Sunday, June 29, 2008

Whew! Busy month is over....


I've been quite busy with Wanna Dive this month. We've been doing charters nearly every day, with an additional one to two night charters each week. The goal is 7 mornings a week, and then the manta dive on Monday and Thursday evenings as well... nearly made it this month.

Yesterday it was a light load. We've been diving with a fun couple the last couple of weeks and it was just them for the day. Pat had the day off and decided to join in on the fun. Cathy and I took them to a spot that is pristine, likely one of the nicer dive sites in the state, that is out of the way and isn't dove that much. Pat had never been there and Cathy probably hadn't dove it in years. This is a cool site that frankly we aren't going to do unless conditions are right (they were yesterday) and we know the divers on the boat fairly well... there's some stuff at this site that a lot of newer or less careful divers might actually BREAK as it has a lot of our more delicate stuff. It was a really fun day for us.

Latest on water conditions... it's finally warming up. We've been seeing 77 degrees and I even had 79 in the shallows for a bit yesterday. The more typical summer water conditions seem to be settling in. I hope it keeps up. The manta dive is still HOPPING bigtime. We went a few nights ago and had 15 or so mantas, and last night's manta report had it at 27. If you or someone you know is coming to Kona in the near future.... YOU'VE GOTTA DO THE MANTA DIVE, even if you are just snorkeling... it's a world class activity, especially when it's going as big as it is now. Check my May 2008 archives if you haven't seen the video clip of the dive yet, that'll give you an idea of what it can be like on a very busy night.

So I was browsing through a few blogs today and ran across this blog from a diver in Saipan, which is outside of Guam. He has a bunch of photos of their local stuff and posts pretty regularly, it might be of interest to some of you. I figured I might as well post about some other blogs when I find stuff I find interesting. I hope to be able to travel some day, and Saipan might be an interesting place to go at some point.

This frogfish is one of the several I've seen in the last month or so. We found it on a drift dive up north right at the end of the dive. Luckily we had enough air to stick around and shoot a few shots before ascending.



Saturday, June 21, 2008

This is an updated version of the last post...

With new photos.... I saw the tiny nudibranchs again, only this time I had my Inon closeup lenses attached to the camera housing. We dove the site that we were at the other week where I saw these guys. Bob took the divers out and I mentioned to look for these. Only one of the divers noticed them, but as soon as he said they were there I figured I had to hop overboard for a few minutes once Bob was back on board (a USCG Captain must be on board at all times).

I was down at the anchor looking around and I didn't see any and was beginning to wonder if the diver who said he'd seen them all over was just humoring me before I saw the first one, then suddenly I saw them all over. Once you see one, then suddenly you see them easily. I may have been generous in saying they're as large as Roosevelt's ear on a dime, they're probably smaller.

From a distance it looked as though they were on nothing but sand, but when I was taking pictures I kept noticing blurry areas. Turns out there was lots of clear algaes or other stuff layering the sand, the second photo does a good job of showing some of the stuff there.

I've finally got my closeups of these, whoohoo! Now if I really wanna have an interesting time, I'll have to grab my camera and do a night dive and really scrutinize about 1 square foot of sand. I did that one time without a camera years ago and found a scorpionfish and a few other critters that were near the same size as these guys.... there's lots of life we overlook.



Thursday, June 19, 2008

Now that's a small nudibranch...

The other week we were trying out a spot I'd never dove before (pretty cool spot) up north of the airport. This spot is north of the day use moorings so we were anchored in a sand patch next to the reef. I went to check the anchor at the end of the dive and noticed several of these little critters in the sand. I wish I had my closeup lenses on at the time, I'd love to get a good shot of these, this particular shot is really cropped and enlarged. This is a Siphopteron quadrispinosum, a type of nudibranch we see here (if you take notice anyway... they max out at a few millimeters in length) from time to time. To get a rough idea of their size, take a dime out of your pocket and look at Roosevelt's ear and it'll be pretty close to the same size as a good sized one. I've got a picture of three of them in the blog last June, take a look through the June '07 archives to see it. I'll have to keep my eyes open in the sand patches the next little while.

