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Everything posted by Patterns

  1. Personally (and it would be different perhaps for other people) if I'm thinking about underwater cameras my priorities (that come to mind now) are: Must have: - Manual exposure - custom white balance - Available Inon adapter for AD or AD28 mount - reasonable low-light focus capability Really nice to have: - wide zoom lens - raw - option to set the flash manually to very low power (since I use manual control for my flashes) - ability to store a couple of settings (for wide-angle, macro, whatever) - all controls by pushbuttons rather than dials - low noise sensor - long battery life (enough for 3 dives) - smaller housing, but with a bit of spare space for a silica gel pack - easy to feel the shutter half-press position with the housing Others - longer zoom - better screen - screen visible from a high angle while in the housing I'm sure I have left out lots ... -David
  2. I don't dive much these days, but I have been thinking about buying the A570 and housing to replace my S70 (because of poor focus) and C5050 (because it uses M67 mount - see below) kits. I already have both AD-mount and M67 (threaded) wet lenses. My overvations: (1) If you want to use wet lenses, the bayonet mount is far easier to use. That's a big tick in favour of your proposed system. Problems with threaded mount (as opposed to the bayonet): - it's hard to align and screw in the lenses underwater, especially the wide-angle. You'll may be in a hurry but you still need to do this carefully to avoid dropping or damaging anything. - it takes much longer to complete this process with the threaded mount. - when you unscrew the lens you have the problem of not knowing exactly when the lens will come free, which increases the chance of dropping something. - eventually you will cross-thread the lens and housing. On my Oly C5050 systems it's the housings which eventually lose the thread. The wet lenses start to jam on the housing after a while, adn a number of times I have put a lens on gently (I thought) and have needed the tool kit to get it off again. And I think I'm not unusually weak. For this reason I have decided in principle that I will never buy a threaded mount again for underwater use. (This actually eliminates a couple of cameras which might otherwise be interesting, but low-hassle operation is important to me underwater.) I love the way with the bayonet mount that it guides itself into place, and then a quarter-turn produces a very obvious click into position. (2) I don't have the latest Inon flashes but I have 3 older ones in the same series and have found them completely reliable. (As opposed to my frustrating experiences with two other brands.) On irritation with one of them (I don't have it with me at the moment, but I think it's an older D2000) is that the power selection for manual power can rotate 360 degrees This makes it extremely difficult to work by touch at night. For night use, it's good to be able to find the end of the adjustment range by turning to one end of the range, and then count clicks back again. On the other hand, in daytime that's not needed. (3) Inon also sell a AD-mount lens caddy which attaches to your flash arm (or elsewhere with a bit of ingenuity) and allows you to safely and very quickly attach the lens to the kit when it's not in use. Well worth considering. A two-sided version lets me park both the wide-angle and the macro converter at once. (4) I'm not sure that IS will work as well underwater. As I understand it (I'm certainly not an expert on this) the IS calculates how much the image will move (in terms of angle) when the camera wobbles, and compensate for that. But I suspect that underwater, a 1-degree movement of the camera will have a different effect on the apparent postion of the subject, compared to the same movement of the camera in air (because of refraction at the air/water interface). Hence the IS may compensate incorrectly for the camera movement. Using wet-lenses will also have an effect. I don't know whether you can tell the IS system that you are using adapter lenses, and choose a setting which will work appropriately underwater with whatever external lenses you may or may not be using. Maybe someone who knows the math can work out that being underwater is equivalent to using say a 0.75x wide-angle converter on land, or something like that. (I don't know - I just made up the number as an example.) In any case I suspect that the centre of the image and the edges react differently to a given level of camera movement. Having said all of that, I am pretty sure that IS will still improve the results when underwater, but I suspect maybe not by as much as usual. (5) No raw capture on the A570 until someone manages to hack the DIGIC III firmware ... (6) I think (haven't checked back on the A570) your proposed kit would all use AA-batteries. Using a single battery type is a significant advantage for me, but some others don't seem so fussed about this. Hope that's useful (sorry I don't have time to check references, shouldn't even be writing here now but I was thinking about similar kit too and am organising my thoughts...) -David
