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Wetpixel Oceanics Trip 2009


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#21 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 24 May 2009 - 09:31 AM

Part 2:

Miss_Piggy.jpg

Robert_Sownie_Jr.jpg

Sowsed_on_Spring_Break.jpg

Swine_Flu.jpg

Three_Little_Pigs.jpg

Who_s_Your_Daddy.jpg

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#22 PRC

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Posted 24 May 2009 - 11:44 AM

Sounds like a fine trip, I hesitate to ask but what did Jarret manageto do?

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#23 scorpio_fish

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Posted 25 May 2009 - 03:06 AM

:) :P :lol:

Who cares about sharks. Pigs rule. Deliverance references are much funnier than Jaws references. I've never laughed so hard at a Wetpixel post.
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#24 loftus

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Posted 25 May 2009 - 05:21 AM

Some swine updates

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#25 SlipperyDick

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Posted 25 May 2009 - 12:09 PM

LOL! These are great!

Sow-ry to hear about your back, Alex... perhaps you hurt it while "piggy-back riding" that poor animal?! :)

Can't wait to see some oceanic shots.
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#26 biminitwist

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Posted 25 May 2009 - 01:59 PM

Speaking of Oceanics ....
Besides the teaser of the juvie, GIVE!!!
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#27 loftus

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Posted 25 May 2009 - 03:46 PM

Yes, we got what we came for...Oceanics. We had anywhere from 3-9 Oceanics in the water every day, Mon through Thursday. The outbound crossing was rock and roll, really rough. First Oceanic day was pretty rough as well, only on Tuesday did we get some sunshine and reasonable conditions for some reflection shots like I posted initially.
So here are a few more pics.
Day one this poor shark hung out with us all day - a hook and a bullet hole for her troubles.

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Here's Jimmy trying to get the hook out

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Success

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Tuesday some sunshine

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Wednesday a little rough again

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Thursday we had one with some 'bling'

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And Friday, on the way home, besides the pigs, hung out with some good looking iguanas

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Edited by loftus, 25 May 2009 - 03:56 PM.

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#28 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 04:55 AM

Just an update on the lack of updates. I have had treatment on my back today - and have to lie down! Its hard to type with laptop balanced vertically on my stomach!

Here's an oceanic:
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Alex

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#29 ce4jesus

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 07:30 AM

Alex the photos and captions were great, I'm now going to have to schedule a stop at the peanut butter cleaning station!

Jeff - Whoa!!! The last 2 White tip photos are just awesome!!! I want to know how you got the photo of the White Tip God descending from the clouds!!!!
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#30 meister

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 09:59 AM

ROTFLMAO, that's way too funny, Alex talent spotting during a dive holiday... Excuse me while I clean the coffee off my keyboard... :)
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#31 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 10:49 AM

Day 3

We awoke at Cat Island and outside our anchorage we could see the heavy swells of the open Atlantic, hopefully home to our oceanic prize. To be honest most people/boats would skip diving in such hefty seas, but having travelled for 2 days to get here, we decided to brave it.

The Shear Water pitching in the heavy seas:
Bah09_am_10883.jpg

We had breakfast (thankfully delicious in case we tasted it twice) before sitting down for our shark briefing. As regulars on the Shear Water will know, Jimmy’s shark briefings on board are never brief. They are filled with all you need to know to have as safe, enjoyable and photographically productive experience as possible.

Different species of sharks certainly behave very differently, and Jimmy went to great lengths to explain the very bold nature of the oceanics, who will bump and investigate anything they encounter in their ocean domain. Particularly, if the object is at the surface and in the case of a person has not seen them coming. We were told that it was imperative to always keep eye contact with all the sharks, and continually point out to other divers any shark you think they have not seen.

I had seen oceanic whitetips in the Red Sea, but in all honesty it is rare to see one there that is larger than 6ft (2m) and most are in the 4-5ft (1.5m) range. In the Red Sea they still have that classic Oceanic trait of being very confident and will swim right up to you. The first few times it is very unnerving because it is so different from the shy nature of most sharks around divers. I guess this is what led Cousteau to call the Oceanic Whitetip the “most dangerous of all sharks”. Anyway it was an exciting prospect to have the chance to dive with large adult oceanics, most that they see here are in the 9ft (3m) range.

This was now Shear Water’s 11th trip targeting oceanics (a goal that they had only failed once before on my last trip to this area, which was a bit late in the year) and as such they have developed a pretty good system for finding and keeping the sharks. Dives are conducted just a few metres below the surface around a few crates of bait, suspended from black floats. Jim had initially used standard white floats, but the sharks ate them. The black ones they ignored.

