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! 🙂

Advertisements

A Different World

A couple of months ago, Pirate John introduced me to the world of sailing and now he has rekindled the love that I have lost years ago –Scuba Diving. I was probably about eight years old the first time I watched Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s undersea exploration shows. I was mesmerized by Cousteau’s beautiful underwater world and his French accent. I remember telling my grandma that I wanted be a scuba diver, undersea scientist like him when I grow up. While I ended up studying art, I never abandoned my desire to explore the ocean. A few years after moving to Seattle, I became a certified scuba diver. What an amazing experience. During my first open water dive, I encountered a huge octopus and that was it… the experience made me want to pursue my dream of being an undersea explorer. However, my undersea world was short-lived. Motherhood took center stage and I had to quit scuba. Over the years, I’ve thought about going back to the scuba world but for one reason or another, the timing and money just didn’t work out… until now. Pirate John gave me a wondrous gift — scuba lessons. Since it has been twenty years since my last certification, I have to start over. I will complete my certificate in a few weeks. It’s truly an amazing gift to combine my passion for photography and scuba diving. While I realized that I no longer wanted to be a great undersea scientist like Cousteau, I am looking forward to being an undersea photographer.

Since I can’t shoot underwater yet, I spend the weekend photographing Pirate John, scuba instructors and students from Evergreen Dive Service; the school where I will get my certification as a scuba diver. It was a fun and challenging shooting experience. The day was gray, the water reflective and the divers were mostly black moving objects. Talk about exposure nightmare. It was very difficult to get both the water and the divers with correct exposure at the same time. I decided to shoot a little under exposed so that the sky and water would not blow out. I find it easier to fix an under exposed dark area in Lightroom than a blow out area. Another challenge I encountered was the low light from the gray sky and the constant movement of the divers. I didn’t want to use high ISO so it was difficult to capture sharp images. But in the end, it was all good. I learned a lot on technique and processing. Mostly, it was great shooting and observing the divers in action… I can’t wait to be one of them in a few weeks.

_DSC1449

Pirate JohnPirate John

Pirate John & Cool Scuba Instructor, Chad.

_DSC1021A student requiring extra help to put on her fins.

_DSC1414
_DSC1180

Calm, cool, dive instructor Chad. So patient and understanding.


_DSC1108

_DSC1239Pirate John, Alex, and Paul.

_DSC1356-2Finally, Pirate John noticed the camera.
_DSC1169

Alex, happy like a fish in water. He passed his dive tests. I’m sure he is looking forward to his diving trip he has planned already…

Paul, Alex’s brother. He also passed.
Hernan

And Hernan… the big smile says it all.

OKAY! We are certified divers!! Alex, Hernan and Paul.
_DSC1384