  3. I'm not going to have time to do a proper test in the foreseeable future; there's too much else to do. However, I loaded up with a new pair of batteries (Enneloops, as it happens; rated 2000mAH) this morning. After 50 quick shots and some review and deletions, when I started the camera again 5 minutes later the battery meter read 94% [Edit: 94% in playback mode; 74% in record mode. The meter is very sensitive to the load on the battery]. Of course this number while precise is not accurate, since I haven't calibrated the 100% and 0% points for any particular kind of battery. Still, it suggests battery life is not as bad as I previously thought it might be. Most of my other battery sets are rather old, and I have decided to replace them before the next big trip. -David
  4. Last time I checked (2 weeks ago) I couldn't find any indication anywhere that someone has succeeded yet with the DIGIC III chip. Others (especially if they speak Russian) may have more luck. I have tested the hack on my A710IS. Nothing scientific, but: - The hack is loaded from a file on the SD card at bootup. It can be enabled and disabled by locking and unlocking (respectively) the write protection on the SD card before turing the camera on. The hack loads at startup, and remains running until the camera is turned off. There is no change to the camera's firmware. Note: locking the SD card does not prevent the camera from writing image files. - It seems (from my reading elsewhere) that the raw file is 10-bit not 12-bit. This is consistent with my observation that it's quite hard to do better with the converted raw file than the camera does itself in producing its jpg. - It is possible in Adobe Camera Raw to rescue some minor overexposure. I think this would be useful for underwater, where I find it really hard to avoid occasional overexposure when one part of the scene turns out to be more reflective than I realised. - However my impression is that battery life with the hack running is really dreadful. That may turn out to be because I'm not using the camera much and the NiMH batteries may be discharging before I actually get around to using the camera. I'm hoping to test that in the next couple of weeks, but it's hard to find the time. - The additional capabilities include: -- real time RGB histogram -- raw -- better exposure bracketing -- control of display of all on-screen information elements I decided not to get the housing for the camera as it seems that Inon does not make an AD-mount adapter for it. -David
  5. Well, not everybody ends up wanting to move to a DSLR system. It's true that you can get shots with a DSLR that would not be possible with a digicam. The reverse is probably also true, especially for critters in awkard positions. I'm not sure that I would recommend anyone to start underwater photography with a DSLR unless they were already pretty comfortable with using a DSLR topside. The task loading might be too much. A digicam may be safer initially. There are also issues around convenience, size & weight. But for me personally, the biggest single reason I don't have a DSLR for underwater use is that I prefer composing picture on the LCD rather than through the viewfinder, even for topside. I think I remain more aware of my surroundings this way, and that's important to me as I'm a diver first, and a photographer second, when I'm underwater. In any case, depending how much diving you do, by the time you move from digicam to DSLR (assuming you do) the DSLRs will have moved on a little, so it's not clear that you would be wasting money by buying a cheaper digicam system first. Do make sure that your flash will be compatible with a future camera & housing upgrade. Good luck with the new hobby! Whatever system you get, u/w photography can be very satisfying. (Until your friends start saying, "What, more nudis?!?") -David
  6. Indeed, I'm eagerly awaiting the release of this new lens. I already have the done unit on my M67 wide-angle lens, and (with a spacer which Inon will provide for a no-doubt modest fee ) it will attach to the new lens. I don't think the geometry of the dome allows this kind of reflection (if that's what it is) - I certainly haven't seen any when using it with my C5050z setup. I was hoping to have it in time for this weekend's trip, but ... will have to wait until next time. Thanks for your thoughts -David PS more of the Manta shots - the ones she liked! - are here: More manta pics Vis was really bad, as you can see! This was her first dive with this lens. This is a good, very lightweight camera/lens combination for this sort of work.
