Underwater Images or Making Memories?


Underwater Images, the new fancy term for taking underwater underwater imagesphotos. Are you taking pictures for the sake of taking an underwater image or are you making and recording memories? Both, that is the awesome answer. Because after all they are both, your memories and your underwater images.
We spend so much time and past blog post about how to take and improve our underwater images that I do not want to belabor the point here. Shoot up and into the sun. Get lower than the subject. Blah, blah and more blah. Heck, as the Imaging instructor I as guilty as anybody in trying to get that perfect shot. Swimming harder than I should and yes maybe getting a little deeper than I really needed to be.
And then there is the post dive processing sessions. How was my lighting? Editing and cropping and all the other stuff. For the record I only crop my photos with very little to almost zero correction for color or light. But some spend hours in photo shop and other image altering programs. Matter of fact that is all part of the class for Underwater Imaging. Some instructors (a famous one in Grand Cayman) spend over 85% of the class time on Photoshop and other post dive processing.
But what about the memories? This year I have gotten to dive with whale sharks and a free swimming anemone and so many turtles. Got to watch as a turtle just ate its fill of a sponge. Yes I did take my images, but I also stopped and just watched. Captured the memory, but enjoy the moment also. It is hard to capture the size of a whale shark. But I can tell you that I felt very small as it slowly swam past me. Or the free swimming eel that played with us in Grand Cayman this summer. I swear it was trying to show us something. Those are the memories that go along with the underwater images.

Instructors Creed or Super Power or Both?

instructors creedThe instructors creed something every new instructor sees it, usually right after they pass the instructors exam. We have had many opportunities over the last years to see it play out. And this last weekend as we finished prepping another candidate for the exam I got to listen to a slightly different version of the instructors creed.

Course Director Kelly was talking about “our super power”.  Now, I know you are thinking like some sort of Marvel comic books super hero. But, when you think about we do have a “super power”.

 

 

As a scuba instructor, I have the opportunity to see:

  • Fear change to courage
  • Faint-heartedness converted into accomplishment
  • Timidity transformed into confidence

As a scuba instructor, I can:

  • Open hearts and mindsto the hidden beauty of nature’s creation and our obligation to protect it
  • Foster self-esteemin another person
  • Teach thevalue of character and integrity
  • Transformanother human being and change a life for the better and forever

Plus, we get to teach people how to become fish and breathe underwater.  Pretty cool “super power” when you stop and think about it.

The first section of the instructors creed alone is a special moment. Many times we have had a student that starts with a discover scuba session and they think they can’t do it. Too claustrophobic or want ever. Then, they think maybe it isn’t that bad. Next thing they are in a full class. Still struggling a little, but you can see they are determined. Then that darn mask skill comes up.  Somehow, someway they get that silly thing cleared of water. And again and yet they do it again. Still not liking that skill, but accepting it. More practice. Getting easier, but yet still. Then the magic happens. They find a way that works for them. BOOM! But they still don’t like it, but they got it. Now they are now sneaking off to the corner of the pool to practice some more. They don’t want us to see. But we do. We just watch, knowing that confidence is growing in them. The instructors creed is happening all over again.

Yep, maybe just maybe Course Director Kelly is right. We do have a “super power”

What info does your emergency contact need?

emergency contactDoes your emergency contact have all your info? Sounds like a crazy question and a crazy blog post, but it isn’t. One of our divers was on a wonderful trip with his buddy and his buddy had a major heart attack and passed. It took almost 3 months to return his body to the states. Sounds crazy and sad, but a little extra info could save you and your family some serious aggravation.

Does your emergency contact have all your personal information? Things like date of birth, social security number are fairly common for that person to have or know. But how about your parents names? They were important in the case that prompts this post to help identify the person. But also how about your medical insurance and DAN insurance numbers? Blood type? And in this sad case, how about what to do with the body?

If your emergency contact has to deal with the State Department all of that information is going to be needed and relevant. And of course if they have to deal with the federal government the more information that they can provide up front will help expedite the situation.

Take some time and write down all the pertinent information on a nice piece of paper and place it in an envelope for your emergency contact to place in a safe spot. You do not have to tell them what is in it. On the outside, you can write all the travel information. Such as what resort you are staying at. What time your flights arrive and depart. The phone number to reach you if a situation arises.  You know all the normal stuff. Then tell them that if some major happens, the information is inside that they will need.  After your safe adventure and return home, your emergency contact can hand you that unopened envelope back and all is good.

The diver that told me this story asked that I write about it and place it out there for others. If it saves just one family extra grief then it was worth it.

Packing Tips for your amazing Dive Trip

Packing for your amazing dive vacation is easy. So many of our new divers have overwhelming feelings when it is packingtime to pack for their dive adventure. Well I have always joked that I should teach a packing for a trip class, so how about a packing blog post instead?

Now this does assume that you own or are renting gear for your trip. Otherwise you wouldn’t be worrying about it and just over pack as usual.

Packing Tip 1: Your fins should go on the side of your bag. This creates a very stable and protective side walls.

