Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Moving Day!

After much consideration and a lot of hand wringing I made the decision to move the blog over to Wordpress... The decision was difficult but it allowed me easier access to other blogs I am working on as well as what I found to be smoother mobile aps.  Please come join me over at and we will continue our adventure there!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Good Morning America did it, but I did it first!!

As many people have seen, Matt Gutman of Good Morning America decided to suit up and try his hand at Ice Diving, if you haven't seen it, here it is - Extreme Campout: Diving Under the Ice.  What you may not know... is that I did it first!

At the beginning of March I embarked on my craziest dive adventure yet - Ice Diving! 

When asked back in December if I would be interested it took me less than a second to decide and only a couple minutes longer to respond back to Wes and let him know I was in.  When I first started diving in August 2011 and looked into specialities and the Specialty of the Month program and eventually my Master Scuba Diver program one of the specialities that jumped out at me was Ice Diving.  I guess the whole thought of exploring under a sheet of ice and looking at the marine life would be a cool experience.... I was right on one thing... it was cool... in fact it was downright freakin' COLD!!  

After my 13 hr Greyhound ride to Banff Alberta and meeting up with my ride for the rest of the weekend we headed off to meet up with Wes and Shannon and the rest of our team up at frozen Lake Minnewanka in the Banff National Park.  Stepping out of the vehicle and heading for the week I was half expecting Jeff Probst to step out and say "Welcome to Survivor Banff"...

 (Yes I sometimes let my imagination and photoshop skills get carried away) 

Once out on the lake (actually pictured in my Survivor mock-up above) we headed out onto the lake and across the ice to look at where we would be diving.  Joined a short time later by Lana Taylor and Randy Kliever from Adventures in Scuba the Calgary based shop that would be offering us our course for the weekend and helping me not to die... (always a good thing).  Unfortunately the trailer had not arrived yet as it had blown a tire and would be delayed... so, off to town to grab a coffee, our passes for the national park, and a little window shopping to kill a few extra minutes until heading back to the lake where... bah bah bah... the trailer had arrived and it was time for the "ever so fun" event of hauling gear from the vehicles across the frozen lake to where we would set-up the tent and cut a hole for the next days adventures under the water... hmm, this is starting to get a little real... I might actually have to go in the water now....

As brutal as I make it sound, with the whole crew of students and staff and family around, the task went by fairly quick and smooth and before we knew it the tent was up and it was time to get started on the "real" work.  It was at this point that I delicately stepped back and out of the way. 

 With the wooden triangle assembled it was time for Terry Forsyth (Master Instructor from Adventures in Scuba) and our trainer for the weekend, to chainsaw the ice to create our hole. 

With the hole in place it was time to clean up, lock-up and head to the classroom for dinner and lesson time....

Saturday morning came before I knew it and we headed to the dive site, as we approached along the Dam road and I saw the lake, that is when it hit me... this is really going to and I told my dive buddy as much.  A few quick trips across the ice and the gear was in place, and our briefing in progress.  Following the briefing Shannon came out of the tent and, with a big grin on her face, pointed out that, with a name like Andrew, it put me at the top of the alphabetical list... and I was diver one...

Geared up and standing by the hole, I waited for direction and then doing the seated entry practiced so many times at the Aquarium, I was in the water.  Soon I was clipped in and joined to Glenn Fines of Adventures in Scuba, one of our instructors, and then we descended.  It would be impossible to explain the feeling of being under 17 inches of ice so I won't try, what I will say is that if you are a certified diver with a good number of cold water dives under your belt... this is the best adventure you will have!

Over the course of the weekend we had all sorts of adventures from me having issues with my ears clearing, to multiple free flowing regulators.  We practised rescues, being the rescue diver, rescue tender and the person to be rescued.

Nothing truly prepares you for the adventure of Ice Diving, but going with amazing divers like those from Ocean Pro I was privledged enough to go with and being trained by amazing people like those from Adventures in Scuba.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Poop Cleaning Here I Come...

