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#21 scorpio_fish

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 06:16 AM

What's solo diving?

I'm not a big fan of showing up at dive site by oneself and doing a dive all alone. Redundancy is a must, but even so, it's riskier.

OTOH, read about every fatality. Some were diving alone, but most had buddies and were also in a group. Somehow the buddies became separated one died for some reason. Close buddy diving is highly overrated for safety. It only takes a split second for separation or for a real problem to arise. Ask any instructor who leads OW students in poor visibility.

The other reality is that if you are carrying a camera, you might as well assume you are alone, because at some point you will be. The best case scenario is that you can find your buddy in an OOA emergency.

A few years ago, I was on a wall in Palau. My mask started flooding. I had a slap strap with those plastic clips and one had come undone. So while holding my rig, I take the mask off to redo the clip. I take a breath and it's salt water. I do it again, same thing. I hit the purge button, but my finger goes right through my mouth piece. When taking my mask off (while grasping the camera), I inadvertently yanked the 2nd stage off of the mouth piece. My primary 2nd stage was dangling somewhere and I had no mask on while holding a double strobed camera rig. That and I hadn't had a breath in about 30 seconds. I hate when that happens.

I was also on the tail end of the group. No one saw any of it. I was on my own. I just got myself back together and rejoined the group.
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#22 K9Shadow

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 06:27 AM

I know I am new to this forum so I don't want to step on any toes. I spent some time as a public safety diver being on the end of a line in cold zero viz water. So yes I have spent time solo diving.

Fast forward to a dive in Key Largo recently on the Speigal Grove. There were about 8 of us on the wreck. When it was time to surface and everyone was low on air one of our group swam to the wrong bouy line and none of us had enough air to swim through the current and get him. He ended up at the surface in a strong current holding on to the bouy while everyone came back on board and we could motor over to get him. In this case even with many "buddies" he still got into trouble. Most dives I do today I see the people spread out so much that even if you did have an emergency you couldn't get anyones attention in time to help. So as far as I have seen most divers today are "solo" diving even if there is someone in the water with them. The buddy system will only work if you are about an arms length from your buddy.

With all that said I don't go out on the water by myself, I always go with other people even though I don't stay with them underwater. And from my PSD days I always have and alternate air source if I am going deeper than I can comfortably do a swimming ascent.

On another note like I said I am new to the forum and kudos to all. I have found some great info here.

#23 Giles

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 07:46 AM

Now a days you can dive with a 10 year old kid or a 100 year person with.

Either way I don't consider diving with a 10 year old or a 100 year old to be a safe buddy feature. I don't think a ten year old is capable of the emotional ability to perform a rescue whilst staying safe them selves, and quite frankly i don't like a 100 year old chances of it either !

I don't condone diving on your own, I believe it deserves a certain amount of training and experience. I think one of the reasons i feel comfortable doing it is I respect my limits and have seen enough accidents and had to save enough people in my time I am more aware of what may go wrong underwater than most divers.
Someone used to have (i dont know if they still do) a trainging course for solo diving ... i don't think that was a good idea.
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#24 fdog

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 09:01 AM

<snip> I spent some time as a public safety diver being on the end of a line in cold zero viz water. <snip>

...I wouldn't call this solo diving, any more than my time surface supplied was solo diving...

I wouldn't even consider solo diving without everything fully redundant. Just like I was on an overhead-restricted dive. Except, of course, the most important piece of equipment would not be redundant - my brain.

Yes, yes, I know this sounds like the Kool-Aid answer, but they won't have me; I drive the wrong make of scooter and use a (gasp) jacket occasionally. Too much of an independent thinker.

All the best, James


PS - my current proceedure is to have a buddy that understands that I will be a self absorbed photographer and has patience to let me do my thang.

