Thursday, January 31, 2008

Back to work...

I've got charters from today through Monday (OK, well I have the Superbowl off so far) at least and there's no way I'm not working them. I seem to be getting around just fine, just aches quite a bit.

Today's charter was fun. It was just one person, he booked several days well in advance, and I'm not going to cancel on him just because of not getting other customers for the day. He got to see some VERY COOL stuff.... Dragon moray, Magnificent Snake eel, Great Barracuda, 2 (holy cow) male Whitley's boxfish, as well as having a group of passing Spinner Dolphins descend to right over his head... I wish I was leading the dives. Bob is off to Thailand for some diving, so Cathy's leading all the dives 'til I'm back in the water.

This was a nice little coral head. If you take a look on the right side of the head you'll see an Arc-eyed Hawkfish patiently waiting for something small to swoop down on. It's easy to pass coral heads by, but if you take the time to look down in them sometimes you'll find some very interesting critters.

The weather on the water was gorgeous today. Early on we could see snow on top of Mauna Loa, the clouds later appeared up mauka for some late afternoon rain uphill. Apparently the other side of the island has been quite wet the last day or two. The diver reported 73 degrees on his dive computer... burr, winter's here.



Sunday, January 27, 2008

Scuba Diving in Kona Hawaii.....

Hi again,

The last post was sorta commercial, but hopefully informative for some, so I thought I'd bump it down a post.

I really don't post many pics of divers doing their thing. Part of it is I don't want to infringe on anyone's privacy and lots of times I take pictures with divers in them I'm close enough to really tell who they are, and more often than not, when I take a shot from a distance it comes out crummy to where I can't photoshop it well. Typically they get tons of red in them after the fixes, these I took out as much red as I could. I'm hoping with the RAW function on the Canon G9 (which I really didn't use on my Olympus sp-350) I'll be able to get a relatively accurate color of the deeper scenes.

Diving in Kona is different from many places in that nearly all of our dive sites have both deep and shallow water. We can take the group down the dropoffs (which usually start at about 35-40 feet and drop to beyond recreational diving depths) for a while to explore and look for larger fish and occasional oddball critters, then spend the bulk of the dive up in the shallower reef, which typically richer in live coral and it's associated fish/critter colletion. This can make for some nice longer and more varied dives than if we had a flat "X" feet deep bottom to dive on.

For those following the torn hamstring misadventure - my leg's coming along well from my earlier injury so I'm heading down to the boat tomorrow to crawl around on the boat for a while and make sure it doesn't affect my ability to work. I'm planning on working again this week if all goes as expected.



Friday, January 25, 2008

Starting Underwater Photography - Underwater Housings for Digital Cameras


I get a fair number of inquiries about which camera to get for starting out with underwater photography, so I'll chime in with a few of my thoughts here.

Many people think you have to get a dedicated underwater camera, while this may be the best for some people, it isn't the only way to go. Oftentimes you can pick up a great new camera, with all the bells and whistles, and it'll have a corresponding manufacturer designed underwater housing that is good to about 130-140 feet or so. In many cases you can even find a housing available for a digital camera you may already own. There are housings avaiable for many Sony, Nikon, Olympus, Casio, Canon and Fuji cameras already on the market, and they seem to be committed to supporting housings in the future. there's probablay a couple others I have forgotten. Below are some examples available at You can refresh the page for more examples, or I suspect do a search for specific cameras and housings when you get to a results page. Note: Some of the lower priced housings here are geared to snorkeling depths, make sure to read the fine print.

Remember, each housing is generally made for a specific model of camera. If you have camera and are looking for the housing, you can always reverse the process and look up the camera and see if the housing is available as an accessory. Older models may be problematic as they get discontinued as cameras are phased out.

Having picked up our first digital camera and housing in about 2000/2001, Pat and I have been upgrading as time goes so I'm semi-familiar with what's out there. I'm not going to recommend specific cameras(The big photo show is at the end of the month - everyone will probably introduce new cameras and today's stuff will be out of date shortly anyway), but Canon, Olympus and Fuji seem to be the most popular with the semi-serious underwater hobyists. I wouldn't hesitate to house a Nikon, Casio, or Sony either though. Many of the more popular point and shoots even have underwater settings built in these days.

Some basic recommendations I'd give are...

LCD screen, get it as big as possible. You'll probably want at least a 2.5 inch screeen, LCD screens that size and up are much more forgiving to middle-aged eyes, plus you'll see more detail in what you're doing while taking the photo.

Optical zoom is more important than digital zoom, you are probabaly looking at 3X-6X or so optical zoom for underwater, although I've heard people are happy with their superzoom cameras underwater, they just don't use the full zoom capacity underwater.