With my training all done and the long wait until the schedule was written up behind me, it was time for my first Aquarium dive.  With enough fear and anxiety to fill my van I arrived at the Vancouver Aquarium and waited outside the door I was told to wait by.... I guess arriving at just after 7:00 for an 8:00 shift was a little too  But to my relief after waiting a little less than a half hour one of the divers I would be joining today arrived and showed me another door to check for an employee who could let us in.  Once inside and all the way down to the dive room it was time to start getting ready.  Needless to say I was sweating from nerves long before being inundated with the heat from the dive room situated beneath miles of heat pipes and far warmer than I would have liked it.  After grabbing a weight belt and getting it and my BCD set up it was time to head to the deck and see if our tender for the day, Kristi Hefron (yes the same Kristi from Certified Poop Cleaner...) needed any help setting up.  With everything ready for the dive it was time to finish gearing up and head to the exhibit.  Being a new diver I am only allowed to use Beauty (the twin scrubber) and limited to the Wild Coast Exhibit, home to my friends the dolphins Hana, Helen and Spinaker.

So with my kit on, I took my seat on the edge of the deck and waited while Kristi fastened the surface supply to my BCD and passed me my hose for my Dry Suit and my regulator... then it was time to dive in.  Using the seated entry and then joining my dive buddy for the day we descended together taking beauty to the bottom of the tank.  With the vacuum hose attached it was time to start my cleaning.  Following a 62 minute dive, one of my first dives beyond an hour and one of the advantages of diving surface supply, it was time to exit the water and call it a day.  With the cleaning done, and my coupon for a free coffee and muffin in hand it was time to head out and look forward to my next dive... dive number 50... and the final step in my certification as a Master Scuba Diver!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Weight Loss Made Easy....

Ok so it's not the real wight loss that I want, but still a good weight loss.  Yesterday I joined Ocean Pro Divers and instructor / shop owner and friend Shannon Kozak at Porteau Cove for my Peak Performance Buoyancy course.  Prior to this class I was diving with 30 lbs of lead, I had managed to drop my ankle weights (4 lbs) when diving with Ward during In Search of Whiskey and the VT-100, but during the course I was able to drop down to 22 lbs of lead.  Now to understand why dropping weight is important, think about it the same weigh you would on the surface, if you are over-weight and do any kind of excecise you breathe harder and faster, the same is true under water, you use more air to remain buoyant and to move that size (inflated and less streamlined) and weight through the water you breathe harder and use up your air faster resulting in shorter dives...not good.

Tube Snout
As well as dropping the unneeded weight I was lucky enough to see a ton of tube snout, a Great Pacific Octopus hiding beneath the sail boat, and even got inked by a little squid that I startled think it was a Sea Squirt and tried to touch it before it swam away squirting as it went.

Over-all another amazing dive with my friends as I work towards being the best diver I can be.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Certified Poop Cleaner...

This week, for four days I went through a fairly intensive training regimen on diving including learning the (new to me) DCIEM tables used by the Canadian Military and promoted by Worksafe BC.  We covered the history of diving from Robert Boyle and Jacques Charles to Joseph Gay-Lussac, John Dalton and William Henry on day one and a day of learning and certifying as a DAN Emergency Oxygen Provider, then, it was time to get wet!  Off to a local pool where it was time for us to swim laps.. oh yes, my favourite followed by free diving to the bottom of a 15 foot pool to recover a weight and return to the surface.  The morning of day number three started promptly, and with most of us on time, we started by dragging all of our gear and tanks out to pool side and were greeted by an amazing surprise.  Apparently despite Melanie's claims in You may call me... "The Dolphin Poop Cleaner" about us not being around or in direct contact with the animals, we would be diving with Daisy.

Daisy is an an orphaned harbor porpoise currently being rehabilitated and trained by the Marine Mammal trainers and Doctors at the Aquarium.

