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Posts posted by frogfish

  1. Within a Rainbow Sea was and is a very important book for me, along with In a Sea of Dreams (and Water, Light, Time) too, and if I have a "style" myself (which i tend to doubt), then there is no question that CN would have been a big influence. It's true that some of those shots look "easy" and less impressive now than they did when it came out, but the truth is that u/w photography is much easier now, esp. with digital - as I rediscovered last year when my digital housing was being serviced and I did a few dives with my old F801s film housing.


    More important, I think all three of these books were very important in establishing underwater photography as a serious endeavor, and showing what could be done, both in terms of capturing images of extraordinary marine life, and also as a kind of art art. We've moved beyond those cliche underwater shots (the ubiquitious wide angle shots of a woman diver wearing a colored wetsuite and a full mask posed next to a wreck (or a bommy, or a seafan) with a flashlight in her hand), or the masked diver's head framed in the porthole of a wreck, etc. etc. CN and DD were among the photographers that made that happen.


    Frogfish (Robert Delfs)

  2. Just a quick aside in response to the last post. Dusty is bad all around, but all things considered, I'm not sure I wouldn't rather have a reasonably well-sealed digital with a 2- or 4-GB card than a film camera. Changing lenses when there's a lot of dust around would obviously be nuts, but not a great idea with a film camera either. But being able to shoot 100+ (raw, or 1000+ jpg) frames without having to open the back of the camera to change film (and being able to change ISO without changing film either) might be a plus for digital.


    When I lived and worked in China in the 80s and early 90s, the camera I used (for more than 10 years) were Olympus. I think it was a 2N. Anyway, it had a mechanical shutter, mechanical film advance, and was the perfect body to use in a country where one couldn't buy camera batteries (then) or get a body with sensitive electronics repaired except by taking it to Hong Kong or Japan. It had very decent spot and center-weighted metering, but as long as you remembered the Sunny 16 rule, you could still use the camera even if the electronics went out, or you ran out of batteries, or it was so cold that the batteries didn't work. THAT was the utimate camera for remote locations, I always believed. All it needed was film.


    Re: 2Oceans post: I completely agree on Provia/Velvia. I loved those colors, but at least half of the time they weren't remotely real. I remember plenty of overcast dark days shooting in water that was definitely grey (or grey-green) that still came out on Provia the most beautiful blue you could ask for. But now, can you please tell me how I can emulate the effect of a polarising filter using Photoshop? That's something I didn't know was possible.



    Frogfish (Robert Delfs)

  3. I'm just passing this on, but if you happen to be in Indonesia and could do this trip, I know the boat, the people and of course the place - this is a good deal.


    Frogfish (Robert Delfs)


    From: Greg Heighes [mailto:gregindo@indosat.net.id]

    Sent: Friday, October 21, 2005 5:58 PM

    To: Greg Heighes

    Subject: Komodo Liveaboard for 29th oct to 4th Nov




    Due to a late minute change in itinerary, we have a great deal on a great

    week. The idul Fitri Holidays.


    We are offering:


    6 nights 7 Days.

    Going out on the 29th, back in on Friday the 4th.

    $150 per night. Plus $150 for domestic airfare. Total $1050.

    LBJ-Komodo-LBJ. Vessel Bidadari 30 meter luxury Pinisi.

    6 AC Ensuite Cabins.


    Great boat, food, good diving, good times.


    Normal Price $1650.


    Be quick..As we want to confirm domestic flights on Monday if you hope to

    make it.





  4. Rain-X really does work (on glass ports), though it's not always 100%. I was lucky to find some here in Indonesia - I never could when I still lived in Hong Kong. Other than denatured alcohol, I'm not sure what it really contains, but it's made by Pennzoil-Quaker, and very flammable, so petroleum distillates seems a reasonable guess. After cleaning and drying the dome exterior, apply the rain-x on a small patch of clean cloth using overlapping circular motions. Remove the haze by buffing with another clean piece of cloth.


