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Glasseye Snapper

Member Since 11 Oct 2005
Offline Last Active May 12 2015 05:08 PM

Topics I've Started

What the F-stop

28 September 2014 - 03:21 PM

In the past I tried to buy the fastest lens that would fit my budget, favoring primes as one way to do so. As technology advances I am starting to wonder if I should still F-ocus so much on lens aperture. I am not suggesting that this is valid for all of us but for me, and possibly others who rarely crave shallow DOF, it may be worth considering.


In the past shallow DOF was only one of the benefits of fast lenses. A brighter viewfinder, more reliable autofocus and in general better optics and build quality were the main reasons why I aimed for faster lenses. However, new cameras now claim to autofocus at -3 EV (canon 7D mk2) or even -4 EV (samsung DX1, Sony A7S) of light and for mirrorless with electronic viewfinders the camera can brighten the image that is displayed.

Faster lenses tend to have better build quality, but my lenses are used 99% of the time inside a protective housing and I have yet to damage a lens. With regards to optics, I do not think that lens quality has ever let me toss an image, especially at my typical F5.6-F11. In fact, getting closer to the subject probably does more than a higher-budget lens could ever achieve. In addition, in the last decade many manufacturers have created a special line of semi-pro F4 lenses that give good build and optical quality.


Here is my stab at reasons to favor a fat lens over a fat wallet 

If you like to use shallow DOF to isolate a subject

If you get everything else close to perfect, UW or on land, so lens quality gains importance

To capture more of your strobe's light output; increase battery life and decrease cycling time

If the faster lens has a shorter minimum focus distance

If you need a lot of light

  ambient/red-filter video/photography under darker conditions or with fast shutter

  to use a video-light instead of a strobe (but battling ambient may be the real problem)

  to extend the reach of your strobes

... others ???


Maybe a better question is: how often do you find yourself shooting wider than F4 UW, and what other reasons/excuses to lust after fast lenses did I forget?



Anilao juvenile grouper

29 May 2014 - 09:16 PM

Another juvenile I can't find in my books as either pictures or descriptions. My feeling was juvenile tomato grouper and I found one image of unknown reliability on the web supporting it but would appreciate confirmation.


I found at least two of these juveniles between the Twin Rocks reef and Balanoy muck regions (Anilao/Philippines) at 15-20m depth. They were hanging out on sandy flats with scattered small/medium size rocks, retreat under a rock when you approach but then reappear and stare right at you. Approximately 10-15cm




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anilao: planet dive

28 May 2014 - 07:46 PM

Two years ago I made my first trip to Planet Dive for two-weeks. You can find that trip report here: http://wetpixel.com/...l=+planet +dive


In that report I wrote: Not everyone will enjoy many repeat dives on one site but I dove PD 21 times in two weeks and would be happy to go back for more 90-100 minute dives floating around and observing live as it happens.


So that is what I did. This time three weeks and 55 dives on the house reef (Twin Rocks) and 30 boat dives. I won't repeat what I wrote two years ago but note some of the new things regarding diving and the resort.


New sites visited

Verde island: a common destination for resorts in Puerta Galera but a group of Philippinos went there from PD so I tagged along. It is about 75 minutes by boat each way and it took a 5:30:am departure to get in a two-tank dive and be back before lunch. Compared to Anilao sites it offers more large-fish action (tuna, red snapper, jacks, blubberlip and other big sweetlips in our case) but there is also a shallower area with the most extensive hard corals I've seen in the region. Others had been there with high currents and had to hang onto the reef and "watch the show". We hit it without any current and could explore the entire reef at our leisure. The main attraction for me was that it was quite different than the anilao sites (Mainit point comes closest).


Bethlehem: After my last report Stewart suggested this site in preference of Dari Laut. I still like the latter but must agree that Bethlehem is very interesting. It felt like all of Anilao crammed into one site, with muck-like areas, garden eels, flamboyant cuttlefish, big corrals, and a nice shallow area. It will be certainly on my todo list if I get back to Anilao in the future.


