21 January 2012

Wearing the Lavacore Suit

At the end of December, I ordered a Lavacore Full Length Suit.  This is essentially a skin with a fleece layer designed to keep you warmer underwater.  Indeed, every garment sold by Lavacore carries a heat rating of 10, which is as high as the scale goes.  My suit finally came and I wore it under a sleveless vest with a hood and a full 3/2 mm wetsuit.  
 Usually, I am not warm, but I am able to tolerate the cold for the first 30 minutes or so of just about every dive.  With the lavacore suit, I was able to tolerate the cold water for the better part of an hour before I began to shiver.  Somewhere around 90 minutes we crossed the threshold of pain and by 102 minutes, I was eager to get out of the water.
Dianne and I left the apartment at 7:30 am and drove to the beach to meet Luis.  I had planned on diving the Little Coral Knoll off of Tower 15, but out of habbit I found myself parking at Tower 17 when Luis pulled in behind me.  So we dove the Fish Camp Rocks.
 There was a moderate wind from the East and some small surf.  The water temperature was 66 degrees.  The air temperature was in the 70's and it was actually warm standing in the sun.  I took the Canon 5d Mk II with the 100mm lens.  No diopter.  Luis wore his dry suit.  Dianne wore a 3/2 suit without a hood.
 We descended at the start of the reef and on our mark from the Tower.  There was a moderate current to the North and I though I had adjusted for it, but the first Mountainous coral we found was the one close to the Perpendicular Rocks, so after checking out the nearby rocks, we swam over to the Big Coral Knoll.
 Both Luis and I were taking pictures, so our progress was slow.  Dianne was swimming to stay warm, and darted here and there.  There was a surprising amount of life on the Knoll and the various rocks surrounding it.  I got a nice shot of a Star Horseshoe Worm.
 We swam with several Smooth Trunkfish and a couple of them were tolerant of the camera's stobe.  I took full advantage of the opportunity and got some interesting shots.  Its not often that I get a face shot.
From the Big Coral Knoll, we swam  to the Fish Camp Rocks and spent some time there taking portraits.  I got a nice shot of a tan/pinkish Christmas Tree worm on some green coral.
 I also got a nice shot of a blenny of yet undetermined identity, who allowed me to get quite close with the camera as he posed for his portrait.
 We found Yellow Jack as well as Black Margate, French Grunts, Smallmouth Grunts and Bar Jacks.  The Jacks come close to see if we have any scraps for them, but they are fast and somewhat difficult to photograph.
I was never warm in the way I had hoped to be with this new Lavacore suit, but I was able to tolerate some pretty cold water for about 90 minutes.  When it was time to get out, though, I was very happy to do so.  I was shivering and could barely hold the camera still for a shot.  Maybe we just need to move to Panama?

19 January 2012

Solo Diving off the Pelican Grand

 After the two cold, deep dives yesterday, I was reluctant to leave my warm bed and head to the beach.  I got up late.  I puttered around.  It was after 10:00 am before I was ready to go.  The sun was well up and the lifey guards were atop their towers, so I went to the Pelican Grand to get into the water safely away from the life guard's line of sight.
 I had decided to shoot supermacro today, so I selected a +4 diopter together with my 100mm macro lens.  I was after some big pictures of some little things.
 I have always enjoyed shooting Sharpnose Puffer fish.  I smile whenever I see what could be eye lashes tattooed around their eyes and imagine some little shop under a rock where a sole tattoo artist works on the reef's creatures.
 I swam to the edge of the reef to descend, then slowly worked my way South along the edge of the reef.  There was a slight Southern current, and I let myself be pulled along in that current.
 I moved slowly and patiently, so I got to see a lot of life that usually comes out once I have gone by.  The unavoidable consequence of my inaction, however, was that I quickly got cold.  The water temperature was only 67 degrees Fahrenheit.  I was in a full 3/2 mm wetsuit with a sleeveless vest and a hood, but I was cold throughout the entire 77 minutes of the dive.
 At first it seemed that there was little life on the edge of the reef, but floating slowly with the current allowed me to pass very close to fellows like this Seaweed Blenny without appearing threatening.  I got some good shots.
 There were a lot of Neon Goby.  They dart rapidly here and there, making it very difficult to get a well focused shot.  I got a few.
 The coral is so much easier to shoot, since it does not swim.  I spent some time playing with the strobe and the lighting used in my shots.
 I spent the entire dive along the edge of the reef, traveling a distance of less than 100 yards to the south in well over an hour.  I was more than ready to get out of the water at the end of the dive, however.  I was shivering uncontrollably.

18 January 2012

Deep Diving on Scubatyme

I scheduled two deep dives on ScubaTyme for Sunday afternoon.  Charles Chase, Chris Coney,  Verdes Terblanche and I went.  Charles completed his Advanced Open Water course and Verdes completed his Deep Diving certification.
 I wanted to shoot wide angle on the RSB-1, which was the first dive.  I brought the Canon 5d Mk 1 with a 28-105mm lens set at 70mm and the dome port.  I checked the CF card and made sure the battery was fully charged.

 The RSB-1 is a 160-foot USCG tender sunk as part of the artificial reef program in Broward County on 14 May 1994.  The vessel rests on a sandy bottom in 118 feet of water and reaches upwards to 73 feet.  Its bow points North.  It has twin stacks and an antenna arrays which is still intact.  Amanda tied off at the wheel house and we went down the line.

When we got to the deck, I times each of them opening the red combination locks we worked with on the boat.  They each did well.  I enjoy the deep black of the red locks.  I tried to get a shot, but the battery was dead.  Go figure.

The second dive was on the backside of the Third Reefline.  We went to 132 feet, but it was all sand.  I had some trouble clearing my ears at 60 feet, but got to the bottom with the others.
We swam West and found some isolated bits of reef, but not a lot of life.  We did see a tire.  We also saw a lobster trap on a line, which was pretty cool.  My computer had warned me to begin my ascent because of my high N2 load, so I did not get very good shots of the lobster trap, just some shots looking down on it.

I was shooting my Intova point and shoot, and the poor light was a problem.  A lot of my shots were blurred.

We made stops at 65 feet and 32 feet, but my computer still put me into deco and required a 5 minute stop at 10 feet.  Chris was unable to hold his position at 10 feet, and floated to the surface.  He was showing no DCS symptoms while we drove home, but he was definitely out of profile.