    It's fairly clear that it would NOT be ok to fly with this stuff in your baggage on most airlines. I plan to preplace a bottle on the liveaboard I'm next going on so I won't have to worry about it. But if someone were to ask (just hypothetically of course) what the best way to try to get it past a more cursory inspection, someone might reply with a suggestion to put the yellow plastic Rain-X bottle in a suitably-sized zip loc bag, do the same with several different similarly-sized plastic bottles of sun screen or similar., and then putting all those in another larger plastic ziploc and putting that in a bag with dive gear. But it wouldn't be me who said that, of course.


    The important advice I will take responsibility for, however, is that before attempting to shoot over-unders deep in the mangroves, cover your head and neck with the strongest and stickiest DEET you can find, and try to keep it from washing off. And/or wear a hood. I ended up with bites on top of bites all over my head, neck and ears.




    Barrel sponge and soft coral under mangroves, Raja Empat




    Archer fish under mangroves, Raja Empat





  5. Hard-core liveaboard divers are only part of the total visitor demographic. There are backpackers and adventure travellers who stay in Labuanbajo and go into the park (for diving or just to see dragons, etc.) on day boats, and smaller cruise ships, who mostly only stay in the park for a day or two, with a dragon walk and maybe a swim/snorkel at Red Beach. Even the hard-core liveaboard diver numbers were hit in the year after the bombing to some extent, as any operator can tell you.


    Though it's still early days, there is reason to believe this time won't be as bad as after 2002.


    > The number of people killed or injured was much less.

    >It has been noticeableover these past 12 days that there hasn't been a general exodus of tourists out of Bali comparable to what happened in 2002, nor have new arrivals stopped completely, though numbers are obviously down.

    > Western governments have been a bit less quick to impose draconian new travel warnings and advisories or to upgrade old ones to higher levels. This is important, as these advisories don't just deter travellers by scaring them, but in some cases also make it impossible to get travel insurance if any part of the trip includes countries under advisories. (The Balinese are not alone in noticing that the countries that have warned against travel to Indonesia somehow didn't think it was necessary to issue advisories warning against travel to New York or the US after 9/11, nor to Britain after the tragic underground attacks earlier this year.)

    > Press and media coverage has been less inflammatory and there has been more attention paid to the impact of this on the Balinese people, who aren't Muslim, and didn't vote for Bush or for Blair.

    > After the 2002 bombings, the Indonesian stock market took an immediate 10% hit and the rupiah also slumped big time. That didn't happen this time.


    And so on. But it's also clear that there will be some impact, for Bali and also for other Indonesian destinations. The question is how much and for how long. We'll see what the real story turns out to be over the next 18 months.

  6. Trust me, JB has learned to lower the level and sophistication of his sarcasm when dealing with us hick 'Murricans, so there's never any real danger of it floating over our heads. I'd assumed that John meant Max Ammer (sp?), not Gibbs, but if the latter, then I'm very sorry that I missed both of you. What does it take to get you guys to stop over in Bali for a few days?


    To wend back to the topic of - if not exactly S2 Pro housings, then of Subal ports (and John's unfortunate flood....


    John: You probably already know this and/or it may not be relevant, but I believe Subal changed their port O-ring specification a few years ago. If I'm not mistaken, the newer ports have slightly bigger grooves and take a slightly thicker o-ring. I still had a couple of old rings for my older port. I once got one of the older rings on the newer dome port by mistake. They look almost the same, but it was readily apparent that the port was way too easy to turn. Just a thought.


    Also semi-on topic, I lost the neoprene Beanie cap that Subal makes for my dome port last year. It seemed good for reducing the risk of scratches in a RIB crowded with other cameras with flailing strobe arms, dive equipment, people swinging their weight belts to put them on, etc. There's a guy here in Bali who makes wetsuits - his main business is leather. I asked him if he could make new covers for my ports - I never even had one for the 105, but flat ports scratch too. The one he made for the domeport is fantastic, with a perfectly-shaped hard rubber piece cradling the glass. The price was very reasonable, and now he has the measurements. The flat port cover is also fine, also has a thick hard rubber disk in front of the glass (it's otherwise like a big neoprene beer can holder), and was simpler to make. He's also made me some nice smaller side side pockets to go on the waist band of a harness - the one Halcyon makes is too big, IMV. Anyone interested, let me know.


