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Don Silcock

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Everything posted by Don Silcock

  1. About 5 years ago I went on my first "big animal" trip and got well and truly hooked.... I ended up working my way through an ever evolving bucket list. The thing is that conversation with other people on the specific trip (usually over an adult beverage or two) almost always turns to where else have you been? So the list never seems to get much shorter! I got a great deal from doing the trips - personally in that I gained a much better understanding of the creatures themselves and the ocean itself. Plus it really helped me move my underwater photography forward. Everything I had planned for 2020 went out the window with the pandemic, but I hope to do a number of trips next year and have paid my deposits to get on the ones I really wanted to do. I try to document all the trips on my website and have written numerous articles on the experiences - which is basically all a labor of love as there is no money to be made with that. I realized recently that all the big animal pages are in different places and a bit hard to find... So I have compiled my favorite trips (Great Whites, Tiger Beach, Bimini hammerheads, Cat Island Oceanics, Tonga humpbacks, Azores sperm whales, Isla Mujeres and Mozambique whale sharks, Socorro giant mantas, PNG reef mantas, Florida manatees, Australian giant cuttlefish and Chinchorro crocodiles) on to a single page, with links to the detailed sections. Here is the link: Big Animal Encounters
  2. Hi, anybody out there have a Nauticam N120 20mm Extension Ring for sale please? I am in Sydney, but will pay international postage for sellers outside of Australia. Don
  3. Hi Mike, sorry for the slow response - only just saw your message... I was there in November last year. Don
  4. The original version of this trip report was posted on the front page of Wetpixel a few weeks ago, but I have now updated it and added some new images on the version I have done on my site. Here is the link to Diving the Witu Islands All the wide-angle images were taken with a Nikon D500 and 8-15mm lens in a Nauticam housing with the 140mm port, which I personally find to be really great combo. The macro images were taken with the 40mm Micro-Nikkor - I screwed up in the last minute packing and left my 60mm and 105mm macros behind... As they say the best lens you have is the one on your camera! I have been visiting Papua New Guinea regularly for 20 years, but this was the first time to the Witu Islands and I really was impressed. When you look at the location of the islands in the Bismarck Sea, relative to the rest of the Coral Triangle, it becomes clearer why they are such so biodiverse. Here are a few images to illustrate what I mean. Don
  5. in March last year I made the epic journey to the Ogasawara Islands to photograph the northern hemisphere humpback whales that visit the archipelago every winter. The Ogasawara Islands are one of the most isolated and remote parts of Japan. Getting there requires a 24-hour journey on the Ogasawara Maru ferry from Tokyo - there are no airports... It was a great adventure and my article on the trip has just been published in a six-page article in X-Ray magazine: https://indopacificimages.com/diving-the-ogasawara-islands…/
  6. South Africa has been on my personal wish list for quite some time and in the last year or so I have made three trips there - two to experience the sharks of the Protea Banks and the third for the incredible Sardine Run. The Protea Banks are located about 8kms offshore from the town of Margate in KwaZulu Natal province on the east coast of South Africa and the diving there is not for the feint hearted.... It's deep and the currents are strong, plus the next stop is Antarctica if you get separated! But it is a biodiversity hot-spot and there are up to seven varieties of sharks to be seen there - depending on the time of the year. Some in absolutely amazing quantities! I documented the whole experience in an extensive eight-page article that has just been published in the global dive magazine X-Ray who did a really nice job of laying it all out. If you are interested in learning more about this special location and the sharks to be seen there you can read more and download the article on this link to the Sharks of Protea Banks article.