  7. And incidentally, apart from this occasional effect, I completely agree that it's a GREAT lens! Won't get into the water without it (provided I've got a camera with an AD mount, of course).
  8. A couple more comments - 1. although in the last shot above it looks as if the bottom is black, in fact it's not black - there's detail of the sandy bottom visible. 2. I just had a bit of a rummage on my disk, and here is one which my girlfriend took (not one of her best, by the way!) with the same camera/lens combination. This is at full wide setting of the S70 lens (ie 28mm). It shows what the vignetting looks like (when it's visible). In this picture, I can see that the edge of the reflection is visible even at the bottom edge where the vignetting should mask any other effects. Again, I think it's a reflection that causes this. But there might still be a better explanation. (Have been quite wrong before about optical effects!!) -David
  9. Hi Trevor My picture was zoomed a little to avoid the vignetting which otherwise definitely occurs with this lens combination. Here's one where the effect is more obvious: With guide: The same guide line (at the bottom right) *seems* to me to correspond to a minor discontinuityin the light gradient in your picture, which suggests to me that the effect really is something generic. And here's one in portrait orientation, where the effect has moved to the short edge of the frame - to me this is the clincher, more or less proving that I'm dealing with a reflection of light rather than a vignetting effect. In spite of these shots, I also have very many where no such effect was visible. It tends to show up in shots with very different amounts of light at top and bottom, especially where the sun was overhead at the time (although well out of shot). -David
  10. Hi Trevor I'd be interested to knwo whether you have any problems with reflections of light inside the dome of the fisheye. On my shots, at the bottom of the picture there's sometimes a dark area intruding from the bottom edge of the frame. My investigation suggests that actually, the part of the shot above this has superimposed a faint reflection of the lighter water (with silhouettes of fish or whatever) abvoe the camera. So the dark part of the shot is "correct" as the reflections from above are blocked by the upper petal of the lens shade. You can see it a bit in this shot: S70 / WPC-DC40 / 165AD Fisheye At the bottom right corner, there's a strange lighter patch, with a fairly sharp edge (the edge of the reflection of the shade petal). Have you seen any such problems? I'm trying to figure out whether there's a general problem with this lens, or whether mine is defective (did they forget to coat the lenses or something??). -David
  11. This is great! I was just getting organised to sell my M67 WA lens with the dome. Time to change my plans a little ... -David
  12. Hi John A couple more things to consider if you do go the compact route ... - There's a substantial price difference (last time I checked) between the Canon housing and the next-cheapest option. - For cameras with small lenses such as these Canons, the obvious way to go for wet lenses (should you decide you want a wide-angle lens) is the Inon AD-mount. These lenses are much easier to deal with than the M67 (67mm thread) mount lenses. But Inon do not support the Canon S60/S70, apparently because the native lens is so wide already that the adapter would vignette, and they don't want people to compain about that. (Having said that, I got an Inon AD_mount adapter from a website in Austria, and it works, although it does in fact vignette unless you zoom in a bit; but the result is still much wider than the native lens alone.) - If you house an expensive camera, make sure your insurance is appropriate! Occasionally people DO flood these things. - My observation on live-aboard trips is that dealing with the housing is much more fiddly with the DSLRs. But since I have never housed one, that's a bit of conjecture. - I have personally resisted the DSLR route because of the size and weight of the whole setup (I already usually have to fast-talk my way out of weight penalties when I check in for dive trips!), and my presumption that's it's more complicated than what I do now. - My other - equally important - reason for resisting the DSLR route is that I so much dislike the idea of not having a view of the whole scene - including whatever's happening around me - while I'm framing a shot. Different people obviosuly have very different preferences in this area. Without knowing your level of diving skill, I'd just suggest to be sure you don't initially give yourself too high a task loading in what is afterall a