    Raja Empat is magic, I'm very excited to be going back.


    Mike: I'll check the magic filter review, thanks.



  7. A timely warning, as I just took a Magic Filter for a first test-dive Saturday. I was a little perturbed to find what looked like a big band of grease across the middle of the first gel I pulled out of the bag (with tweezers, one corner only). Tthis was a small gel for the 10.5 mm. ) I tried to remove the smudge with a photographer's chamois. It didn't work, and I almost tried lens cleaning solution but didn't have time.


    To be honest, I couldn't see any effect of the smear on the test images I took Saturday. (It runs diagonally right across the filter, so presumably I would have noticed if there is a problem. But normally I still would not want to put anything as dirty as this was in the optical line for shooting anything important. Is there an approved method for cleaning these filters?


    Frogfish (Robert)


    Here's one of my test shots from Saturday with the 10.5 mm. You could say that I'm quite happy with the Magic Filter. There were much better examples of what this filter can do with closer subjects, but they weren't very interesting as images. This is the only manta shot that even partly worked, I was having trouble with the sunbursts,but then again I always do.



  8. Hi John.


    I'm sorry I couldn't make it this year, but I've been strapped to the computer this past ten days, recasting projections for visitor arrivals in Komodo Park over the next seven years in light of the 2nd bombing incident on 1 October. There are alternate scenarios, but my best guess right now is that this incident will not have as big an effect as the 2002 Bali bombing, which led to an 18% drop in visitor arrivals in the park 2003.


    This is important because the World Bank - Global Environmental Fund financing that has just started to flow is partly keyed to hitting certain eco-tourism revenue targets each year. The plan is that visitors will start paying a conservation fee from 1 January 2006. I'll be posting more details - including how the conservation fees will be used - here (or rather somewhere else, not this forum) sometime in the next few weeks. Also the new code of conduct for divers (esp. u/w photographers) and guidelines for operators, which also go into effect in January.


    I'm glad you're enjoying the S2 Pro and Subal housing, but sorry about your flood, especially with the 12-24 - that must have hurt. (How did this happen? I would have thought that back fasteners on all these newer Subal housings would be much harder to screw up than the older ones.) I had my S2 in the water at Nusa Penida Saturday, doing a test drive of Dr. Alex's Magic Filters and the 10.5 mm fisheye, the first time I've had the rig in the water in awhile.


    Conclusion: the Magic Filter work wonderfully shooting horizontally within the depth range for which they're designed, but aren't so hot shooting upwards at wheeling mantas with a sunburst in the frame, not that the S2 is great at that sort of high contrast shot with or without a filter. I think I spun through every plausible combination of aperture and shutter speed, but nothing really worked. There was also a mola on the second dive. I missed it, but it didn't really matter as I still had the filter on the lens. The mola was at 30 m., so it never would have worked anyway.


    The tiny S2 viewfinder image is probably this camera's biggest limitation u/w, IMHO. I've become used to relying 99% on autofocus, but am looking forward to the D2X and being able to use manual focus again once in a while. But I'm certainly going to miss standard TTL.


    I'll be in Raja Empat in January, on Larry's boat.



  9. Kevin,


    The "grain" problem you mention after extensive manipulation of jpeg images in PS may be compression artifacts caused by repeatedly saving the image in JPEG format while you're working. There is a loss in image quality every time you do this. If this could be the case, I'd strongly recommend that you always save the image in either TIFF format or as a photoshop file (both are "lossless" formats), and then re-generate appropriately sized JPEG images when you need them.


    But I'd still urge you to reconsider using RAW whenever possible. There is a lot more room to play with exposure and color balance with an original RAW image.


