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Alex_Mustard

Wetpixel Oceanics Trip 2009

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Nice pics; they really are impressive animals with those airplane wing like pectoral fins.

Edited by loftus

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Nice shots Marcus! Is that the new Nikon 10-24? Have you shot other wide rectilinear zooms with the same set-up (e.g. the Nikon or Tokina 12-24, the Sigma 10-20 etc.) and if so, what are you're impressions with the 10-24 compared to the others regarding sharpness?

 

cheers

 

Christian

 

Hi Christian

Yes that's the new Nikon 10-24. I like it. I don't think edge sharpness is an issue. Lighting, composition, camera settings and how you approach marine life (i.e. your own skills) make much more of a difference. I've used the 12-24 and the 10.5 also. The 12-24 in my opinion has been superceded by the 10-24 because it lets you get that much closer. The 10-24 focusses slightly closer also (about 25 cm I think) and is exactly the same size, except it's not internal focussing so the length changes slightly with different focal lengths. It also has slight less distortion than a fisheye like the 10.5 which you can use for different effects. So for me it's replaced my 12-24.

 

Marcus

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Oceanics are dangerous! There was a recent fatality in the Red Sea.

 

http://www.digidiver.net/news/environment/...-a-shark-attack

 

Marcus - There's another WetPixel thread that discusses this in detail. I think you'd agree that none of the divers on our Oceanic White Tip trip was threatened by any of the sharks, despite there being up to 8 in the area. Jim's briefings are pretty clear about interacting with sharks - splashing on the surface as the unfortunate snorkeller would have been doing would be considered a "No, No", especially if there were others feeding/baiting sharks in the area. We all know that sharks are aquatic carnivores, and opportunistic feeders. It is unfortunate that incidents do occur, but given the number of people recreating in oceans around the world, the number of incidents is exceedingly small!

 

Martin

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Oceanics are dangerous!

 

People are way more dangerous. I'll take my chances with the sharks ...

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Finally some more:

 

Day 5

 

We started early and motored out into the blue. The sun was out and the sea was continuing to diminish. I decided to risk a day without sea sickness pills. I’d started out on some called Bovine, but discovered that a medicine called Dramaqueen seemed to suit me better. Anyway, today it looked like a no-pill day.

 

We dropped the bait and began fishing. Our aim wasn’t really to catch fish, but the fishing activity in this area was known to attract sharks. We only had two lines out, but as we passed the bait there was a school of Mahi-Mahi or dorado/dolphin-fish near the surface and immediately the reels were spinning. Americans cause fishing rods, fishing poles for some reason, but not being a fan of fishing I gave them a wide berth. As soon as the fish were hooked we had oceanics chasing them. It must be pretty stressful for the fish to be hooked up and being chased by an oceanic. Nick and Jeff did sterling work reeling the fish in before the sharks could get to them and the Lama landed them below.

 

Mahi-Mahi on the line:

post-713-1244652636.jpg

 

The fishing worked a treat and Jim guided the Shear Water close to bait and soon we had three oceanics circling. Immediately we hooked another pair of Mahi-Mahi and the guys pulled them in. Then again a third pair. The Mahi-Mahi were not used as bait and were enjoyed by the piscivores on board. Fresh fish would probably get the sharks a bit too jacked up, so we tend to use older offcuts in the crates. It was amazing. In all the commotion it was about an hour until we got back to the bait and started diving, by which time we were down to two sharks, and more importantly had lost the one with bling – aka as pilotfish.

 

Oceanic and pilotfish follows the boat as we fish:

post-713-1244652783.jpg

 

The calm conditions made it an excellent dive to stay right up just below the surface and work this into compositions. Marcus and a few others tried some split levels too. Breaking the surface certainly attracted the attention of the sharks, but this helped people get some impressive images. I decided to drop a little deeper and make use of the fact that the sun was at last shining to shoot some silhouettes with sunrays coming around the shark.

 

Marcus at the surface shooting splits:

post-713-1244652832.jpg

 

The oceanics will really investigate anything on the surface. I saw individuals eat a banana skin tossed overboard and also the top of a pineapple! As always on shark dives we dressed entirely in black and wore black hoods and gloves. The ninja look is not just cool, but serves to differentiate you from the light coloured bait. One of the main prey items of these oceanics are the Mahi-Mahi, and as a result they really reacted to bright colours (when hooked these fish flash bright green/yellow/blue). We were told not to use bright blue fins, but Mike the chef, dived in his and got lots of attention from the sharks. I was in the water at the time and it was amazing to see how they were instantly attracted to his feet. His fins are not coloured blue anymore – they are now black, courtesy of a sharpie marker.

