Tag Archives: scuba diving

A friendly face.

One of my biggest irritations when I’m in the water is seeing scuba divers and snorkelers hassling marine life.  Touching manta rays, holding on to turtles while they frantically try to get away, grabbing shark and whale shark fins for a free ride, coaxing moray eels out of their holes.  It is disturbing and stressful for the creatures involved, it is disrespectful of the fact that you – as a human being – are a guest in their world, and it is incredibly stupid as well as potentially very dangerous in some instances.

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They are by no means alone, but people with cameras are often the culprits of some particularly appalling under water behaviour.  How can they ever think that it is acceptable to lie on coral or intentionally damage the marine environment for the sole purpose of getting a particular photograph?  And stressing marine life by chasing it or frightening it out of hiding, purely to get their desired shot?!  Really?!  It utterly infuriates me.

So it always feels like such a sublime reward when the marine life comes to me.  Like this little cuttlefish, who came happily and willingly. I admit that cuttlefish are particularly curious creatures.  A real plus if you are like me and don’t like compromising your integrity and the welfare of your subject simply for the sake of a shot.

In my experience, if you take your time with them, dive calmly and with considered movement, it puts the cuttlefish at ease. ‘Talk’ to them with lots of eye contact whilst mimicking their own arm and tentacle movements by waving your hand in front of your mouth, and chances are that they will come in for a closer look.  It is magical.

They are not one of the ‘cool’ marine creatures that every diver has on their ‘must see’ list, but they really should be.  Their grace in the water is wonderful to watch, they have huge expressive eyes, which seem to show a real intelligence, and their impressive display of pulsating iridescent shimmer and camouflage is really something to behold.

Spending twenty minutes underwater with a pair of curious cuttlefish who slowly become confident enough with you to come within touching distance in order to eyeball you is an incredible experience.  Earning the trust of a wild creature feels like a true honour.  We are guests in the marine world; there is definitely something to be said for diving and photographing with consideration for the subject and the marine environment you are privileged enough to be experiencing.

I’m not an underwater photographer in any serious sense, but even so I have been blessed with some great photo opportunities during my time underwater to date.  There is no doubt that I have missed some great shots because I wasn’t willing to put getting the shot above my integrity and the welfare of the subject. But I’ve got the memories.  And I’d rather have it that way, and be able to get out the water afterwards and still like myself as a photographer, diver and person! Plus, when a friendly face comes along  underwater and hangs about to get to know you, it feels like they are rewarding you with a great big ‘thank you’ too!

 

My entry for this week’s WordPress photo challenge: Reward.

 

 

Solitaire sparkle through twinkling sunbeams.

No shadow of a doubt, blue skies and sunshine makes me happy. Even better when seen through crystal clear blue seas.  The sunbeams captured by the camera twinkle and dance, causing a glitter of silver flashes to bounce off the small fish above and around us.

Underwater sunbeams are a real sight to behold.  It is hard to capture a halo of sunbeams on land, but in water they are so much more striking. In the same way that I have beach sunset photos by the hundred from travels around the world, I also have endless combinations of underwater sun shots – a halo of sunbeams, silhouetting a diver, silhouetting a turtle, with a shoal of iridescent fish flashing past.  I love sunbeam shots!

For me, scuba diving banishes the blues in the twinkling of an eye, even faster if the sun happens to also be smiling whilst I dive.

“A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows”.

                                                                                                    (St Francis of Assisi).

The second I’m under the waterline my heart swells with love and awe at the beauty and wonder of the seas.  I feel at peace and entranced, but utterly revitalised.  I wonder if that feeling fades with time?  I can’t imagine that it ever will.

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“What a great thing, to be loved!  What a greater thing still to love! The heart becomes heroic through passion…if no one loved, the sun would go out.”

(Victor Hugo, Les Misérables).

My entry for the WordPress weekly photo challenge, Twinkle, hosted by Jen Hooks.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Anyone who has ever scuba dived should know that there are some basic safety guidelines to follow to ensure every dive is fun rather than frightening.  Scuba diving is not about who gets from A to B first.  The whole scuba experience is intended to be enjoyed safely, and at a relaxed pace.  And that starts and finishes with a suitably slow, controlled descent and ascent.

“Scuba diving is not considered a good exercise for aerobic conditioning. If scuba divers do everything ‘right’, by maintaining neutral buoyancy, drifting with currents, and breathing slowly and deeply while underwater, they should expend less energy than when resting on land.”

(Michael Strauss, Diving Science).

On the way down, a slow descent gives time to address any buoyancy issues and trim niggles with kit, make sure you and your dive buddy are comfortable in the water, and ensure sufficient time for ears to equalise to the increasing pressure of the water.

On the way up a slow, controlled ascent, with appropriate safety stops for the depth and duration of dive, is even more essential.  It allows our body the time to off-gas the nitrogen accumulated during the dive, which if not eliminated from the body, can lead to decompression sickness or nitrogen narcosis.  And it prevents divers from getting lung injuries and potentially very serious complications, caused by ascending with too much air expanding too rapidly inside our bodies.

Diving is a hugely enjoyable sport and a lifelong passion for thousands of people around the world.  But I think sometimes people overlook that it is also known as an extreme sport for a reason.  The safety rules and guidelines come from years of testing and proven experience. You ignore them at your own peril.

Yet so many people seem disinclined to bother with safety stops at the end of a dive.  Have they become blasé about the risks they are taking, like drivers who drink and then drive? Do they think they look cooler by skipping the safety stop? Do they feel pressurised by others they dive with, to adopt their bad habits? Have they not dived with enough consideration of their air supply to enable them to take the extra time?

If you are a recreational scuba diver because you like diving (and if you don’t like it – well, really, why do it?!) then safety stops should be part of every dive.  The final cherry on the cake.  An extra added bonus.

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A good friend, counting off the minutes…

Safety stops are done at shallow depths.  That is usually where the water is warmest, there’s often lots of life to look at, and coral reefs, kelp forests, even the vast deep blue look at their sparkling sunlight best.  Air consumption is slower here than at greater depths, so you can take your time to look around you.  Just enjoy the sensation of floating, weightless in the water, before you have to get back on dry land or the boat, and start the de-kitting process. What’s the rush?

That’s not to say that every safety stop is a gently relaxing end to a dive.  I have spent more than one, swept into a horizontal position, clinging with white knuckles to a descent line dropped by the boat.  Divers above and below me, all of us looking like flags fluttering in the wind as the ripping currents surged past us, trying to pull the regulators out of our mouths. Exhilarating and wild.  Certainly memorable!

I have never skipped a safety stop.  Ever.  Even after hundreds of dives I’d rather take the slow road.  If I’m up on deck five minutes after everyone else, so what?!  Plus, I have seen some incredible things on safety stops that feel like a pay-off for playing it safe.  Some of the most memorable ones?  Eagle rays skimming past in the blue and then hanging around to give us a five minute acrobatics display, turtles swimming right up to check me out, being mobbed by a swirling silvery mass of curious trout.

A handful of minutes, some potentially unforgettable moments to experience, that final chance in a dive to connect with the ocean.  And that safety stop just might save your life.  Slow  and steady really does win the race when it comes to scuba diving.