    Frogfish (Robert Delfs)

  10. I'm with Whatisea (above) who stressed that, with luck, your ports may be a lifetime investment that will see you through several generations of housings. Put another way, once you've invested in a couple of expensive ports, this becomes a very strong disencentive to switch to another housing manufacturer if/when you decide to upgrade to a new camera and housing down the line. Dome port optical quality and range (not all dome ports can handle ultra-wide (weitwinkel) fish-eyes) is a critical issue, and you need to decide whether to go with an acrylic dome (Ikelite) or glass, which is more expensive, and also much heavier. There are adherents of both around, and people have done excellent work with acrylic domes.


    Viewfinder optics and positive reliable controls are also important. Ease in opening and closing the housing, ideally without having to remove strobe arms and other accessories, isn't quite as big a factor now as it was when there were only 36 shots on a roll of Velvia, but it's still important.


    I've got a review of the Subal housing for the FS2 on the site. It's at...


    Subal FS2 Review


    For the record, I think most of what I wrote in that review of the Subal housing still stands - it's an excellent housing, and the big Subal dome is magic. But a couple of additional points:


    One problem is with the housing mechanism to manipulate the rear control dial slipping slipping. This only manifested itself after a year, when the control dial wheel had become slightly worn and the mechanism a bit sticky. My jury rig fix was to add a small nylon bushing to increase tension on the spring that pushes the disk against the control wheel (this is not approved by Messrs. Stepanek & family, by the way) and by having the mechanism in the camera cleaned and lubricated (and the plastic control dial wheel itself replaced) when the camera was serviced.


    A similar problem I have not been able to fix is the mechanism on top of the housing that controls the mode dial. I rarely want to change modes u/w, but this also makes it impossible to change ISO, which can be important.


    The retrofit viewfinder optics Subal offers for some other models cannot be installed on the FS2 housing, which is a disadvantage as the camera viewfinder image is already quite small. I doubt that you will want to use manual focus much with the Fuji S2 camera in any housing.


    Frogfish (Robert Delfs)

  11. The Nikon 5T and 6T multi-element diopters (which Nikon calls "close-up attachment lenses") are 62 mm. The 5T has a focal length of 26.3 inches (667 mm), and the 6T is 13.1 inches (334 mm.). They can be used together, in which case the 6T should be attached to the lens first. The 5T can be considered as a +1.5 diopter and the 6T as a +3.0 diopter. The 3T and 4T are similar, but smaller diameter, for 52 mm. lenses.


    There is no question in my mind that the optical quality of these Nikon lenses is superior to most, if not all, single element diopters. However, there are limitations. The multi-element design is unavoidably thicker than a single element diopter. If you are using the 5T or 6T with a wide-angle lens and a dome port, you may get vignetting in the corners and sides from the larger multi-element diopter. That won't be a problem with a reduced frame format digital camera, nor, of course, if you are using the CU lenses to achieve a greater magnification with a macro lens, but it can be a problem with a any full-frame digital or film SLR. The other limitation is that these lenses only cover 52 and 62 mm diameter lenses.


    I used to use the 5T (and 6T) with the 20 mm and 28 mm prime lenses for wide-angle, and liked the results very much. Since I now mainly use the 77 mm 12-24 for wide-angle (or the 10.5, which of course takes no diopter at all), there is no alternative to using a single-element diopter, or at least none that I am aware of.


    I still use the 4T for super-macro with the 105 mm micro lens.


    Frogfish (Robert Delfs)

  12. Have fun. Here's a couple of things that may help with getting the tonal range you're looking for.


    1) Focus on the unwanted color. If you photograph a red wall, the red channel in RGB will be probably be almost maxed out - most of the detail, texture, and the gradations toward neutral that add up to 3-d modelling features in color will be in the other two RGB channels.


    If the main subject happens to be a green bell pepper, then the green channel will be maxed out and the detail and shaping tones will be in the red and blue channels. Or you might want to convert to CMYK and see if most of the detail might be waiting for you in the magenta plate.


    You want to eliminate or at least weaken channels with the most noise, and reduce the weighting of any channel that is maxed out and doesn't contribute useful data. Sometimes that can be accomplished by just trashing the channel that corresponds to the dominant color of the main subject.