 

Mike's fins attract attention:

post-713-1244652584.jpg

 

By the afternoon we were up to 5 oceanics and as the bait drifted over the shelf we picked up a couple of silkies, a couple of duskies and a handful of Caribbean reef sharks.This gave some variety and the duskies in particular seemed to enjoy charging the dome. I think that this species is very attracted to anything shiny, such as a glinting domeport, because the last time I photographed them my shiny fins were getting a lot of attention. Much better to have them coming at the camera.

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Here is one of my photos. I like this one because I was trying to find different angles on the shark - here I tried a tight crop in a vertical format:

 

post-713-1244652978.jpg

 

D700 + 17-35mm +3 dioptre @ 25m. F11 @ 1/125th. ISO 200.

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Day 6

 

The weather was beginning to get worse for our final day with the Oceanics and it was overcast for most of the day, with the wind picking up too. On the positive side we had lots of sharks. I counted 9 oceanics at one point – which is a lot to keep your eye on. But the best news was that one of them had bling. Finally, an oceanic with pilotfish. And she was friendly too, posing for everyone’s camera all day long. BTW, all the oceanics we saw were female. Males must be in a different area. None of us cared as we all focused on getting the best pimp my oceanic pictures.

 

Blinged up Oceanic from above:

post-713-1244653965.jpg

 

With so many sharks around these dives were much less relaxing. The key is to keep eye contact with the sharks all the time. They love to sneak up on you if you don’t watch them, and we had some big, fat, pregnant females around today. It took a lot of concentration watching the sharks and pointing them out to others. But it did provide a chance to frame sharks with more sharks in the background, or several sharks in the foreground at once!

 

We also had mahi-mahi and tuna around the bait at times. Neither came in particularly close for photographs. But it was great to see them. As the day wore on and the clouds got thicker I even bumped my ISO up to 400 to combat the gloom. It also helped to shoot horizontals or use longer lenses to avoid getting a white surface at the top of shots.

 

Heavy cloud meant ISO 400 was the way to go as the day went on:

post-713-1244654074.jpg

 

This was not my best day on board, because it was the day I put my back out. Sadly this does not involve any tales of excitement with the sharks. Instead I was opening the fridge on the bridge of the Shear Water to get a ice lolly. My back deteriorated through the day, to the point that after the final dive I was screaming like a little girl, unable to move – grabbing the ladder up to the bridge for support. Anyway, enough of that. The disappointing side of it was that it left me unable to participate in much after this point. And later in the trip earned me the nickname Happy Feet (after the dancing penguin) because I was always walking on the spot to keep my back loose.

 

We finished diving in the late afternoon and began our overnight steam up to pig beach. On the way out we had visited in the afternoon, so I was keen to return in the morning to have the sunlight in the other direction.

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Day 7

We were heading homeward now, but still had more excitement in store. Today the plan was pigs in the morning and iguanas in the afternoon. But frustratingly luck was not entirely with us (also by this point I was not in good shape and do not really have any images to illustrate the diary – hopefully someone else can add them).

 

We wanted to return to pig beach for two reasons. Our previous visit has been in the afternoon, when the sun shines on to the beach. Great for shooting pigs against the beach, but a morning visit would allow us to shoot pigs with the ocean behind them. Which I think makes the pictures of them swimming all the more incredulous. Second, we hadn’t actually had much sun on our previous visit, so the morning would provide a chance to get some colour in the water.

 

Despite the poor weather the previous afternoon we were blessed with high octane sunlight for the pigs. But unfortunately, soon after the gang got in the water, I had to sit/stand this one out, another group of people arrive and dumped a load of food on the beach for the swine. Damn it. All the peanut butter on the Shear Water wasn’t going to tempt them in the water now. How fickle underwater photography subjects could be.

 

Chatting on the beach, one of the locals told Jim about a “great place for iguanas” and the good news was that it was close by. Meaning we could get there soon and have more time on land to shoot them. Once again MY Swine Flu was inflated and used to ferry cameras ashore. Frustratingly this new spot was not exactly teeming with lizards. There were a few reptiles around and people got some images (Capt Brian got some very nice ones) but generally the place wasn’t up to the standard of Jim’s usual spot. Once again I stayed on the boat.

 

So a slightly frustrating day. Good weather, but elusive photo opportunities. We motored off through the night to Bimini and the promise of encounters with spotted Atlantic dolphins.