Tonight we did a reef night dive with some customers we have dove with already. Cathy dove it while I sat up top, she had great fun with it and came up quite excited... lots of neat stuff to see. Many of the dive operators here are rather invested in the manta dive and you hardly see anyone doing straight night dives on the reef any more here, we're trying to do them when we can get a group of interested divers as the straight night dives are really good and great fun for us (the crew) as well. It's a nice changeup to the manta dive, and so many things come out at night that you don't see during the day that it's quite exciting if you're a critter fan.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Here's a nice nudibranch photo...

I liked this photo from today. We had just one diver who's been with us for a couple of weeks, so we decided to do a couple of drift dives. I dove the second dive... lots of cool stuff.... dolphins underwater, a manta ray, a bunch of nudibranchs, a large spiny lobster, an octopus... all around good dive.

We found this Gold Lace Nudibranch towards the end of the dive. I probably took a dozen photos of it before I got this pic... either out of focus, rhinophores tucked in, gills tucked in, ect... it finally spread out and I got an in focus shot at the same time. I took this with my Canon G9 with Inon closeup lens and the Ikelite AF-35strobe. The closeup lens really does a good job of letting you get a decent macro shot, this guy was about an inch and a quarter to inch and a half long and the photo is uncropped. Without the lens I'd have to cut out a lot of the picture in post production to get the nudi to fill this much of the frame.



Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Kona's busy season starts this Thursday...

OK, that may not be entirely accurate, but things start picking up for me right then. Over the years, working for myself or others, I've always thought the dive business starts to pick up the first week after the 13th or so of June. The last couple of days I've been getting more calls from people who are coming over "next week" than during much of the spring.

I'm posting this primarily as a reminder to let people know, if you are coming over here soon and expecting to do activities that have a limited number of seats available, you might want to set things up soon. I can only seat 6 on my boat and I have partial bookings every day for the rest of the month, I had to turn away a group of 6 yesterday... if they'd called early enough they could've had the whole boat, my guess is they're going to have to join in on a larger boat to find 6 seats on this short of notice. I still have plenty of spots on most days, but can't handle the big groups when I've already got even one seat booked.

Hopefully it'll be a busy summer for everyone, it's been kind of a slow spring for a lot of businesses here.

This is a shot of a juvenile Blackside Hawkfish (Paracirrhites forsteri). They look dramatically different from the adults, which are pictured elsewhere in the blog (click on the word hawkfish below and you will find a few on the page that pops up).



I thought I felt a minor earthquake at 1:55....

And it showed up on this link about 15 minutes later. There was a 3.7 off of Kiholo. They probably felt it pretty good up north by the Four Seasons and even in Kailua. It just felt like a car drove past the house here.. . not much to it, the dog used to shake the house more every morning getting ready to take a walk.

Small earthquakes are quite common here, while most of the activity is on the other side of the island we do notice a mild bump here every now and then.

Here's a nice shot of a Fuchsia Flatworm (Pseudoceros ferrugineus) I took the other day. I'm pretty sure I had the new closeup lens on for this one.



A face only a mother could love?

We found this little guy on a drift dive the other day. I was pretty much unaware that these critters existed a couple of years ago until one ws pointed out to me and I found out what to look for. It's a Reticulated Frogfish (Antennarius tuberosus). These frogfish are generally found deep in coral heads and don't look like the typical frogfish found here. They're tough to get a picture of, so far when I've seen them I've had to deal with surge so getting them in focus or from a good angle is tough.

We've been reasonably busy. I've had one diver here for coming up on two weeks now who's been going out every day. He's taken off a couple of the days where we haven't had others scheduled so he could explore the island. On days he's been by himself we've explored a new (for us anyway) dive site or two, but most of the days have been filled in by last minute divers looking for an operator. In the last few weeks I've had divers from three companies hook up with me after they were cancelled on, lots of boats won't go out unless they have enough divers, I try not to cancel on anyone I've already booked.