    While you're working, converting back to LAB once in a while to look at the L (luminosity) channel will give you an idea of where you are. Remember, while you're working with the different color channels, it doesn't matter what color things become - it's ok if the green bell pepper turns purple or orange or whatever, if that's what generates the tonal range in black and white that you're looking for. But that can be hard to see, which is why checking the L channel in LAB or looking at L values in the Info palette can be helpful.


    LAB is Photoshop's "home" color space - when you change mode from RGB to CMYK or B&W, what actually happens is that the image is converted to LAB and then to the target color space, so switching to LAB doesn't cost much in terms of image degration. (Backing up after checking the L channel doesn't cost anything at all, and it's also faster.)



  13. If you make your image b/w when you convert from RAW, you're using someone else's general formula for translating RGB values into shades of grey. Sometimes it will work well, on other images maybe not so hot. Same thing if you use a plugin (though that may give you a few more options), or convert to a color space and then change mode to B/W in Photoshop. I think the formula Photoshop uses is something like 6 parts green to 3 paarts green and 2 parts red, or whatever - it's not really important. Another approach is to convert your image in LAB color space and just take the "L" channel - it's usually will turn out to be a pretty decent b/w version of your image.


    Simpler, and often better, just to take the GREEN RGB channel. How? Image > Apply Image, set the source as the green channel and the target to the RGB composite. Instant B&W that may be better than Photoshop's canned conversion.


    The reason this often works better than Photoshop's mode change algorithm (or converting the image from RAW into B&W) is that the Bayer screen your digital camera sets up twice as many green pixels as red or blue ones, so there will usually be a lot less noise in the green channel. and green often works well as a good B&W analogue. So you can sometimes get a cleaner image than something that averages all three channels according to some formula. But ther times, just relying the green channel doesn't work. Photoshop's canned conversion algorhithm doesn''t work for every image either, and it is almost never the best b/w conversion possible.


    Why? Convert your image to LAB space. Click on the L (luminosity) in the channel menu and you'll see a b/w averaging all channels. Click back on Lab again and look at the color version. Did the image go lighter (too light) or darker (too dark?) Where did you lose contrast that you need to make the image work in b&w?


    Better yet, open the info menu (still in LAB color space). It will give you LAB values and CMYK values for any point in your image. Move the cursor around and watch the L value in LAB. You can probably easily find two areas that are adjacent and contrasting colors ( blue and red, orange and green, yellow and blue, whatever) that have hugely different CMYK values (of course) but happen to have very similar "L" values. When you convert your image to b/w using any canned formula, those two contrasting colors will likely end up the same, or a very similar shade of grey.


    The ultimate answer is that every image needs its own unique b/w conversion if you want optimal results with a full range of tonal values and contrast in all the places the image needs. Think about what someone like Ansel Adams, or Edward Weston, would be looking to achieve if he were handling your image. Try taking a photo of a green bell pepper with your digital camera in RGB, use Photoshop's canned algorithm to convert it to B&W. Does it look anything like Edward Weston? I didn't think so.


    I'm sure a Plug-In would do better, but you don't really need it. But the way to get that optimal conversion can involve making what may seem strange moves (channel blending, apply image, applying steep curves to different plates in different color spaces and then blending these results back into other channels. But there is a logic to it. The important thing torealize is that there is no one single formula or easy answer that applies to all images. If that's what you want, just stick with Photoshops mode conversion, or just use the LAB L channel or the RGB green channel. It won't look BAD, but....


    B/W (and duotint) conversons are covered in several different books on using Photoshop, but the best discussion of the strategies and techniques for b&w conversion I've read is in Dan Margulies' Professional Photoshop, which I consider a must-have book for all serious Photoshop users.


    Frogfish (Robert Delfs)

  14. Thanks, MattDiver, Alex,


    I checked the earthboundlight.com article by Bob Johnson that you mentioned, but I didn't really find it completely helpful. I think I know what color spaces are (LAB is my favorite, by the way). Johnson seems to be saying that color mode I on the D1H and D1X meant sRGB color space while Mode 2 meant Adobe RGB.