We would be given this amazing opportunity, under the direct supervision of Kristi Hefron (Senior Marine Mammal Trainer at the Vancouver Aquarium). Going two divers at a time, along with Jeremy Heywood (Dive Safety Officer at the Vancouver Aquarium), we would enter the water to demonstrate our in water skills.  Step one though, and my most difficult, was to follow Kristi's instruction to "not touch Daisy"... This is tough, and for anyone who ever gets the chance to see her you'll understand, she is incredibly playful and loves people.  So to get in the water you need to wait until she is out of the way (or usually distracted by Kristi throwing a toy) and then do a very careful and quiet seated entry into the pool.  Now to just resist the temptation to touch Daisy as she comes up to see what new toys Kristi has brought for her to play  Then it was on to skills... pretty simple stuff, swim out to the centre of the pool, descend and wait for Jeremy, then, when indicated, do a reg remove and recover, mask flood and clear, (If it ain't broke don't fix it.... and from SORTED to super STARS), and finally remove your weight belt and bcd and then put them back on... no worries.. a couple flash-backs to Seals to Emergencies but other than that no issues.  The afternoon was just as easy, and just as hard not to touch  Back in the water but this time with the surface supply attached, now we can breathe forever if they keep switching tanks up  A couple laps of the pool and all done, time for the next group and then the end of another fun day.  Day four of our training and day two in the water saw us setting up gear beside the Beluga med tank, today we would be taking turns descending into the 10 foot med tank on surface supply and learn to operate the double scrubber lovingly named Beauty.  With everyone finished we cleaned up the equipment, rinsed the gear and changed back into our street clothes to debrief with Jeremy and have him sign off in our log books marking our completion of our program and making us official and certified Poop Cleaners!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Burgers and a Dip!

Following my amazing night of diving with friends Enjoying the view before gearing up to explore the wonders beneath! it was time to catch up with the divers of Ocean Pro for a fun day of diving and good food.  After a quick clean of the cabin and loading all the gear back into the vehicles we headed over to the main parking lot to find and hold spots for the rest of the group who would soon be arriving.  With the sun coming up and a warm day ahead we started by laying out any of our gear that had not totally dried over night and started putting our kits together in preparation for the day.

It seemed only minutes before the parking lot was full and the air was filled with the talking and planning of the days activities.  Amongst the group joining the activities were my close friends and instructors Virpi Kangas and Ward Conley, their plan for the day was taking them out in Wards small boat so they could dive the Nakaya.  Other groups were heading out to swim the fire-hose, while others were setting out to explore the Leaning Tower of Porteau or the Sailboat Hull and others still were off to explore the Granthall.

My dive partner for dive 1 of the day was an experienced diver joining the Ocean Pro BBQ for the first time.  Equipped with his twin tanks and local knowledge it looked like it was going to be another relaxing day of diving... boy was I in for a  Apparently swimming as fast as possible was an on-going trend for this weekend. Not long after entering the water my dive buddy started his quest for an Olympic medal in swim  It was all I could do for the most part to keep up and finally signal my buddy to slow down, by this time unfortunately I had burned much of my air so it was time to make my turn and head back.  My dive buddy on the other hand, swimming with twins, had lots of air and was less than agreeable to returning quite yet.  After a quick conversation through hand signals it was decided to make another pass around the Granthall, this time very slowly and breathing under control, then after our pass, we followed the chain up to 15 feet where we did our safety stop sharing the air in his twins and then made our way the last 15 feet to the surface.  On the surface the tides had changed from the night before and now the surface current was now heading away from shore, making the surface swim a lot more challenging.  After a bit of a fight against the current to gain a few feet it became apparent that it wa going to be easier to work together.  So taking turns doing the tired diver tow with us both kicking the whole time we were able to make faster progress against the current and reach shore in time to see the burgers coming off the grill.

Stripping down my gear and switching out my tank only took a couple minutes then it was time to open up my dry suit and enjoy the fresh air drifting into my suit and cooling my body down.  Soon most of the rest of the divers who had not already returned made their way over to the big Ocean Pro Divers tent to find their fill of food and stories about the first dive of the day.

After a quick meal, and some good conversation it was time to catch up with my buddy for dive 2, who happened to be the same buddy from the night before.  Dive planning for our last dive of the weekend was pretty simple, both of us a little tired from the night before and from our surface swims from dive 1 on the day, agreed we would dive similar to dive 2 from the previous night.  Surface swim out a short distance and then descend and let the water moves us around while we explored the open ocean floor.  Finding our neutral buoyancy and just floating in the water with soft gentle kicks to change direction or increase rate and it wasn't long before the current had moved us back out to the Granthall, a couple circles and then over to the fire-hose which we started to follow back towards the first marker.  Then it happened, they tell you it happens but until it does you don't know what it's going to be like.  I stopped, spotting a particularity interesting plant that appeared to be swimming, and decided to snap a few pictures. 

