Tag: Underwater Photography

Enter the Light

Enter the Light

_tsl8194Can’t recall ever having as much fun diving as I did the past four days. I was thinking….so many dives….over 600 in the past 15 years….but these last ones have been off-the-scale fun. Why is that?

_tsl8205I’ve done cave and cavern dives many times, have been to beautiful ocean destinations…what’s different this time?

_tsl8199Perhaps it was having the opportunity to be with one other person, a fantastic guide, and experience the freedom to play in the water–taking time with light beams or formations of beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. Nobody rushed me or pushed me to move if I was engrossed with something that captured my attention.

Before we began our diving, I told *Daniel that my goal was to have fun and take photographs. I wasn’t interested in anything else. Play was my objective.

More than once while diving I noted how fun it was to be underwater, underground and have my camera kit with me. Not a passing thought but a real fire of playfulness within that ignited passion for the work I do.

_tsl8196The mornings were filled with clear water, diving into cenotes filled with magical formations and ‘working’ to capture their beauty through the art of photography. The afternoons were filled with processing images and realizing that I was indeed capturing the beauty I so deeply love and appreciate. It was a celebratory atmosphere!

_tsl8311There were no distractions. It was me and the sea whispering sweet sounds as I worked and celebrated the success of my endeavors. I’m an ardent perfectionist but even that part of my personality was deeply pleased with my efforts. Did hell just freeze over?

Connecting with the beauty of nature is why I get up in the morning. Through the arts of writing and photography I find the expressive pathway to share the magnificence of nature….of our water planet. The way I decide where to go is to simply listen with my heart. It always guides me true.

_tsl8212My heart always guides me to enter the light.

*Daniel Ortega Moran is based in Tulum, Mexico and is a wonderful person and dive guide. He’s a cave instructor as well…if you’re interested in learning more about diving underground.

Dos Ojos…The Eyes Have It

Dos Ojos…The Eyes Have It

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It’s four o’clock in the afternoon. We finished diving in Cenote Dos Ojos at 10 a.m. and I’m still in my bathing suit. The dives were fantastic and processing the photographs taken on the dives has been fun, too. Just finished working with the images and loading a bunch to Facebook and realized…oops….still have on board shorts and bathing suit.

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When I lose track of time and get consumed with something, it’s good. Really good. My mind likes to be challenged, it likes to have a job to do. So composing underwater photographs in cenotes this week has brought a lot of joy…mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. All the good stuff.

_tsl7918Daniel Ortega Moran, the guide I hired, has been very keen on timing and places. Yesterday we had Cenote Dream Gate to ourselves. It was far back in the jungle and pristine in its beauty. Oh, my goodness! As beautiful a place topside as it was underground underwater. The energies of the Mother were so powerful there.

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_tsl7864Today we arrived at Dos Ojos early. It’s a very well-known and popular place for snorkelers and open water divers. We had the place to ourselves on the first dive and only passed three other people on the way out. By the time we exited, there were so many divers we had to wait a while to access the steps. There were kids and people jumping off the platform….it was a zoo. But….because of his good timing, we had two incredible dives. Plus, Daniel chose that place today because it was the first day of sunshine and the light coming through the cenote opening created stunning visual effects beneath the surface.

_tsl7986One more day left….and I feel sad to leave but have had such an amazing experience reconnecting with the sacred energies here. It’s coming home to a greater dimension of life I haven’t experienced in many years. It’s reclaiming a part of myself I had lost.

_tsl8007This time I came equipped with more tools…more cave training, a wonderful camera system for underwater photography and a heart and mind more open and vulnerable, willing to leap with courage to whatever places I feel ‘called’ to visit, connect with, and share the stories from with anyone willing to listen.

_tsl7956A couple weeks ago I put the question out there…”Where?” The answer came strong and action to book the trip was immediate. Now I understand….this place called me to re-discover my passion and fire for my life’s work. And I am deeply grateful.

_tsl7865Dos Ojos…Two Eyes. I see and understand….with my own dos ojos.

 

Eating Cookies, Looking for Crocodiles

Eating Cookies, Looking for Crocodiles

_tsl7253The title is no joke. That’s exactly what was happening in my world this morning before diving at Cenote Carwash. Except I wasn’t eating the cookies….but I was quite interested in the crocodile. For more than one reason.

_tsl7274It’s been years since I’ve been cenote diving in Akumal, Mexico. After participating with Connie LoRe’s Cave Dive Mexico for several trips, there has been a break of six or seven years…or maybe more.

_TSL5656My attention in diving has turned to working with my Nikon D800 in an Aquatica housing. I’ve had great joy photographing dolphins, whale sharks, humpback whales, sea lions, manatees and other marine creatures and have enjoyed every second of it.

I was looking for an autumn trip and nothing worked out with the destinations I was considering….Bonaire, Baja. Nothing. The idea of a trip was released and up went the hands one morning, “I give up. If there’s a trip…show me!” Within a couple hours the idea of returning to Akumal surfaced. And before day’s end, it was booked.

_tsl7324It’s the first time I’ve been in an overhead environment with my big camera rig. That’s why I chose to cavern dive in open water gear rather than cave dive. Task loading in diving happens when you add elements to a dive….overhead environment, big camera kit and I’m still relatively new to sidemount cave diving having switched from back mount a couple years ago. Just didn’t want to mix all of that up.

