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.

Recycling, But my cups decompose

Recycling as you may know is sort of my “pet project”. But did you know that there is more ways that we as consumers can reduce the amount of “trash” that goes into our landfills and oceans and we don’t have to worry about recycling?

recyclingYou see those cups sitting there so pretty in the islands? Did you know that they are made from corn and decompose in the trash? The straws? They are paper. There have been recent articles in the local paper and stories on the KREX TV news about recycling in the last month. And while I applaud the attention that is being given to the recycling effort. There is still so much more that we as consumers can demand and do.

Let’s take a look at my little corn starch drink cup. The famous Solo cup, now you are singing that song. The line goes something like, “… it is cheap and disposable and in 14 years they are decomposable….” Well, the truth is not really. It is more like over 100 years. Whereas, my little decomposable plastic cup will decompose in the landfill in less than 180 days. Actually most decompose in as little as 45 to 60 days.

Now take a look at the bottom of that solo cup. You see that little recycling symbol with the number 6? Those cups are notorious for being difficult to recycle and be toxic. I am fairly sure that my little corn starch cup isn’t toxic in any way.

But regular plastic cups are cheaper that my little decomposable cups right? Well, you can price them out here . The bottom line truth is that they are virtually the same cost. And let us be honest, I bet all of you will pay 5 cents more for your cool or hot drink in my little corn starch cup and not even know it.

I am looking at your City of Grand Junction, Grand Junction Rockies, Colorado Mesa University and all the places that serve the public cool refreshing beverages. It is time to change your purchasing habits and do your part to ease the burden on the recycling system.

So, the next time you are at a Grand Junction Rockies game and enjoying that cold beer. Think about your cup. Will it decompose before winter?

Coral Reefs are amazing!

coral reefsCoral reefs are amazing. I know a rather simple statement and one as divers we will all agree with. But did you know that coral reefs cover approximately 110,000 square miles? That is about the size of the state of Nevada. Feels sort of small. And yet coral reefs are home to over one third of all fish life and act as nursery grounds to over 25% of all known marine life.

Just about 8% of all coral species can be found in the Atlantic while the rest are to be found in the Indo-Pacific.  (I think more adventures to the Indo-Pacific are called for.) What is odd is that between the two oceans they share only 8 of over 100 know corals.

Soft corals, hard corals, small and large are classified as animals. But they are a unique combination of plant, animal and mineral.  Coral reefs are varied and vibrant play grounds. As divers we know this and the best way to protect them is to have wonderful buoyancy control. Here are a few crazy facts to keep in mind about how coral reefs grow. Did you know that coral reach sexual maturity between 7 to 10 years of age or when they are about 4 inches? Staghorn and Elkhorn corals are among the fastest growing corals at approximately 5 inches a year. Whereas, most corals grow only a fraction of an inch a year. Think of some of the size of corals you have seen and imagine how old they must be.

coral reefsAs we all know coral reefs are in trouble worldwide. That is why I found this article so fascinating and hopeful. Along with all the places that are working on coral nurseries around the world there is hope for our coral reefs. There is still a lot of work to be done and a lot of research, but maybe we can help the coral reefs thrive.  

Sharks, a love story for sharky?

Tiger sharksSharks (you can hear that music right) people have 2 reactions to just the word. Love or fear.  Pretty simple statement I know, but just ask your friends and you will get only those two responses.

If you are reading this post then I will guess that you fall on the side of love for sharks. And you might guess, so do I. I want to share a few things that I found interesting as I prepare for teach my new specialty  Shark Conservation Diver .

Let’s start with this little tidbit. The first shark appeared in the oceans more than 150 million years before dinosaurs. Just about 400 million years ago. No wonder they look so prehistoric. There are over 500 different species of sharks. The smallest is the dwarf lantern shark that is only 7cm. Two can even go between fresh and salt water, the bull and the aptly named river shark.

Did you know that sharks are more like whales and elephants when it comes to having babies? It can take one to two years for the female to give birth. They generally have small numbers of offspring and after birth it is generally a year or two before they become pregnant again. And some like the dusky shark can take up to twenty years to reach sexual maturity.

Yes, most sharks are apex predators. The top of the food chain. But think about this, less sharks means more lower level carnivores that leads to less herbivores which gives us more algae and stuff covering the coral reefs. Which we know creates a very unhealthy reef.

sharks finWe have all heard about shark fin soup and the horrible thing that is shark fining. But here are a few other facts about sharks. Porbeagle meat is thought of as “veal from the sea” in France. Shark meat is common in fish and chips and other things like fish fingers.

 Approximately one third of all open ocean sharks are threaten with extinction. Hammerheads have declined by over 80% in the Atlantic. Sharks are in trouble and we can help and we should help. Want to learn more and start your own love affair  you can go here

Too Much Oxygen can do what?

oxygenHow can the air we breathe be so harmful to us, after all isn’t oxygen good for us? Well, we do know from our Enriched Air aka Nitrox class that under pressure can become toxic to our body and cause a host of issues.