1, 2, 3 frames later and I look to my buddy.... he's gone... nowhere to be seen.  Random clouds of silt can be seen in a few directions, unfortunately due to the large number of divers in the water clouds of silt could be evidence of any diver.  So, checking my watch and marking the time, then resuming my previous pattern sweeping side to side it was time to look for my buddy.  15 seconds, nothing, 30 seconds, nothing, 45 seconds, nothing, a minute.... nothing!  Now it was time to hope my buddy was ok and would stick to our plan, if separated, look for a minute, then head to the surface.  So... off to the surface I went spinning 360 degrees during my ascent looking to see if my buddy could be spotted.  Upon breaching the surface, I again started my 360 degree surface search looking for any sign of my buddy.  Only problem, lots of divers on the surface.... unfortunately... my buddy was not one of them...  Could it be that my buddy hadn't noticed I wasn't with him?  Is he ok? Where is he?  Seconds seemed like minutes and two minutes seemed like twenty.  Still spinning on the surface looking and then there, about 200 feet in toward shore, was my buddy, waving and signalling "OK".  Taking a navigational heading to where he was and indicating to stay in place, I descended to avoid the strong surface current and swam the distance following tight to my navigational heading and close to the bottom surfacing just beyond arms distance from my buddy.  Staying close and both stilled stunned at how quick we got separated we moved to the stairs and up out of the water to warm up, stow our gear and head home safe, sound and reminded of the importance of strong buddy contact.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Enjoying the view before gearing up to explore the wonders beneath!

Saturday afternoon while the Vancouver Canucks were preparing to dish out their punishment on the Boston Bruins, I was meeting up with a few friends at our cabin up at Porteau Cove.  The plan for the evening would see us completing 2 dives before calling it a night, catching some sleep and then joining Ocean Pro Divers in the morning for their monthly BBQ and dive day!!

By the time I had arrived at the cabin, my buddy for the night had just arrived and the Canucks were going into OT tied 2 - 2.  After grabbing my over-night gear and throwing it on the couch and flipping on the TV, we were just in time to see the puck drop and Alex Burrows suck Thomas out of the net, out skate Chara, and wrap around the net depositing the puck in the back of the net taking game 2 sending the Boston "ruins" back home to lick their wounds.

Shortly after the game, the third member of our group arrived and started preparing his dinner while I walked down towards the shore to look and see what the tides were looking like for the evening and was met with this wonderful view:

The water was so calm, only a few clouds in the air, conditions we dream about!

After my walk, the last of our team had arrived for the night and we loaded our gear and headed for the shore.  Taking our time to discuss the plans for the night and review any concerns we geared up and decended the stairs to start our first dive of the evening.

Surface swimming out to the first marker, the plan was to descend to the bottom, group up and move out along the fire hose exploring the darkened ocean floor.  Upon reaching the bottom and forming up in our buddy teams we headed out across the bottom.  Unfortunately the other group of divers turned out to be determined to move as quick as possible and since my buddy and I were looking to actually explore the under-sea world instead of watch it blast by while setting a record for how fast we could swim.  It did not take long for the other group to pull well ahead of us as we watched their lights dim into the distance.  Signalling to my buddy we slowed down to a complete stop, checked air, confirmed depth and started a slow patrol of the bottom moving in the general direction of the second marker.  After slowly exploring and capturing a few photos we started our slow return back towards the stairs watching as the fish dashed in and out of our beams of light.  Before we knew it, nearly 40 minutes had passed and we were watching as the bottom angled up and our depth drew down.  By 45 minutes we were back at the base of the stairs, regs out, fins off and then the short walk back to the vehicles to switch tanks and head back.

As it turned out, the first group had returned before us and had already stripped down their gear and packed it away.  One of the divers had decided to wear a wet-suit for the night, so after dive one he was uncomfortably cold and his buddy had decided one dive was enough for the night.  My partner and I, however, couldn't wait to get back in the water so while our friends headed back to the cabin we headed back out into the water, this time with a slightly different plan.