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Great shots Alex, I knew you would not disappoint us. The blue in your shots always seem to be perfect. What shutter speed were you shooting.

 

All the best, Stew

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Great shots Alex, I knew you would not disappoint us. The blue in your shots always seem to be perfect. What shutter speed were you shooting.

 

To be honest the conditions were perfect! If you can't get a good blue in 50m viz in oceanic water. It was a little different off the south coast (of England) at the weekend!

 

Different settings for different pictures. A major factor in good blues it really nailing the exposure. Happy to give settings - which picture(s) in particular?

 

Alex

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Day 8

The final day of the trip started with us approaching Bimini with Atlantic spotted dolphins on our minds. The wind was blowing again and the sea was a little choppy, but no sooner had we reached the waypoint marked “Dolphins” on the Shear Waters navigation system then we were joined by a small pod.

 

The plan was to motor about a little, get them in a playful mood on the bow and then jump in with them. Mike climbed up on the bow and relayed the action back to the snorkellers waiting on the back deck. “Jump! Jump! Jump!” and everyone tumbled into the water. The dolphins whizzed about and then were gone. A few people got some shots off, Nick bagged a thoroughly decent effort, but quite a few of the group didn’t see them at all. I watched on from the bridge.

 

We tried a few more times, but the dolphins were not in a playful mood. So we decided to cut our losses and head back to West Palm Beach in time to make a dusk dive at high tide on the famous Blue Heron Bridge.

 

The bridge has Wi-Fi so I shot some images of everyone kitting up and posted them in this thread. To save you checking back here is the post again!

 

Back in West Palm Beach now. Most of the boat is diving at Blue Heron Bridge right now. Sadly I am not - having put my back out (ouch) a couple of days ago. We're not allowed ashore either - until we have cleared customs in the morning - but the gang are still out there getting the shots.

 

Don contemplates a night dive.

post-713-1243129001.jpg

 

Martin gears up.

post-713-1243129019.jpg

 

Claus and Barbara head in.

post-713-1243129311.jpg

 

Everyone else gets ready.

post-713-1243129333.jpg

 

And that was that. A most enjoyable and productive trip all round. We didn't have the best of luck with the weather, and personally I wish I had not hurt my back so badly (95% recovered now). Looking forward to the next one.

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I decided to risk a day without sea sickness pills. I’d started out on some called Bovine, but discovered that a medicine called Dramaqueen seemed to suit me better.

 

 

Alex, is it possible that you meant "DRAMAMINE" instead of "Dramaqueen"?

 

There are just so many comedic rejoinders to this that I just don't know where to start. :P

 

Imagine that, after all these years I finally find out all those weird girls I dated were probably taking Dramaqueen pills! :)

 

ROTFLMAO, I have not had such a good laugh since I don't know when. :notworthy:

 

Sorry to hijack the thread, I'll try to recompose myself and rejoin the original gist of the thread, now. :dance:

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To be honest the conditions were perfect! If you can't get a good blue in 50m viz in oceanic water. It was a little different off the south coast (of England) at the weekend!

 

 

Alex

 

I know I was at swanage and the viz and surge was ridiculous. Louise's dive profile was 1.2 metres for 3 minutes. I managed a full hour before i decided i was not going to be nailing anything worth keeping.

 

Stew

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Different settings for different pictures. A major factor in good blues it really nailing the exposure. Happy to give settings - which picture(s) in particular?

 

Alex

 

Day 6.

 

I have recently purchased the Huey Pro calibrator and after mucking about with it and getting things to look really good, I now realise I will have to go back to all my old RAW files and re edit them as a lot of them are full of the dreaded red hue.

 

All tips appreceiated.

 

Stew

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I know I was at swanage and the viz and surge was ridiculous. Louise's dive profile was 1.2 metres for 3 minutes. I managed a full hour before i decided i was not going to be nailing anything worth keeping.

 

Stew

 

So Mr Smith, you dipped you toe in UK waters :P

Any keepers?

 

Tristan

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So Mr Smith, you dipped you toe in UK waters :)

Any keepers?

 

Tristan

 

Yes and I didnt even get wet. The extra few pounds i have put on seem to have help to fill the 7mm a treat. The surge was horrid there and the viz was 2 ft max. Also went to Portland the week before looking for you know what, no luck there with the searching for the thingies, but did see plenty of pipefish, cuttlefish and a scorpionfish. Of course i didnt have the camera that week.

 

PM sent... I thought you had disappeared off the planet.

 

Stew

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