potentially lethal environment. My observation - based on watching other divers - is that a housed DSLR leaves you less spare attention for your dive situation. I have a few S70 shots (only did a few dives) in the 200411 Bali Diving gallery here: http://www.fototime.com/inv/36B23AC6067E711 Some of these used the Inon w/a lens or macro lens. Wherever I used flash it was a pair of Inon Z220s. The "S70 Manta" subdirectory has shots taken by my girlfriend on her one-and-only dive (of that trip) with the S70 - she had ear problems and couldn't descend as recommened, so she was right up there with the Mantas. She used the Inon W/A lens. Otherwise, in the "diving" subdirectory, the others are all my shots with the S70 (except the Mantas were taken with my old Oly5050, without a wide-angle lens) (All the previous diving directories were taken with the 5050.) HTH -David [edited the embedded link]
  13. Thanks again, this seems to produce quite realistic results, for 2 versions: (1) what it's actually like down there at around 10m depth, for eyes adjusted to land conditions, which I can confirm by comparing with pictures taken with my old Sony P5 a couple of years ago. I can get there on average (or close enough for my purposes, for green water conditions) using approximately saturation -50, levels (red output range 0-63, blue 32-223, green 64-255), contrast -40 or so. (2) what it looked like when I was there, with my eyes adapted to the conditions, which I can get to using similar settings to the above except that red range is 0-191. Of course I'm relying on my memory ... The difference between the two is the adaptation of the eye ... Just confirms that there really is no right answer as to what is the "correct" colour for most of the things I see in those conditions, because the eye's adaptation fools me. -David
  14. Hi Craig, thanks for the explanation - there's a lot more to it than I first thought of. Will start experimenting now ... -David
  15. Hi all I have somehow been talked into doing a slideshow of my diving pics after a dinner next week. I have 15 minutes. It's a gathering of a professional society (of actuaries), and I'm part of the entertainment. I think it's the first of a series of "what actuaries get up to when they're not exercising their professional judgement" talks. (No need for any smart comments, thanks! Let's keep the board clean.) There's no particular reason to suppose the average actuary here knows anything much about diving. It's all very well showing pics of all sorts of things, but I'd also like to point out that some of these gorgeous critters don't look so brilliantly coloured in natural light. However, I have no good examples of natural light (with or without approriate white balance) vs flash exposure of the same scene. I'd particularly like to be able to point out that some things which show up brilliantly in the pictures are really hard to spot in natural light. I tried reducing the red channel in photoshop, but I didn't seem to get what I wanted. Maybe I was doing it wrong. Or maybe it's impossible to give an accurate impression of what things look like in conditions of very low red light levels, but with the eyes adapted to those conditions. Does anybody have a reliable method of doing this, suitable for a not-very sophisticated Photoshop user such as myself? I'm willing to mess around for a while adjusting settings, but I don't yet know which controls I need to play with. Any thoughts appreciated. Thanks -David
  16. Actually Murex has 2 live-aboards. I have been on Serenade twice (!!) and I understand Cybergoldfish has been on the other one (Symphoney, I think) very recently. Since he has also been on Serenade he might be able to give you a comparison between the two. From my point of view, I'd just say you have to enjoy diving to make it worthwhile to go on Serenade. And choice of cabin may be important, depending whether you are sensitive to noise and/or diesel fumes. But the crew were great, diving was good to excellent, and plenty of it, food was OK to good (within the range of basic chow, nothing fancy). -David
