May 222013

Did you know that every grain of sand is unique, and that it comes in a vast array of colors, shapes, textures and origins?

The elements found in sand contribute to its color.  White sand, like that found in the Maldives, is typically composed of limestone from crushed coral and shells.

White Sands of the Maldives

White Sands of the Maldives

Darker sands, like that found on many islands of volcanic origin, typically contain obsidian or basalt deposited by flowing lava.

Golden Sands of Horseshoe Bay, Matangi Island, Fiji

Golden Sands of Horseshoe Bay, Matangi Island, Fiji

Dark Volcanic Sand on the Island of Hawaii

Dark Volcanic Sand on the Island of Hawaii

Through his fascinating microscopic photography (110 – 250 times magnification), Dr. Gary Greenberg of Hawaii gives us a glimpse into the complex world of sand.

May 132013

Each year from December through May, humpback whales migrate to Hawaii’s Kohala Coast to breed and give birth.  It is estimated that as many as 12,000 humpbacks, weighing up to 45 tons, can be found in Hawaii’s waters each year.  During this time, you can not only see them from shore, but you can also hear their songs if you free dive or snorkel (with your entire head submerged).

In March I went on a whale watch boat for the first time.  The wind was fierce (gusting up to 30 knots) and the waves were high, but we had an amazing day as nature put on a show for us.


Kona Whales2

Kona Whale Tail

There were whales to port and to starboard and forward and aft.  We saw giant males propel their massive bodies out of the water, and small calves swimming timidly with their mothers.

Kona Whales

Kona Whales3

For those interested in humpback whale watching, other stellar locations around the world can be found in Rurutu, French Polynesia and Vava’u, Tonga (which is high on my ever-growing list of places to visit).

May 042013

Those with their own gear know that packing for a dive/snorkel trip is no small feat.  Throw in the camera gear and you’ve got yourself a real challenge.

So how do you manage to safely haul all that gear halfway around the world to exotic underwater destinations often reached only by small prop planes?

I don’t profess to have all the answers.  But over the years I have worked out a system that works pretty well for me.

I’m going to show you exactly how I pack my camera and tech gear, but first, the inventory:

  • Canon 60D Camera Body
  • Canon G12 Camera (compact with manual controls)
  • Olympus TG-1 Camera
  • Computer
  • iPad
  • iPhone
  • Kindle
  • Canon 10-22 mm wide angle lens
  • Canon 50 mm 1:1.4 lens
  • Canon 75-300 mm zoom lens
  • Housing for Canon G12
  • Macro Lens for Canon G12
  • Wide Angle Lens for Olympus TG-1
  • Chargers and Batteries for all of the above
  • Note:  I shoot mostly with ambient light, but when I need a strobe I borrow one from Mr. Reeftraveler.

I currently use a Pelican Wheeled Upright Camera bag (dimensions 18 x 14 x 10 inches / 45.72 x 35.56 x 25.4 cm).  This particular bag is no longer available, but Think Tank, Tamrac and Lowepro also make some nice wheeled bags and cases.  For me, a wheeled bag is an absolute necessity for gear of this weight.  Another feature that I consider a necessity is customizable padded interior dividers (many camera bags have this feature).

Below is the interior of the camera case, packed and ready for a trip.

packed pelican 3

Here’s a closer look.  Notice that some of the lenses are “hidden” under other items.

Packed Pelican 2

The laptop and iPad slide into these cushioned dividers.

Pelican computer section

Here’s the front zippered section, which is perfect for travel documents, phone, pens, kindle, headphones and other smaller carry-on items.

Pelican organizer section

In typical anal-retentive type-A fashion, I group camera accessories into individual zip-loc bags (one bag per camera).

G12 zip loc

Olympus Zip Loc

I have a second set of travel chargers (which duplicate my home chargers) that live in their own bag.

Travel Chargers

This is what usually happens during the packing process.  “I see the luggage.  You’re going to abandon me again, aren’t you!”

Cat on Packed Bags

How do you handle the packing process?  What bag type or brand do you prefer?  Any tips?  Do you think I’m absolutely nuts for lugging three cameras on a trip?