It’s A Rat, It’s A Fish… It’s A Ratfish

It has been awhile since my last post. Life has been busy but in a very good way. In addition to my new career path; yes, I finally have a job that I can really feel purposeful from it. It has been a long and winding road with many detours and oftentimes, deep pot holes; somehow, I was able to get myself out and discovered amazing opportunities.

In addition to my new career helping people find hope and motivation, I have the opportunity to continued my underwater photography endeavor. I logged 40 dives and now I’m on my way of becoming a dive-master so I can teach underwater photography. I have been very fortunate to have the support of friends who believe in my creative abilities.

Here is a video I shot last Saturday at Mukilteo T-Dock. On my way to the Geo Dome, I got lost and went deeper than where the dome was located. I was at 78 feet when I saw the Ratfish. It was an amazing sight… and lucky me, the Ratfish gave me a break and flirted for the video. I was able to get a fairly steady video in the strong current. The whole encounter lasted less than a minute and yet the experience will be forever etched in my heart…

Advertisements

A Very Foggy Adventure Part 2

Even though I didn’t get to dive on the boat trip, it turned out to be a great adventurous day filled with photographic opportunities of a lifetime.

It’s always exciting to see and learn something new for the first time. In addition to learning about the fog bow phenomenon, on our way to the second dive destination — we came upon a small pod of Orcas (killer whale). I’ve never seen Orcas in the wild and what a sight it was. Captain Phil tried to get closer without breaking the regulations of viewing marine mammals. He told us boats are required to stay back 400 yards. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any close up shots of the whales but am still happy for the opportunity. It was an exciting sight even if the whales were quite a distance from the boat.

_DSC2454
_DSC2400
_DSC2413

As we continued on to the second dive location, Long Island Wall — Captain Phil decide to make a little detour by an island full of sea-lions. Another first for me… I’ve never seen a sea-lion in the wild before. And since I had signed up to do the Stellar Sea Lion boat dive that was a couple of weeks away, I was very excited to see the critters I will be swimming underwater with…
_DSC2489
_DSC2493

Images of me having fun, diving, swimming with these agile mammals underwater filled my imagination and then I saw them. They were enormous. Many of them were at least a few thousand pounds. My fun-filled imagination quickly brought me back to reality. The thought of swimming with these giants quickly lost its appeal. I think they look much better through my camera’s viewfinder.





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! 😀

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! 🙂

Happy Like a Fish In Water

After swallowing what felt like gallons of sea water, battling the currents and poor visibility, tumbling around in all different directions, and crashing to the bottom on several occasions (thank-goodness there were no sea urchins below); it’s official… I’m a certified PADI scuba diver!!

Pirate John was there to capture my moments of glory… happy like a fish in water.

P1010351Say cheese…
P1010352

Wow! What an amazing, awesome experience. Even though the eerie green water was freezing cold and murky, visibility less than 4 feet, and my only life source is a 50 lb steel tank strapped to my back; the feeling of being able to swim with the fishes evoked the absolute magical and thrilling emotions deep within me.

There were challenging moments during the certification that made me lose my sense of bravery… but I was determined to make it through the training. Being a certified diver is the only way take my photography to the underwater world. I am looking forward to the new challenges and exciting discoveries waiting for me below. Here is my first of many photos to come as I embark on this new journey. Happy Diving! 😀

P1010353