July 10, 2012 - Blow Days

Photo of the Week
Carcharias taurus on the wreck of the Aeolus.
©Mike Gerken www.evolutionunderwater.com

(Scroll Down for Photo Tip of the Week)
     I've said this before and I'll say it again, when you come to North Carolina to go diving, have a back up plan for the 'blow days'. "What is a 'blow day' some of you might be asking? A 'blow day' is when the wind blows hard enough to build seas to heights that make it unsafe to take divers offshore to dive. When diving in the open Atlantic Ocean you are at the mercy of Mother Nature more so then other destinations. 

    The Morehead City area is a beautiful region that has so much more to offer than just diving. "Blasphemy!", some of the hard core divers might utter at hearing such words. You will have to pardon my forwardness, but to not be open to engaging in activities other than diving when there is no diving to be had, you are being foolish. Try to cheer up, get out there and have some fun. I promise you there is plenty to do here.

Olga Torrey swallowed by a Megladon at the
Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium. ©Larry Cohen.
     If you ask divers and photographers, Larry Cohen and Olga Torrey how their Olympus Dive Center dive vacation went this past week, they'll tell you it was great, even though they only managed to dive two of the seven days they were here. Despite this set back, these two covered some ground enjoying the topside attractions here on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina.

     Larry and Olga are members of the New York City Dive Club, the Sea Gypsies. The Sea Gypsies are one of the most active dive clubs in the United States. When you attend one of their meetings you will hear dive reports from members returning from far off locales around the world such as Iceland, Raj Ampat, Antartica, Truk Lagoon and even iceberg diving to name just a few (yes, that's right, iceberg diving). Let me tell you, these folks get around. 

     Each day Larry & Olga would approach me early in the morning on the dock after we gave everyone the bad news that the diving has been cancelled for the day, and ask me (what many dejected land locked divers ask), "What is there to do in the area besides diving?". When I hear this question I am always happy to help out because I live in the Morehead City area and I love it here and not just because of the diving. There is always something fun and exciting to do that can take you outdoors.

Wild horse of Shackleford Banks. ©Olga Torrey.
    After giving Olga & Larry some advice I let them to their own devices to make the best of the day and they did just that! Judging by the frequent photos that came in from them via email to my desk at home, I'd say they had a blast. 

    First they took a small ferry ride out of the neighboring town of Beaufort (voted the "Coolest Town in America" in 2011) over to the uninhabited Shackleford Banks State Park to comb the ocean beaches and search for wild horses to photograph. The lineage of these horses is said to date back to the 16th century when European ships wrecked on the beaches hence stranding the horses. These horses, although wild, are rather tame and make for great photo subjects when you can find them. Larry & Olga had no problem locating a herd and snapped some nice shots with the ocean beaming in the background. 

Olga Torrey taking aim. ©Larry Cohen
     As the 'blow days' continued day after day, Larry & Olga needed to get more & more creative. After a obligatory visit to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores to see the penguin exhibit and then to Fort Macon State Park to see museum exhibit there, they were in the need of some new ideas. 

     When I asked them if they liked to shoot guns, I think I saw a gleam in their twitching eyes. I told them about the Sure Shot gun range only 20 miles or so from the waterfront where they could rent guns and buy ammo and shoot clay pigeons with a 12 gauge or blow a few holes in some paper targets. With that said, later that day, more images were delivered in to my inbox showing Olga taking aim with a 9mm. "Mission accomplished",  I thought to myself and wished I had taken time out from behind my desk to join them.


Olga paddle boarding on the
intracoastal waterway. ©Larry Cohen
    But wait, there is more. Between photo shoots on the beach and blasting away at the range these two found time for paddle board lessons with Carolina Kite & Surfing in Emerald Isle. With miles and miles of ocean beaches and intracoastal waterways to ply, this sport is extremely popular in this neck of the woods. With a mere lesson or two it can be extremely easy to learn and be on your way paddling and enjoying the outdoors. 

