Friday, May 30, 2008

More on gettin' older...

The other day I go to pick up something from my wife at her work and she mentions one of her 20 something-ish co-workers said to her "I hope this doesn't offend you, but your husband's cute, sure he's older, but he's cute"... Now I'm feeling pretty good about myself for the rest of the day... hey 20 something-ish women think I'm cute, they didn't ever say that back in the day, but they do now... I'm feelin' kind of manly... then my wife comes home and the first thing out of her mouth is... "Yeah, so and so (name edited) says you remind her of a younger Santa Claus".

A younger Santa Claus!?!?!?! I'm not sure that's what I was privately hoping for... I don't think I look like anyone famous... but Santa Claus??? Oh well, guess I gotta take a "compliment" for what it's worth, and I guess I can think of worse people to remind people of than Santa.

Well, it's time for new glasses and part of my last grasp at youth is getting back into contact lenses part time. I went to the optometrist and was given both standard contact and bi-focal contacts. The bi-focal contacts are interesting, apparently the center of the contact is slightly more set for near vision and you see around it for distance vision, and in my case the lens on my dominant eye (didn't know I had one) is corrected more for distance vision and the less-dominant eye is corrected more for close-up vision. Well, neither works perfectly and it's kind of aggravating, but most of the time it works. I wore the bi-focal lenses for several days and today I tried the standard vision lenses. Wow, a noticeable difference in the distance vision, but I can't see a darned thing within 3-4 feet. I had to borrow my wife's reading glasses (she had lasik a few years back and can't read real small print without them) for even basic reading and detail work, like typing this post... my mind is basically made up at this point, ixnay on the andardstay contacts and I'll probably go with the bi-focal ones, at least I can see my camera settings with them.

The pic above is of a Divided Flatworm (Pseuderos c.f. dimidiatus) -maybe the "c.f." stands for "certainly familiar", whatever, apparently it is similar to yet different from the originally described species. The other pic above is of me a couple months ago (before my white-hair breakdown haircut).



Saturday, May 24, 2008

Welcome to post number 399....

I didn't think I'd ever be posting this much, not to mention having enough photos to post to keep it half way interesting....

Anyway, here's a shot of a frogfish that Pat took a couple of weeks back that I think is great. I really like how it's basically perched by it's back "feet" and how you can see it's "teeth" in it's mouth. Cool pic.

Two thumbs up for Keei Cafe in Kealakekua

Pat and I went to Keei Cafe on the spur of the moment last night. We hadn't been there in a couple of years, but it's the same place it's always been in our opinion. I've heard reports of sporadic service issues, but we've never experienced them in the least here, unlike many of the places we've eaten in Kona.

We loaded up on pan seared ribeye steaks, which come with julienned veggies and your choice of mashed potatoes or rice. They have a limited menu, generally steaks, a few fish items, a half chicken, pork chops, fajitas and some salads and soups as well as deserts, but all are very good and have a good presentation. Prices and portions are quite reasonable, especially in comparison to resort restaurants we've eaten at. I think the highest priced item on the menu was about 23 bucks, and would go for much more up north at the resorts. They have a full bar and we tried their mai-tais... interesting and delicious.

The interior of the restaurant is quite nice, although the view is lacking as it's located right on Mamalahoa highway (or Hawaii Belt Road, according to thier info... we basically have 1 highway that goes by several different names), but the interior ambience and the food more than make up for the lack of view. I'd go as far as listing Keei Cafe as one of the nicer restaurants on the west side of the Island we've been to.

A brief note.... they identified 36 manta rays at the dive site the night I took the video in my post a couple of posts back. There's no telling if there were more mantas milling around that night they didn't get on video. If you stumble on this post and haven't seen the manta ray video, you owe it to yourself to look back a couple of posts and watch the video... it was an amazing night.



Tuesday, May 20, 2008

My last grasp at youth....

I should've taken my camera to the hair salon for today's photo...