  17. Hi Laz, sorry I didn't answer the general question about what the diving is actually like! Todd's right, it's mostly pretty shallow. The good stuff is all the way up to very shallow water, and it's nice at the and of the dive to be able to potter around for a while under the boat looking for last-minute surprises. (For example, that tiny orange frogfish, mentioned above, was in about 4m.) Deepest was probably about 30m, at the Angel's Window site. Vis is never great. It was always a question as to whether it's worth taking the WA lens down with me, but in the end I got a few CFWA shots with which I was very happy. Water is cold by my standards; coldest was 24C, warmest was 27C during the week. Some people of (dare I say) "standard North American sizes" dive in a dive skin (!) but I was comfortable in 5mm suit + 1-2mm hooded vest + extra 5mm hood. (I figured now I'm over 40 I'm allowed to be comfortable rather than macho! Seriously, I think the reduction in the (already very slight) risk of DCS makes thermal comfort a priority.) If the dive operators do their job you'll rarely be bothered by current. A few sites (eg Nudi Falls) are subject to significant current depending on the tide, but there's always somewhere sheltered where you can dive. This is great because you can really concentrate on the critters. I didn't mentioned before that at Lembeh Resort they have a very realistic attitude to "buddy teams" in the context of underwater photography. Anyway it's almost all shallow. Hope you get the chance to go; it's really hard to beat as a place to enjoy the critters. -David
  18. BTW credit for some finds goes to Lilac, who is really good at spotting things. For example, the really tiny frogfishes were found by her. I don't know how she does it but I certainly appreciate it! -David
  19. I put some comments here: http://www.wetpixel.com/PNphpBB2-viewtopic...ic-t-6534.phtml Hope this is the right way to do the link, anyway it's in the dive destinations forum. Hope it's useful; remember it's subjective! -David
  20. In response to questions from a few people, here are my impressions when I look back on my recent trip. These are not intended to be a comprehensive report on these resorts, they are just my impressions. Of course we may have been unusually luck or unlucky in our experience, so feel free to post alternative impressions if things were different for anyone else. Or if you think we were too fussy ... interested to hear you views. I may post additional comments later if I think of them. It was a 2-week trip out of HK. We decided to do 7 days of diving at Lembeh, and 4 days at Bunaken, since both Lilac & I are macro freaks. The other couple of days were for land trips - Manahasa highlands, volcano, and Tangkoko National Park (for the monkeys). In retrospect we made a significant mistake in organising the Tangkoko visit - we should have done it while we were staying at Lembeh instead of during the Bunaken part of the trip, which would have saved us 3 hours of driving in the round trip. This time we stayed at the Lembeh Resort www.lembehresort.com. Twice previously I have visited as part of a liveaboard on Serenade, and once previously I stayed at Sulawesi Dive Quest's "resort". Years ago I formed an impression that KBR would be permanently way out of my price range, and I didn't even think of checking it this time around, so maybe I was being unfair, since competition may have moderated their prices somewhat, for all I know. Lembeh Resort is well organised, and fairly small. I think there were no more than 12 guests in total at any time while we were there. Our room (a standard room, as far as I know) was very comfortable, much larger than I normally expect for a diving resort, with a really great verandah out the front. The only thing I didn't much like about that was that the rooms are in pairs which share access steps and front verandah, and the people staying in the other room had to walk across in front of our room to get to theirs. Food was OK to good; choice was limited, especially for a stay of more than a week. Mix of Western and local. Staff were very helpful and ready to accomodate special requests. Watch out for the buffet nights (twice a week) - definitely not the night to do a night dive, because the buffet is not that great to start with, and it's noticeably less great if you are late for the meal. The dive centre is just a few metres from the water, pretty well set out, large rinse tank dedicated to cameras almost always with quite clean water (one exception when a couple came back from a shore dive late one afternoon while the main rinse tank was being refilled, and they rinsed their gear in the camera rinse tank). There's a nicely set out camera room, with power available and a partitioned camera bench. I like this because it means we can each have a clearly defined space to put out stuff, and things don't get mixed up. Having said that, I didn't use the camera room at all, since there was so much space in our own room and it's only 1 minute from the room to the dive centre. We used nitrox for the whole week. The dive shop's labelling of the nitrox percentage seemed to be less accurate than I am accustomed to, and it was a bit of pot luck as to what mix would be available (there were sometimes no nitrox tanks available until