With me taking the lead we surface swam out just far enough to have about 10 feet of water below us before we descended.  Upon reaching bottom, we checked for neutral buoyancy, confirmed air and direction and then completely relaxed, slowly kicked and let the water move us slowly across the bottom while watching the world move around us.  As we approached half air we made a slow turn and moved back towards the stairs enjoying the underwater world and the wonderful life that it revealed to us along with some interesting looking animals that I had never seen before and will have to see if I can find someone to identify.

After finding and photographing our little buddy here we made our way to the stairs and up to the vehicles to strip down our gear and head for the cabin.  Back at the cabin we spread out the gear that would be needed for the following morning to allow it to dry a bit before being needed again and headed inside to join the rest of our party. 

As it turned out it wasn't much of a party... inside the cabin our other two divers had already found their sleeping bags and were working on catching their zzz's.  Quickly grabbing a snack and something warm to drink I headed to bed to snore away my night and dream of what the next day might bring.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Our Animals, Our Exhibits, My Brain....

May was nuts... there really is no other word for it so I am combining it into one blog... As mentioned previously in You may call me... "The Dolphin Poop Cleaner" I have been gifted the amazing opportunity of training as a volunteer diver for the Vancouver Aquarium.  Now to put this into a bit of perspective to get my Open Water Certification for diving, I attended 4 - 4 hour long classes that involved fitness tests ("Fitness... I don't need no stinkin' fitness") Knowledge Reviews, homework and in water practice culminating in a 50 questions exam (The "future" and the past!) and then a demonstration of all my skills in the open water.  For my certificate that allows me to be a volunteer for the Aquarium, not even a diver yet, I attended the orientation, then passed an interview and then.... I needed to complete 8 - 3 hour modules at the Aquarium learning everything from Marine Biology, the Arctic Environment, how to tell the difference between the Beluga's and even a little Lady Gaga... you'd have to ask David... words just cannot

Well here I am, my brain is fried, May is behind me and June is just started, I have completed all of my sessions and even had the chance to watch volunteers for other departments do presentations, I fortunately didn't have to present... I'm only a diver  Next week we start the Diver related training... that should be interesting... not too worried though, unless of course Jeremy makes me sing Lady Gaga....

Monday, May 23, 2011

Saving Lives - The New Team Sport

Yesterday was when we finally put all of the pieces of my four month journey to Rescue Diver together.  After classroom session number one with Virpi in February (The Master Scuba Diver Challenge!!) followed by the confusion of Andrew to the Rescue.... Or Not?, we finally got everything started back up in Andrew to the Rescue part... Doh!! where Ward taught the classroom section again (for the 4 new students that had joined the Recue program) and invited me to join.  Then that following Saturday Denis and Matt taught the in water Rescue scenarios in You are healed!!.  Which brings us to yesterday when Denis and Cheryl lead us through the final in water rescue scenarios but this time we got to put all of the learned items together.

In You are healed!! I got to practice with Matt on bringing a diver to the surface, and finding a lost diver in partners and dealing with a panicked diver.We also had opportunities to practice our in-water rescue breaths with the pocket mask while pulling a victim to shore and getting their gear off.  Yesterday we got to demonstrate our rescue breaths again, but this time without the pocket mask (yeah, you wanna see a group of guys squirm... tell them they are about to practice mouth to  With that skill out of the way (and no, lips did not actually, you end up blowing more on their chin or just below), we moved on to the real tests.  Here is where you need to put all your training into action.  One buddy is sent out into the water and is in apparent need of assistance, the other two need to come from shore and bring the first guy out.  Now, in our scenarios we have the advantage of knowing time really isn't of the essence (no one is really dying) and we are more or less mentally prepared and expecting the scenario.  So when Denis said go it was no surprise that most everyone was ready.  But what you realize in the two minutes the scenario takes to start and complete... there is a LOT to think about.... How far out is the potential victim?  Do I take the time to put my kit on? What do I take with me? Is he the only victim?

One by one, here is the thought process: 

How far out is the victim?
  • do you have to get in the water
  • can he be reached wading
  • can something be thrown to him
  • can you reach him with a stick
Do I take the time to put my kit on?