Aniloa Pier: we did this as a night dive as did several others during my stay and it is definately worth the 30 minute boat ride. It presented the largest load of cephalopods, gurnards, gurnard scorpionfish, snake eels, stargazer, seamoth, frogfish and, unlike all other sites, many flounders/soles including one that I believe mimics a flatworm. This was one of several 90-minute long guided boat dives because our DM let us dive as long as our air lasted and we kept finding new stuff.


Among the sites I visited 3 years before one that stood out was Sombrero. I ended up going there 4 times and it had the best visibility, the nicest wall, and the most varied shallow plateau where the dives started and ended. If you want to see fish that you won't find on the house reef Sombrero, Coconut Muck, and Anilao Pier are your best bet.


The other outstanding reef is Twin Rocks itself. Even after 55 dives on it I was finding new fish on virtually every dive. Two years ago I wrote that you could probably find over 200 species of fish on it. Turns out that was a bit of an understatement. The tally at the end of my stay was 480 fish species for the trip. Now back at home with my ID books the tally has climbed over 500 and I expect around 400 of those were found on Twin Rocks. It really is a (small) fish lovers paradise.


Compared to two years ago the biggest change is that the large school of bigeye jacks don't call Twin Rocks home anymore. During my stay I saw a clutch of about 100 on an early morning dive once and they disappeared as soon as they heard a boat approaching. A smaller group of about 25 where hanging out near Balay resort on one occassion. Other big life: a brown marbled grouper, giant trevally, a longface emperor co-hunting with large bluefin trevally, and a pair of turtles (but not the "hunch-back" from two years ago). Another change, at least I can't remember it from before, is that fish behave like they expect feeding on the sandy plateau just before the two pinnacles after which Twin Rocks is named, I expect from other resort boats with snorklers. It is only in that one small spot so not a real issue.


For dive boats, the Western half of Twin Rocks, with the pinnacles, seems to be preferred but I found myself diving more and more in the Eastern half. The shallow, 2-7m deep, reef is incredibly rich and healthy here (there is a lot more damage/silting shore-wards from the pinnacles) and down-slope from the reef is an interesting sandy area with some larger rocks. Several of them were shrimp-operated cleaning stations with larger fish visiting (tomato grouper, chocolate grouper, titan trigger etc). Indicator species for these rocks are banded shrimp, a collection of cardinalfish, coral grouper, and stocky anthias. Another attraction of the Eastern side is that if you keep swimming you start approaching the Balanoy muck diving site with a whole new set of fish to explore. That is one reason to prefer Planet Dive over Balay on the West end or the new Buceo resort on the East end. From PD you can explore both ends.


PD itself has seen a few changes. The deck on the beach has been extended and gotten nice new lounge furniture. The deck is used for dinner in weekends when there are more guests. In the weekends they also opened a new beach bar and they had a very good life band that I really enjoyed. Apparently rooms have been improved but I didn't see any as I opted for their dormitory accommodation. The quality of the main meals is the same as I remember from two years ago but they had pancakes for breakfast and you could ask for eggs or omelets to be prepared on demand. Appreciated by those who are not accustomed to rice for breakfast.


In all, PD remains a friendly basic resort with good value for money, especially if you care more for diving than luxury. Value gets even better if you travel as a group because diving cost goes down with more divers on board. But even for a solo diver, like me, it can be very affordable but you may have to include a few all-shore-diving days when there are no other guest to share boat costs with.




PS: I'll post some pics soon



Anilao juvi? fish

28 May 2014 - 04:29 PM

I could use help with the ID for the fish below as I'm not even sure which family to look at. Most of the time that means it is a juvenile and this one was about 5cm, found at 10m on a gently sloping sand/rubble area downwards from a shallow coastal reef. It swam with halting motions, not trying to hide but clearly aware and anxious about my presence.


Thanks,  Bart


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