If you are going to be serious about it, and have access to nicer image editing programs, you might consider getting a camera with RAW. At the very least I'd recommend getting a camera with a "Manual" or "Custom" white balance setting.

Many people think they have to invest in external strobes and the whole shebang right up front. That's really not the case. Take a look through my archives, there's not a picture on the blog yet that used an external strobe. They were all done with the onboard flash or with natural light. People who know what to look for can tell if an external strobe was used or not in some shots, but most people who aren't really into the hobby can't or won't care. External strobes will allow you to do more things, and get you well lit shots from further away, but you can always add them later if you don't right away.

Many of the underwater housings suitable for diving depths are running in the $150 to $225 range and corresponding cameras can run anywhere from $150 and up, but you can often get into a pretty decent little setup from $300 to $650 these days. There are higher end cameras and housings available of course.... it seems once you get hooked there's always the desire to upgrade.

Anyway, once you've got your equipment together, the best thing you can do is get to know your camera, and practice.... It's almost a lock you'll be disappointed with your initial results at first, I was, but with practice you'll get to know what you can and can't do with what you have.

OK, so I saw a cool underwater video today,,,

It was linked on a message board I check. Click here to go to the video page. It's basically about invertebrates, some spectacular deep sea stuff and shallow water cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish and octopus). It's very interesting, and if you watch all 5 minutes of it you'll see why we don't see octopus on every dive even though they're probably out in the open.

This is a nice nudibranch I think I posted another picture of way back in '06. We see them on occasion here and typically call them Strawberry Nudibranchs, but I do think there are a couple closely related species that get called that. This one in particular confuses me because it has characterics of both a Pustulose Phyllidia and a Rosy Phyllidia.



Thursday, January 24, 2008

testing an animated gif...

OK, if you click on it, it works, but otherwise no go. I might be able to load in in the sidebar or header though, getting too late to experiment with that. I just found out photoshop cs3 will work on videos. I'm trying to create an animated GIF for an avatar.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

NOAA survey says Big Island has most live coral...

Here's a link to an online version of a news article I saw last week.... on their recent coral survey of the Hawaiian Islands. It basically says the Big Island has live coral covering 57% of it's shallow coastline. The print article I saw also mentioned the bulk of that was on the west side (Kona,Kohala) and the other islands average somewhere in the mid 20s percentage-wise in coverage.

If any of you are interested in some of the specifics of the survey, you can click on this link to get to an interactive map of the islands and check out maps of coral structure around the islands.

The picture above is of a day octopus I took at Pawai Bay the other week. I couldn't quite get the focus on him I wanted, he wasn't interested in sticking around and posing. A little personal health update- Saw the doctor yesterday and he's thinking tears at the top of the hamstring and down behind the knee, but nothing that won't heal over the next little while - that's good news as surgery is required for complete tears. I'm now walking gingerly, yay! Jogging by next week... not hardly, but hopefully walking normally, it might be a few weeks before I don't have to pay attention to what I'm doing as to not reinjure the hammy.



Monday, January 21, 2008

One of my best pics of a Scrambled Egg Nudibranch...

This was taken with the Canon G9 using RAW. When I've taken shots of these guys with my other cameras, or with this one without using RAW, it's been tough to get the right exposure. Photoshop CS3's RAW editor allows you to change over all exposure, and cut back on things that are too highlighted, as well as other goodies. It worked quite nicely with this particular pic, some of my others were still not really salvageable.

Sorry, not much to update on the diving conditons as I've been flat on my back for 3 days with a torn hamstring. Now that the swelling is down to where both legs are the same size I want to see a doctor that works with muscle tears who can say if it's a stage 2 or stage 3 hamstring tear as I do have some knotting in the muscle, but it may just be residual swelling. I'm hoping it's a stage 2 as no time's a good time for a stage 3 and a stage 2 tear should heal up enough in the next week or two to get me back to work.

Three days without checking my e-mail was interesting.... nearly a thousand offers for genital enlargements, Russian girlfriends and drugs at cheap prices - I didn't win any international lotteries this weekend though, bummer. I did manage to read one interesting newspaper article the other day though, I'll link it on the next post if I can find a link... It'll give me something substantiative to write about.



Thursday, January 17, 2008

Boy, do I do my share of dumb things.... Plus an underwater slideshow...

Yesterday Pat and I were going to go out on a little holo holo adventure on the boat.... ended up spending a large part of the day at the ER. I'm mostly in bed for the next few days with a torn hamstring. Ice, ibuprophen, hydrocodone and lots of sleep are what I have to look forward to for the next day or so. I get a new set of crutches out of the deal though. I'm hoping I'm only on them for a few days and can get back to walking speed shortly.

