22 February 2014

Luis, Leo and I make two dive on the Big Coral Knoll

The surface air seemed warm today, even at 8:00 am.  The water was certainly warmer than yesterday, even though my computer says it was all the same temperature.  I left the Lavacore suit in the truck and I was fine in shorts, hooded vest and long-sleeved 1.5 mm shirt.  Visibility was much better, as well.  We swam out to the concrete blocks, spotted them from the surface and descended.  We tracked up the gunsight to the Cigar Rock and then continued East to the Fish Camp Rocks.

Got some pictures of Rainbow and Midnight Parrotfish at the Rocks,

as well as a good sized Nurse Shark, then we headed off to the Knoll.

where we looked for but could not find the squid but did find a Hawksbill Sea Turtle, who was not at all bothered by 3 photographers, 3 strobes and way too many bubbles.

I was close to a two-hour dive, but I was carrying the impediment (aka a dive flag) and the others were eager to get to the beach, so I surfaced in 10 feet of water after 116 minutes.  I still had 293 psi in my tank, so I should have been able to make the additional 4 minutes.  Better, I was relatively warm and my legs were not cramping.   So much better than yesterday's dive.

We spent about an hour on the surface, then geared up for a second dive, which was virtually identical to the first dive:  up the gunsight to the Cigar Rock and the Gray Mid-way Rock, but then over to the Perpendicular Rocks, the Swept Rock and the Knoll.  We went to the Fish Camp Rocks on the way back to the beach.  Leo found a Spanish Lobster clinging to the ceiling of a hollowed out coral head.  Can't imagine how he spotted it.  I found a little Green Sea Turtle on the Knoll who was okay swimming with us, but we were at his limit.  I handed the flag off to Luis on the way in so I could stay back and make my 2 hour dive before heading to the beach.  

This was the Green Turtle with whom we swam.

This is my best shot of the Spanish Lobster Leo spotted.

This Redband Parrotfish looked like he was grinning as he swam past me.  

This is a picture of a Spotted Goatfish when resting.  They change color to this red-mottled look.

21 February 2014

Solo and Dive on the Big Coral Knoll

Wind was up and there was a strong surface current.  The surf was high.  Most waves were in the 2-3 ft range but some of them were 5 ft or more.  They looked huge from the trough as I struggled out through the surf.  I swam out to the blocks and descended, but never found the blocks.  Think I was too far East because the swim buoy was pushed West and changed all the angles.  Visibility was 3 ft or less over the sand.  I headed East and hoped to run into something I recognized.  Visibility opened up to all of 8 ft on the reef.  Most of the pictures I took are filled with back scatter.

I didn't see a lot of fish, but I did get a pretty good picture of this Intermediate French Angelfish,

This Juvenile French Grunt

and this Green Sea Turtle, with whom I swam for 5 or 10 minutes just cruising the Knoll.

20 February 2014

Solo Dive on the Ledge of Turtles

      When I went to Underseas Sports to fill tanks yesterday, I picked up some new Lithium Ion batteries for the strobe.  Charged the batteries last night and set them up to use them this morning.  When I turned the switch on, the ready light came on within seconds.  The auto-focus got switched off, but my pre-dive check shot picked up that problem and I fixed it before I got in the water.

      The water seemed colder and the surf was definitely more difficult to swim through this morning, but I made it out.  Dropped right on the Rock Pile and headed off at 120 degrees, but 20 minutes later I was obviously off course.  I didn't know which way I was off, but I started swimming SW a bit and ran into the Ledge.  Spent most of the dive on the Ledge taking pictures.  I was a little disappointed not to find any squid,

but I did get some good shots of a Squirrelfish,

a Hogfish,

a Juvenile Porkfish,

A Yellowtail Damselfish (Golden Variation),

a Yellowtail Snapper,

and a Sand Diver, though usually I try to get a shot head on.

My computer tells me that the water temperature was 75.2 degrees, same as its been all week, but it seemed colder to me.  I was shivering when I got out and had no desire to make a second dive, though the poor visibility had a lot to do with that decision.  

19 February 2014

Solo Wide-Angle Dive on the Ledge of Turtles and in Poor Visibility

Took a while to get going this morning.  I had planned to get to the beach before sunrise at 6:48 am and maybe make two dives before the Lifeguards took the towers.  Didn't work out that way.  The surface temperature was chilly at 7:00 am.  I didn't get to the beach until 8:30 am, when the surface temperature was above 70 degrees.  I decided to shoot wide angle and set up the housing to allow me to change the focal length from 35 mm to 70 mm, which was sort of nice, but visibility was poor and wide angle really was the wrong choice.  Got some panorama shots, like the picture below of the North Edge of the Ledge of Turtles.  Post-Processing helped, but I should have been shooting macro or supermacro in this visibility.

This is a shot of the coral heads on the Ledge from the East.

From the Ledge, I swam over to Shark's Rock, a picture of which is below.  To the right is a picture of some fish in the Staghorn Coral along the way.

A picture of Shark's Rock from the South.  Notice the coral overlay on the rock substructure and the way it is receding.

Some Ocean Surgeonfish and Doctorfish combing the reef for food.

School of Porkfish above the Staghorn Coral.

This is a compilation of several photos of the Ledge of Turtles taken from the South.

While the air temperature had warmed up by the time I got in the water, the water itself seemed colder.  I checked the temperature on my computer, but Suunto tracks the maximum temperature during a dive and that was 75.2 degrees, which is what it has been for several of the past dives.  Whatever the reason, my air usage was terrible.  The whole dive was barely over 90 minutes.

17 February 2014

Luis and I make two dives on the Big Coral Knoll and find some Reef Squid

      Luis and I had agreed to dive the Clipper Jacks on Sunday, but there was a foot race of some kind with lots and lots of people.  The highway was blocked off and, at least when I drove by, all vehicles were being shunted to the West on Sunrise Blvd.  Luis made it up to Tower 17, but could only park on the West side of the highway.  I opted to go home.  Between Lifeguards and events, diving is just not as easy as it used to be.  It's time to head South.

      Met up with Luis in back of Tower 17 on Monday morning, President's Day.  We geared up and got in.  Swam out to the blocks to descend, then headed up the gunsight to the Cigar Rock.  got some pictures, but there was nothing really new to shoot.  Missed the Gray Mid-way Rock, but ended up just SW of the Perpendicular Rocks, even though I tried to hold the bearing.  Headed to the Swept Rock and the Knoll, then over to the English Garden.  On the way back from the Garden, both Luis and I spotted three Caribbean Reef Squid.  They looked larger than they were. They were also pretty wiley. We could not get too close., though I burnt through a lot of air trying.  Getting low on air, I headed back to the Swept Rock and the SW from the Perpendicular Rocks  Missed two hours by about 400 psi.

      Took a little over an hour surface interval, then we got back in.  Made essentially the same dive except that when we got to the Knoll, I headed out towards the English Garden and found the squid.  This time we did not chase them, but came at them obliquely and slowly.  Got some good pictures:  about 167 of them.  Over 400 pictures in all.  Took quite a while to winnow them down to 50.

Below are just a few of the pictures of the Squid.  The best ones were from the second dive.

I also got a couple of good shots of a larger Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Got a nice shot of these two Christmas Tree Worms

and this talking Redband Parrotfish.