A Very Foggy Adventure Part 1

It has been quite a challenge learning to dive in a dry suit. When underwater, the suit acts as my buoyancy device instead of using the BCD (buoyancy control device) vest. So knowing how much air to add or subtract has been a steep learning curve for me. The worst part is that I would be swimming along just fine but when excessive air gets to my feet; suddenly I find myself starting to float upside-down quickly towards the surface — which is not a good thing when you are down at a depth that requires decompression time before surfacing. I would desperately yet remain calm as I try to regain control by letting the air out of my suit to get back to the bottom and get on me knees so the air can be release from my feet. On these upside-down occasions, I definitely thought about switching to the wet suit instead. With wet suit, I don’t have to deal with the uneven air disbursement. By using the BCD vest, it’s easier to know when I have to change the air quantity and the air stays in once place. However, with the water temperature in the Puget Sound around 40-50ish degrees Fahrenheit all year round; I know it would be in my best interest to learn to dive in dry suit so I can stay warm longer if I want to capture the amazing underwater life with my camera — which Pirate John has prohibited me to take with on our underwater dives. While I understand his reason for taking the camera from me, it drives me crazy when I see a photo opportunity swims by me.   But… first things first, I need to overcome my buoyancy challenges. Though I have to admit, it’s without doubt I would make the worst dive buddy when I have my camera.

After 15 open water dives and many weeks of  expert guidance from Pirate John to help perfect my buoyancy, I am able to hover and navigate underwater without crashing to the bottom or floating upside down as much. A couple of weeks ago, I went on my first boat dive trip to the San Juan Islands. While my buoyancy is much better and I was eager to jump off the boat to navigate through the heavy kelp forests — and search for the giant octopus and wolf eels along cliff walls; I decided not to do the boat dive because of the dry suit challenges I still have on occasion. Instead I tagged along with my camera. What an awesome adventure it was…

It was a very foggy morning when we left Anacortes for the dive destination in the San Juan Islands. While everyone else was inside, staying warm — I walked around the boat looking for photo opportunity. The fog was so thick, visibility were limited but the water was so calm — and with the sun trying to break through the clouds, it casts a warm glow all over. A great sense of peace and serenity came over me… as I stood at the stern watching the trail of wake the boat left behind.

Finally after about 40 minutes, we arrived to our first dive destination. There was a break in the fog and I was able to see land. The view was absolutely breathtaking…
_DSC2265

However, since the fog was still really thick, we weren’t able to stop at our first dive destination. The captain must have full visibility of all the divers at all times. Captain Phil decided to go on to a different place, hoping the fog would burn off when we get there. As we headed into more fog, the land disappeared. Once again I couldn’t see anything but debris and jelly fish floating by the boat. So I just stood on the deck and enjoy the beautiful foggy surrounding while keeping my eyes open for what I call “Being at the right place, at the right time” kind of shots.

After what seems like another half-hour, the sun broke through the thick clouds and casts light on the thick fog. And suddenly there it was… my being at the right place, at the right time shot came into view. I saw an arch that looks a lot like a rainbow but without the colors. The bow was mostly white with some very faint color. The captain told me what I’m looking at is a fog bow. Well… talk about learning something new. I didn’t know there was such thing as a fog bow. As I composed the shots, I had difficulty getting sharp focus and correct exposure because the bow blends in with the fog background. I shot the fog bow at different exposures and settings to try to capture its faint detail. I noticed under exposure was the better setting, since I can always brighten it during processing in Lightroom.
fog bow
_DSC2281

Finally after what seems like a never-ending fog, the blue sky and land appeared out of no where. While everyone was getting ready with their scuba gear, the fog bow  and beautiful scenery kept me occupied as we continued to the dive destination.
_DSC2290
_DSC2299
_DSC2291
_DSC2312
_DSC2310

We finally arrived at the dive destination with full sun and clear visibility. The area was beautiful though the homes on the land kind of took away some of the natural beauty. Regardless, happy like fish in water; the divers put on their scuba gear and one by one jumped into the emerald-green water, ready to explore the underwater world below. At that moment, I wish I was diving too… but… life was kind to me and the adventures ahead would make me a very happy photographer.