  • if I take the time he is in the water having issues longer
  • if I don't have my kit and he goes under then I may not be able to reach him
  • if I have my kit I will be slower in the water
  • if I don't have my kit and he gets panicky I don't have the option of going under him
What do I take with me?
  • do I grab a floatation device or make one
  • do I need my fins and mask
  • do I get another diver to come with me or wait for me on shore
Is he the only victim?
  • Where is his dive buddy
  • Is this a surface rescue or is he signaling for help because he can't find his buddy
  • What is the potential of additional victims
After our 3 man practice scenarios we had an opportunity to discuss some of the above topics / questions and work towards solutions (where ones could be found), and where you just need to sometimes go with your training and instinct and do your best, because your best, even if it's only marginally successful, is still better than not doing anything at all.

After our briefing, it was time for the final test... the real test.  You see for this one, Cheryl, our helpless "damsel in distress" is a "missing diver," and our team of six "rescuers" are tasked with finding and rescuing her.  What we know is that she is missing, we have a rough area and a general depth, we also know that visibility SUCKS at that depth.... what we need to do is agree upon a strategy, make a plan and execute it flawlessly... we also have to do it in less than 10 minutes!  Not a PADI requirement, a Cheryl requirement... she gets  So here was my chance to shine... lol, after-all, I had been through the classroom session twice, had the best partner for day 1 (Matt), can't go wrong with a DM as your partner, especially one who makes you  With everyone on the beach, and knowing the obstacles, we began to discuss.  The eventual plan that was agreed upon was to go out as a team of 6 each person having a dedicated buddy in case of seperation, drop down to depth and essentially holding hands move parallel to the beach, one of us in the middle navigating with a compass, the guy beside him counting kick cycles and the 2 guys on either end watching to see if they can find Cheryl.  Then after a set number of kick cycles, we would send the message down the line (through taps) and the inside person would stop and everyone would rotate around them to swing back in the opposite direction covering the next section.  Then, once found, the first group of dedicated buddies to reach her would surface her and while one starts pulling her in the other starts breaths.  This allows the fastest pair of remaining swimmers to head to shore to get the first aid and O2 ready and the final pair to work together, without interfering with the dragging or breathing, in getting her kit off before reaching shore.

With the plan in place it was time to stage the scene, to make it interesting we descended first and waited 2 minutes while Cheryl swam to a spot and descended.  At the 2 minute mark we started our search pattern, as we reached the end of our pass, the diver to my far left (I was in the middle) signaled along the line, and one by one we stopped and noticed there to the left of us barely visible in the murky water was Cheryl.  The team to my left secured her regulator and surfaced with the remaining 4 of us following close behind.  On the surface 2 of our divers raced for shore to secure the first-aid and air.  The two divers that brought Cheryl to the surface had already secured the pocket mask and were making their way to shore as the last member of our group and myself started undoing her kit and passing the items off.  By the time we had reached shore her full kit was off as was mine, so while the rest of my team stripped off their gear I pulled Cheryl up on shore to where the guys with first-aid and air were waiting to take over.  After a couple rounds of compressions and breaths... she was revived and safe to dive another day.

All in, this was one of the best courses I could have taken, it took longer to complete than intended but the information is definitely in there to stay.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Much Harder Than It Looks....

What a busy week!! Last week I had my Photography class on Monday, Aquarium Orientation on Wednesday night and Aquarium volunteer interview on Thursday!  Then, to top off my week and start this busy one, yesterday I had my Photography class and the shop BBQ.  Arriving early as always, I parked in the typical lower parking lot, right by the benches and in a perfect spot for a short walk to the shore.  Then within a couple minutes of arriving I saw Dennis arrive and head to the upper parking.  So throwing my fins back in the van I moved up to where he had parked.  Soon after Matt arrived and said Wes had let him know we would meet in the lower lot after all, as there would be more space.  Dennis and I decided to wait to see what Wes and Shannon wanted to do when they got there as they were only a couple minutes behind Matt.  Once they arrived they let us know that we would be using the upper lot as that is what they had mentioned on the original  But after reviewing the lot, we decided to compromise and move to the middle lot, giving us the room we would need but keeping us close to our original plan so that no one would be lost or  Lots of work and we hadn't even started yet.

