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

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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.

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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! 🙂

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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.

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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! 😀

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Snow Wimps In Action

I woke up this morning expecting the rain to come and wash away all the snow but since I live in the convergence zone, we got more snow instead — while the rest of the greater Seattle area got freezing rain on top of the snow from yesterday’s storm. Needless to say, the city pretty much came to a standstill from layers of ice. While I do agree, Seattleites are terrible drivers in snow but was it really necessary for the L.A. Times newspaper to insult us? Yesterday, the L.A. Times did a report about our snowstorm and called us snow wimps. The reporter was very condescending about our reactions to small amount of snow. I mean really… of all places, L.A.? They don’t even know how to drive in the rain and I doubt they would know how to drive in the snow at all — yet the reporter has the audacity to lecture us about our snow driving ability? I don’t like it when people make judgments without knowing how it really is. Does the reporter even know what the Seattle streets look like? I find the reporting really rude and not to mention bad journalism.  I know when I first moved down from Alaska, I had no problem driving in the snow but over the years, my ability becomes more cautious because of lack of practice. It’s hard to practice when it snows maybe a few times a year if even that. And that’s part of life… when you don’t continue to practice, you are not going to be good at it and eventually you might even forget how to do it. So… Take that L.A. Times… we are snow wimps and proud of it!

And speaking of practice. It has been a while since I shot my furry kids in action and with all the thick, fluffy snow; I thought it would be a good opportunity to practice my action shots. By afternoon, the snow fall had lighten up enough that I thought it would be okay to take my camera out in it. And of course, the furry kids love any opportunity to play in the snow.

One great thing about shooting Max in snow is his golden red fur. It creates nice contrast and makes it easier for me to get the correct exposure. Unlike Ms. Evie whose creamy white fur blends in too much with the snow. I tend to shoot her a little underexposed so that I can capture the details of her better.

Max is quite an athlete. He can catch Frisbees, knows how to play basketball, and he loves soccer. Nothing like a fun game of soccer in the snow. This was his first time playing soccer in the snow and as you can see, he was pretty good at it. 🙂