just before the dive), so we were adjusting computers (I use 2) before most dives. I stayed well away from no-deco limits – not usually a problem anyway at Lembeh, unless you’re after the rhinopius or the harlequin shrimp, or maybe those poor pygmy seahorses. I didn’t understand why the guides were diving on air when the guests were nearly all using nitrox. Sometimes this led to the guides going into deco, which I’m not too keen on. Good customer service focus, I suppose, but … Dive schedule is sensible - 3 organised dives every day, with briefings at 8:00, 11:00, 2:30. Night dive available any evening at 6:00 if requested by lunchtime or so (otherwise the dive staf go home after the 3rd dive). You can also dive their house reef anytime without charge (except for nitrox fill if applicable); we did it once to get the mandarin fish shots but the vis wasn't too good. We did 2 night dives, but in the end we were having enough fun already with the daytime dives, 'cause there's already so much to see in daytime anyway. Dives are normally 75 minutes but nobody seems to be worried about a bit of overrun ... so with nearly 4 hours a day of diving already, and the possiblity of night dives and/or the house reef, I didn't really feel they needed to try to squeeze in an extra scheduled dive. Maybe I'm getting older, but it seemed to be enough already! The dive guides were great, and well coordinated. For a typical example, before a Jahir dive with 6 guests one afternoon (for which we had 3 guides) Bruce (who runs the dive centre) told the other two guides what he wanted them to find, and where to look for it, and they made sure that we didn't have all 6 guests looking at the same critter at the same time. They also went to a lot of trouble to make sure we didn't get mixed up with other groups of divers. Ratio of guides to divers varied from dive to dive though, so it wasn't always quite that good. But they were always good at keeping track of where we photographers were, and coming back to collect us when they found something interesting (which was often). On one dive, when Lilac dropped her computer when getting back into the boat, we were very pleasantly surprised when they retrieved it for us within a few minutes. Overall, a big tip was justified! Overall it was a very pleasant stay at Lembeh Resort. I would almost certainly stay there again if I went back. Happy to answer any specific questions you may have... will post separately about Thalassa Dive Centre (for Bunaken). [Edit] Obviously I changed my mind about this. [/Edit] ============================ Comments on Thalassa Dive Centre & Santika Resort Manado This is something completely different from Lembeh in every way! Given the difficulty of sorting out the competing claims, I chose Thalassa because it’s closest to Bunaken, of those based on the mainland. And I wanted to be on the mainland to make it easy to do the land-based trips, and to make it easy to get to the airport for our early flight out at the end of the trip. Santika seems to me to be a peculiar place, designed for rich Manado dwellers to get out of town for a weekend. There are two 3-storey wings of accommodation. Two restaurants (of which the Italian restaurant – “The Big Tree Café” is pretty good (although not recommended by the reception staff “because it only has Italian food). One quite nice pool with swim-up bar. Two foosball tables (but apparently only one ball). Two pool tables (don’t expect competition standard here). One business centre (picture is in the link – they have one computer, one desk, one chair, and two exercise machines in a “business centre” which is on the terrace at one side of the entrance. There’s no glass and it’s open to the driveway so I don’t see why the equipment, such as it is, has not been stolen.) It’s reasonably far from town – if you want to go out for dinner, better budget about 45 minutes for travel each way. On the other hand you don’t need to drive through town to get to the airport. Not much to do, in fact, other than dive or veg out. Our foosball skills improved somewhat during the trip. Thalassa is next door, and they are linked financially, but there is no offer of help in carting gear from the room to the dive centre. Dive centre hours are limited; we arrived at 5:45pm and there was no chance of finding out about the arrangements until the next morning. Actually they are reasonably well organised, but … First peculiarity: the registration form they left for us with the hotel was only in Japanese, for some reason. That made me nervous straight away. They run 3 dives per day: 8:00, 10:00, 2:00 (or sometimes a different time for the afternoon dive). They will also do night dives if requested. Dives