Northwest Dive and Travel Expo 2009 Report

Being a resident of the Pacific Northwest, I’d always wanted to attend the Northwest Dive and Travel Expo, but something always got in the way of attending.  One lucky day, I received an email from Eric Cheng asking me if I’d be able to attend the show and take some images for Wetpixel.  I jumped at the chance to attend!

On a cold and rainy morning, I left Portland at 7 AM for the 2 ½ hour drive up to Tacoma, Washington where the show was being held.  Michaela Brockstedt of Wetpixel Quarterly greeted me and showed me to the Wetpixel booth.  All of the issues of Wetpixel Quarterly were on display, and although I had a copy of the first issue, I hadn’t had a chance to see the other issues—I was like a kid in a candy store going through all the amazing images I’d not previously seen!  Before I knew it, the show attendees were arriving at the booth.  Some of them had not heard of Wetpixel, and Michaela and I educated them about the benefits of both subscribing to Wetpixel Quarterly and visiting www.wetpixel.com to learn more about underwater photography.  The crowd was enthusiastic, and I particularly enjoyed talking to them about their diving and underwater photography experiences.  Kathryn, another volunteer, kindly brought us coffee from the nearby Starbucks.  The folks in the Pacific Northwest love their coffee and this dive show was no exception—thank you, Kathryn!  When my shift was over at 1:00 PM, I was free to roam around and attend the various workshops.  I chose to go to Jack and Sue Drafahl’s workshop on underwater photo composition.  I had been to one of their workshops years ago at my local dive shop in Portland, Oregon when the digital revolution was just starting.  Their workshop at this dive show offered many tips to improve images underwater.  I noted that Sue likes to use the Nikon D70S. This camera is now ancient as digital cameras go, but Sue likes it because of the 1/500 flash sync speed..  I spent a few minutes after the workshop shooting the breeze with Sue and found out that it’s possible to send images to them for printing.  They also offer a service where they give feedback on the images you send in and will make corrections for you.  Now I know where to send images that I want printed!

I was particularly interested in a new kind of dive glove that I saw at the show, which has a pocket where a small dive light can be fitted.  It seemed like it would be a great product for underwater photographers to use—especially at night—and one that could potentially offer the possibility of extra light without having to use an extra hand, which we don’t have when taking images underwater.

One of the premier dive operators in the Pacific Northwest, Bandito Charters, also had a booth.  Much to my surprise, the owner recognized me from my visit last summer diving with Eric and other Pacific Northwest Divers.  But, then, that’s the kind of people the folks in the Pacific Northwest are.  They are friendly and will never forget the face of someone who’s been on their boat. 

One of the displays that I enjoyed spending time at included some vintage scuba diving equipment.  Maybe I enjoyed it because I wasn’t diving when a lot of this gear was being used. I found it fascinating to examine ancient double hose regulators, tanks from long ago, and those funny looking masks that look like they are straight out of Sea Hunt, the series starring Lloyd Bridges. 

But, of course, the big story were the goodies offered at the Wetpixel booth.  Michaela had cleverly put out lots of tasty candy around the issues of the magazine.  Maybe she had “taste and buy” in mind, but I do know that many who stopped by also purchased subscriptions to Wetpixel Quarterly.  For those feeling the economic pinch of the times, it was also possible to buy single copies of the magazine.  I saw many happy faces walk away after having purchased a subscription and/or a copy to grace their coffee table.

Lastly, I could not finish this without mentioning the kindness of Jean Bruneau from Aquatica.  He let me borrow his 17-35 lens to take images at the show.  It worked out better than my Tokina 10-17 fisheye zoom lens for wide angle shots—especially since these images were topside instead of underwater :-)

See more photos from the show in the forum discussion about the NW Dive and Travel Expo.