#25 Paul Kay

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 10:30 AM

Essentially we are talking about risk here! It appears (as I said earlier) from statistical info, that diving solo increases risk. But to put this in perspective, I just returned from a two week dive trip in cool Scottish waters, 24 dives 12 participants - no problems at all. BUT 30 miles into the 400 mile journey home, one of the divers destroyed a landrover in a crash - fortunately he walked away from a total wreck (a complete write off) with minimal bruising and no one was hurt. I suspect that, if we looked carefully at the stats, we would find that the most dangerous thing that we do as divers is drive to and from the dive site!!!

This said, solo diving is not something that I would personally recommend. It relies on substantial self control if an UNFORESEEN EVENT takes place, and the unexpected is exactly that. Panic situations are not pleasant and reactions to a potentially life threatening situation are hard to (honestly) pre-assess - although discussing how to deal with them is something we all do. Carrying total redundancy (as I do, and my buddy) will help in an out of air situation but there are problems which only a second person can help sort out - a failed drysuit zip leading to a substantial loss of buoyancy and sudden severe temperature drop as an example - I can think of two such cases - where a buddy helped during a very unpleasant ascent - this would be an extremely disorientating experience I would guess. Underwater photography is something which I want to continue doing for a very long time to come and to me diving with a buddy is something which I am comfy with and which I hope will ensure that this will happen.
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#26 murderone

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 10:32 AM

The reality of UW Photography is that it mandates "solo diving" As a PADI Divemaster I send PADI a request that we adopt a certification commencerate with appropriate training to authorize what takes place daily on every photo centric dive boat. Operators that cater to serious am photo customers never interfer once satisfied with the diver's credentials. PADI told us we would "die" on nitrox--gee we didn't and the money now rolls in on one of the most popular specialties. Solo Diving is a MUST but only for those sufficiently qualified--thereon why not adopt standards.

#27 divediva

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 11:32 AM

SDI offers a Solo Diver certification. I got my card in Oct. 2004. :D

#28 tjgreen

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 11:42 AM

***Warning - possible ranting ahead***

Every time some dive mag runs a survey for worst buddy, photographers win hands down. That's because we're really terrible buddies, and shouldn't be relied on as such - we spend the dive glued to a viewfinder waiting for the shot, lagging behind the group, and generally do our own thing. I'm not sure how you can be serious about photography and serious about being a buddy at the same time, kind of like driving while reading a book.

This is kind of a sore point for me, since most of the recreational industry is so brainwashed on the buddy system. I wish there was greater understanding that there's nothing magical about having a buddy, and with the right training/equipment, you shouldn't need one. In technical diving, there's a lot more recognition of the limitations of the buddy system, and the need to be your own buddy; you shouldn't be relying on anyone else in an emergency. If you are, you're endangering both of you. Unfortunately, that would require a whole lot more time and training than the typical OW cert can give you. Instead of raising the barrier to entry and turning newcomers off diving, the industry has "solved" the problem by making buddy diving part of the catechism. Suck as a diver? Don't worry, some buddy will be there to rescue you. The operators at most resorts know how bad many divers are, so they force you to dive in groups, another reason photographers are viewed so poorly as buddies - now we're not just slowing down a buddy, we slow down the whole group.

***End of rant***

My solution, since I love solo diving, especially with a camera: I look for operators that cater to photographers or technical divers, since they're generally a lot more understanding. My wife's my "buddy" to appease the dive insurance gods, but that's it - we have a general rule to check for bubbles every 5 minutes or so, and tank-bangers to signal, but otherwise we're effectively solo. If the dive's deep, we rig doubles or carry a pony bottle. If a resort operator tries to stick us with a group, we politely ask to go it alone; if they refuse, I suggest they watch us for a dive, and if they still refuse, we find a different operator.

Edited by tjgreen, 31 July 2007 - 11:43 AM.

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#29 Johnny Christensen

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 12:00 PM

The subject of solo diving is always a difficult one. Unless I'm accompanied by a dedicated model, then 80% of my dives are solo, where there may or may not be other divers somewhere on the divesite.
But this type of diving is based on a number of selfrescue options that recreational divers usually do not have available to them.
Even though I do it frequently, I'm also fully aware that it carries a higher risk than proper buddy diving.