So a couple months back I was feeling kind of crummy, I'd put on nearly 30 pounds in the last year and a half and was sitting at 240 lbs, torn the hamstring, was having the blood pressure creep up and was having heel problems and feeling old in general. About early March I realized it's going to be a long summer if I don't do something about it, so it's on with the shoes full time, more excercise, dietary restraint and seeing the doc for a change in BP meds. I figured I need to be down to around 220 by mid-June when biz picks up... well I've already done that, down to 216 this morning and I figure I might as well get down to 210 or under in the next month... Kinda stoked, don't notice the hamstring anymore, the heels are much better, the BP is in the range where it should be and I'm thinking maybe I can get down to around 185/190 (which I haven't been since I was 27 or 28) by the time I'm 50 this fall, then I can shave off my largely white beard, put on the contacts and maybe pass for 35/40 again...

...then I went and had a haircut today....

AAAAAaaaaaaggggghhhh (and I don't mean in an excited Howard Dean kinda way) Where'd all that gray come from? I'm looking at the clippings on the smock and practically half the hairs are white, substantially more white hairs in the clippings this time than in previous cuts. Guess I'll have to let my hair grow out long for my 50th, when it gets long the remaining brown bleaches out from the sun and you can't see the gray (at least at this point). It still blends in OK now but it definitely shows when it's short.

My wife is quite tickled that I'm getting gray.

Oh well, it is what it is, can't change the hair but I can still keep working on the other stuff and get myself in a more youthful condition.

Here's a shot of a male Whitley's Boxfish (Ostracion whitleyi) that Pat (the wife that is so tickled that I'm going gray) took a week or two back. They're rarely seen here. I've got some pictures posted earlier but they aren't as nice as this one.



Tonight was possibly the best manta ray night dive ever

Hawaii fish video from Steve on Vimeo.
Here's a few minutes snippet I took with my Canon G9. I hadn't been diving it much the last year, but back when I dove it a lot I'd been down on nights when 15-17 mantas showed up quite a number of times. Tonight there were many more, I figured 25 would be extremely conservative, and 30-32 more likely. I talked to the videographer afterwards and she said she saw 26 she knew (the video people typically take a slate down and list the ones they recognise, they all have different spot patterns) and said there were several others she didn't know... figured there were 30 minimum. We'll see how many there were in a day or so when all the videographers compare notes. Last night they had 28, which tied the previous record showing, but there seems to be a secret manta network... these fish must somehow communicate to each other when and where the feeding's good and there was a very good amount of plankton in the water tonight.

Happy, happy, happy,


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Wetsuits and atom bombs have much more in common than most people realize...

Hugh Bradner, physicist and scuba pioneer passed away earlier this month. He was the inventor of the neoprene wetsuit, as well as one of the founding scientists of Los Alamos and worked on the Manhattan Project. His obituary is a facinating read. He had a big impact on the scuba world.

The pic above is of a smallish whitemouth moray and was taken with the new Inon UCL-165 closeup lens I picked up.



Time's running down for this year's Kona Classic Underwater photo competion and seminars...

This year's Classic is starting at the end of this week. There's still spots avaialble. The official sponsors are Jack's Diving Locker, Kona Honu Divers and Bottomtime Hawaii. You can book through them, I also have space on my boat and I will be personally participating as it's supposed to (my first year, but I hear good things) be a good time. If you happen to be diving here that week you might want to join in on the fun. Packages are avaialable for the week (I'm honoring the diving package if anyone's interested). Seminar and events only packages or individual seminars available for a reasonable price for those who don't intend to "compete". If you are coming to Kona for diving and interested in the photography end of diving you should check it out.

Here's a juvenile Yellow Tail Coris Wrasse. This pic is a bit blurry, between movement and image quality) but it'll give you an idea of the great color these guys have.



Friday, May 16, 2008

Hawaiian Dragon Moray (Enchelycore pardalis)

We've been seeing more of these guys around lately. The other evening we found two of them, this one and a smaller one I'll post a pic of later.