By mid morning bait was deployed and not long after we had sharks. The bait had actually drifted up over the continental shelf and there was a collection of dusky, silky and Caribbean reef sharks. People decided to jump in (most had been on board for 2 days and hadn’t dived yet) and it was a chance to get used to this unusual method of diving. The water was beautifully clear and the bottom (about 150ft, 50m) was clearly visible. Sadly Oceanics weren’t, so in the early afternoon we recovered the bait and steamed back out to deep water. We had drifted about 5 miles in the current, underwater , drifting with the bait, as a diver you are oblivious.

We redeployed the bait in the middle of the afternoon, but with the rough seas apparently worsening, we decided to call it quits at about 4pm. Then we saw her. Returning to the float we were delighted to see a beautiful 3 metre oceanic circling it. My first impression was simply how big she was. Wow. A really impressive shark.

Given the conditions I initially decided not to dive. It would be fine underwater, but getting in and out would be hairy. But as more and more of the group jumped in, peer pressure got to me. What if the weather was even worse tomorrow. In I popped.

Jim and Claus with Oceanic:
Bah09_am_11021.jpg

Sadly the rough conditions had one casualty. Jarret’s D300. Preparing to slide in from the swim step, Jarret was swept off by a large wave and in the process his Subal housing dragged across his legs, rotating the port off and totally flooding the housing. D300 + 10-17mm RIP. Quick reactions from Claus rescued Jarret’s rapidly sinking port (a fisheye dome costs about the same as a camera and lens).

This was not the end of Jarret’s ordeal. His portless housing, now full of water was very heavy and he was sinking. Stressed and distracted he finned hard and the commotion immediately attracted the shark. Capt Brian immediately spotted the risk and positioned himself between Jarret and the shark, while Jarret climbed back on board. It was amazing how the shark instantly picked up on it.

Although Jarret did not have a spare camera, it was not the end of his photography as Jim, Brian and Don lent him their cameras at various times to allow him to get some images.

After an eventful day we returned to our anchorage, hoping for easy conditions on Day 4.

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#32 loftus

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 12:10 PM

Good description of a hectic day Alex. Definitely challenging conditions, made more challenging by the considerations related to diving with Oceanics. On my first dive I had overweighted myself like I did at Tiger beach, wanting to be able to drop quickly below the surface. Needless to say in these conditions, trying to stay at 10-15 feet depth, I was bobbing like a yo-yo. Easily fixed on the next dive though with my normal weight setup.
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#33 loftus

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 03:03 PM

Alex the photos and captions were great, I'm now going to have to schedule a stop at the peanut butter cleaning station!

Jeff - Whoa!!! The last 2 White tip photos are just awesome!!! I want to know how you got the photo of the White Tip God descending from the clouds!!!!

Thanks,
Yeah, I thought the effect of the rough surface was pretty cool too. Looks cool in B&W as well.
Posted Image
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#34 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 27 May 2009 - 12:49 AM

Day 4

First light revealed that the weather was at least improving. Although it was probably fair to say that the only way was up. The sky was still overcast and the sea still rough, but at least the wind had dropped considerably. So there was swell, but the surface texture smoothed off making it more attractive for photography.

We steamed out into deep water and deployed the bait, quickly attracting a pair of Ocenics. The thick cloud was thinning too and begging to show patches of blue sky. Perhaps this was the Bahamas after all. The two sharks stayed with us all day and the improving conditions meant that everyone really started to bag quality images.

Breaching Abernethy
Bah09_am_12123.jpg

The more inquisitive of the pair was an oceanic with a damaged mouth, presumably from fishing hook, that left it permanently gaping on one side. Nick gave the shark the nickname of Jimmy Cagney, which stuck despite her being in a female. In fact all the oceanics we saw during the trip were females. Jimmy arrived in the morning very thin, and by the evening had a bulging belly. We weren’t really feeding the sharks, most of the bait crates remained full until the end of the week, but from time to time the JASA crew would pull out the odd piece if the sharks’ interest seemed to be wavering.

JC in the morning, top, and afternoon. This shark looked very thin when she arrived, possibly struggling to hunt with a damaged jaw, but left suitably swelled (rather like me when Jeff took us to Texas De Brazil in Orlando!).
Bah09_am_11150.jpg

Jim first heard about the oceanic whitetips in this remote area from sports fishermen, who reported regularly loosing the fillets of hooked fish. The sharks here have learned to associate sport fishing boats with an easy meal and at times seemed more interested in the sound of the Shear Water’s engines than the bait. It was pretty obvious that the Oceanics are not universally loved by the fishermen. Which I am sure explains Jimmy Cagney’s jaw and also the bullet hole in the back of the Oceanic we saw the previous day. During the week we saw only two other boats in the area, both fishing, and they seemed pretty happy that we were keeping the sharks occupied.