Packing Tip 2: BCD goes on the bottom with the tank pad down. Again this will create a more stable and protective bag.

Packing Tip 3: Take half of what you think you will need for the week. Unless you are traveling first class or just want to spend extra money on that overweight or extra bag, you really don’t need a fresh outfit for every day. Here is what I usually pack; 2 or 3 pair of swim wear, 4 pairs of shorts, 3 t-shirts and 4 collared shirts. Ladies might want to add 2 cover ups or wraps. I will also pack 1 pair of flip flops in my main bag. That is all; after all we are going to the islands. If we are going somewhere that has a fancy dress code, then I will toss in a pair of slacks (I probably am not going if they require that).

Packing Tip 4: Wetsuit goes on top. It helps protect everything and is a nice cushion for that rum bottle.

Packing Tip 5: Mask, camera and regulator are in my backpack along with a light jacket/golf pullover, an extra t-shirt, shorts and bathing suit. Add in a micro fiber towel that can act as a pillow or blanket on the plane and I am ready for the islands.

See you at the airport

Are scuba classes on your 2017 resolution list?

padi idcHappy New Year! That wonderful time of the year when we all resolve to be better at something, are scuba classes on your list?

Now I know scuba is fun and for most people the thought of education is anything but fun. But scuba classes are different. First you are diving, well in most of the classes you are. But you are talking about diving and improving your knowledge about diving and therefore having more fun diving.

What scuba classes can give you all that in the middle of winter? Well how about Enriched Air, aka Nitrox?  Gain the potential benefit of having longer time underwater when using Nitrox. Or maybe one of the Project Aware scuba classes to help you identify different types of coral or learn more about our water planet.

One of the more popular scuba classes is the PADI advanced open water program. In this one you get to pick some of the more fun dives to experience such as search and recovery. Learn to tie knots and play with a lift bag underwater, it is a challenge and big fun. Or maybe taking underwater photos or video is more your style. You can develop better filming techniques, angles and different lighting options to help you on your spring or summer dive adventure. Or just maybe you want to be a better dive buddy? Then the rescue diver program is for you.

Maybe one of your 2017 resolutions is to gain some leadership training or even maybe develop a little future opportunity for increasing your income. Along with the Dive Master and Assistant/Instructor program, how about becoming an Instructor for CPR and 1st aide?

As you can see, there are many different options in scuba classes. From the simple and easy to the most challenging of options, I hope scuba classes are on your resolution list for 2017.

Happy New Year and Happy scuba bubbles

Underwater Critter Hunting, part 2

Underwater critter hunting is part of scuba diving’s enjoyment and appeal. In  part 1 a few months back we talked about going slow over the reef and learning some of the critters habitats. Another way to help you spot more critters is perfecting your buoyancy.

Being able to hover over a coral head so you can get a closer look is invaluable. Some will even use a “tickle stick” to Critter Huntinghelp stabilize them as they examine the corals. The soft corals are what most divers focus on, but don’t forget about the hard corals. In Fiji, we spotted a few of these guys hiding in hard green coral. I was able to find this little crab and get the photo thanks to some good buoyancy.

But buoyancy sometimes isn’t enough to spend the extra time critter hunting. And going slow and slower is helpful. In Fiji, we were critter hunting and told Christine our dive master that we liked to find the little stuff. And did we find the little stuff. On one dive the nudibranch was about the size of 2 stitches in her wetsuit. When after an hour we reached the end of the dive we were at the point that they normally reach after 40 minutes.

But sometimes if you look around the coral head you can find a place to actually lay down on the sea floor. This allows you to rest some and continue your critter hunting. And you can spend a lot of time looking without damaging anything.

flat wormOne last thing about critter hunting, keep your eyes open. You just never know when you will see say a free swimming sea horse or a flat worm. And if you are lucky you just might get a up close look at an amazing critter.

 

 

Happy Bubbles and happy critter hunting

My favorite dive sites

favorite dive sitesNew divers are always asking us what our favorite dive sites are or where the best scuba diving location is. My standard answer is where ever I am going next, but that doesn’t really answer the question now does it. So in a feeble attempt to actually answer the question without writing 10,000 words

Little Cayman and Little Cayman Beach Resort. I just adore this resort, the staff and of course Blood Bay Wall. If you can’t unplug and relax here, well then you just can’t. Wall diving and little creatures and turtles and sharks, they are all here and with over 100 foot visibility.

Cozumel. There are many reasons to love this island. It is affordable and easy to get to. The diving is easy, just fall off the boat and make sure you have your buoyancy and drift along. San Miguel has lots of things for your non diving friends and we enjoyed Scuba Club for their nice resort, but also for the proximity to town.

Fiji. The soft corals and Nemo is everywhere. And then you have such a different variety of fish. For example the Angel fish look the same body wise, but their markings are so different. Add in that the people of Fiji are just about the friendliest and happiest people we have ever had the opportunity to be around make this one of the must dives.

Turks and Caicos. The best way to dive this island chain is to dive one of the liveaboards. We have had pods of dolphins and a few pilot whales on our adventures here along with sharks and turtles.