Dragon morays are probably our most colorful moray (although there apparently is a rare tidepool moray that is bright red that I've heard about) that we see on occasion. They're generally pretty shy and you tend to see the tails first if you see them at all.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Pawai Bay, Kona Hawaii....

Pawai Bay from Steve on Vimeo.
This video is actually a hair outdated as I took it a couple of months ago when the whales were still here... and the water's generally flatter now. Pawai Bay is one of our many great dive sites. There are 6 moorings in the area, with two more at a site just to the south. It was one of the first marine preserves over here, and being protected there are a lot of fish in the area. Features of the sites are nice rocky walls, some caves and archways, nice reef, and a great dropoff into deep water where seeing something big can happen on occasion.

Currently the diving conditions are GREAT!!! I've had double charters the last several days so I stayed out of the water on my day off today... but it was hard to do as the water is sooooo nice right now. The water temperature is still sitting at 75-77, but it's flat as all get-out during the mornings with a bit of a chop in the evenings the last few nights but just fine underwater.

We've had some really nice dives the last few days... saw 2 dragon morays on a single dive a couple days back, Cathy and her group saw THREE frogfish on a single dive yesterday, and we had 3 eagle rays the other day. Fun, fun, fun.



I picked up a new Inon UCL -165 closeup lens for my camera...

This is one of the early shots with the new closeup lens. I did crop some of the image, but not a whole lot. Inon, as well as other manufacturers, makes "wet" attachment lenses that you can add to the exterior of your underwater housing to acheive closeup or wide angle shots the camera can't normally do. The Canon G9 housing needs a special adapter (the one I found was manufactured by a french company, but only available through Japanese mailorder companies) to accept the lens, and with the adapter the wide angle lens apparently does little, but the closeup lens can do great things.

The lens allows you to get closer to the subject while in maximum zoom, so in my case instead of being 19 or more inches away from the subject in full zoom, I can shoot from roughly 6 inches instead while still fully zoomed in. Many animals can tolerate you being 6 inches away, but to do that normally you wouldn't be able to zoom in and still focus.

I'll do a more thorough review later, including where to find the adapters for the G9 housing and similar housings.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Crown of Thorns Starfish...

This is a Crown of Thorns star. These guys are NOT a favorite critter of ours as they eat coral, and the spines are venemnous to boot. You can see this particular star has just finished off eating the cauliflower coral behind it and is moving on to it's next meal. Corals are a colonial critter, growing on top of the skeleton of previous polyps. The COT starfish will eat the live outer layer, and the coral may or may not ever recover.

As far as the poison content of the spines of this star... it is not to be messed with. I've run into a lot of people who have tried touching it "just to see" if it's sharp or hurts.... It is sharp, will poke through gloves and skin easily, and will mess the contact site up for months, I know people who have visible damage years later - it's not a simple bee sting, it's nasty.

We're in the midst of a busy spell (what a difference a year makes, last year we were taking the boat out of service for the rebuild and had 4 or 5 charters in May, this year I already have 21 charters lined up for the month) so I won't be posting much 'til mid-week as I have charters day and night 'til then. Pat joined the charter today, as we only took out 2 passengers, and took lots of photos (they saw 2 frogfish, devil and titan scorpions, male and female whitley's boxfish, flatworms, an eagle ray and lots of other neat stuff) while I stayed on dry land to get fingerprinted by the Coast Guard for my Captain's license renewal. Bob and Cathy are both Captains and dive instructors so they ran the boat today - they were probably thrilled to have "the boss"/me off the boat.



Thursday, May 08, 2008

Frogfish everywhere....

Perhaps it's just me, but it seems as though we're seeing a lot more frogfish these days... yahoo. There was a period a couple years back where it seemed as though I hadn't seen a frogfish in 2-3 years. So far this year we've been seeing them a lot (by lot, I mean several times a month). You never know why some fish seem to disappear for a while, I'm hoping seeing frogfish regularly is a trend that continues.

