermit in a bottle of sea water. I think they can breathe on land? But anyway, I had to abandon him and dumped him back into the sea without getting a proper close-up. At least there’s something to talk about. But…. Darn! I’d like to have had a little more time….
Hermit The Crab
Say wow! Really! This was a find! I happened to be shooting a nudibranch and the shell tumbled in front of me. Voila! I was curious and turned it over. The crab inside was active. Too bad for the snail that once lived here. My luck! We played peek-a-boo for a while. My dive buddy’s camera had malfunctioned. He hovered while I shot away.
Depth of field is near zero at macro. I learned a new trick. Make your aperture small. Well, it’s a good tip if you understand the terminology. And for anyone else it means that the eyes and the claws were hard to get into focus at the same time. But the detail using the close up lens was priceless. I didn’t know the claws had hairs. And I shot and shot. It takes a lot to get the technique, exposure, and focus. Yeah, it ain’t easy. I’m posting three shots. I could pic a favorite. But there isn’t a perfect image. And besides, you can see I got it about right three times.
Can you see the difference? I do. I’m a hard critic. I’ll get better at this. I appreciate more than you will ever know – how it is that the Nat Geo guys get the pic: Patience, perseverance, and luck. Yes, luck! Yup, I feel lucky. Right place, right time, and with right gear. Oh boy!
Do Over Do Over – Hermit Crab
I would be happy with any image and got none the first dive….nada, blank, nothing….equipment malfunction…like that wardrobe malfunction during superbowl… only no fun at all.
Did you ever wish you could do something over? My first dive of the day was over before the first image. Memory card error! Maybe I just forgot to put in the memory card after I downloaded my images from yesterday. Dementia? I’m old enough. Oh bother and worry! Nope it was simply a contact issue. I found out later. So, the water is cold but I simply explored. I looked and poked and saw what there was and did not take a single picture. My my! It was torture. And if you know me, it truly was a hard thing to be freezing and cold and not be able to shoot a single thing. I followed the group and was as good a sport as I could be under the circumstances. Everyone else was happily shooting away.
Ah! A shell. I guessed and I was right! It was the home of a hermit crab. And he was home! And he was active. He did not like his shell being turned over. He was hiding. So for about five minutes I turned it over and watched him turn the shell back. Hey! A shell game!
No image, camera malfunction. I was heartbroken. I’ll never have another chance like this again. One of the group wandered by but was pretty blasé and didn’t even take a shot. He simply nodded and moved on.
Drat! I still think about that shot that wasn’t. I know I’ll never see it again. Underwater things are not found by landmark. I pass something, turn around, and can’t find a thing that I just saw the moment before. No! Not dementia. The landmarks are simply too confusing. It is akin to directionally challenged on land. And to the many women in my life for which this applies, you know who you are and what I mean. I used to hang back leaving a restaurant because someone I knew always walked in the wrong direction from the car. You would think the odds are fifty fifty. Nope. About 99 to 1. Second dive: I was banished toward the upper reef. It’s a long story short. I had been in “deco” the day before and was not to be diving deep and really not even diving. Sorry mom… And then low and behold! Wow! I recognized the spot and the coral and the shell! Yes! Happy day! I actually found the shell and the hermit crab. And I got to shoot him to my hearts content with a spiffy close up diopter that I was given loan. And I got shots! The crab would stick out his legs and claws and right his shell and hide. And I would tip it back over and over and shoot and shoot. Yup! Good shots, good focus, good exposure and… a do over!
The picture is confusing. I’m still doing shots from the time of Ramadan a couple months back. The hermit crabs are hard to appreciate. Look for the eyes. They are hiding in shells. They don’t want to be seen. You don’t see them during the day. So this was a night dive. It’s dark all around you. Big fish are out there in the murky night waiting to eat you. The soundtrack for the movie “Jaws” is running in your head. I was with five other divers. No, we did not get lost or separated. But I was hanging with a guy I had never buddied before. I did not know he was good. But! Yes!! Good! He was seeing stuff in the dark (well, with a flashlight) and I was shooting what he was seeing. At the very end of the dive, we were all waiting to go in. We were at the decompression stop. He looked down and then pointed and then we all went nuts. Flashes were popping. Two! Count ‘em. Two hermit crabs were scuttling away trying to avoid capture and eating. Yes, that was the exclamation to the dive. Thank you!
I could not quite get color balance perfect. But the crabs are distinguishable, even though they are ugly.