  7. Last year I made the marathon journey from Sydney to south-east Mexico, near the border with Belize, to photograph the American Crocodiles of Banco Chinchorro. It was what you might call an intense experience, but one that I really enjoyed! I documented the whole thing in an extensive six-page article that has just been published in the global dive magazine X-Ray who did a nice job of laying it all out. If you are interested in learning more about these interesting creatures and what it's like being in the water with them you can read more and download the article on this link to the American Crocodiles of Banco Chinchorro
  8. I would be interested in the WACP if you do decide to separate.... Don
  9. Hi Liz, thanks and yes... I see what you mean - but relative to some of the other trips I have done the last few years it seemed like just down the road, which was probably what was in my head at the time! All the best, Don
  10. The current issue of X-Ray dive magazine features a comprehensive article of mine on the annual Australian Giant Cuttlefish aggregation at Whyalla in South Australia - plus I got front cover, if that is the right terminology for a PDF format downloadable mag.... The annual aggregation is an amazing spectacle to behold and incredibly happens just off the beach to the north of Whyalla at the top of the Spencer Gulf. It starts around the middle of May as the temperature starts to drop as the Australian winter approaches and there are literally thousands of these photogenic creatures gathered there, all intent on one thing - sex and the reproductive cycle. So focused are they on the task at hand that they virtually ignore you and you can get really close and capture some tremendous images. If you are interested in reading more about these creatures you can use this link to download the Amazing Australian Giant Cuttlefish article. Don
  11. After several years using Nikon FX underwater (D700 and then D800) last year I went back to DX when the D500 was released. I based that decision on my experience over the past few years since I got in to "big animal" trips - starting with the humpback whales of Tonga. Basically, up till then I did not see any real need for high frame rates and super-fast autofocus - but being in the water with those huge animals changed my perspective and I ended up quite frustrated with the D800 I had as my main camera and the OM-D E-M1 that was my back up. So I sold them and went for the D500, Nauticam housing and initially the Tokina 10-17, which had sat on the shelf for a number of years.... I have just completed 3 weeks in Mozambique and South Africa using the new Nikon 8-15 and the Nauticam 140mm dome and am over the moon with that combo. Which, when combined with two Sea & Sea YS250's (hernia model...) is, in my opinion, an almost unbeatable set-up for large animals at the overall price point it all comes in at. All that said, I am intrigued by the Nauticam WACP and Alex Mustard's excellent review of it. And while not 100% convinced I could justify the expenditure so soon after buying my current rig, I decided to buy a good sample of the Nikon 28-70 3.5-4.5 while they can still be had cheap. I tried it initially on the D500 but scared myself when I heard the noise coming from the old-fashioned A/F system on it when driven at speed by the D500. I got back to my place in Bali last night and tried it on my D750 "land" camera and it was OK, but still a quite noisy. So.... I wanted to post a few questions and see what other people's experience may have been. 1. Reviews of the 28-70 say it is a good lens that is quite sharp, plus it is small and seems to fit the bill for what Nauticam were looking for. And, as Alex pointed out - the dome is the restriction, not the lenses. But... can it cut the mustard (slight pun intended...) when it comes to using it with fast moving, big animals? 2. It seems like the excellent degree of coverage of the 28-70 behind the WACP would be best suited to "big picture" reef scenics? 3. If I do decide to "invest" back in FX and the WACP for underwater, I am wondering whether the D750 is a better choice than a D850? Don
  12. I have decided to go back to DX for underwater photography and have bought a Nikon D500 and managed to get one of the first Nauticam D500 housings to come out of the factory. I put it all together the other night and it all seems to work, so I am selling my D800 housing. I bought the housing about 3 years ago and it has performed very well. It has never been flooded, all the controls work really well and is in very good condition overall apart from some fraying of the handle material - see photos. This was my first Nauticam housing after 17 years of Subal and I subsequently bought housings for OM-D EM-1 and EM-5's as I experimented with mirrorless underwater. Overall I have been very impressed with the Nauticam housings and believe they offer excellent value for money. The housing is for sale at US$2000 - no offers please. I am also selling my D800 body and would do a package deal with a serious buyer. Postage and packing would be at the cost charged by Australia Post. PM me if you have any questions.
  13. Thanks a lot for the feedback and the comments - greatly appreciated! Don
  14. Last year, after a couple of failed attempts to get there, I spent three weeks in Tonga to swim with and photograph the humpback whales that migrate there every winter from their feeding grounds in the Antarctic. To say it was a seminal experience would be an understatement... I have been fortunate to dive in many parts of the world, but this was my first experience with such large creatures. Tonga is not the easiest place to get to, particularly if you are traveling from the Europe or North America as you have to go through either Sydney or Auckland to get to the capital Nukuʻalofa which is the only international gateway. Then you have to get up to the north of the archipelago to Neiafu in the Vava'u group of islands which is where most of the whale watching is based because of the sheltered bays in that area. But it's worth the journey because the whales are there, their numbers are slowly but steadily increasing and the encounters you can have are simply fantastic as Tonga is one of the few places in the world where a limited number of operators are licensed to take people in the water with the whales. As I normally do on my big trips I have documented my experiences and images on my site - no financial angle here.... I paid for my trips myself and there is no advertising on my site. I just like to write about my experiences, simple as that. There are numerous pages on the humpback whales of Tonga, covering everything from their annual migration to the different types of encounters you can have together with the logistics involved. You can access all that through this link to my site and PM me if you would like any advice based on my personal experience. Don