I hobbled to the computer to check my mail, and as long as I'm up I thought I'd try posting a short slideshow. I downloaded some free software off the internet to do it, my big gripe so far is I can't figure out how to check the progress of it while editing, it seems as though it's gotta be posted just to look at it, I'm probably missing something. Anyway... lots of fish pics to look at, most of them are on the blog somewhere. It can take a while to load, so be patient, and I'm not seeing a "turn off sound" button so my apologies to anyone who doesn't care for the music.



Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hawaiian Angelfish....

The last post was sort of a lead in to this one. I went for a short Captain's dive on the charter during the surface interval yesterday (since Cathy's also a licensed Captain, it's legal, as a licensed Captain must remain on board at all times on charters) and managed to get my first decent shot of a Fisher's Angelfish (Centropyge fisheri). Hawaii has basically four angelfish that you might find while diving - Flame, Bandit, Potter's and Fisher's - and a couple of other species that can be seen by researchers in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. Our angelfish species are basically dwarf/pygmy species, although the Bandit (pictured a couple posts below) is a "large" angel species, and are typically shy and dart into the coral when you try to photograph them.

The Fisher's angel only grows to about two inches in length, typically lives in rubble below 60' or so and darts into the rubble on approach. It's probably something most divers won't see unless they're specifically looking for them... once you know where to look you can see tons of them at many dive sites. This is a fairly accurate color for most of the one's you can see, but sometimes there are individuals with brighter coloring, more blue, deeper reds and a brighter yellow on the tail. Anyway, I was happy to finally get this shot.

This pic was taking at Pawai Bay. It's a great spot in that it was one of the first refuges (no colleccting) here and there's lots of life. On yesterday's dives we were able to hear the whales - they've started to sing again - as an additional treat. We were just coming off a big overnight swell, but it was quite diveable yesterday. Water temperature is currently 75 degrees.... brrrr.

'Til next time,


Monday, January 14, 2008

Moorsh Idol (Zanclus Cornutus) is one of our more popular reef fish...

People are always saying they saw a pretty angelfish while snorkeling or diving. The fish they're probably talking about (pictured) is more closely related to a surgeon/tang, and similar to butterflyfish. The angelfish we do have here is nothing like the typical freshwater angelfish you find at the aquarium store.... But then again, who's in charge of classifying these fish anyway? They're probably wrong.... how come saltwater angelfish look nothing like freshwater angelfish?



Friday, January 11, 2008

Whoohoo!! I got to dive today....

... and my sinuses held up.

We had some crazy surf come up two nights ago. About 10PM it started pounding enough we could hear it fairly well from the house (we're two miles up the road from the coast, maybe at least a mile in a direct line), our friends at the bay said it shook their house. Yesterday was blown out, some of the dive companies went out, but I had nothing scheduled, I'm glad I didn't have to make the call. This morning things had settled down enough to get out of the harbor and make it to Pawai Bay, off the Old Airport Park, where the diving conditions were actually pretty OK from the boats.

I played Captain on the dives and was able to do a short dive in between dives once we reached the second mooring. Pat (my wife, who was onboard since it was a very light load today - only one customer) joined me for a few minutes on the dive.

Pat noticed a pair of Bandit Angels (Apolemichthys arcuatus) down at 70-80 feet. We went down to take photos. I'm rather proud of this one.... it's tough to explain to someone UNDERWATER that you want them in the photo, and they need to align themselves so they are behind a moving fish while you take a shot - especially when you've never tried it or talked to them about it before. I found out something new about the Canon, with the underwater housing, if you forget to use the flash diffuser, the flash works differently - lotsa backscatter if there's much particulate matter in the water (mostly cloned out in photoshop in this case) and sort of only lights up a band on the photo. In this case it worked out in that the band that was lit up went through the fish and my wife.

Anyway, conditions were actually pretty nice down in Pawai Bay today. Highlights of the dives were a manta ray, tons of raccoon butterflyfish, pyramid butterflyfish, a couple of free swimming octopus, the Bandit Angels, trumpet fish of various colors, and more.

Kona water temperature report. Things have cooled off since I last dove, prior to the sinus issues. I saw 75 today, down from 79 in early December.



Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Taking photos underwater can be a bit of a challenge...

I've been wanting to get a "good" shot of one of these guys for a long time. This isn't it quite yet. So many of the fish dart about so much that it's tough to get them focused. The closer you are the tougher it is, too far out then the flash doesn't get enough light to the subject.... this photo has just a bit too much movement for my tastes. One of these days!!!

