Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides phthirophagus)

Here's a shot of a Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse. This particular colorful little fish is endemic to Hawaii, not found in other parts of the world. Other species of cleaner wrasses can be found throughout the tropical Indo/Pacific, I'm not sure about the Red Sea but I suspect there's a similar species there. They are not found in the Caribbean, although there is a neon goby with similar markings and feeding habits.

Cleaner wrasses perform a valuable service to the reef community. Their diet consists primarily of parasites. Fish will solicit a "cleaning" from the wrasse, and the wrasse will work the fish over, removing anything that shouldn't belong there. You'll see even larger predator fish such as eels and groupers willingly let the cleaner wrasses enter their mouths and gills to pick at parasites.

I first learned about these guys back in my aquarium days... they're poor aquarium inhabitants. Their diet is primarily parasites and they typically starve to death in aquariums. This is a fish definitely best left on the reef.

I snapped this one on the spur of the moment as a damsel was begging for a cleaning. The new Olympus Pen was able to lock focus (well, close anyway) in a flash. I haven't been able to get a shot of these guys within several feet in the past as they dart practically every split second when you get close. I'm hoping some afternoon when I have time to really focus on getting a crisp clear shot of these.

Water temp is still hovering in that 78 degree range. We were hoping for a little higher by now, but apparently there's talk of a la Nina current coming in this year that'll keep things cooler.

Busy week this next week, day charters and a couple of night charters. We had 15 mantas on the night charter last week, heard it was around 20 last night... the manta dive is really hot right now. Things are starting to slow down, tail end of the summer tourist season... it's been a madhouse the last 3-4 weeks on that dive.



Saturday, August 21, 2010

First results with my Olympus e-pl1 underwater...

I took a quick dive yesterday with the new camera and underwater housing. First thoughts... a flash would be helpful... adn I need to shoot RAW. It was a very gray afternoon, and there was a pretty strong south swell, so the Place of Refuge was a bit more mucked up than usual... probably 60 foot of viz in the shallows and 80-90 at depth.

Wow! The camera reacted quickly, locks focus practically instantaneously compared to the cameras I've used in the past. I was using the underwater settings that are hidden on the camera... Olympus does a very poor job at explaining how to get at them in their manual, had to look it up on a message board, it's easy to get to and they have an underwater macro and underwater wide angle mode you can toggle back and forth between at will... more on that in another post. I spent most of the time just pointing at things using the underwater macro mode.

I took a bunch of photos, some of them turned out OK. The biggest issue was the dark day and lack of light made for typical underwater blueish photos. Without shooting in RAW, where you can adjust the white balance after the fact, and not taking time to custom white balance the photos underwater as I was taking them, I had to rely on my weak photoshop skills to get the proper colors on the fish. This photo of an Ornate Butterfly fish turned out pretty OK.

I'm off to the shop for the afternoon... open noon 'til 6 on weekends.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Olympus Pen PT-EP01 underwater housing for Oly's E-PL1 camera review...


I just received the housing for my Olympus E-pl1 camera. I refused the urge to go down the hill and do a dive with it today, tomorrow morning I'll have to. I took the time to read the manual, it actually comes with a reasonable sized manual, something I haven't seen with a lot of housings I've had before.

My first impressions are that it's well made. In the box comes the housing, o-ring, o-ring grease, dessicant packs, rubber LCD hood, a rigid lens cover. It also comes with an application for DEPP insurance. DEPP insures gear sets and underwater photo equipment. The housing features a new-ish locking system that Olympus has come with in the last couple of years that seems pretty good. The back of the housing is a transparent polycarbonate type of material. My only gripe is that only the bottom part of the back is polished to clear so you can readily see the o-ring and check for moisture... I'd like to see it polished to where you could see the entire o-ring to check on your seal. The buttons on the back of the housing are really nice, they're larger than I'm used to on other housings, and they're labeled nicely - almost better than the buttons on the camera are labeled.

