Indonesia's Gorontalo; Cayman Brac; Antarctica; Brazil's Fernando de Noronha; New Dalarö wreck park in the works in Sweden; Reviewing Poseidon's SE7EN rebreather; The art of bailing out; Idiot buddies; Safety culture; Scuba Confidential; Sensational snoots; Overview of photo editing software; Seacam Academy; Florida's artificial reefs; Erika Pochybova-Johnson portfolio; Plus news and discoveries, equipment and training news, books and media, underwater photo and video equipment, shark tales, whale tales and much more...
Main features in this issue include:
Creating photos in this digital age requires postproduction computer work to get the most out of your images. In days of old, post processing meant time in the darkroom developing film and then perhaps hours spent massaging the final print under an enlarger. The techniques may have changed but the concept is the same. The real question is where do you start?
On our journey north of the polar circle, my fellow adventurers and I were greeted by an astonishing spectacle. Over 20 orca were hunting an animal so rare that few people have seen them in the wild, let alone had the chance to study them. Using immense strength, agility and cunning intelligence, the orca worked as a team to hold the Arnoux’s beaked whale under water to drown it.
Hot steaming rainforests had been replaced with ice palaces and blue green glaciers; kangaroos and cassowaries had been substituted with penguins and seals; and my beloved shorts and singlet had been passed up for down jackets, heavy-duty waterproof overalls and beanie.
First visited by Christopher Columbus in 1503, his reports tell of incredible numbers of fish, turtles and crocodiles hence their original name of Caimen or The Cayman Islands.
Whether entering these waters as a novice or as a more experienced diver, what is obvious is that Cayman waters have some of the clearest waters in the Caribbean, with very few currents they are the ideal destination for virtually guaranteed results.
A difficulty in obtaining information about wild animal behaviour is that detailed observations of different individuals is necessary over long periods of time, and this is especially hard to achieve with sharks. But in the shallow lagoons of French Polynesia, such observation was possible without the encumbrance of scuba gear, and without the problem of the shark disappearing into the depths.
As I learned where and how to look for the local sharks, I focused on blackfin reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus), because they were so easy to find patrolling the shores.
The Baltic Sea offers some very treacherous waters even under the best of circumstances. The price to pay for sailing the Baltic through the millenniums has been high, and traces of those costs are scattered over the bottom.
The value is not measured in money, but in knowledge. Due to extremely favorable conditions, the wrecks and the remains found are virtual time capsules, waiting to tell their stories about people and their way of living in the past, about the countries and the cultures of Europe.
A few weeks ago, a dive centre chartered a boat to take five divers and two instructors out to some islands off the south coast of Bali. It was rainy season and, behind the rainclouds, there would be a full moon that night in an area where currents are notoriously strong and unpredictable.
After about ten minutes underwater, they found that the current was so strong that it was difficult to keep the group together. So they ascended early to find that a storm had swept in, surface conditions were now very rough, and the rain had reduced visibility to a few metres only.
Originally from Slavakia, self-taught artist Erika Pochybova-Johnson creates brilliant, spell-binding, intricate paintings inspired by nature, the sea and its creatures. Now based in Lubbock, Texas, the artist shared with X-RAY MAG her artistic vision and connection to the underwater world.
"I want to pay tribute to nature’s purity and hope that our civilization will learn to live in harmony with that."
— Erika Pochybova-Johnson
X-RAY MAG: Tell us about your background, your roots and how you became an artist.
If I were to tell you about a special place where no one locks their doors at night, where crime is virtually nonexistent, where the number of tourists is intentionally restricted to preserve the ecological balance, and where each visitor must pay a daily fee of 15 Euros (approximately US$20) to protect the environment, would you think about Brazil? Probably not!
The archipelago entails 21 volcanic islands and is located at 360km (224mi) from the closest coast of Brazil (Natal). Spreading over a total area of 26 squ km, it is located in the Atlantic Ocean near the Equator (3° 51′S, 32° 25′W).
Miles of white sandy beaches, family vacation destinations, infamous spring break festivities and outstanding state parks attract millions of visitors to Florida annually from around the world. But there is so much more to see—especially for those who like to take their sightseeing down below the ocean and gulf waters—like the beauty and magic of thousands of artificial reefs that lie beneath the surface along Florida’s coastlines.
And while Florida’s coral reef tract lies in south Florida waters, divers and snorkelers can find more than 2,800 artificial reefs located off 34 of the 35 coastal counties.
Barely beaten tracks are an increasingly rare find for travellers in this ever more accessible world. Yet on the shores of Tomini Bay on the Indonesian Island of Sulawesi, one such place still exists.
Gorontalo Province lies on a peninsula extending from the northeast of the flower-shaped island of Sulawesi, reaching out towards the Philippines.
Ask any photographer the one thing they would like to improve in their underwater images and most will likely say, “The lighting.” Lighting in photography is everything and shooting underwater often requires the photographer to read the ambient light and to create durable images on the fly.
Snoots are an effective tool for underwater photography that gives the user precision control of light quality and direction that can be used for creating interesting compositions in macro photography.
In August 2012, I wrote an article which discussed just culture and what this meant in the context of recreational and technical scuba diving, and using this concept, how we can improve diving safety.
But just culture is only one part of a safety culture, a term which is being promoted by a number of organisations and individuals as something that needs to be developed by individual divers to improve their safety.
Online Seminars for Underwater Photographers.
These so-called “cyber lessons” have been available for years in other sectors such as the sports or music industries, for example. In the diving and photography scene, however, this kind of dissemination of knowledge is absolutely new.
The nascence of recreational rebreathers was just waiting to happen. Spurred on by rapid advances in technical diving, new materials and technology, coupled with cost reductions, the allure of long and quiet dives, with vastly improved non-deco times, had to seep from the technical communities to recreational diving, leading to the design of a new generation of closed circuit rebreathers aimed primarily at recreational divers.
Coming up first on the agenda was taking a closer look at the innards and getting familiar with all the components and how they came together. Looking at the unit as it was laid out gutted on the table, it struck me how compact everything was.
Rebreather diving is currently one of the fastest growing activities in the diving universe. Divers’ motivations for getting a rebreather vary. Some derive enjoyment from “piloting” a sophisticated machine like a cosmonaut journeying through (inner) space.
However, despite their increased capabilities, rebreathers can be subject to serious failures.
Being swept along on this technical diving thing, has been a long, somewhat twisted, but definitely entertaining journey. If you and I had met when the whole affair started, we could not possibly have envisioned how directly and pervasively, what were then radical activities, like cave diving, trimix diving and rebreather diving, would influence the mainstream dive community.
But perhaps, evolution is too soft a word to describe what’s happened. So many things have changed. Gear, training, the places we visit to dive, how we exchange information, even what form dive magazines and textbooks take: case in point with X-RAY MAG for example.