We've finally had some summer weather recently, with nice sunshine in the mornings several of the last days. The manta dive is still hopping, we had 17 on our dive the end of last week and it's still been about the same the last few nights. On the manta dive - I'm trying to set it up so I only go two nights a week so I can go fairly full. It's tough doing it more often because I'm pretty much scheduled for 7 day trips a week, and going out in the evening several times a week half full really doesn't pay - So from here on the official evenings for the manta dive with us are Monday and Thursday. I'll honor existing scheduled nights and am open to others IF you have 5-6 divers, but going to Mondays and Thursdays makes sense as it'll give the crew and I a couple of days to catch up on lost sleep between dives. I've got to get the days listed on the website, but my computer with the web programming died and I've either got to figure out a new program since my old web editor isn't all that compatible with Vista or get another copy of my previous program onto one of our old laptops that have XP. Technology... Yuck.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Garden Eels

Garden Eels are a favorite of many divers. They live in the sand below the reef, typically in depths below 80' in most of Kona. We do have a couple of spots where they are found in shallower water... it all basically depends on what depth the reef ends at. In some locations you can find them by the thousands, spread out every few inches. They are plankton feeders and spend their days sticking out of the sand awaiting food to drift by. This particular shot was taken at Garden Eel Cove, home of the manta night dive which has been very busy as of late (17 mantas were there a couple nights ago when we last went).



Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Gorgeous day today...

This post will be kinda newsy... We had some pretty nice weather today, sunny and calm. It was a nice day out on the boat. Our water is still staying cool for the moment, we've been seeing a lot of 75-77 degree readings on the dive computers, it's early in the summer as of yet and things should warm up. The vog has settled down quite a bit and isn't nearly as bad as it's been the last couple of months.

Travel stuff... Kona's still quite slow right now. There was some info on the news the other day saying departures from Kona airport were down 28% from May of last year... don't know if that was just local residents or included tourists, which would indicate arrivals were likely way down also. Pat and I went downtown last week to try out the Fish Hopper, we'd heard mixed reviews early on but the restaurant has received better reviews lately and has a Monday/Tuesday night Prime rib and lobster tail special for $19.95 that we decided we had to check out... pretty darned good and the service was very good for here, although it took desert to really fill me (not out of the norm for me). I'd go back. They were dead as far as business goes at the time, we went to the Big Island Grill (a popular semi-upscale plante lunch place here) immediately afterwards to pick up gift certificates for Pat's work, and it was dead there too... seems to be slow all over town... I know my numbers go up about the 17th. I'm going out pretty much every day (which is good) but the numbers are quite light 'til then.

More travel stuff... United has added another daily flight out of San Francisco to KOA as of yesterday, and Delta added a direct flight out of Los Angeles last week... good for them, great for us. So many of the mainland flights go to Honolulu or Maui and to get to Kona you have to take inter-island flights - with the loss of Aloha air it's really stung here. The more direct flights the merrier. Alaska Air is adding a direct flight from Seattle in November.

The pic above is of a Stout Moray I posted a pic of a month or so back... I actually like the pose it has in this picture much better. I guess I like looking down eel throats.



Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Product review: Canon G9 with Canon WP-DC21 housing and Inon UCL-165 closeup lenses and M67 adapter...

Phew, long post title.... Here's the Canon housing for the G9, and the same housing with a Duron M67 adapter and two Inon UCL-165 closeup lenses added on to the housing. Pat and I recently picked up Canon G9 cameras and their associated Canon housings. We really love macro shots and saw some amazing stuff on one of the scuba message boards several months ago and were lusting for whatever allowed those pictures to be taken. After some sleuthing, not all posters want to share for some reason, we found the trick was by adding Inon UCL-165 closeup lenses.

This is a common practice by some people who have housings with threaded ports, you can add "wet" lenses to in effect get either closer or a more wide angle look. The Canon G9 and other simialar series Canons however have an oval port, which requires a 67 millimeter threaded adaptor. The one we found is manufactured in France and is readily available through one or two Japanese mailorder houses (google Yuzo Kanda to find the one we used).