I was happy to see the lens cover and LCD hood as the company that sold the housing had those available as "replacements" and I decided not to purchase them at the time. "Replacement" to me implies they come with the original purchase, but if you look up the housing on Olympus' site, they have the zoom gear ring listed as a "replacement" item, yet it does not come with the original purchase. I think Oly ought to change their website to say "optional" on the zoom gear, as the way they have it makes it unclear as to whether it comes with the original purchase or not. It doesn't. I did pick up the zoom gear as a separate purchase. The zoom gears are basically rubber gears that fit tightly around the camera lens which matches up with a small gear on the front of the housing so you can use the zoom. It's an extra 45 bucks, but well worth it. Different sizes of zoom gears are available, as the housing has been made to accept a couple different lenses and the gear needs to fit the specific lens.

The other purchase at the time of the order was the macro lens mount. It's a rigid plastic piece that fits over the front port of the housing and will accept 67 mil threaded lenses. I have an Inon 67 mil macro lens already so I'm set there. The lens adaptor is another 45 bucks... it all adds up.

The housing itself is pretty big compared to the Canon housing I had for my G9, but it's quite comparable to the size of the Ikelite housing I had for my Olympus 8080 several years back. The Olympus E-pl1 is one of the smallest interchangeable lens cameras available these days, and the housing is also. Olympus could have made the housing a bit smaller by eliminating the space for the optional electronic viewfinder. I'm sure they put that in there to appease the people who love using viewfinders rather than using the LCD. In my opinion the LCDs with live view have sort of revolutionized underwater photography, I suspect we'll see less use of viewfinders in the future. Even with it's somewhat largish size, it's quite a bit smaller than most of the DSLR housings we see come on the boat. Price of the housing is $599, I found it for $75 less. It sounds like a lot of money, but the typical DSLR housing begins at around $1200 and can top a couple grand easily. Olympus has made it so you can get an interchangeable lens system underwater for what has been the price of just an economy housing in the past.

Unlike most of the smaller point and shoot housings, this housing is not made for use of the onboard flash for taking photos. It's set up so the onboard flash can trigger a remote flash.. that's another expense down the line. For now I'll be shooting with available light.

I can't wait to get it wet.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Video of Alii Drive in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii....

Quality's not real good on this, I haven't figured out how to successfully upload a full size file to Youtube yet. I took a drive down Alli Drive some time in July and set the camera on the dash. Here's a little video from about the Royal Kona Resort to the King Kamehameha Hotel, that's pretty much the main business sector tourist-wise in Kailua. Hopefully it'll give you somewhat of an idea of what it's like here, it's a cute/quaint seaside town.

I've been real busy doing charters, not much time for anything else the last two weeks. Water conditions have been terriffic except for an occasional unexpected south breeze popping up.

I should be getting back to posting new fish photos again soon. Took advantage of the busy weeks and paid off my camera, the housing's on order... I may have to get it wet this weekend.



Sunday, August 08, 2010

Kaloko Honokohau National Park. Exploring Kailua-Kona's backyard...

This morning I decided to check out the trail at the Honokohau harbor parking lot that leads to the Kaloko Honokohau National Park. It's a trail back by the Kona sailing club lot,it's clearly marked. I checked it out the first month or two I first moved here and really haven't done it since. It runs from the back lot and winds it's way through the National Park. A short way in to the trail you"ll come across a split in the trail. One directions goes to a large tidepool and canoe house and the beach and the other leads to the trail going to the visitor center you access from the highway, and to the beach and Ai makapa fish pond.

I passed on walking to the visitor center, just checked out the beach and the pond. The beach here is one of the longest on the west side of the Big Island. It's probably at least a half mile long, maybe longer. The photo doesn't do the sand justice, there's a fair amount of black sand mixed in with the off-white/brown sand typical of sandy beaches here so it looks a bit "dirtier" in the photo than it is. This was taken at 9:45 on a Sunday morning... it's just 2 guys fishing, a dog, and me. Not a heck of a lot of decent sandy beaches in Hawaii see that kind of lack of activity on a weekend. I suspect it picks up over the course of the day, but considering it's just 2-3 miles from a major tourist center it seems quite uncrowded. It's not a frolic in the water kind of beach, but it's a good sunning beach. Back when I moved here they were working on eliminating the nudity, there's a sign reminding people of that as you enter the park. I think they've done it, was kind of news in the area back around the turn of the century (now I really feel old.... one of my grandfathers was a kid "back around the turn of the century" last time that phrase came up).

