Tag: Underwater Photography

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.

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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.

 

Where’s My Ice Axe?

Where’s My Ice Axe?

FullSizeRenderIt was an interesting travel day. Just the diving + underwater photography and the gear penalty that comes from that equation is grueling but today gave other experiences besides whining about the gear.

First, my mom dropped me at the airport and as I asked her to push the button to lift her back tail gate, I remembered my camera gear bag was leaning against the door. I ran in what seemed like slow motion to the back of her SUV as I watched the bag do a perfect roll out of the vehicle onto the pavement. The good news is, the new EVOC bag I just hocked my three cats and dog for (no…not really…calm down) protected all the cameras and lenses and laptop. The investment of the bag paid off already.

Then the woman sitting behind me on the plane was in her late 70’s or early 80’s, was from my tiny home town…lives next to friends of mine…and she was on her first plane ride ever…first leg of a trip to Ireland. That’s a crazy-cool brave thing to do for your first experience in a plane. The flight attendants gave her wings, checked on her often and she did just great. I thought a lot about her courage.

The first flight was 20 minutes early arriving into Atlanta but probably because they were trying to beat the horrible weather that moved into the area. There was a two hour delay due to Mr. Thunderstorm, the name given to the weather by the gate attendant. It wasn’t such a big deal to have time to grab a sandwich and eat a late lunch.

Once we boarded the completely packed…but very nice, sort of new jet with blue mood lighting…the captain came on the intercom and warned us it was going to be a horrible flight. Well, maybe he said very, very bumpy. He said the extra bouncing would mean the attendants couldn’t serve anything but water. Luckily for us it really wasn’t bad and most likely they simply didn’t have time to restock drinks and snacks because the plane was two hours late arriving due to the weather..those quick turn-arounds don’t give much time for those luxury items airlines have these days…you know the pretzels and sodas. Nevertheless, it was fine and we made an impressive landing from over the Atlantic Ocean into Fort Lauderdale.

IMG_4721Then baggage claim…to add to my collection of huge bags. People sort of stare sometimes at the massive pile of luggage for just me; however, I’m used to it. A big gear bag for dive gear, another for clothes and strobe arms, a hardshell case for the underwater housing, and the lovely, new camera backpack…which needs an introduction.

It seems as if I’ve spent years looking for the right backpack that was carry-on size and would hold my gear.  I just recently I ordered and returned two such creatures from a photo supply store in New York. One was massive and wouldn’t even fit through the doorway of a jet and the other was smaller than the one I already had. So I searched and researched and watched youtube videos and read reviews and finally found the one.

The EVOC CP 35L is made in one of the alpine countries (sorry, can’t remember which one) and is a camera bag for adventurers. It is designed to protect photography gear and be handy and well-made to accommodate the outdoor photographer and still fit inside a plane as a carry-on. I’m not one to write about such trivial things as gear packs but given the grief I’ve had trying to find the right bag, its not trivial to my work. And I could help others who might be pulling their hair out over this matter. It reminds me of Hermoine Granger’s bag in the Harry Potter movie.

The only issue I have is with the weight of my gear…topping out at 37 pounds it’s really heavy to carry, much less lift into an overhead storage compartment on a plane. But here’s what it’s carrying on its maiden voyage: Two Nikon camera bodies, a 70-200mm lens, a 2 x converter, a fish eye lens, a 24-70mm wide angle zoom lens, a laptop and charger, extra camera batteries, battery chargers, two (huge) underwater strobes and their batteries, my travel wallet-purse, lipstick and lip balm, a little other makeup, meds, two pair of sunglasses in hard cases and a pair of regular glasses in a hard case…and other stuff I cannot remember.

FullSizeRender 2Learning the new bag I’ve found extra-handy gadgetry. For instance, there’s a fold out, water-proof avalanche emergency plan and a loop for my ice axe. I’m sure the avalanche plan will come in very handy seeing how much I love romping through the snow (not). But dang it all–the airline refused passage of my ice axe and I really thought I could use it in Bimini. Oh, well. Next time perhaps.

bitmoji-20160617204607It’s never to late to have an adventure, to go somewhere you’ve never gone before, to travel and enjoy the beauty of this planet. And if there’s anyone out there willing to voluntarily help carry gear, have I got a trip for you!