are for 1 hour each. They advertise that you do the two morning dives, have lunch at Bunaken, then return to Thalassa after the 3rd dive. What happened when we were there was that the dive boat returned to Thalassa after every dive. Lunch was at the dive centre (simple buffet, safe Indonesian food). I was less keen on this because it meant more time travelling, whereas if the boat waited at Bunaken for the surface interval we’d be able to read or sleep more easily. From Thalassa’s point of view the new arrangement works better because they can accommodate any combination of dives for walk-in customers as the boats return to base every dive. Because of this, they are unenthusiastic about visiting the farther dive sites, as it makes it hard to get back to base between dives. For those who worry about these things, there was no toilet on the boat, and no time to make a toilet stop at Thalassa between dives. That’s because from the Thalassa Dive Centre to the dock is 5 minutes’ walk (in the sun with no shelter), and the return to base between dives 1 and 2 is really just a turnaround. Times like this I’m glad of my front-zipped wetsuit (although the whole problem is less of an issue for guys anyway)! The ladies had to jump back into the water after the dive if they wanted a comfort stop. Anyway Lilac told me the ladies toilets were not good at the dive centre (dodgy flush mechanism), so better not to wait for that anyway. Dive guiding was useless (as far as I was concerned) which may be a reflection of my having done too many dives. Dive briefings really were brief. Max 30 seconds. Little indication of what’s special at any dive site. In the water, I didn’t appreciate being urgently summoned to look at something exciting – 5-10 metres above the level at which I was diving at the time – only to see it was a ray hiding under some coral, or a lobster in a hole. That was about the most interesting thing our guides found for us. They never did seem to want to stay at the same level as us. Over 11 dives the only things I thought were worthwhile which they found were a couple of ribbon eels, one notodoris, one pipefish, some sharks under a coral, and one rather nice little crab. Having said that, they were actually very eager to please. And when I had a technical problem (leaking HP hose) they got it replaced between dives; but there was not routinely any spare gear on the boats. Diving at Bunaken was what I expected after my previous few dives (as part of Serenade trips): usually the visibility was nothing like what you would think from the hype. One afternoon we did a very fast drift dive in about 5-8m vis. We were supposed to be looking for big stuff. I asked about it afterwards; it seemed actually if they had thought about it they already knew the vis would be bad (by Bunaken standards) because they knew of work being done nearby; but they didn’t think of selecting a different site for the dive. Presumably because that was the last dive of the day, and they wanted to dive this site because it’s closest to the dive centre and they could get away quickest. They say they rinse all the gear for you at the end of the day. Yes … but … that consists of taking the crate in which the gear has been dumped, and immersing it wholesale in the rinse tank. They don’t straighten out the wetsuits, for example, or hang anything out to dry, and they don’t pay special attention to rinsing the regulator or the BCD. I don’t mind doing those things myself, but I object to their claim that they take care of the gear for us. One thing I did appreciate was that all the staff knew not to use the 1st stage as a handle when picking up the gear. In this part of the world a lot of dive staff don’t know that. In common with all the other operators they have a “no-gloves” policy. But they didn’t stop one guy from wearing gloves, and that guy was a menace. I wagged a finger at him when I saw him picking up large pieces of coral, for no apparent reason, but the guides didn’t say anything to him. One irritation was that they didn’t bother to put the two of us on the same side of the boat. They should do this by default, since the boat is quite large – and stays stationary while all the divers get in - and I think it’s pretty normal to want to see your buddy when you’re getting ready to descend. They didn’t want to swap the gear around when it was pointed out. So having said all that, I did very much enjoy some of the dives, and most of the rest were at least OK – only that one drift as an exception. Lilac and I are very self-sufficient both for diving and for spotting, so we didn’t mind the dive guiding style too much. I did resent all the returns to base because it stopped be from reading