We can avoid all of those issues by paying attention to our dive computers and by setting our oxygen levels on our computers correctly. Let me provide an example that actually happen to me of all people. A day before we went to the crater I was showing a diver how to set the oxygen limits on one of my dive computers. This particular computer you can actually set up to 99% oxygen. By the way at that level the maximum dive depth is 13 feet. Well instead of making sure it was set back to regular old 21% air, I must have left it at 99%. Well you can just imagine the grief that the computer was giving me after only 5 minutes of the first dive at the crater.  As most of you know that dive is usually between 16 and 25 feet. Well after 5 minutes my computer was telling me that I was approaching my oxygen limit for 24 hours. And after 10 minutes I was way past that limit. I knew I was fine and I knew what had happened. But of course my computer didn’t know that I was fine and actually diving 21% or just regular old air.

Of course I finish both of the dives with the class and one extra for the advanced open water students. At this point I was curious what the computer would actually do. I was definitely on the naughty list as far as it was concerned.  But after 14 hours of being out of the water the computer was much happier and allowed me to reset it to 21%. After 3 more dives with the class the computer was showing only 5% of my daily oxygen exposure had been reached.

Revisting Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

recycleReduce, Reuse and Recycle. That is my New Year Resolution that I wish everyone will adopt. In case you missed this story on our local news. I will share a few of the highlights.

Approximately 70% of what we send to the Mesa County landfill can be sorted to recycle. I know in our home we have 3 bins set up for recycle. Glass and plastics (at least 3 types can be taken at the local drop off), papers and even one for the packaging that is cereal boxes, crackers and the like. I am amazed at how empty our trash can has become with just this little step. And of course all of the cardboard boxes and packing materials that all the fun scuba toys ship in.

Speaking of packaging, did you know that over 1 million cubic feet of packaging is taken to the land fill during the holidays? According to estimates the Mesa County landfill has about 25 years left before it is full and we need to start over in a new place. I know that sounds like a long time to some, but not to our kids and grand kids. Now imagine if we can increase the life expectancy of that landfill by just a small bit? If more people reduced and reused and recycle we just might get that landfill to last say 50 to 60 years? It really would not take much to reach that small goal. Three bins in your garage. Once a week to the city drop off center. I generally go on Mondays.

One last little tidbit, approximately only 20% of the homes in Mesa County take advantage of the curbside pick up. Just imagine if that was say 50% or higher. Did you know that inside the city limits curbside recycle is available and only about $1.50 a week? Not in the city limits? For only $5 a month a few of the private trash companies will pick up your recycle bags or bins. Heck you do not even have to sort it, they will.

Oh and those old electronic toys that Santa is bring you new replacements for this Christmas. Best Buy will take them and recycle them for free. Just drop them off.

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

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

Listening to your Dive Computer

padi idcDid you know that your dive computer can “talk” to you? It can tell you more than just how deep and how long. Your dive computer can tell you so many different things if you will listen.

The first step in learning to listen to your dive computer is to look over the operating instructions. Or if you are lucky, you might find a helpful video to walk you through a few things.  I like our divers to read the instruction cards and play with their new dive computer some and then come in and ask questions.

One of the most important and valuable things your dive computer can tell you is all about your nitrogen loading. You might have heard some divers referring to “bubbles”. This information refers to the level of nitrogen in your body. Remember the “letters” on the dive table? These letters have been translated into a bar graph, aka bubbles, and are broken into green, yellow and red zones. Keep your bubbles in the green and you will be a very safe and conservative diver.  Are your bubbles pushing up high in the green and maybe into the yellow or caution zone? Ascend some and watch the bubbles drop back down.

As your dive week progresses you’re left over bubbles will grow some and that is why a lot of divers will take an afternoon or a day off from diving or they dive Nitrox. Another way to drop your bubbles is to extend your safety stops from 3 minutes to 5 or more. As long as you have air why not hang out under the boat and watch what swims by. We have seen many sharks and turtles just hanging out under the boat.

Yes my friends, your dive computer can tell you so many things. It can tell you if you ascend to fast. It can tell you how long your next dive can be for and also how deep. Are you listening to your dive computer?

Where will your Scuba Adventure take you?

scuba adventureOur scuba adventures are as unique and varied as we are. Some like the baby turtles in this picture are just starting their scuba adventure while some been on the trip for a long time and yet some even wind up writing post like this one. But the point is it is your adventure and we hope you are making it your best adventure ever.

Some of us are content on our scuba adventure with just our basic open water card and some are happy to have the advanced open water card so they can “go deeper”. There are others that reach for the brass ring and want it all. The island life style and working and living in paradise. And there is the beauty of scuba; it can be anything you want.

Regardless of where you are on your scuba adventure as we begin 2016, take a moment to reflect and to think of all the awesome things you have seen. Dolphins playing in the wake of the boat, sharks, even the small things like the anemone shrimp and crabs. The wonder and amazement of it all. Now, let us take another moment and reflect on something, anything that might increase our enjoyment of this crazy adventure. Maybe, it is something as simple as joining a group trip to meet and dive with new buddies or it might be you want to learn more about the coral reef itself.

Maybe you are at the point in your adventure that you are now ready to show your kids the underwater world from a different point of view. You might want to add rescue diver to your adventure. Or even take classes with them and share the same adventure.

It is your scuba adventure and it can be whatever you want it to be and more. Let’s go diving!