I could keep going on about my favorite dive sites and you could probably guess. But to quickly round out the list of my favorite dive sites one would have to add St Lucia, the East End of Grand Cayman and Kauai.

So what are your favorite dive sites?

Why dive Nitrox

NitroxNitrox (Enriched Air) just what is it and what benefit does it have for our diving? Nitrox is any blend of air that has over 21% oxygen, hence the tern Enriched Air Nitrox or EAN, with the most common being around 32% oxygen.

The first benefit in diving Nitrox is that by using air that contains less nitrogen we are loading less nitrogen into our bodies therefore at least in theory we are adding a safety margin against decompression illness. With less nitrogen in our scuba cylinders there is even less need to push the limits of the dive tables or our computers. On the regular PADI dive table a dive to 60 feet for 45 minutes leaves us in the pressure group of “S” while on Nitrox of 32% the same dive leaves us in the pressure group of”M”. That is quite a large difference in nitrogen loading.

Which brings us to the next benefit of Nitrox, longer bottom times or shorter surface time. Using our 60 foot dive of before if we look at the regular dive table 60 feet shows a maximum bottom time of 55 minutes and our Nitrox 32% table shows 90 minutes. A huge amount of extra time to spend under water, but not many can make a tank last that long.

nitroxSo how about shorter surface time? In our 60 foot dive for 45 minutes on the regular PADI table we would be an “S” diver and after a 1 hour surface interval we would have off gassed down to a “G” diver which would allow us only 34 minutes at 60 feet or 54 minutes if we only go to 50 feet. On Nitrox 32% the table is much kinder to our bottom time. If we dive the same 45 minutes and our pressure group is “M” if we want to go right back to 60 feet for 45 minutes our surface time is less than 4 minutes. But since we are safe divers we stay on the surface for 30 minutes which drops us to “H” pressure group and that gives us up to 60 minutes of allowable bottom time.

One last benefit of diving with Nitrox is that you may feel less tired after a day of diving. There is no science that I can point you to, but after 4 or 5 dives a day I know I am less tired

Busting a few Scuba Myths

padi idcScuba Myths, we hear a lot of them every day when people come in or call about scuba class so let us take a look at 5 of the most common scuba myths.
1) You need to be an awesome swimmer. Nah, you do need to be able to swim 200 yards in any stroke and it is a non timed swim (300 yards with mask snorkel and fins is an option) and you need to be able to float or tread water for 10 minutes. Basically you should have a comfort in the water since that is where you will be scuba diving
2) Cost of gear and classes is huge. I guess that depends on your definition of huge. How much does that ski pass cost every year? Sure the upfront cost of a good set of mask, snorkel and fins and basic certification can run close to $800, but you will be certified for life and the gear will last you 10 years or more. Compared to skiing, scuba is rather inexpensive.
scuba myths

3) So many scuba myths revolve around aggressive animals and sound like this “Sharks will eat me”. Truth is more people are attacked by dogs that sharks or other aggressive animals. Shark sightings are rare and generally sharks avoid humans as we are close to their size and we are just another apex predator to them
4) To hard to learn and too much time. Another one of the scuba myths that we love. Did you know that it takes a little time at home reading the book and watching the video at your own pace. The actual time in the shop, pool and open water dives is just 2 weekends.
5) My favorite of all scuba myths is “I am too old or out of shape”. Too old? Out of Shape? The goal in scuba is to go slow and see all the little creatures. We don’t have to be an Olympic athlete. We just need to be healthy.
joescubashackScuba myths come in all shapes and sizes. What are your favorite scuba myths?

Learn to Dive, Make new friends

Dive friendsAs we age meeting and making new friends is always a challenge especially when we consider all of the challenges that life throws our way. Think about the last trip you were on, you probably didn’t know anyone or unless you travel with a large group such as the dive shop you may have known everyone there may have been someone new to the group.  Even the ones you didn’t know you had a common bond. That is the love of diving.  Your conversations probably started on places you have been and grew from there.

Or maybe you are new to a neighborhood or town, maybe even just standing in line at the grocery store and you are wearing your newest favorite t-shirt from your last dive adventure.  The person behind you generally ask something along the line how was the diving or are you a diver.  Some of the other questions a new non diving friend may ask, “aren’t you afraid of sharks”, “how deep have you gone” or even about your favorite place to dive or how long you have been diving.

Dive friends 2Some of our best and closest friends have been made on dive boats.  The story of how   we meet Martin and Christine is a dive story classic. It was in Cozumel the week after hurricane Emily in 2005, we were booked at the same resort, but due to the damage the resort claimed they had no water or rooms for us; but they would be happy to send us to their sister property in Cancun.  We politely declined and eventually they found rooms for us all.  The next day we were on the boat reliving the night before and diving and we have dove with them every year since 2007 at least once every year

PADI had a saying in the old curriculum that went like this; Go places, meet people, do things. And it is true today. Diving is a social sport, sure the buddy system enhances our safety, but it more than doubles the fun

scuba joe