Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My New Toys

After having so much fun with photography in Manado, I placed a big order of camera gear from B&H Photo. My new toys should be arriving shortly:

First up is an Ikelite DS-160 strobe with TTL cable. It's the new and improved version of the DS-125. It has more power and a 5W LED tracking light.

Next is a Nikon 12-24 mm wide angle lens. This is good for wrecks, seascapes and land use.

This Ikelite 8" dome port will allow me to use the wide angle lens underwater without vignetting or distortion.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Manado, December 12-17, 2008

I just got back from a 5 day trip to Manado. There were about 20 of us from Living Seas. We stayed at Cocotinos resort, on the west side of Manado Island. Our trip included 3 full days of diving and 2 half days (the first day and the last day, where we did 2 dives each). All in all, I did 14 dives. The last dive of the trip was my 500th dive. All the dives were at Bunaken or Manado, except day 4’s dives, which were at Lembeh. The boat ride to Bunaken takes 45-60 min. Lembeh is an island off the east coast of Manado Island. It takes a 2 hour bus ride and 30 min boat ride to get there.

Photo courtesy of Antia Lamas Linares

Cocotinos is a nice resort. It is quiet and secluded, which can be both good and bad. It’s good for hardcore diving but there’s nothing else to do nearby. The staff are very friendly and helpful and go out of their way to please. I haven’t had someone wash and hang my gear for me in recent memory. The dive guides have excellent eyes and try hard to spot interesting marine life. The food is quite unexciting, except for the BBQ and roasted suckling pig, which were excellent. The ride to Lembeh from Cocotinos is quite a pain. Since I prefer muck diving, I may stay closer to Lembeh in the future.

This was my first trip using a camera and strobe. Wen was kind enough to loan me his Ikelite DS-125 strobe. Shooting pictures came to me more easily than I expected. Since I already have the buoyancy and trim skills, adding an additional task was not too difficult. It was quite tiring though, maintaining fine buoyancy control to get good macro shots. I shot with the 18-55 mm kit lens, mostly on the long end as most of the subjects were tiny. The lens wouldn’t focus on anything closer than maybe 30 cm away. A macro lens would make life a lot easier.

Lembeh is an absolute macro photographer’s heaven. I would have liked to spend more time there. For the life of me, I can’t imagine why Lembeh still has such fantastic marine life. The water is polluted, smells funny, and has plastic bags and candy wrappers floating around. Maybe it is the volcanic soil. We saw lots of incredible things, like 9 lionfish of different varieties on 1 rock. It’s hard to believe that some of these things are actually real. I was getting crossed eyed looking so hard at the tiny, wonderful macro life.

I saw lots of firsts on this trip – mushroom shrimp, porcelain crab, squat lobster, orangutan crab, sea moth, electric clam, emperor shrimp, pygmy seahorse, the list goes on. I photographed at least 12 types of nudibranches.

To top it all off, the company was great as well. Living Seas runs good trips and the divers are serious about their diving and partying.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Best of Manado

All shots taken with Nikon D40 with 18-55 mm lens, Ikelite housing, single Ikelite DS-125 strobe on TTL. Most shots taken at the long end of zoom range.

Full set of pictures here.

Friday, December 05, 2008

!@#$*%^ DUI

I was quite excited to hear that my drysuit had arrived in Hong Kong a few days ago. Then yesterday, as the HK distributor prepared to ship my suit to me, he discovered that DUI had made me a TLS350, instead of the 30/30 that I ordered. Bummer.

I won't have the suit in time for Manado, which is OK. But I really need the suit in time for Perth on 29 December. DUI is doing a rushjob to get me my suit in time. Fingers crossed. And I hope it fits too.