This is a juvenile Yellowtail Coris Wrasse (Coris Gaimard). On occasion, people not familiar with the Hawaiin fish will mistake it for a clown fish (Hawaii doesn't have clown fish, I believe we've just a tad to cool of a water temperature for them to reproduce successfully). Typically we'll see the Yellowtail Coris in this coloration up to about 3 inches or so. As they grow, they will lose the white stripes, start adding blue and develop a yellow tail. If you take a look through all the archives, or click on the "wrasse" label below, you should find a shot or two of larger specimens.



Speaking of Neti Pots....

Quick post. I thought it funny to see this as the top link on Yahoo this morning after my mentioning it two days ago. NY Times neti pot story My sinuses do feel better already. Hopefully I'll be back to diving in the next few days.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Camera RAW and underwater photography with my Canon G9

So I'm sitting at my computer and wanted to look at a document and see that I had a couple of RAW pictures in the file that I hadn't looked at. I thought I'd updated Photoshop lately and maybe they now support the RAW format my camera uses, I opened Photoshop and the pictures do now show.

For those of you who don't know what RAW is, basically consider it as a "digital negative" which holds all the information the camera sees at the time, no JPEG compression and such. Not all cameras offer RAW, but it's becoming more common in the higher end point and shoot cameras these days. It takes up a lot of memory compared to JPEG, but if you have an editor to open it (without the editor, you will see nothing as computers don't automatically recognize RAW) with, it'll do a lot of things easily that are tough to do in JPEG (at least tough if you are like me and not a Photoshop whiz).

The picture above is this picture after a quick trip through the RAW editor in Photoshop. With the RAW editor you can use a few quick toggles to adjust your white balance, blacks, contrast, clarity, and a couple other goodies and have a pretty good picture to send to your regular Photoshop screen in the press of a button. In this case all I did with the picture at the top was tweak it for 20 seconds or so in RAW then click to send it to the regular editor to crop (bottom is also a crop of a larger picture) and do a slight sharpen unmask and a resize.

This looks like a VERY easy way to get around underwater white balance. I'll try shooting more RAW to see if that's the case.

Speaking of shooting pics underwater.... I wanna dive.... I've had a sinus thing going on for about a month and have been doing nothing but Captaining lately. I had read on a message board a few weeks back a thread about saline sinus rinses, people were raving about them opening up thier sinuses and some even thought it helped with their equalization troubles. Two days ago I had a physician's assistant on board and mentioned the sinus issue and was recommended to try a "netti" pot. Now this may be more info than you want to know, but I picked one up. You can think of it as a nasal enema, but you might prefer to think of it as more of a tea party where nobody else showed up so you stick the spout up your nose and pour just to see what happens (not that I've ever done that). Anyway, it's sort of gross, but after all the raves about it on the scuba diving board I thought I'd pass it along in case anyone's having sinus issues, it may help. If you still can't quite figure it out, go to and do a search for netti pot, there's lots of visual examples there. Hopefully it'll work for me and I'll be back to leading dives, or at least diving for photos, shortly.

The above pic is of a Filefish that is being cleaned by a Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse.



Saturday, January 05, 2008

Aloha Theater and Aloha Angel Cafe in Kainaliu, Kona, Hawaii

I thought I'd talk a bit about a local South Kona Landmark. The Aloha Theater's been around for ages. They hold plays, host musicians, and screen the occasional movie (usually independant films, we saw "My Big fat Greek wedding" there when it was too small to hit the big theaters).

There's been a restaurant there since we've moved here, it was originally a breakfast and lunch spot and added dinner after an ownership change and slight name change to it's current Aloha Angel Cafe. Anyway, it's long been known for good food and Hawaiian time service (slow service is very common here). We decided to give it a try the other week and had a great breakfast and prompt service. They put out a nice breakfast, Pat and I both had one of the day's specials... this day it was Prime rib, eggs and potatoes... yummy... it ran in the 13 buck range if I recall correctly. I wouldn't hesitate to return, especially if the service continues to be that prompt.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Happy New year!

Just touching bases... we've been really busy the last 10-12 days or so. The diving has been pretty good, there were a few predicted swells that really didn't cause much surf here in Kona. I've got a night dive tonight. We were skunked on the dive last week, but apparently there were seven mantas on the dive a couple of days back.

The photo above is of White Margin Nudibranchs (Glossodoris rufomarginata). We see them quite often on overhangs, archways or caves. Pat took it on a dive at "Golden Arches". The best way to spot them is to look for their spiral shaped egg masses, if you see an egg mass the "parents" are generally nearby.