  15. Last year I spent 10 days in Crystal River, Florida swimming and snorkeling with the manatees. It was a great experience and one I have wanted to do for a number of years, but Florida is so far from my part of the world that I just never was able to do it before. It's also pretty confusing from a distance to understand what is actually required to swim with and photograph the manatees... There seemed to be a lot of rules, but exactly how they apply to underwater photographers was not clear till I got some great help from Bill Oestreich and Marty Senetra at Birds Underwater and Gregory Sweeney - who freely offered advice despite the fact that my dates could not work with his guided trips. It looks like (for once in my life...) my timing was superb as I had a great time and had some real quality moments with these wonderful creatures, plus I was able to understand a lot more about them and their overall, somewhat troubled, relationship with the terrestrial residents of Crystal River - a very interesting situation! My timing was good because access to the manatees is changing and some of the new rules were being put in to place when I went back to the Crystal River in January after a shark trip to the Bahamas. I have written a pretty comprehensive location seven-page guide to Crystal River and the Florida manatees on my site to help others who are interested in experiencing these interesting and photogenic animals. Just follow the links at the bottom of each page or click on the relevant page you are interested in on the sidebar. I also had a 18-page article on the Manatees of the Crystal River published in Anima Mundi magazine, with my favorite photograph from the trip getting the front cover! I will update my site when the ramifications of the proposed changes at the Crystal River go in to place. Don
  16. Hi Bart, thanks for the comments - I really enjoyed both trips to Timor Leste as the coastal sites around dili and to the east and west are good plus Atauro can be really good. My big dissapointment with Atauro was that I did not see any of the big creatures underwater that migrate past the island - particularly so on the west coast. But I guess that's the ocean for you... Don
  17. Last year I went back to Timor Leste after a 4 year gap to spend 10 days diving Atauro Island in the Ombai Strait, about 30kms north of the capital Dili. I had some great dives and have finally gotten round to finishing the editing of my images from that trip and putting together a location guide to diving Atauro Island which consists of an overview of the island itself, why the diving is good there, dive sites on the east coast and west coast plus where to stay if you go there. Here is the link to the overview page and just follow the links at the bottom of each page, or the top menu bar to go to the other pages. Don
  18. X-Ray magazine has just published a 10 page article of mine that documents the incredible diving in New Britain's Kimbe Bay and the extensive efforts being made to protect and conserve it. You can download it on this link to Papua New Guinea, Kimbe Bay – The Coral Crucible
  19. I have finally finished updating the location guide to Tufi in Oro Province, Papua New Guinea. Less well known than Milne Bay and Kimbe Bay, Tufi is actually one of my favorite locations in PNG as it offers really good diving at certain times of the year combined with spectacular above water scenery and, for the more adventurous, some quite special village culture and homestays. I have updated all the pages in the Tufi guide and added new ones based on recent trips - included is an overview of Oro Province and diving Tufi plus there are dedicated pages on Tufi Wharf, the PT Boat wrecks, the really great offshore reefs and diving in Cape Nelson's Fiords. There are also dedicated pages on the B17F Black Jack wreck on Cape Vogel that can be dived from Tufi and the B25 "Pistoff" Mitchell Bomber wreck in Collingwood Bay. I have also included a dedicated section on the quite special village culture around Tufi with pages on village homestays, cultural demonstrations in the villages, the facial tattoos of the Tufi area and the Puri Puri (loosely translated as Black Magic...) men of Tufi. Don
  20. I have just completed revising and updating the location guide to Milne Bay in PNG on my site. I have updated all the pages and added new ones based on my most recent trips. Included is an overview of Milne Bay province, an overview of diving Milne Bay, Tawali dive resort, overview of the north coast dive sites, Dinah's Beach and Deacon's Reef at Lauadi, the famous Milne Bay manta cleaning station Giants@Home and what is probably the best aircraft wreck in PNG the B17F Black Jack plus links to the various articles I have written over the years. I have been visiting PNG regularly for over 15 years now, so this has kind of become a labor of love.... Don
  21. I have finally finished revising and updating my location guide for the Port Moresby and Bootless Bay area of Papua New Guinea. Most divers traveling to PNG try to get through Port Moresby (which is still the only international gateway in to the country...) as quickly as possible because of its bad reputation for raskol gangs and random violence, but there is actually some excellent diving to be had. Port Moresby is also not the hell-hole it is often depicted as - "gritty" and potentially dangerous yes, but manageable with a modicum of common sense in my opinion. My guide provides an overview of Port Moresby, plus links to what else to do there and where to stay. There are overviews of diving in Port Moresby and the main dive sites, Loloata Dive Resort and my two favorite dive sites Suzie's Bommie and the wreck of the Pacific Gas. Don
  22. The latest issue of X-Ray magazine has a 12 page article of mine on diving Uepi Island and Munda in New Georgia, Solomon Islands. I also got the front cover with an image of a small school of mobula rays that I nearly had a heart attack from trying to keep up with them and take the image... You can download a copy of the article on this link if you would like to read more... Don
  23. I moved to Bali about a year ago and have been revisiting all my favorite sites as time and work commitments allow. Just updated my Secret Bay location guide with some new images and information as a result of several trips there this year. Here is the link to the Secret Bay overview page And here is the link to diving Secret Bay Finally... below is one of my favorite images from the last trip - taken with an OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic 20mm. Don
  24. I have just completed a major update to the Tofo location guide on my site with all the information on the dive sites updated and new image galleries added. Here is the link to the intro page - just follow the links at the bottom of each page (or use the menu bar) to navigate around: Diving Mozambique: Tofo's Incredible Mega Fauna Below is my favorite image from my trip to Tofo... Don
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