between dives, so I feel I wasted quite a few hours of the vacation which should have been available for reading, on the basis of what Thalassa put on their website. One thing which would make me hesitate to go back to Thalassa is that apparently they sometimes get very large groups - 50+, even 100+ - at which times they hire more boats, but I'd still hate to be trying to organise something specific when they were swamped by a large group. Apparently they are generally much busier on weekends anyway (we were not there on a weekend day), presumably because Santika is apparently designed as a local escape. Overall: at a basic level, everything worked fine, but I didn’t feel a special effort was made to ensure that our dives were memorable. I will try somewhere else next time. -David
  21. DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME! 1. Decide to use a nonstandard mounting method (I'm using loc-line arms). 2. Purchase bolt to fit the thread of the mounting point. 3. Measure bolt, discover it is too long. 4. Select spacing washers to pack under the head of the bolt (to compensate for extra length). 5. Assemble non-standard mounting. 6. Tighten. 7. Test for stiffness, tighten some more. Oops!!! :shock: 8. Swear, scratch head :x 9. Find spacing washers still on the table. :oops: Lesson: If the bolt is too long, tightening it WILL force the mounting point away from the body of the strobe. Enough force will break the mounting off the body. So now it's going back to Inon for a new case. At my expense, of course. - David
  22. Hi Herb, thanks for the comments. Interesting shrimp, that one! The coral was on the starboard side of the Kapal Indah wreck (Southern end of Lembeh Strait). I guess it (the shrimp) was nearly 4 inches long; funniest thing was the fact that all the legs are short, and concentrated in the middle of the body! To me it looks totally unbalanced. And I guess it would be camouflaged better if the coral polyps were out; but we had little current for this dive. A passing diver stirred up the water after I took my first shots, and the shrimp was dislodged from the whip coral. With no visible movement of any body part, it then drifted slowly back to its exact former position on the coral, so it must have some invisible propulsion system somewhere. * * * * * Incidentally, about the 2 nudis shot ... it looks rather sweet, until you discover that the reason they are so close is that they both have their mandibles clamped on the same piece of food! I could see this when I went around the other side, but I still couldn't make out what they were eating.
  23. Hi all Here's a link to my snaps from my holiday over the last 2 weeks. http://www.fototime.com/inv/7E0B710AE3AECC5 --> click on the "web pics" album --> go to the bottom of the navigation pane on the left side, and look for the folders 20040918 Lembeh 20040926 Bunaken Within these folders, best are in subfolders "1" and second-best are in "2"; "ID1" has interesting/nice critters/fish but not necessarily good photos. As in previous trips, I enjoyed Lembeh tremendously. Bunaken was a bit of an afterthought; since we were in the area anyway we spent a few days there. "The world's smallest monkey" while not a marine critter, is nonetheless pretty cute. Comments welcome, as always. -David
  24. Hi Whitehead. No response (yet) from the eMail you suggested. (But that's not unusual in HK.) Stephane, I'll be happy to post a pic ... but everything is disassembled at the moment. If I have time I'll put it together again this evening or a bit later this week. It doesn't take long. I'm working on a revised setup now anyway - I want to move the attachment point for the arms to the top of the housing instead of the bottom. Also I had another "(even more) brilliant idea" for attaching the lights. You know I can't resist messing around with this stuff; and it keeps me from going crazy between diving trips! The next scheduled trip is not until my Lembeh trip late September. I'm getting so desperate that I think I'll be doing a few dives in HK in the meantime. I got the components at www.modularhose.com. I don't know whether they are cheapest or best but everything I ordered arrived as scheduled with no hassles. Given the charges for shipping you have to work out exactly what you want in advance. Incidentally, I'd suggest getting the special pliers as well. I didn't, and I have been regretting it! It's quite possible to work without them, but I find it a bit awkward when dealing with anything more than a couple of links together. Will post pics later ... -David
  25. Thanks for the tip! Sent an eMail, now I'll wait and see what happens ... -David
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