Every couple of year's Ed Robinson from Maui leads a dive trip to a world class destination. I have been diving with Ed's operation in Maui for more than 15 years. I joined his trip to the Solomon Islands in 2003, Palau in 2006, and PNG this year. Ed has many repeat customers on the trips, so it is always nice to renew old friendships.
After flights from Calgary to Los Angeles, then Brisbane, then Port Moresby, and finally Alotau, we boarded the bus for a 2 hour drive to nearby the resort. The rains had turned the road into a muddy mess. It was a little unnerving to drive by heavy equipment (including a grader) stuck in the mud, but we made it to the dock. The final leg of our journey to the resort was by boat.
We stayed at Tawali Resort near Milne Bay in PNG for the first few days of diving. The weather was overcast and rained off and on. The diving was still quite good, as long as we avoided the areas with surface runoff. We got in a few dives a day at the resort, then we then headed out on the liveaboard Spirit of Niugini. We dove up to 5 dives a day on the boat. My kind of vacation ... diving boot camp . I managed 43 dives and over 53 hours underwater. I even took off a few dives at the end so I could recuperate for the long trip home. We went to lots of great muck sites. One dive was 123 minutes long! Another had a maximum depth of 12 feet. We also saw some beautiful reefs. Lots of variety.
I normally try to keep my galleries down to my "Top 40" shots. I couldn't do it this time. So I ended up posting 80 shots on my website. Here are a few of my favourites ...
We often did 2 dives at the same site, to allow the photographers an opportunity to work with the subjects and to change lenses between dives if required. On one of the sites we found 2 Lacy Rhinopias. One was black, the other one green. I spent the better part of 2 dives watching them, waiting for them to reposition, and trying various lighting and composition. It is probably the most patient I have ever been with subjects, and I think it paid off. I managed to get a shot of the green one yawning (it's in my gallery). But my favourite shot was done with a single strobe placed below and in front. I think it's a spooky looking shot, just in time for Hallowe'en .
Another favourite shot required a little help from me. I had passed by a gorgeous blue seastar in the shallows and taken a few shots. About 20 feet later I came across an empty shell on the bottom. It was in pristine condition, glossy and clean. I placed the shell on the seastar in such a way to accentuate the matching curves between the two, yet highlight the differences in colour, pattern and texture. Not my standard critter shot, but one of my favourites nonetheless. I then returned the shell to the bottom and moved on.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was seeing the Flamboyant Cuttlefish. I was mesmerized watching the lines pulsating on its body, as it changed colour with a rhythmic repetition. Nature is amazing. On the night dive at the site I spent some time with another Flamboyant. I was following him around and keeping him in the beam of my Fix Light. A couple of times he figured that getting out of my light would be easier if he headed towards me instead of away. He would swim directly beneath me and I would backpedal furiously to find him with my light again. He finally got tired of the game and headed up into the water column, about 8 to 10 feet off the bottom. I got the shot below. Again, patience paid off. I just checked Wiki to make sure I had the Cuttle's name right, and was amazed to read:
Recently it has been discovered that the Pfeffer's Flamboyant Cuttlefish's muscles contain a highly toxic compound that is yet to be identified. Research by Mark Norman with the Museum Victoria in Queensland, Australia, has shown the toxin to be as lethal as that of a fellow cephalopod, the Blue-ringed octopus.
Yikes! Anyways, here's the photo:
One of my goals for the trip was to get a photo of the red commensal shrimp I had seen from other photographers. PNG delivered. It was harder than I thought it would be to get an angle on the shrimp that was pleasing. My favourite photos turned out to mostly be from directly above. However, the photo below grew on me and made the final cut for my gallery.
On my trip to the Solomons years ago I learned that I was addicted to anemonefish. I am still not cured. What better way to spend a safety stop than with all the different "nemos" . Especially the cute snuggly ones.
The other 75 shots can be found on my website.