    On the D2H and D2X, on the other hand, color space and color mode are obviously separate settings, but clearly still linked, at least insofar as color mode II is only an option in Adobe RGB color space, while Modes I and III can be used with either Adobe RGB or sRGB.


    For these cameras, Johnson seems to suggest the color modes might be tone curves, following the D100 approach, with Mode III offering more saturation. This would be consistent with Nikon's description of these modes as offering different palettes analogous to different films and its recommendation to use Mode I for portraits and Mode III for landscapes. ( Not many professional portrait photographers ever had successful careers shooting portraits with Velvia.) But this doesn't explain what Mode II really is, if it's anything. Unfortunately, moreover the test shots Johnson provides only compare modes I and III, and even these don't tell me much except that the colors most affected by changing between I and III are reds, oranges and greens.


    Is Mode II (which Nikon recommends for images that will be extensively processed) supposed to represent a "straight" curve (i.e., no curve applied in camera), while Modes I and III represent special curves optimized for flesh tones (I), while III is supposed to emulate Velvia or Provia emulsion?


    That seems to make sense, but if color modes are tone curves, then what does the tone compensation setting do - are these both tone curves? Tone compensation seems to clearly mean some kind of contrast-enhancing tone curve, since the manual says users can write a custom tone curve and download it to the camera using Nikon Capture.


    Here's one possibility, or rather a guess: that what the tone compensation setting does is equivalent to curving the L (luminosity) channel in LAB color space, while modes I and III represent flattened or steepened curves on the A and B (red-green and blue-yellow) channels, which govern color contrast and saturation.


    In any case, from what I've read here and on other sites, nobody seems to know what these really do, or (more importantly) whether using different color modes or tone compensation settings actually has any effect on raw files. I don't mind doing some tests myself, but it does bother me that the documentation about how these settings actually work on this camera is so vague and unclear.


    The relevance of all this, in case anybody is mystified or simply wondering, is that if none of these settings (except Color Space) affect the RAW image data, then it doesn't matter in the slightest what settings we use when we're shooting RAW, these camera settings will only affect the accompanying JPEG and/or thumbnail. If these do affect the RAW file, on the other hand, then making the right decisions about color mode, tone compensation, and in-camera sharpening etc. may be critically important issues.


    Here are some starting working hypotheses regarding camera image adjustment settings, to be confirmed by testing. (In case anyone else wants to test, one important caveat: changes in the appearance of the thumbnail and preview images used to represent raw NEF files in Adobe Bridge (or presumably Nikon Capture) under different settings do NOT necessarily mean that the data in the raw file is actually different. It is possible, if not likely that these settings are only being applied to the thumbnail and preview images.



    Setting...................... Affects RAW


    Color space................YES

    Color mode................ NO... = LAB A+B curves: I=flattened, III steeper, II no change

    Tone Compensation.....NO = LAB L channel curves (luminosity contrast)

    Hue adjustment...........NO

    Sharpening.................NO..... ????

    White balance............ NO.....(though WB data is encrypted in the NEF file as metadata)

    High ISO NR............... YES....????


    According to one authority who has tried to reverse engineer the NEF file, contrast, saturation, and sharpness settings are recorded as part of the standard EXIF IFD (as is white balance, color space, and a lot more), while separate values for the camera settings for white balance, sharpening, tone compensation, possibly color mode, plus a whole lot else are stored in (proprietary format?) in the "maker's mark" section of the NEF file. This doesn't prove that these settings are not applied to the raster data that makes up the actual image information in the NEF file, but it is suggestive.





  15. For the inside of (glass) ports, I use a photographer's chamois. I can wrap it around my hand and get to almost the entire inside of the dome port. If necessary to remove a spot or haze, I moisten a corner with a bit of Kodak lens cleaning solution, then go over it with a clean dry chamois. (I keep the chamois in a ziplock bag so that it stays soft, doesn't dry out.)