To solo dive or not, that is the question. (Where is a Hamlet icon when you need one?)
But that question depends on with what gear the diver is equipped and how experienced he / she is with real life stress situations. Drills are fine, they help you more or less do the right thing. But a few genuine crisis situations will tell you if you are able to keep your cool under pressure.
If you have a typical recreational diving setup with no independent self rescue method. Then solo diving is not exactly a bright idea.
In that you are way too dependent on a single airsource and BC to pull it off safely in my opinion. Instead of simply switching to a large backup source and ending the dive with no drama, you will have to do some fighting to make it back home.

There is more to solo diving than just being alone underwater. It’s a different gear and mindset you have to adopt and even then, it's not for everyone to do safely.
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#30 Viz'art

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 12:12 PM

I assess the risk factor in all situation of physical activities or sport as such: do I have the competence, the experience, the necessary gears and the proper environmental condition to walk away if something goes south. That means extra dry socks in a snow storm up a mountain, a crash helmet on the bike... Me i'm no sucker for punishment and/or pain :D

That generally means that my solo dives are on the wussy side of the scale, but then I rely on my images for impact and not on the story on how I flirted with disaster to get it. I agree with the many here, buddies are as usefull to a photographer today as a 35mm camera. most of the time the only thing they are usefull for is to fill the water column with their silhouettes in wide backlit scenes :).

Its between a rock and a hard place, you go solo on a dive operator's shift and if the poops hit the fan, he get in hot water and most likely will get a bad rap for his safety record. So if I'm truly by myself i'll indulge, but if I'm using somebody's boat or operation I play by their rules.
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#31 bacripe

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 01:11 PM

For anyone who has worked as a professional in the dive industry, you know that as a guide most of your dives are solo. There are not many people I have dove with that I trust to respond appropriately in a situation that I could not handle alone. But I also have the equipment, training and experience to safely dive solo.

I have seen first-hand situations where having a dive buddy (or a dive guide) has helped someone avoid injury or death - in those cases, a diver without the training, equipment and experience has gotten into a situation they were not able to handle and needed help.

I have also witnessed situations where a buddy makes the situation worse - instead of one injury you end up with two. It all comes down to the individual.

Should everyone dive solo? Definitely not. But for properly trained and experienced divers, the additional risk is minimal. Like Jean said, you have to talk to th dive operator, but I've rarely been refused once I have presented my experience and certifications.
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#32 shawnh

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 01:47 PM

My logic is simple. Unless my 'buddy' is very close and looking my way, in most emergencies I am on my own. As such, I dive every dive as if I am solo. To compound matters, I am always staring down the viewfinder of my HD camera focusing on getting the best shots I can. That means I am only periferally aware of my "buddy". I make this fact clear to anyone who may want to be my dive buddy. Most times, my buddy is doing the same thing.

I really enjoy true solo diving. It offers the most relaxed, focused and uninterrupted filming experience. I also find I pay more attention to my air, my breathing, and the surrounding conditions when I dive alone. There isn't the "hope" that someone with save me if I screw up...so I make sure I don't!

I have to say that my most scary experiences underwater have come from being seperated from my 'buddy'. These have lead to less than optimal decisions underwater because I have to guess what my buddy is doing and frantically search for them. If both of us had been solo, we both would have taken the best steps to ensure our own safety.

Perhaps the rule is simple: Either ALWAYS dive by pure buddy standards (arms length, close visual contact) or consider yourself a solo diver. Based on what I have witnessed on most of my dive trips, most people are accidental solo divers. They dive with the assumption that somehow their buddy will sense they are in peril and magically come to their rescue. This thinking endangers both the diver and their buddy.
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#33 gecko1

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 02:38 PM

So I know I'm going against the grain here but I'm very much a proponent of teamwork for underwater photography. There are several reasons for this.