_DSC2318
_DSC2351
_DSC2360
_DSC2373
_DSC2322
_DSC2337
_DSC2562
_DSC2364
_DSC2349
_DSC2367Happy Diving! ūüėÄ

Advertisements

Back to Basics

Yesterday, I started my new journey as an underwater photographer. Pirate John and I went back to the Mukilteo T-Dock for my debut. Unlike last weekend during my certification where the visibility were low and murky — which was made worse by so many other inexperienced divers; this time we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves.

After spending sometime adjusting my weights, we were able to descend. I was so focused on photography and Pirate John was focused on keeping me safe and getting me to perfect my buoyancy. Which I can understand is really important but… the photographer in me was definitely more predominate; especially when we got to the bottom. The visibility was so much better. It was probably 20 feet compared to last week’s 3-5 feet. I was like a little kid with her first camera. I wanted to take pictures of everything. Since I don’t have a underwater housing for my Nikon, I had to use Pirate John’s point and shoot.

It has been years since I last used a point and shoot camera. I discovered it was quite a challenge to go back to the basics and shoot on automatic. The camera came with many settings, including underwater — which I chose to use to see what it can do. Even though it was a point and shoot, it was challenging for me. I missed being in control of my camera and the creative settings involved when shooting manual with a DSLR. But I think the point and shoot was¬† the best way for me to learn from in the underwater environment. I only have three buttons to work with: On/Off, Wide Angle/Close Up, and Shutter. Which is all I can deal with when I have to focus on staying buoyant and not float away with the tide. On couple of occasions, Pirate John had to redirect me because I was going in the wrong direction and floating too much with the current. You can definitely become easily disoriented in the wide open water with no landmarks to guide you. Or the fact you can easily go from 30 feet to 70 plus feet without feeling the change of distance. That’s why I pay close attention to the air and depth gauge on my dive computer. Safety is the most important, photography second…

A few minutes into our dive; I came face to face  with a young wolf eel half hidden in a kelp bed. Wolf eels are extremely shy and elusive. So it was amazing that I found one so easily. Excitedly, I took out the camera and Pirate John thought I wanted to take his picture. He took out his regulator and started to pose. I shook my head no and kept pointing towards the kelp bed.
Pirate John

Since we only communicate through scuba sign language, by the time he understood what I said, the wolf eel started to swim away. Quickly, I just pointed the camera and shoot.

During our two separate dives, I was able to experiment more with the camera and swam around happy like a fish in water… point and shoot at the abundant of sea life around me.
P1010368

There were flounders everywhere… most tried to camouflage themselves though, I was able to capture a couple having fun. Can you see them?
P1010363

On our second dive, Pirate John took me to the popular dive spot, Geo Dome. It’s a man-made structure but the sea life didn’t seem to mind. The visibility wasn’t good because of the strong current and lack of sunlight but I could see the abundant sea critters hidden everywhere. As I tried to become neutrally buoyant so I can steady myself enough to shoot without stirring up more silt, the current was bouncing me in all directions.¬† Then I spotted a large rock fish and was able to get a few shots while battling the strong current at the same time.
Geo Dome, Mukilteo

Rocky
P1010378

On our way back, I didn’t see anything interesting. So I decided to do some selfie shots.

Pirate John & Emily

I took this shot just as the current pushed me down on my back…

P1010389

And as I looked up, I saw a school of fish. When I tried to shoot, the current pushed me sideways and I ended up with this image. I like the abstract look of the fish and air bubbles.