_tsl7319Daniel Ortega Moran is the guide Connie picked for me and I understand why after diving with him today. He’s a cave instructor, cave guide and has a warm, inviting personality. It made for a wonderful day and by the second dive, I was beginning to get the lighting right with my strobes and the hand-held HID cave light I use.

_tsl7432Granted, there was use of Lightroom’s magic in adjusting the lighting during processing but that’s the digital darkroom these days. And those skills are just as important as neutral buoyancy and untangling your regulator hose when it gets tangled in the strobe cord.  Just sayin.’

_tsl7463It’s thundering off shore as I sit and gaze out into the choppy ocean. Excited about three more days of fun diving and playing with the formations, lighting, and camera settings. And of course being under water underground.

_tsl7231A sea turtle nest hatched right beside the patio here last night but sadly a raccoon or similar creature and his buddy ate the babies. No tracks made it to the water. And yes, I am here unwinding from a very eventful sea turtle season in Alabama and thought I’d come here and let all of that go for a few days. But no.

_tsl7483The lesson of the day is this: You cannot escape what you love. Sea turtles and cenote diving in Akumal are just two of those ‘things.’ There are more for certain.

When’s the last time you ate cookies while looking for crocodiles? Hmmmm? That’s exactly what I suspected.

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Thank you Daniel for enduring the strobe flashes and letting me practice lighting techniques on you. Your patience is infinite.

 

 

Lessons from a Sting Ray

Lessons from a Sting Ray

_TSL5291Taking underwater photographs in bad viz is not something I’d normally attempt. Murky water and strobes yield backscatter. But when there’s opportunity to play with stingrays….

_TSL5301The challenge brought by unclear water is to make the subject appear clear when everything around it is filled with particles of sand and grass and anything else stirred into the soupy mix. In the creative process of underwater photography, you have to be willing to use your skills or learn new ones to achieve the desired results.

_TSL5322Life is like that. We want it to be obstacle-free. And yet, it’s the obstacles that hone our skills and help us develop into well-balanced individuals. If it was easy we’d never feel our strength. A diamond doesn’t become a precious gem without immense pressure. It’s the pressure that turns a lump of carbon into a valuable stone.

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Dolphin Dream Time

Dolphin Dream Time

_TSL5012When I attempt to write about yesterday’s dolphin encounter…it’s challenging. I remember the sleek bottlenose and spotted dolphins swimming among our group. I recall the two male bottlenose doing their best to mate with the spotted females, getting tail-slapped and bitten by said females and then turning to each other for ‘comfort’ after their rebuke.

_TSL5031It’s difficult not to remember the protruding penises but I am grateful for the restraint they showed by keeping the majority of their fourteen inch ‘private parts’ hidden. Perhaps I am still blushing.

As I was floating among the amorous males, I remembered stories of male dolphins attempting to mate with human females and so I reminded them of my middle-age status. Stories of aggression toward human males came to mind. They can ram, rake their teeth or bite or heaven forbid, mount a human in foreplay. Yes…these stories filtered through my mind.

_TSL5164But mostly I was suspended in a sea of playful thoughts and appreciation for the profound beauty of both species of cetacean that interacted with us. Wild, unfed animals that chose us to learn from and play among.

After motoring along the bank for over an hour off the coast of Bimini, I spotted their gray dorsal fins heading toward the boat. Everyone quickly got ready and slipped into the water in snorkeling gear. It was beautiful to see the sleek, bullet-like bodies glide through clear water.

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Exhalation bubbles as the dolphin surfaces to breathe.

Laughter erupted several times from a deep, inner palace of light. The dolphins reminded me of this treasure within that can be easily forgotten.

Dive master playing with dolphins
Dive master Jamie playing with dolphins

A friend reminded me a while ago that we actually have to choose to be happy. I thought about his words a lot yesterday and the truth of that idea resonated deeply. I can choose to be happy….at any time, any where.

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Spotted dolphin shaman…healing my headache.

The day began with an intense headache, the kind that generally lasts for days. After a female spotted dolphin buzzed me (literally) twice, I realized the headache had vanished. When she approached, she stopped and her sonar clicks were so strong I felt them in my body but especially inside my head. It felt as if my brain responded to her intense clicks…like I ‘heard’ them inside my head. In fact, almost 24 hours later I can still feel the vibration within my skull.

_TSL5239I knew she was scanning me and have no idea what she ‘saw’ but the encounter was fascinating. I had taken ibuprofen before leaving the dock but generally it only takes the edge of pain away. It was a nice surprise to realize I was pain-free.

My great love is marine mammals. Manatees connect with me in a very soulful  place. Humpback whales, when they choose an up-close encounter with me, touch a deep place of peace within my heart and so my heart expands. The dolphins opened my mind, expanded it and it feels as though they activated an intensely deep-mind connection with them that will continue to unfold.

_TSL5161When I am in the watery realm of marine mammals, open to connection and communion, there is mutual learning. I enter into the experience excited to learn, eager to expand my understanding of other sentient beings. They seem inquisitive and therefore learn from me through our connection.

_TSL5242Oneness and understanding is cultivated in the fluid reality. I am not in the water to ‘get the shot’ but rather to commune with other species and gain understanding. If a good photograph results from the encounter…well, that’s just icing on the proverbial cake.