    Keeping a cover on the opening in the dome port when it isn't on the camera seems to help keep crap in the air from settling on the inside of the dome.

  16. Alex,


    Thanks for the list of D2X settings you typically use. I'm in much the same situation except that I'm still waiting for the Stepaneks to make some more housings, so still limited to learning the camera by playing with it above-water, taking shots of the Denpasar market and my new dog playing on the beach, all of which has been a lot of fun.


    A couple of questions:


    1) Any reason for using color mode III ( nature or landscape) instead of II ( for images that will be subject to extensive digital processing). I started out shooting mostly in mode III, but now prefer mode II. Above-water and outdoors, at least, the camera seems to do better avoiding over-exposure and the accompanying jpegs also look better to me using mode II than mode III, but I can't really figure out from the Nikon manual what this setting actually does.)


    2) A broader question (which I haven't been able to figure out from the manual) is which of the many settings (including color mode, but also other settings such as tone compensation, sharpening, NR, etc. affect RAW files and which only affect the JPG (assuming the camera is set to generate both RAW and JPEG files).


    The white balance setting obviously does not have any effect on the raw file, while color mode apparently does. I'm unsure about all the others.


    (It may be that Thom Hogan's new book on the D2X may answer this question, but the payment system on his website won't let me order the book - yet another incident of discrimination against people who happen to live in places like Indonesia.)


    Frogfish (Robert Delfs)

  17. Arnon,


    Thanks for the correction on URLs, and I'm sorry the program's database doesn't cover the Red Sea sites you need. I didn't attempted to evaluate the coverage worldwide, just checked for the places I need.


    You might want to keep an eye on the program. When the International Hydrographic Office (IHO) disbanded in 1999, ownership of tidal data reverted to individual countries and the blanket approval for non-commercial use previously extended for the UK, Ireland and Scotland was withdrawn, so the predecessor version to the program had no coverage in UK, Ireland or Scotland between 2001-2004. The UK Hydrographic Office wanted the developer to purchase a license, something which he understandably was not willing to do, since the program is distributed free of charge. The current version has data from a different source with 44 stations in UK waters, but that is much less coverage than was available before.


    It could be coverage for the Red Sea will be added (or restored) in the future. It's also possible that some stations now covered will not be available in future versions of the program, if other countries follow the example of the UK and eliminate free non-commercial use.


    Check also the links page on the WXTide32 site - there are some other programs (some commercial) that may offer the coverage you need, and there are also sites which purportedly will help you design your own tide tables.

  18. Getting the tide right is important for some kinds of diving. At seamounts and other exposed sites, there may only be a narrow window when the dive can be safely attempted. Lagoons and extrances to oceanic atolls can be great dives with lots of fish action on an incoming tide, but a milky mess on the ebb. The timing of some great marine wildilife behavior (such as spawning) is closely linked to tides as well. I've long been looking for a good tide prediction program with a database broad enough to cover some of the sites I dive here in southeast Asia. Now I've found it.


    For me, there are four stations around Bali (one at Benoa, near where I live, another at Buleleng in North Bali (not far from Tulamben), two more in the straits between Java and northwest Bali (near Menjangan Island), and two more on western Lombok, making it possible to combine with the Benoa data to get reasonable times for Nusa Penida. For Komodo, there is no station in the park itself or at Labuanbajo, but there is a station on southwest Flores near the southeast corner of the park and another in Sape Bay on Sumbawa opposite the western side of the park (and another for Bima), again making it possible to at least roughly interpolate tides at Komodo sites. There are also tide stations for Kupang, Ende, two in south Sulawesi, Alor, and wonder of wonders, even one site at Saonek for Raja Empat. Quite a few stations for PNG and the Solomons too. For North America, of coure, the coverage is much better.