Once the adapter is on you can add the closeup lenses... you can even stack the lenses to get a greater closeup effect. The first picture in this series is of a blue ginger out back of the house. I took it with the camera with the macro lenses from almost as close as it'll go. The second photo is what the camera will do with a single closeup lens added... much enlarged from the original photo in comparison. The third of the series is the same flowers with a second UCL-165 lens stacked on top of the first... much closer yet.

In underwater photography, closer is better... the less water between you and the lens the less to interfere with the image. With this particular camera and housing combo, you can add a single Inon UCL-165 closeup lens and still use the internal flash.
I have yet to try the second lens underwater as of yet, but I suspect it'll require an external strobe as the whole front end of the housing and lenses stick out far enough from the flash and you are close enough to the object that a portion of the internal flash will be blocked by all the add-ons.

The pictures above were quickies just to give you an idea of how much maginifcation the lenses give. I suspect it'll be tricky to get great underwater photos with these, but when everything goes right it might be just quite spectacular. The main reason you want to try to do all the closeup with lenses rather than just blowing it up in post production by cropping with an editor, is that everything you can do optically before working on it will give you a better picture in the end if you try to blow it up to any size.... hard to explain, but if I wanted to take a face photo and blow it up to say (I'll use extremes) 2' by 3' and instead of just taking a face shot I took a shot of the whole person, I'd have to crop out the whole picture except the face and by the time I blew it to umpty-ump times it's original size in post production it'd be very grainy or pixellated... you're better off just shooting the face only.

I've been out of the water with an ear infection for a week and a half... I'll report more soon when I can. I did pick up the external strobe I was looking at and couldn't figure it out underwater... I may have to read the instructions... oh, the horror!! I only had one dive with it before the infection kept me out, so taking the fact that nearly every time I take some new camera underwater I virtually always hate the results, I'm not worried about being able to figure out the flash.



Monday, June 02, 2008

Busy month ahead....

I've been suprisingly busy lately. Last week was the Kona Classic Photo Shoot and competion. I ran some charters, attended the seminars and events, and intended to dive every day and shoot photos and compete... but my ears were feeling a bit odd coming in and I had a full blown infection by the first evening of the event. I'm out of the water for a few more days yet, so Bob and Cathy will be doing the diving 'til the end of the week while I play Captain. It's looking as though I have 2 days off the rest this month at this point, with several of the work days being double charters... lots of room left on most days, so give me a call if you are looking for a dive.

A few words on the Kona Classic. It was an interesting event. There were, just guessing here, 30-40 competitors taking photos every day and some more who just came in for seminars and events. I'm thinking the seminars and events (there was an opening reception, a Body Glove sunset buffet cruise with open bar that was quite nice, along with the awards banquet) alone are worth the $150 they were asking for the week. The competitors (well those who actually took pictures because they didn't have ear infections) had access to some well known underwater photo pros to help go over their shots and get hints/ideas/comments on their efforts. On the final evening was the awards show, and many of the competitors won some great prizes... the prize for best of show was a trip for two to Tawali resort in Papua New Guinea, several regulators were given away, several higher end BCDs were awarded, several Pinnacle wetsuits, a few zoom lenses and other assorted scuba gear was awarded in several beginner/intermediate and advanced categories. I'm thinking the winners of each category also took home sculptures by Wyland. If they continue to host the program next year, I'd say it's worthwhile coming over and participating.

The photo above is actually an interesting pic as far as species interraction goes. There's a phenomenon called "nuclear hunting" that involves multiple species of fish. In this case the Peacock Grouper (which was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands back in '56/'58) is soliciting hunting activity with this Stout Moray Eel. The groupers will approach an eel and do their little "let's go hunting" dance and if all goes well the eel will take off probing coral heads while the grouper hangs out overhead. Sort of a "you take the low road, I'll take the high road" scenario. The odd thing is, since the groupers actually were not originally on the reefs here, it's curious as to how the eels feel about the whole thing. There are other species that do hunt together, but I'm not sure as to whether this activity was described pre-50's... good question for a local marine biologist.