First, safety. Cameras make you stupid. I've proven this to myself several times. Even for a very well trained diver having a camera in your hand just sucks up large amounts of brainpower and situational awareness. It's really a good thing to have someone with you that doesn't have a camera to help save you from yourself. Obviously this won't work with insta-buddies. They have to be somebody you trust and have trained with. This does require some investment in terms of working with people and training but I haven't found this to be a problem. In fact I've found people want to dive with me. People like having their picture taken, like to be show small critters you're taking pictures of, etc.

Second, I get better pictures. A good teammate can be a model or a spotter. When I'm shooting macro having a teamamate who can find subjects can mean having twice as many subjects to shoot. For wide it's always nice to have the option to put a cluefull diver in the picture if needed. Modeling is hard and cultivating them really pays off when you want to take diver shots. Buddies can also be good at things like herding random other divers away from your shot. On the flip side some of my best dives have been ones where it's my buddy with the camera. I enjoy modeling on wide angle dives (and it helps to understand what your models go through when you try to direct them) and for macro I'm much more productive looking for little things like nudibranchs when I don't have a big, heavy camera in my hand. If both divers are invested in the final product (the picture) and understand that it isn't just the photographer who gets credit I really enjoy working with other divers.

Finally, there is a convenience factor. Diving with a camera means always having one arm tied behind your back. I think it's great to have sombody else there that you can hand a camera to or who can fix gear issues, kelp entanglement, etc. or even just hold the camera while you put the cover for the dome port on.

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#34 ScubaSapiens

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 02:40 PM

If you're a serious photographer, every dive (with cam) is a solo dive.

The solo part also applies for your "buddy", a fact that seems to be forgotten more often than not. Be sure your buddy is aware of this and comfortable with it - otherwise dive with someone else, or go true solo.

I do true solo all the time, and it's great. My best work is done alone, when I can focus, spend time and get it right.

To do solo diving, get a proper kit: A big enough tank and a pony bottle or even go for a double tank setup with iso manifold for extra safety. Get a computer that's air integrated and has alarms for just about anything - depth, time, low on air etc. I use the Galileo and I'm mighty pleased so far.

Surface marker, SOS blinker, extra knife placed on BCD/WBH or on arm (so it's easier to reach in case of entaglement). And no deco diving, no roofs, no penetrating wrecks etc. etc. To do this you MUST have a buddy - even if you have to pay soneome to come along to watch you.

As long as you're properly kitted up, aware of the dangers and accepting them, I think it's okay. And if the sh*t hits the fan, your kin will be able to comfort themselves saying "he died doing something he loved doing".

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Edited by ScubaSapiens, 31 July 2007 - 02:46 PM.

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#35 tjgreen

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 05:33 PM

So I know I'm going against the grain here but I'm very much a proponent of teamwork for underwater photography. There are several reasons for this.

Clinton


To be honest, what you've described above sounds more like an assistant than a buddy. Sure, if you can find someone who doesn't mind tagging along while you take pictures, watching out for you and finding subjects, all to the good, but most of us aren't so lucky - for one thing, it's fairly boring to dive with me when I'm trying to get a shot. Also, while they're your buddy, are you sure you're their buddy?

I'm not saying I don't enjoy diving with a buddy - when we're not shooting, my wife and I love diving together, and we're great buddies. I'm just saying I don't shy away from diving alone too.

Edited by tjgreen, 31 July 2007 - 05:39 PM.

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#36 gecko1

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 06:03 PM

To be honest, what you've described above sounds more like an assistant than a buddy. Sure, if you can find someone who doesn't mind tagging along while you take pictures, watching out for you and finding subjects, all to the good, but most of us aren't so lucky

Having people to dive with isn't luck. It takes work to build relationships with good buddies. I find it's worth it though.

...for one thing, it's fairly boring to dive with me when I'm trying to get a shot.

