Jan 272016

Last Saturday, January 23rd, Dive Friends Bonaire held its first quarterly cleanup dive of 2016 at Karel’s Pier in downtown Kralendijk.  In total, 2714 items of marine debris were collected by a record-high 135 volunteer divers.

Their next cleanup dive will be held on April 9th.  If you’re on Bonaire during that time, come join the fun.

In between his debris collecting duties, Steve was able to capture a few shots from the dive.

Spotted Eagle Ray

Spotted Eagle Ray

A diver with his debris bag

Steve’s cleanup dive buddy with debris bag

Steve was lucky to spot this seahorse during the dive

Steve was lucky to spot this seahorse during the dive

A diver collecting debris

A diver collecting debris

A French Angelfish inspects the activity

A French Angelfish inspects the activity

A curious position for a Sharptail Eel

A curious position for a Sharptail Eel

A Hogfish with divers behind

A Hogfish with divers in the background

And here is a video by Dive Friends Bonaire.

Jan 252016

Many photographers don’t have the time, the inclination or the technical knowledge to process, edit and optimize the images that they have taken.  Shooting your images is the fun part, but for many, post-processing is simply a chore.

Eagle Ray Before and AfterWe are happy to share that Meredith is now offering professional photo editing & retouching services for underwater photographers.  As an experienced underwater photo editor/photographer, and a scuba diver of 20+ years, Meredith specializes in enhancing the beauty of your underwater subjects.

You can find more information about our photo editing services here. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with questions, or for a custom quote, at reeftraveleronline@gmail.com.

Jan 182016

One of the most common questions I hear from beginner underwater photographers is, “Do I really need to use a strobe?”.  This is a very valid and important question.  The addition of a strobe, or two strobes, adds a significant amount of bulk and weight to your camera setup.  There’s also the fact that strobes are expensive. Taking these factors into account, it’s easy to see why this question should be carefully considered.

Like with many other all-important questions, the answer to this one is, “it depends”.  It depends on several factors.  Let’s go through a few of them.

Do you snorkel only?  Or will you be scuba diving?

This is probably the most important factor to consider.  In this discussion, it’s helpful to understand a bit about the color spectrum and how it is affected by water and depth.  Water is a very effective absorber of light, and certain colors disappear quickly with each foot of depth or horizontal distance.  Red is almost completely absorbed at 15 feet (5 meters).  Orange and yellow are the next to disappear.

If you are snorkeling at shallow depths, you may be able to get good color in your photos using only natural light (sunlight).  The time of day, your shooting angle and the weather conditions will be an important factor.  Direct sun (or midday sun) coming from overhead often casts harsh shadows on your subject, so mid morning or afternoon sun is often best.

Whitetip Reef Shark, no flash, notice the shadows on the subject due to shooting in mid-day sun

Whitetip Reef Shark, snorkeling photo, no flash.  Notice the shadows on the subject due to shooting in mid-day sun.

Southern Stingray in St. John, no flash, shot in later afternoon. Notice the more diffused light.

Southern Stingray in St. John, snorkeling photo, no flash, shot in late afternoon. Notice the more diffused light.

What quality do you want in your photos?  Think about the quality you want in your photographs.  If you simply want a few snapshots to remember your adventures, and you are not looking for high quality, color-saturated images, you don’t necessarily need a strobe.  Keep in mind that if you are diving below 10 feet (3 m), your photos will have a strong blue/green cast, and they will lack a variety of color tones.  For some divers, this is perfectly acceptable.  If, however, you want images that are suitable for framing or printing, you will want to use at least one strobe to restore the colors that are lost at depth.  And please, shoot in RAW format if your camera allows (more on this here).

We recently photographed this longlure frogfish at 25 feet (8 m) with and without flash.

Without Flash

Without Flash

Green Frogfish Bari Reef S 2

With flash (dual strobes), notice the color difference

What do you intend to photograph?  Do you plan to photograph fish, humans, reefscapes, marine mammals, wrecks or something else entirely?  This will be an important question to answer.

Let’s say you plan to shoot whale sharks while snorkeling.  First, lucky you.  Second, ambient light is probably best.  Remember that your strobe will throw light about 5 feet (1.5 m) in distance.  A whale shark is much, much larger than that.  So it’s virtually impossible to evenly light an entire whale shark with one or two strobes.

Whale Shark in the Maldives, no flash

Whale Shark in the Maldives, no flash

If you intend to photograph humpback whales, dolphins or marine mammals, sharks or large marine creatures in blue water, you should not use a strobe.  Your strobe will not illuminate the entire subject, and swimming with it will limit your maneuverability while snorkeling.  Try to position the sun to your back to help eliminate those pesky shadows (like you see in my whale shark photo above).

When your subjects are tropical fish, coral or reefscapes, you will need at least one strobe to bring out the full spectrum and saturation of colors that give the reef its beauty.  Photographing a vibrant coral reef without a strobe isn’t likely to do it justice.

There are always exceptions to these general ideas about flash -vs- ambient light in underwater photography. We know one incredible reef/fish photographer who uses only the internal flash in the camera, and her results are unbelievable.  We also know photographers who use LED lights for still photography underwater.  Experienced photographers often develop their own unique techniques that fall outside of the norm. What are your thoughts on this?  Do you use one strobe or two?  Or just the sunlight?

More Reeftaveler posts about underwater photography techniques-

How to Take Better Fish Portraits

How to Take Your Snorkeling Photography to the Next Level

How to Take Better Fish Portraits

Underwater Photography Etiquette

Jan 122016

The new year seems to have ushered in a sort of Manta Madness on the island of Bonaire.  I’ve personally heard of three sightings in the past week, on both the west and east coasts.

The divers’ network is abuzz with excitement, in a way that only the sightings of big & rare creatures can produce.  At what dive sites can I find a manta?  At what depth?  What time of day is best for a sighting?  If only it were that easy.  As we all know, mother nature doesn’t work that way.  The ocean doesn’t serve up rare sea life encounters the way that Disney World dishes out encounters with Mickey or Minnie.

Here is visual proof of three encounters from last week.

Manta Ray at The Andreas Dive Site, photo by Mary Ann Rosenberg

Manta Ray at The Andreas Dive Site, photo by Craig Rosenberg

Manta Ray in Bonaire, photo by Craig Rosenberg

Manta Ray in Bonaire, photo by Craig Rosenberg

This video on Facebook from Captain Don’s Habitat.

This video on Facebook from Bonaire East Coast Diving – at Funchi’s Reef.


More Reeftraveler posts about Manta Rays

Manta Ray Monday

Manta Rays of Kona, HI

Of Men & Mantas

Diving Bonaire’s Salt Pier

Rangiroa’s Legendary Tiputa Pass


Have you seen one of Bonaire’s mantas?  If so, where?