Whenever I have an extended break from diving I get a little nervous leading up to the day of the dive. Thinking in advance of waking up at 4 am so I wouldn’t miss the boat departure from Ventura at 6 am didn’t help. As the days grew closer I kicked back into my routine and before I knew it, my gear was packed and all of my camera batteries were charged. I was ready for my first dives of the year!
The morning of March 19th came way too soon but in no time I had gotten up, was out the door and on the boat complaining to Nick Lawrence how stupidly early the departure time was. A short time later, the remaining passengers boarded and a few minutes past 6 am the Peace Dive boat took off towards our destination – Santa Cruz Island.
It took a little over 2 hours for the Peace to arrive at Santa Cruz but that meant plenty of time for those sleeping on the boat (Craig and Ramon) to wake and join us for some breakfast of eggs, sausage and french-toast. To my delightful surprise there was plenty of room on the boat for all of the gear (roughly 22 passengers on board and a third were Explorers).
As we got closer to our destination there was a gradual unveiling and checking of dive cameras (this was a macro photography trip). Scott Gietler, of Bluewater Photo, gave a brief overview of the site, the things he looks for and some tips on macro shooting like taking warm up shots on board and how hold your camera to stabilize the shot. Then he offered his photography advice freely to anyone taking photos that day.
Next thing I knew I was in a group with Craig, Ramon, Nick, Brian and a new dive buddy Garth as the only people descending off the front anchor line into a patch of thick kelp (the rest of the boat went off the back) at a site Scott picked called Flame Reef. It wasn’t long before Ramon caught my attention and Garth and I split off from the others, finding a 20 ft. tall wall. Even the brisk sub 60-degree water couldn’t hold me back as I searched the details of the structure for a potential macro shot. Then at some point I saw it on the edge. There was a bit of a swell moving us back and forth but I managed to get some decent shots of a Spanish Shawl:
Aside from needing to get into the water, one of my primary reasons for diving was to try out my new Sola 800 focus light. Without this focus light (and some tips from Scott Gietler and Craig Hoover) I never would have been able to get this shot of Limacia cockerelli:
My new focus light helped me spot and target this little guy during our second dive at Flame Reef. It took a few minutes to wiggle into a position where I could get my lens close enough to it and without the continual light, I’m sure I would have missed it. Seriously why didn’t I get one of these sooner?
For our third and final dive (ran out of time for the 4th) we headed over to Anacapa Island to dive Cat Rock. Surface temps jumped a little by the third dive but the water stayed brisk the whole time. Although it had the bluest water and best visibility of all three dives and we managed to explore a much wider area I didn’t get much for photos. Aside from being a little cold I wasn’t complaining!
At some point during the day I mentioned to Scott Gietler that I would consider it a good day if I got three good photos or one good photo per dive. He said that was a very good goal indeed. I think I got about 8. A good day indeed!
(Previously published in the April 2016 Newsletter of the Pacific Explorer’s Dive Club).