Why does it have to be boring? If you involve your buddy in the picture taking process there should be plenty for them to do and have a good time. If they know you'll listen to their critiques afterwards and explain what's going on they will help by noticing your strobes aren't positioned right, they'll see alternate compositions, notice the shark that is swimming behind you, etc. And they'll do it better than you in many cases because they don't have the camera induced tunnel vision. I frequently dive as a buddy for my photographer friends and don't find it boring at all. In fact I often find that the dives where I don't have a camera help me on the dives where I do as they give me an opportunity to relax and look for subjects or compositions that I wouldn't see if I had the camera in my hand. It has to work both ways. If you look at a buddy as a camera slave you won't have buddies. If they're a member of the team it works.

Also, while they're your buddy, are you sure you're their buddy?

Absolutely. Looking up between shots to make sure your buddy is still there isn't that hard. Certainly taking pictures reduces your situational awareness but if it's that bad you shouldn't be diving with a camera anyway.

I used to very much be in the solo diver camp but I've really come to learn the value of a good team over the last few years. Most, if not all, of the problems people have with buddies can be fixed with training and communication or perhaps finding better buddies.

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#37 tjgreen

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 06:13 PM

I used to very much be in the solo diver camp but I've really come to learn the value of a good team over the last few years. Most, if not all, of the problems people have with buddies can be fixed with training and communication or perhaps finding better buddies.

Clinton


Again, I don't think I have any buddy problems to solve - my wife and I are the best buddy team I've ever been on, we have a ball. I'm also part of a great team of technical divers and videographers/photographers, and we've done exactly as you describe. Great for home, but not practical to cart them all the way to Lembeh with me, or even off the coast sometimes. Think it's preference - I just prefer to dive solo sometimes.
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#38 bacripe

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 06:17 PM

If you involve your buddy in the picture taking process there should be plenty for them to do and have a good time. If they know you'll listen to their critiques afterwards and explain what's going on they will help by noticing your strobes aren't positioned right, they'll see alternate compositions, notice the shark that is swimming behind you, etc. And they'll do it better than you in many cases because they don't have the camera induced tunnel vision.


Wow, your buddies are nicer than the ones we have - the only way most of the people I dive with will go in the water without a camera is if you push them off the side of the boat when they're not expecting it :D

The other "problem" I've had is that once you teach someone how to take photos underwater, they want to go out and get a camera... (not that it's a bad thing)
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#39 andydives

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 06:41 PM

I got a solo cert on a live-aboard specifically to be able to make myself & the ship's crew more confident in my skills taking care of myself while off on my own taking photos. Almost without exception I discuss my desire to be on my own & not buddy up with anyone with the crew, and while I may follow the group for a period of time, I like feeling free to work on a subject without worrying about catching up, or taking care of a buddy. Most crews seem to be expecting a few experienced divers to go solo, and are accommodating. Of course there are always a number of dives on any trip where I come back to the boat after working on a subject only to hear of spectacular sightings I missed.....so sometimes there is a down side.

#40 jarhed

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 06:44 PM

I guess that it's a little late to add something origional to the thread, i think that I echo the common theme that I'm not really interested in beeing a good buddy when I have the camera with me and that I tend to dive more often than I can find a buddy anyway.

I consider myself a pretty experianced diver and often dive with people with significant less experiance. I don't mind those sort of mentorship dives, but it led me to the conclusion that I am probably safer by myself than with a significantly less experianced diver, ergo, any buddy is not necessarly better than no buddy.

I do beleive in diving within my own defined limits. I don't think that anyone can really define how much risk I should or should not take but me (with significant input from my wife, who also has a significant stake in my welfare).

With that in mind, in the shallow (<70') open water diving I do in Monterey, I tend to dive the same single tank non redundant system that I dive with buddys. I am completely confortable with my ability to handle myself in an emergency. My backup airsource is via CESA. I don't exceed NDL times and feel I am an above average swimmer and diver.

However, I am considering setting up AL 80s as independent twins, for both redundancy and increased bottom time.

just a few thoughts.
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