P1010381

P1010391

Finally, after I tumbled around a few more times and couldn’t get the photos I wanted; I put away the camera and enjoyed the rest of the dive with my dive buddy, Pirate John… who made sure we do the safety stop before ascending to the surface. Over all, it was a good first underwater photography experience and though these snap shots aren’t award winning;¬† it’s a thrilling feeling to know I’m another fin kick closer to my new goal of being an underwater photographer. Happy Diving! ūüôā

World’s Oldest Rodeo

Since I opened my restaurant a few months ago, it has been none-stop work, work, work… and more work.¬†After taking over the restaurant, I discovered many challenges left by the previous owner. I’ve been working every day trying to increase business and rebuild the negative reputation the last owner had created for the restaurant. Slowly but surely, I am making very good progress. I am getting more repeat customers and my reputation of having amazing food is growing. And many of the customers the previous owner chased away are starting ¬†to come back after hearing the restaurant has a new owner. However, I am still struggling to get the cash flow to flow… unfortunately, it is flowing more like a drippy faucet right now. And then there’s the employee situation — since the restaurant isn’t very busy, the servers are not making as much tips — keeping them has been a challenge. And finding a good server who can follow directions is even more challenging. It’s amazing when I asked people not to attach their resume but to cut and paste it in the email, and yet I still get so many people who didn’t bother to read and send the resume as an attachment. So much for being able to follow directions. Which was one of the¬†criteria¬†that I’ve listed in the ad.

Not that I’m complaining… I am still astonished that I was able to buy the¬†restaurant with only my determination and trustworthiness. I am very grateful to be blessed with this opportunity. However, as much as I am passionate about it, I could feel all the hard work the last few months was starting to take a lot out of me. ¬†I know I have to take care not to burn myself out. Finally, I forced myself to get away from the restaurant for a few hours last Sunday to have some fun with my camera. There was a big rodeo competition event happening and since I’ve never been to a rodeo, I thought it would be interesting to see what it’s like and of course, hoping to capture some good shots. ¬†As I walked around the large stadium, taking care to not step on steamy green piles left from the hundreds of horses; the rodeo life is definitely very different from anything I’ve seen… people dressed in cowboy/cowgirl attires, horses in fancy saddles, menacing¬†looking bulls huffing and puffing behind metal gates, large groups of calf and goats crammed into holding pen and country music blaring over the loud speakers;¬†I felt like a fish out of water. It’s definitely not an environment that I would feel comfortable fitting in. However, the people were very friendly and polite. And I got to see some really brave cowboys in action. It felt good to get away from the restaurant and recharge my creativity using the camera.

There were many events. While it was amazing to see the brave cowboys in action and perhaps it’s my lack of understanding of the rodeo life; But I couldn’t help but feel sadness for the cruel treatment of the animals used in the events. They were chased… roped…

flipped and hogged tied…

Although, I have to admit… it certainly takes a lot of courage to grab the bull by the horns.

Or face the deadly possibility of being¬†trampled¬†by an angry bucking horse when you can’t hold on…

As I enjoyed all the actions of my first rodeo from behind the viewfinder — quietly I applaud and felt some satisfaction for the animals when I witnessed their determination not to let the cowboys win…

Don’t mess with me cowboy!

If Only It Were That Simple

Seems like the days just flew by in supersonic speed. I can’t believe there are only three days left to the month of January. Even though I’ve never been the type to make New Year Resolutions, I did promise myself I would get back into healthy eating and exercise this year — not that I haven’t try last year, or the year before and the year before that — but of course, I had all kinds of excuses for not doing it.¬†It’s terrible I have let myself go the last few years. When I think about it, I can’t believe I used to think it was fun and exciting to get up at 5:00 am — to workout at the gym 6 times a week. And in reality, it was fun. I¬†have¬†never felt as good as I did when I was exercising regularly and conscientious about what I put into my mouth. The pay off was looking 10 years younger and having an abundance of energy.

In my quest to get back to my previous healthy state of mind — I’ve purchased many exercise DVDs and equipment — hoping it would bring me the motivation I needed. If only it were that simple. The truth is… if How-To were enough, we’d all be happy, skinny and rich. From experience, success is not possible without commitment. So, this is my belated New Year resolution: To make healthy eating and exercise as part of my daily life again, regardless of the temptations. ūüėÄ