    WXTide32, a free (Windows) program by Mike Hopper, is based on XTide, a UNIX program written by Dave Flater. The program is very easy to install and use. It covers more than 9,500 tide stations worldwide, and can present tidal data in a variety of formats. For North America, there are also 100+ tidal current stations (don't ask me how this part of the program works - I don't know.) The current version of WXTide (4.2) was released in July, supports World Vector Shoreline (WVS) map files, which must be downloaded and installed separately. These are different from the NOAA WVS files, but are also free. The full set of WVS map data files provide zoom factors from 1:43,000,000 to better than 1:250,000, which means you may be able to zoom right in to your favorite dive site.


    Few things in life that are really good are free, but this is. (Needless to say, I have no relationship with the author of this program - I'm just delighted to find it.




    Note: There is a also a very decent tide prediction program for the Palm Pilot. I use this to time my walks on the beach at the lagoon with my dog. Though it doesn't have quite the database that WXTide does, it may be possible to insert new stations with time offsets and correction factors derived from the WXTide32 database.


    Tide Tool for Palms




    Frogfish (Robert Delfs)

  19. That's the only reason why I dive with a buddy: the chance of being eaten is 50%, as opposed to 100% when diving solo.  :)


    And the old joke, as a diver grabbed his giant free-diving style fins before a dive. "Why do you wear such big fins," the buddy asked.

    "Sharks", replied the long-finned diver.

    "That's silly," the buddy replied. "You'd never be able to outswim a shark no matter how big your fins are."

    "I don't have to outswim the shark," the first diver replied, "I just need to swim faster than you."


    I know, it perpetuates the silly myth, but I still like it.


    Frogfish (Robert Delfs)

  20. September is mola mola time in Bali - it's well worth spending a few days diving at Nusa Penida if you haven't seen or shot these wonderful animals before. There are some other very fine dives here in Bali as well


    If you're interested in doing a Komodo liveaboard in September, I'd suggest trying to book now, if not earlier. August and September are the high season months in terms of bookings.


    Informatively, a collaborative management program funded by the World Bank/Global Environmental Fund and The Nature Conservancy to make Komodo National Park financially self-supporting through eco-tourism revenues is finally getting off the ground.

    It is likely that new conservation fees (a system of 3, 9 and 15 day passes) will be initiated this coming October. I will post more details about this and other implications of this project in the coming weeks.


    Unless you know about a flight combination that I don't, I think you'll find that Palau/Yap/Truk are not that easy to get to from Indonesia.


    Frogfish (Robert Delfs)

  21. Port Moresby is the armpit of the universe, but if you are passing through (no choice about that if you're going anywhere else in PNG) and have a day, the museum is spectacular. I think rockefeller money is behind it, one of (if not the) best collections of new guinean art and ethnological stuff in the world. The museum is near the Parliament. arrange a car with the hotel to take you there and wait - PM isn't a safe place to wander around even during the daytime, forget the night. but the musuem is well worth the trip.



  22. Absolutely concur with previous posters on diving in Hong Kong. I lived there (mostly on, some off) for a couple of decades, and I can affirmatively say that the diving in HK is great provided you fly to the Philippines or Indonesia first. Puerto Galera was always my first choice for a nice long weekend's diving - you don't need to do a local flight from Manila, which translates into an extra 1/2 day to 1 day diving if you booked the evening flight from Manila back to HK.


    Ditto on buying cameras etc. I bought my first Nikon F in Hong Kong back in the late 1960s, when you could get one their for about half the US price. That was then, but HK prices and exchange rates have changed since then. Buying cameras in HK hasn't been a super deal since the time of the Vietnam War, but the reputation (oddly) lingers on and on.


    But if you DO need to buy any photo gear in Hong Kong, I can recommend Mr. Poon at Photo Scientific, 6 Stanley St., G/F. It's convenient and right in central, just off d'Aguilar Street. +852 2522-0871. A small place with limited stock on hand, but with a bit of notice Mr. Poon can get ahold of pretty much anything. Patronized by many of the professional photographers based in Hong Kong.


    (I left Hong Kong two years ago, but get back a couple of times a year. Hong Kong is still a great location for sailing, as long as you don't let any of the polluted water splash on you. Now, does anybody want to buy a nice 28 foot sloop, with mooring?)



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