Thursday, January 05, 2012

Cabilao Photos December 2011

Here are some highlights of my Cabilao trip. Full set of photos is here.

Dwarf hawkfish. 105mm, 1/250s, f/10, ISO 200

Bubble coral shrimp. 105mm & +7 diopter, 1/250s, f/25, ISO 200

Ornate ghost pipefish. 105mm, 1/250s, f/22, ISO 200

Spotted porcelain crab. 105mm, 1/250s, f/18, ISO 200

Network pipefish. 105mm, 1/250s, f/10, ISO 200

Halgerda Batangas. 105mm, 1/250s, f/18, ISO 200

Backlit leaf scorpionfish. 105mm, 1/250s, f/18, ISO 200

Rock's pygmy octopus. 60mm & +7 diopter, 1/250s, f/16, ISO 200

Monday, January 02, 2012

Dyron Double Macro M77 Lens

My recent Cabilao trip was the first time I tried supermacro photography with my new Dyron Double Macro M77 Lens. It is a wet diopter that gives 1.3x magnification with a 60mm lens and 1.7x magnification with a 105mm lens. It lives in my thigh pocket and I screw it on the front of my flat port when necessary. In line with what others have reported, it is very difficult to use, especially with a 105mm lens, due to the close working distance and very small field of view. I had a lot of fun with it, though, and was happy to come home with several usable shots. After quite some time of macro shooting, I really appreciated the ability to get greater than 1:1 shots. I think it will be very interesting to stack it with a teleconverter – it will give me a lot of flexibility with various supermacro combinations.

By the way, Underwater Photography Guide's review of the lens is here.

Sola 600 Aiming Light

I used my new Sola 600 aiming light for the first time on my recent Cabilao trip. People have been raving about it for ages and I am glad that I finally got one for myself. It was a pleasure to use, with a wide and strong beam that had enough coverage for my needs. The best thing about the light, though, is the red mode. I found that the critters were significantly less bothered by the red light, which enabled me to get a lot closer than I have gotten in the past – a real boon for supermacro photography. My only gripe with it is the short battery life. It lasted about 60 minutes on full power, which is only one dive.

Cabilao Trip Report, December 2011

I just got back from 4 days in Cabilao Island in the Visayas, the Philippines. We were in Cebu for a friend’s wedding and decided to hop over to Cabilao for some diving. I chose Cabilao because it is a secluded island with pristine reefs and is relatively undeveloped. It has a population of 4,000 people and there are only 3 small resorts on the island. We got picked up from Cebu City and a 2 hour car and 1.5 hour boat ride took us directly to Cabilao Beach Club. All diving was with Sea Explorers, which made all the arrangements for us.

The diving topography in Cabilao consists primarily of walls and sloping reefs. The reefs are quite healthy and there are no signs of fishing damage. However, it seems that trash on the island is not well disposed of and it is not uncommon to find discarded food wrappers underwater. The marine life is exclusively macro. It is hard to generalize about the marine life as it is quite varied, but during the course of our stay, we saw frogfish, various pipefish, various shrimp and crabs, various gobies and blennies, octopus, squid, anemonefish, and nudibranchs (only a few). The life was good but not as prolific as say, Anilao. I wish there were more sandy areas that were not covered in corals, which would make conditions more favorable for macro photography.

Unfortunately, our few days on the island were plagued with bad weather – strong winds, intermittent rain, and unpredictable conditions. We made the most of it and dove when we could. I found Cambaquiz I to be the standout dive site. It is a shallow sandy slope with coral outcroppings, which is perfect for macro photography. It is located about 200m from the Cabilao Beach Club dive shop and can accessed either by boat or from shore. It is quite sheltered from the elements, making it an ideal site in bad weather. It is also the default night dive spot for Cabilao Beach Club, which suited me well.

This was my first trip using both the Sola 600 and Dyron Double Macro M77 Lens and both proved to be good purchases.

The resort is secluded and located on a beautifully landscaped plot of land with a private beach. The dive shop and a few chalets are located on the beach, and the restaurant and a few more chalets are on a cliff 52 steps above the beach. The resort is small and personal, with something like 13 rooms. The guests are primarily European. It is very quiet and there is no entertainment other than diving. The employees are very warm and service is good. The food, however, is quite uninteresting.

Overall, I was quite happy with the resort. The macro diving is somewhere between good and great. Perhaps I have been spoiled after diving Anilao several times, but all things considered, I would go to Anilao in the future over Cabilao.