Once parked it was time to assemble kits and review notes and start getting everything ready for our Photography dives.  Once the whole class arrived, and with our gear all assembled we sat with Wes to discuss the plan for the day, buddy up and then get out gear on.

After our short briefing and with gear in place and buddy teams arranged we headed for the water.  Of course with Chloe still out with her foot, there was only 5 divers going in, Matt with the one student and me with the other DM and Wes watching us all.  The idea for the first dive was to have each of us try to focus on Macro photography and get REALLY close to stuff, and then practice getting our lights in the right spots so that we could try to get a few shots that worked.

This is where everything went pear shaped for me, my strobe is apparently VERY bright and the resulting "flash" was blowing away all of my photos, even with my shutter set up really high, and my aperture really low and ISO set at 80 (as low as it goes), my photos were still oddly over exposed.  The only thing that started to work was moving the strobe further away from the object but that resulted in back-scatter, (when all the particulate in the water is lit up and very prominent in the photos.)  Wes did his best to try to help me accommodate to the blasting light and even tried snapping off a few himself helping me get things a little more dialed in.  Then to complicate matters, visibility sucked pretty bad and was not helped by the fact 5 divers were trying to get as close to the ground as possible and then take off again without disturbing the ground... easier said then done.  For much of the first part of the dive we had debris everywhere and were struggling to shoot through it.  Wes led the way most of the time moving back and forth between the two groups and giving tips as he could.  He even flipped a sun star over for me so that I could photograph it as is set itself right again.  Then as we got a little deeper and visibility got a little better we were able to separate a little more and managed to get a few more usable images.  But alas, before long, people started getting cold and air started to run shorter so we headed back in to the shallows capturing images as we did and then headed up for lunch, a debrief and a chance to review some of the images.

Getting my laptop out of the van it took only a minute to download all of my failed attempts and my few success' onto my computer.  Then Wes was able to scroll through them and see what if anything he could tell me that would help me move from being totally worthless at underwater photography to at least somewhat  Everyone ended up with a shot or two that they were happy with and then it was time to eat!

Now I love the Ocean Pro BBQ's, in fact I love BBQ's in and this was no exception.  For $5 you get a couple of amazing burgers, some salad, a pop, and all sorts of other plate (and stomach) fillers.  Ashley was there to help with the cooking, and Shannon kept everyone organized while encouraging people to eat  Amongst some of the other divers in attendance were Dennis, Ward, and Virpi (my supremely incredible instructors) and Stewart (the man who keeps everything running.)  After having my fill of burgers it was time to clean up, stow my laptop, and change the batteries in my camera (just to be safe). 

With everything clean, stowed and changed, it was time to head for the water.  With our team together we waded into the water and this time had the plan to go out a bit further and descend along the wall and see if we could capture images of the life along the rock.  After descending and meeting at the bottom it was time to (in our pairs) move out along the bottom and wall and find exciting life and items and attempt to capture usable images.  After a few feet I went in for a photo of a sunstar and it came out black... so I moved the light in a bit, adjusted a couple settings, and boom... blown out and WAY too bright.... a couple more setting changes... still to bright... again... still bright but better... a couple of tweeks... black again!  Grrrrr!!!

Now that I was one step away from seeing how far I could throw my camera underwater.. I decided to try one more time... this time, while still black.. I noticed something.. I didn't see a big flash...hmm.  So, holding the camera away from me, I pulled the trigger... sure enough, my on board flash went off.. but no strobe...  I flicked the switch back and forth.... nothing... the batteries were dead!!  I had thought to switch my camera batteries but had not thought that the strobe batteries would be that low.... Grrrrr!!!

Well, with my photography done for the day, it was time to follow Wes and my buddy around.  Now my buddy didn't seem to be taking many photos either, she seemed to be mostly following Wes and watching what he was doing... looks like great minds think alike... literally... she had forgot to switch her batteries  As it turned out once the dive was done, Wes had a failure in one of his strobes, and pretty much everyone else had battery issues. 

All said and done it was a great day and fun dives and I even got a couple images that I am sort of happy with.  I've attached them below, let me know what you think, and if you have tips.. let me know those too.