God’s Pocket: 2017

Aptly named, what a fantastic, scenic location! Great diving, great company and great food – oh my.  I would love to spend weeks (and weeks) up there.

I played tug of war with a giant pacific octopus, found a giant and friendly wolf eel named Mongo, and took nearly every dive to the allocated time limit – so much to see! I also broke dive number 300, which is kind of cool.

That first dive in the 45 degree water was a bit of an eye-opening “oh shit” moment.  The first 10-15 minutes it took for my face to go numb felt so much longer.  Using the gloves I dive here in So Cal, I could barely use my camera by the end of that hour.  Luckily, my back pair up worked out pretty nicely.

Not including the three night dives under the dock, I shot wide-angle (Tokina 10-17) for every dive hoping for GPO. The night dives were with my new Nikon 40mm macro lens, and were very interesting and different from the boat dives. I had so much fun finding fish and crabs in the bottles, but it was also interesting to think about the history of the resort and wonder who might have dropped the bottles off the dock, and when.

Some “Best of 2016” images…

The scuba show this year is fast approaching, and with OCUPS displaying member images again it’s a pretty easy post to share some of my favorites from 2016.  Honestly, I don’t know how it’s almost April already but…dive trip in a week, woooohoooo!

Here’s some of my favorites (cropped to 11×14 aspect ratio) images

 

 

Snoots and how to build one cheap

As I am giving a brief chat at the next OCUPS meeting, what better time to write a small “how to” on building your own fiber optic snoot, with some accompanying samples and info of course.

The “What”
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In the simplest terms, snoots shape your light. They do so in a couple of ways, from restricting the beam angle, to channeling the light along flexible fiber optics or through glass lenses to achieve a desired shape or distribution of light. Snoots are tools to help capture a specific images, or improve your images certain conditions.

The “Why”

They are fun! Seriously, snoots are a good way to mix it up if you are ever getting bored.
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After that wears off, you’ll find in some situations they are almost essential. If you ever find a subject that you can’t separate from its background, for example a white cuttlefish against a white sponge, a snoot can help!   Animals that look just like their surroundings are prime candidates to use a snoot on too.

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The other HUGE benefit for me diving locally, a snoot restricts the cone of light so I have less back scatter! This is a big problem for me shore diving where I have to deal with surge or just lots of stuff in the water. Octopus hiding back in a hole are otherwise impossible to shoot without getting really creative and or lucky.

The “How much”

With minimal tools or effort, you can absolutely fashion something that is both cheap, and also quite capable. Which of the following shots was shot with a $30 DIY snoot and which was shot with a $200 or $300 snoot? (hint: there are 3 diff snoots used in these)
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A Yellow Pygmy Goby (Lubricogobius exiguus) with eggs perches on top of its parchment tube home.

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Personally, I find the fiber optic snoot easier to use for the simple fact, I can put the tip of the fiber optics into my field of view, line up the shot, and then pull it up just out of the frame. There is absolutely a steeper learning curve to snoots, the first dives will be a little frustrating but you’ll soon see what new opportunities there are with an added tool at your disposal.

The “How to”

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Building a DIY snoot similar to what I did should put you in the $20-30 range. If you are at all curious, or serious about your photography, try a snoot! Cost cannot be a factor.

Parts List

The base is a 4 inch pvc cap, from one of the random aisles of Lowes: $6-7

The flexible tubing is 12 inches of 1/2 inch Loc-Line (check ebay): $8

Approx 4 ft of multi-strand fiber optic: $15

Lastly, epoxy to glue the loc-line onto the base: $5 (I had some around the house already)

Pretty simple, I mis-used a drill with some sort of grinding bit to carve out the holes for the loc-line, stripped and stuffed the fiber optic cable into the arm and then glued that in place. Since it wasn’t a perfect fit, I glued some strips of foam I had lying around (purchased to test for buoyancy on my rig ) to help get tension to keep it on my strobe and lastly, a rope and clip to attach it to my bcd or to my rig when in use.

You’ll want the hole in the pvc pipe to align with the flash tube on your strobe.   It’s also super helpful if your focus light can illuminate the fiber optic as well, as that helps you see the tip of the snoot for aiming!

Final Notes

In terms of using the snoot, get out and practice!  Night dives are definitely easier.  Start with a shorter lens such as a 60 mm macro, pull the snoot down into view (typically top down, but not always) at a distance that gives you the magnification you want, pull it up out of view and then don’t adjust your lens auto focus.  By using focus lock, you’ll be able to swim around and line up shots on anything and everything and snap away and the snoot will be aimed right where you need it.

Ok, enough words – more snooted pics!

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An ambush predator, frogfish have specialized lures that are used to attract unsuspecting prey.

Holiday diving

I’m pretty sure these are the last dives I’ll make this year. Three days in a row of 2 shore dives each morning from La Jolla, to Veterans Park to Crescent – I think I’m getting old.

This puts me at 85 dives for the year, 41 of which were from my Bali trip and 14 which were CCR. Anyways, here are a few of my pics from the last couple days.

The highlight of La Jolla was finding a new species of nudibranch, a Aeolidia papillosa.

Highlight of Vets was the baby giant sea bass found in the first 6 minutes, leaving the next 90 minutes searching the 54 degree, open sand.

The highlight today was playing hide and seek with a harbor seal for an hour. Naturally I had the 105 on so it’s a close up shot!

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Casino Point Giants

Finally getting back to making a post on here, went out to Catalina on Sunday with Rick with our CCRs and decided to also bring the camera for the first time. Dry suit, ccr and camera was a bit of learning curve… still plenty to work on.

Highlight of the trip was definitely the Giant Black Sea Bass encounters! Saw quite a few individual sightings and swim bys; but also a group of six or seven and also a few close up encounters. I was a bit sad to see one of the calmer GBS had a rope hanging out of his gills, I briefly thought of trying to remote it or at least cut it down but my trim/buoyancy with the drysuit + ccr isn’t quite there yet.

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