I found this little guy at a divesite right outside the harbor. It was on a non-descript coral head, so there's little chance I'd find it again if I tried, at least not in the same spot. This one was probabaly about an inch and a half long, smaller than a golfball anyway. They can get huge and tend to pick up colors to blend into the scenery as they grow.

One thing I didn't notice as I took the photo that I noticed after I looked at it later.... you can see it's little "fishing rod"!!!! Take a look at the center of it's forhead, above the mouth and between the eyes, and you'll see a little bump with what looks like a hair with a feather on the end coming out of it. Frogfish are a member of the angler family and have a lure they use to attract victims to in front of them. They'll hang out motionless, wiggle their lure, and when a small fish approaches to investigate they'll inhale it in a single gulp... sorta like me and Burger King Whoppers.



Wednesday, May 07, 2008

US economic stimulus package = Ikelite AF35 strobe???

So far, every picture that Pat or I have taken since we started going the digital route underwater has been with the onboard flash or with available light. We both now have Canon G9 camera setups and decided that we'll take the opportunity of the stimulus windfall to pick up the Ikelite strobe package linked here:

This strobe isn't a high end strobe package, but it packs a fair punch for the price and might be ideal for our use. I'd been curious about it, as it offers a decent amount of power for macro and nearby pictures, say to about 3-4 feet, for the price. It just came out in the last couple of months so there's not a lot of them out there just yet, but a customer the other week had one and is quite happy with it so far. It's made to be compatible with most of the point and shoot camera setups currently available and has a sensor to make it more or less automatic once you get settings that give you an exposure you are comfortable with. Few, if any, strobe packages give you this much strobe, along with a tray and sensors, for the price.

We'll probably take the plunge in the next few days, then have it by the end of next week and be mad we even bought it after the first use or two or three.... unfortunately, with new cameras and such, it takes a while to actually figure out how best to use what you just picked up. I've "upgraded" 4 times now since getting into the underwater photography thing and each time I wonder if I hadn't made a mistake at first, only to figure out what I'm doing wrong and ending up happy after all. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Here's another short clip of the manta rays from yesterday in Kona Hawaii....

Manta ray night dive, Kona Hawaii May 6th, '08 from Steve on Vimeo.

This is a short clip from the manta dive last night. This particular night there were roughly 50 or so divers sharing 6-7 mantas. This clip is a short uncut version of what can go on for 45-60 minutes straight on a good night.

It's kinda funny, we get people who say "we've already been to stingray city in the Carribean" or "we've seen mantas on dives in 'X location'" as though they've seen it all and the night dive is going to be nothing special, then they do this dive and get 5,10,30,50 minutes (depends on the night, some nights we get nothing, many are just plain amazing) of continuous headbumping manta ray bombardment and come up raving about it being the coolest dive they've ever done.

I've been leading this dive since late '99 and it's still a thrill for me.



Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A bunch of mantas at the Kona manta ray night dive tonight...

We did the manta dive tonight after doing the morning trip also. I'm making this post quick, gotta hit the hay for a few hours and get up for tomorrow's charter - we've been staying quite busy despite being the slow time of year.... How slow is it you may ask... this last Saturday the only other dive charters I saw on the water were the two companies that service primarily Japanese clientele and two companies that have been here for over 25 years. Saturdays seem to be generally a slower dive day because it's a travel day or "the last full day in Kona so I'll do something other than dive" day for a lot of people. We've been going out consistantly, be we are running a bit light (as far as number of divers on the boat) often, going out with a light load beats not going out at all though.

Here's a scorpion fish I took a picture of on a night dive a couple weeks back. With the night time coloration it's tough for me to tell if it's a Decoy Scorpionfish or a Speckled Scorpionfish right off hand without scrutinizing the books.

Quick update on the weather.... Vog is down - Yahoo. It's nice seeing the horizon again after not seeing it for a while, and we were able to see Maui from the water yesterday. We've had nicer skies the last few days, although we are seeing late afternoon winds and rains.