Back when I checked out the beach years ago, I just walked along the water and had no idea the fish pond was just the other side of the small dunes of the beach. I've checked out the more accessible Kaloko ponds below Costo several times, but wasn't aware of this one 'til I was training someone to scuba dive that had a pool at their house above Costco. You can clearly see it from up there and it's much larger than Kaloko pond. I'd like to catch it for photos on a clear quiet morning. There's some water foul around, and some kind of fish jumped in the distance when I was there. The Hawaiian's used to catch or trap fish and keep them in the ponds along the coast for food.

I didn't walk the entire park. think you can make it all the way to the Kaloko end from there if you want. It's a nice little cultural walk.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Yay! Humpy's Alehouse restaurant opened in Kailua! Kona just got another good restaurant (I hope it's good anyway)....

Whoohoo!!! I've been waiting for this restaurant for almost a year. I'd never wandered into the Hard Rock Cafe the first several years I lived here, then finally did and kind of liked it... then it went out of business and there's been a big hole in the middle of the shopping/restaurant area of Kailua for a couple of years. It was announced that Humpy's Alehouse of Anchorage Alaska was going to put in a restaurant here and it sounded quite interesting. I talked to several of my Alaskan customers and friends and they'd mentioned it was as pretty good place up there that seemed quite busy... sounded like a good addition to Kailua village to me.

Original plans, if I recall correctly, were to open around October/November of last year. Well, things go slow here, especially permitting, and they were finally checked off just recently and apparently opened in the last couple of days. Pat was headed to the airport tonight to go to a friend's wedding on the mainland and we figured we'd do a quick visit for a meal. I'm not kidding about quick, we had a 50-55 minute window and I wasn't sure we'd be able to get it in. The restaurant was pretty busy, and I've got to commend them for their service. We've been to other places when they first opened where things didn't go smoothly the few nights.

A bit about Humpy's. Humpy's is a whole lot of BEER... and more. The upstairs is much the same configuration as the old Hard Rock, the downstairs retail space has largely been replaced by a bar and seating. When I mentioned "a whole lot of BEER", I wasn't kidding... 36 beers on tap according to their list. That's a lot for a small town.... they should start a club and offer a T shirt and a spot on a plaque to anyone who can finish the list (oh, at least 2 sittings of course). They also feature sandwiches, burgers, stone oven pizzas, seafoods (from King Crab legs to salmon burgers), a Hawaiian plate menu and more. It's gonna take me a few visits to navigate the menu and get a handle on the place. I had the Paniolo burger off their 10 oz burger listings with a Big Island feel... big burger, pretty good, but when it comes right down to it their "Humpy's Burger" and other 6 oz burger listings sounded a little more interesting, I'll try them next (I was hungry today). Pat had the calimari strips, I'd say they're more like calimari fries, cut like french fries and breaded with a spicy breading. They were cooked right... tender, not rubbery, but Pat's not into the style as much as I am, guess who got to finish the last few... yum, yum. I forgot to mention the fries that came with the burger... yay, fresh cut fries, happy to see them.

Anyway, the seating was immediate (seat yourself once checking in), the service prompt, drink and food orders were taken quickly and delivered quickly. No long waits through anything, but we weren't rushed in the least. Come desert time I mentioned we were timing things for a plane and the check was delivered right away. Service was good. We were treated to a pretty good sunset too....

It's located smack dab in the middle of the Coconut Marketplace shops next to the volleyball court on Alii drive. I'm happy to see new businesses in town. There's a few other spots right nearby that have opened recently too, haven't had a chance to give them a try. I'll be back to Humpy's.

Oooh, gotta mention the new camera again. I took these shots with my Olympus Pen, no flash and not trying to be particularly motionless. Not sure if I could get the interior bar or exterior shot with my old point and shoots that well exposed without paying attention to what I was doing in the lighting we had. It's fun having a bit higher end camera to play with.