    By the end of their vacation, Larry & Olga accomplished more than most, including getting offshore for a few dives to see the sand tiger sharks that we are so famous for here. I tip my hat to both of them for making the most of the heavy winds and days stuck at the dock and enjoying all there is to do here at my home on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

A sand tiger shark of North Carolina.
©Larry Cohen
    Some of the many other activities in the Morehead area include, surfing, kite boarding, sport fishing, body boarding, shopping, hiking, biking, horse back riding and checking out the restaurant and night life in the area. When you see me on the dock after the bad news bomb has been dropped that there is no diving today, keep a smile on your face and ask me what is there to do. I promise you I will point you in the right direction and offer you some great advice on how to salvage your dive vacation.


Happy Diving or paddle boarding or surfing or swimming or whatever!

-Mike Gerken

Photo Gallery

Larry having a laugh at the Aquarium. ©Olga Torrey
Yet another picturesque view of the Atlantic. ©Olga Torrey
Soaking up fun and sun in at the beach. ©Larry Cohen 
A new species of shark discovered in the surf zone of Atlantic Beach.
©Olga Torrey
Beautiful sunset at the beach. ©Olga Torrey
Acknowledgements
•Thank you to Olga Torrey and Larry Cohen for contributing your images to this Blog Report. 
•To see more of their work please visit www.liquidimagesuw.com.  
•Larry does chat and email at B&H Photo in New York City. He can be contacted at uw@bhphoto.com.

Afterword
     The weather is improving (see below) for diving later this week and in to the weekend. I have not been out since last Tuesday so once I get back offshore I will start posting condition reports again on Facebook and in this blog. Keep your fingers crossed for a reprieve from Mother Nature.


Long term NOAA forecast for July 12th to the 14th. It's promising.


Photo Tip of the Week
Camera Preparation

     Underwater photography requires a lot of preparation from researching the dive sight for promising subject matter to mental readiness for the dive ahead and of course, camera preparation. I cannot tell you how many times I have descended down to a dive site only to attempt to pull the trigger on my shutter and find that one of two dozen things did not function properly or at all. Some example system failures I have had to deal with were:

1 - Strobes failing to fire.
2 - Camera out of alignment in house causing none of the controls to work.
3 - Camera or strobe batteries dead.
4 - Incorrect lens for the dome port in use.
5 - Lens set to manual focus with no focus ring.
6 - Dirt or grease on inside of dome port, camera lens or worse yet the camera sensor.

and the worst one of all...

7 - A leak in the housing.

     All of these issues are easily avoidable when proper camera preparation is undertaken. If you are an individual who is unorganized by your nature, I implore you to change this trait when you are undertaking your photography. Are time underwater is extremely valuable to us in so many ways and cannot be wasted fussing over a camera malfunction or contacting your insurance company because you just washed down your $3,000 digital SLR with salt water. 

     Design a routine or check list that works for you and apply this routine every single time you take your camera in the water. This routine will save you many moments of frustration and help you yield quality images you can be proud of.

Here are some items you should include on your check list:

1 - Make sure all camera & strobe batteries have a fresh charge. Dead batteries are the number one cause of a lost photo op underwater. Once you are down there switching in fresh ones is not so easy.

2 - Properly clean, grease and check for damage to all primary o-rings on the house and dome ports. A few pennies worth of grease and a five dollar o-ring are all that separate you from fun and disaster.

3 - Install camera in to housing in a clean well lit area and be careful not to get lint or hair on the o-rings or any of the contacts such as the hot shoe for strobe fire.

4 - Close housing up and test fire camera several times to check that the strobes are firing. Also check all camera functions and that they are operable including camera auto focus and menu features.

5 - Make sure you have the lens mounted that is fit for the type of dive you want to do. Forgetting to take your 105mm macro lens off for a whale shark dive might piss you off just a tad.

6 - Lastly, make sure your head is in the game before jumping. Remember, haste makes waste. Forgetting one minor detail could be hazardous to your photography and your cameras health. Make sure you set time aside before every dive trip and every descent to tend to the needs of your camera.

Good Luck!

-Mike

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1 comment:

Jane said...

Hi Mike,
My name is Jane and I'm with Dwellable.
I was looking for blogs about Pine Knoll Shores to share on our site and I came across your post...If you're open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
Hope to hear from you soon!
Jane

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