Over the years, I have developed a passion for scuba diving, averaging about 45 dives per year. I especially like the travel, photography, spearfishing, and adventure that are associated with this sport.
I have my Master Scuba Diver certification (PADI/ Professional Association of Diving Instructors), and 10 PADI specialty certifications: Deep Diver, Emergency First Response (CPR and First Aid), Enriched Air-Nitrox, Equipment Specialist, Reef Conservation, Rescue Diver, Scuyak (ocean kayaking combined with scuba), Underwater Hunter, Underwater Navigation, and Wreck Diver (with penetration). I have my SDI (Scuba Diving International) Solo Diver certification. I enjoy taking certification courses from time to time -- just to keep learning, just for the challenge.
Rhode Island Diving
I do most of my diving in Rhode Island, which has many great shore dives— with beautiful walls filled with a vast variety of flora and fauna. The spearfishing is also quite good between late April and early November (the most common gamefish are tautog, flounder, and striped bass). Water temperatures (at depth) during the dive season start in the low 40s F. (6 to 8 C.) in late April, peak to the high 60s (19 to 21 C.) in late August, then drop back down to the mid 50s (12 to 14 C.) by early November. I solo dive often in these waters, but only in areas in which I have a great deal of familiarity and usually no deeper than 85 feet (26 M.). Here are a few shots, from different angles, of one of my favorite Rhode Island dive sites (Ft. Wetherill):
I have dived many wrecks throughout the Florida Keys, as well as near Ft. Lauderdale; these wrecks include the Benwood, the Cayman Salvage Master, the City of Washington, Mike's Wreck, the RSB-1, and the Spiegel Grove.
I have done extensive wreck diving off the North Carolina coast (Beaufort; Morehead City— having done multiple dives on the Aelous, Indra, Schurz, Naeco, Papoose, Spar, and U-352 in the Gulf Stream waters near the Outer Banks).
I have done wreck diving in the waters of the South Carolina coast (including having dived the General Sherman and the barges and armored personnel carriers used to create the artificial reef systems locally known as Barracuda Alley and Pinnacle Reef).
I have dived several wrecks off the southern shores of Grand Cayman Island, including the Oro Verde, the Balboa, and the Sunset House reef wreck.
Bonaire's Helme Hooker is among my southern Caribbean wreck dives, as are the many wrecks off the southwestern shores of Aruba-- including the Kappl, the Tugboat Wreck, the Jane Sea, and the Sonesta passenger airplanes (a YS-11 and a Convair 400).
I had also done many wreck dives off New Providence Island (Bahamas), including the Dave Tucker, the Ray of Hope, Steel Forest (3 wrecks, doing one with penetration), and the Twin Sisters wrecks.
Although I am a certified wreck diver and have penetrated multiple wrecks using reels et al., I prefer to spend most of my time on the outside of the wreck-- which is where most of the flora and fauna reside, where the photo opportunities are generally better, and where the danger level is much lower (!).
I have done many coral reef dives in the Florida Keys and near Ft. Lauderdale, as well as in The Bahamas (Grand Bahama Island; New Providence Island), the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Croix), Aruba, Belize, Bonaire, and the Cayman Islands (Grand Cayman Island).
Fresh Water & Cavern Diving
I have also done deep cavern diving in the fresh-water springs and rivers of central Florida, including Blue Grotto Springs (Williston), Catfish Hole (Chiefland), Devil's Den (Williston), King's Bay Cavern (Crystal Springs), Manatee Springs (Chiefland), and Paradise Springs (Ocala), as well as the smaller caverns of the Rainbow River (Dunnellon).
Even though I dive deep by recreational standards (to depths of 135 feet), I stay within "no decompression" limits and do no "technical" diving (using mixed gases, stage bottles, et al.). I generally use a single steel 100cf tank. And I always carry a 19cf aluminum pony tank for my deep wreck dives (for my pony, I use a front sling system, with the tank attached to D-rings on the upper left side of my weight-integrated bcd).