The boat was always an attractant to the oceanics. I used it regularly as a background to give images more depth. D700 + 17-35m @ 17mm +3 dioptre. 1/80th @ F11. ISO 200.
Bah09_am_11552.jpg

I worked through 3 lenses this day. Starting with the Sigma 15mm + 1.5 teleconverter, before switching to a straight 16mm fisheye and then finishing the day with the Nikon 17-35mm with +3 dioptre. I got my preferred shots with the rectilinear zoom, although this may have had more to do with the fact the sun was out by the afternoon, when I used it.

There was much debate on board as to which lenses made the sharks look best. The straight fisheye (or Tokina 10-17mm @ 10mm) tended to tadpole the sharks (big head, small body) a bit too much when they were very close to the port (the oceanics were continually attracted to the shiny domes, particularly if you back peddled slightly as they came in), but this lens was the best for opening up space to capture their big blue oceanic environment. The wide rectilinear definitely made the sharks look less heavily built than the fisheyes, which we most concluded made them look a little weedy- not complementary for such imposing subjects. The favoured compromise was the 10-17mm towards the 17mm end, or on full frame cameras a standard fisheye on a 1.4x or 1.5x teleconverter. Marcus also experimented by correcting his fisheye shots for distortion in the computer, which arguably produced the best of both worlds.

Nick and Jeff catch their breath after another exhilerating dive.
Bah09_am_12137.jpg

All in all an excellent day.

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#35 Painted Frogfish

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Posted 27 May 2009 - 12:51 AM

Nice pics guys. My first time with Oceanics and their boldness makes for good photographic opportunities! Here are some more pics. Marcus.
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#36 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 27 May 2009 - 01:39 AM

Excellent shots, Marcus. I really like how you have captured the in your face nature of the encounters. Really conveys the feeling of those dives. :)

I notice that I am in the split level image twice! :P Once below the shark - those are my Scubapro split(!) fins below the pelvic fins of the shark. And I am also above the water standing up straight (those were the days) on the starboard side of the bridge, next to Jimmy! No wonder i got so many good images!

Alex

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#37 Painted Frogfish

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Posted 27 May 2009 - 02:11 AM

Thanks Alex, that's what the Oceanics are most of the time..in your face! Or the back of your head if you're not looking. And thanks for giving the game away! I didn't realize you were in it twice. Yes, that's a composite shot. I didn't have a good over and under in the same shot so I merged two photos together as I showed you on the boat.
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#38 loftus

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Posted 27 May 2009 - 02:52 AM

I settled once again on my 10-17 with 1.4TC on the D700. As Alex mentioned, mostly at the 17 end. I think the distortion is well controlled at this end, even close up, and being able to zoom out when things get tight, may save the shot. The 17-35 was OK, but not quite as responsive and focus tolerant as the 10-17 in close and tight situations, and as my shot of James Cagney shows, not without distortion very close up. Nick felt the same way about his 14-24, and settled for his 16mm after the first day.

Yes, up close and personal, characterizes these guys, but have to admit, very well behaved, and never felt threatened. Particularly the hooked guy and James Cagney, really seemed like puppy dogs, enjoying our company.

Tokina at 10mm (14mm)

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Tokina at 17mm (24mm)

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Nikon 17-35 at 17 of James Cagney

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Edited by loftus, 27 May 2009 - 03:07 AM.

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#39 Painted Frogfish

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Posted 27 May 2009 - 03:20 AM

Jeff, thanks for bringing up the subject of lens choices. I split my time between the 10.5mm and 10-24mm and haven't really paid attention to the differences yet. I just bought the 10-24 before the trip and hadn't used it much yet. Looking back at the images I posted and therefore liked, I was surprised that 5 out of the 6 were taken with the 10-24mm (at 10mm). Only the 5th image was taken with the 10.5mm. Thus I'm pleasantly surprised at the quality of the 10-24mm DX lens.

Edited by Painted Frogfish, 27 May 2009 - 03:21 AM.

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#40 loftus

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Posted 27 May 2009 - 03:36 AM

Jeff, thanks for bringing up the subject of lens choices. I split my time between the 10.5mm and 10-24mm and haven't really paid attention to the differences yet. I just bought the 10-24 before the trip and hadn't used it much yet. Looking back at the images I posted and therefore liked, I was surprised that 5 out of the 6 were taken with the 10-24mm (at 10mm). Only the 5th image was taken with the 10.5mm. Thus I'm pleasantly surprised at the quality of the 10-24mm DX lens.

Thanks Marcus. I did not realize you had the 10-24, I would have liked to look at it. Glad to see it worked well underwater. Did you use it with a diopter? How close did it focus? I think your shots do show some 'thinning' of the shark close up. Probably a matter of preference, as to how one wants to depict the animal, or how someone sees them being best represented.

Edited by loftus, 27 May 2009 - 03:53 AM.

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