Despite the cooler temperatures of North Atlantic diving, I only use a wetsuit— usually a 7mm full suit, often in conjunction with a 5mm hooded vest. For southern and Caribbean diving, I use a 3/2mm full suit. No matter what the water temperature, I always wear a hood (from 3 to 5mm); I find it preserves my body heat (even water temps in the 80s F. [high 20s C.] will suck the heat from your body after 30 or 40 minutes), and it offers protection against jellyfish (and related critters, e.g., siphonophores like the Portuguese Man-o'-War) and in tight overhead environments (inside wrecks / caverns). I have personally witnessed unhooded divers suffer nasty and extremely painful Man-o'-War facial and neck stings.
My spearguns include a 75cm band gun (Omer Dragon) and several pneumatics. I prefer the pneumatics, my favorites of which are a 85cm Sporasub Stealth and a 97cm Mares Cyrano.
Until 2007, for my wreck and reef photography I used a 3.3 mp SeaLife digital camera and two external strobes. Between January of 2008 and December of 2011, I upgraded to the SeaLife 6.1 mp Land & Sea camera -- with twin digital (adjustable) strobes. For general photography (reefs; caverns; wreck-scapes; larger creatures) I used a 24mm wide angle lens, which I removed for macro shots (distances under 20 inches). Since the summer of 2012, I have upgraded to the SeaLife DC1400 mp, which has a built-in 26mm wide angle lens. I edit my pictures with Adobe Photoshop Elements 10.0.
My camera, the SeaLife DC1400, is a point-and-shoot system. And even though I can manually control an array of settings, I generally use the manufacturer's default settings for the F-stop, shutter speed, white balance, and ISO. This helps for many reasons -- from spending more time enjoying the dive to the fact that many of my subjects are fast-moving and thus lighting conditions et al. change quickly, and the camera generally does a great job of making the necessary changes, especially because it was designed from the ground up for the special circumstances of underwater light. Most of my manual work consists of adjusting the angles of the strobe lights (to create adequate backlighting and to reduce backscatter), the angle of my camera, the power level of my strobes, and the distance from my subject. Note that point-and-shoot underwater systems have attained enormous power in the past few years. As Ty Sawyer, former Editorial Director for Scuba Diving magazine observes: contemporary "high-end point-and-shoots [can] produce incredible images" (August, 2010 issue, p. 6). My camera also has high definition video capability, a feature I began using in 2013 -- for example, see this 40-second clip I took on a "shark adventure" dive in Nassau, The Bahamas, in January of 2013: shark-dive-video_1_1-12-2013. (Note: I'm shooting the video, in my thin wet suit -- getting bumped by the sharks; the diver in the clip is the 'divemaster,' who's wearing a chain-mail suit and a helmet. Also note that it may take a minute or two for the video to download, depending on how fast your Internet connection is.)
Here's my camera set up with a digital strobe on the left side and a video light on the right:
The Challenges of Underwater Photography
Taking good pictures on dry land can be challenging, but such challenges often pale in comparison to taking good pictures under water. Among the greater difficulties that underwater environments bring forth are the:
* lack of light;
* existence of floating particle matter—which can both block out subjects and create “backscatter” (the reflection of light off the particles back to the camera, creating glare and distortion);
* loss of color as light penetrates the surface (reds begin to fade at 15 feet, soon followed by oranges and yellows; below 30 feet, everything begins to appear as shades of blue and green);
* need to wear gloves (to protect from cold; from wreck debris), increasing the difficulty of camera operation;
* sometimes powerful currents, making it hard to stabilize the camera;
* constant movement of fish and other marine life—rarely do the likes of sharks, rays, reef fish, et al. “cooperate” and pose for a picture;
* need to be “close” (less
than 6 ft.) to the subject matter—as the lack of light
and the distortions created by particle matter within
the water column, as well as the water column itself,
can distort photos beyond that range.
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