Jan 052017
 

bachelors-pano-4-3-3

How much would you be willing to pay for a full year of access to:

  • The best shore diving in the Americas, as voted by the readers of Scuba Diving magazine for 24 consecutive years.
  • Over 350 recorded species of fish and 57 species of coral.
  • Prime windsurfing locations, home to five “Top 10” world champion windsurfers
  • Beautiful white and pink sand beaches, which are home to more than 100 nesting areas for 3 endangered species of sea turtles.
  • Swim in tranquil turquoise water that stays between 78 and 84 degrees F (25-29C) year-round.

Plus, access to nearly 14,000 acres (6,500 hectares) of national park, rich in biodiversity, and home to many endemic species including:

  • More than 200 of the island’s 210 known bird species, including large flocks of Caribbean flamingos and Yellow-shouldered amazon parrots.
  • Over 9 miles (15 km) of shoreline, with sandy beaches plus salt flats, mangroves, cactus scrub, caves, and dry forest
  • A network of nature trails that you can hike to the highest point on the island
  • Opportunities to kayak, mountain bike, picnic and more

How is this possible? With a one-year nature tag, which provides access to both the Bonaire National Marine Park and Washington-Slaagbai National Park. It is available from non-profit STINAPA, who manages and protects the parks, as well as from local dive shops and the Tourism Office in Kralendijk.

The price? Only $25 USD, for a whole year. $10 day passes are also available.

stinapa-tag

This is among the greatest bargain in the Caribbean and the world.

We just bought our tags for 2017, and look forward to new adventures in the parks. What are you waiting for?

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

Jul 012014
 

danlogo

We have long been faithful members of DAN (Divers Alert Network), and if you are a diver or snorkeler, you should be too.  DAN membership benefits far outweigh the nominal annual fee, and the knowledge that DAN is there to help should you experience a scuba-related (or non-diving) medical emergency is priceless.  In a sport like scuba diving that carries a high level of inherent risk, security and safety are critical.

DAN’s most recent member email update provided a link to a series of picture quizzes on their website.  These quizzes were new to me, and being that I am a total nerd always on a quest for knowledge, I had some fun testing my scuba smarts.  I scored 11 out of 13 on my first quiz, “What’s Wrong“.  Not bad, but I’ll try for a perfect score next time.

Go here to test your own scuba smarts, and let us know how you did!

 

Dec 082013
 

Divers with long hair – here’s a familiar scenario for you to consider.  You surface from an excellent dive, remove your gear and meander (soaking wet, dripping) back to your liveaboard cabin or hotel room.  You make an immediate beeline for the shower, desperately seeking warmth and a freshwater rinse.  And suddenly you remember that you must deal with the long, tangled mess of salty knots growing from your head.  And if you dive with braids (like I often do), you must first untangle the braids before you can even think about tackling a comb through.

It’s annoying, but, like many of you, I’m not prepared to cut my long hair.  I like it too much.  It’s part of who I am.

Recently, I spied a display of brightly colored brushes at my salon.  They looked almost like children’s brushes and promised to detangle any type of wet hair with ease.

The Wet Brush

The Wet Brush in pink

While skeptical, I purchased The Wet Brush and decided to test it for myself.  My skepticism completely disappeared as this amazing little brush glided through my thick, curly hair as if it were as soft as spun silk.  I was hooked.

I bought a second brush to keep in my dive bag/travel kit.  I no longer fret over detangling my salt-hardened hair – it is simple and painless.

The Wet Brush in Black

The Wet Brush in Black

So now the scenario I outlined in the first paragraph goes something like this.

“You surface from an excellent dive, remove your gear and meander (soaking wet, dripping) back to your liveaboard cabin or hotel room.  You make an immediate beeline for the shower, desperately seeking warmth and a freshwater rinse.  And suddenly you remember that you must deal with the long, tangled mess of salty knots growing from your head. You rinse your hair, shampoo and apply a handful of conditioner.  Then you grab your Wet Brush and gently glide it through your silky hair.  Towel dry and move on.”

Note:  I purchased The Wet Brush and wrote this review of my own accord.

Do you have any special detangling tips?

Nov 112013
 

In my last post I promised to show you more photos from the extensive house reef at Gallows Point on St. John.

Although we didn’t see the moon jellies this year, there was plenty of other sea life to watch and photograph.

Hawksbill Turtle - by Mr. Reeftraveler

Hawksbill Turtle – by Mr. Reeftraveler

Photo by Mr. Reeftraveler

Photo by Mr. Reeftraveler

Octopus - by Mr. Reeftraveler

Octopus – by Mr. Reeftraveler

Reef Squid

Reef Squid

Squirrelfish - by Mr. Reeftraveler

Squirrelfish – by Mr. Reeftraveler

Christmas Tree Worms

Christmas Tree Worms

Flamingo Tongue - by Mr. Reeftraveler

Flamingo Tongue – by Mr. Reeftraveler

Curious Squirrelfish

Curious Squirrelfish

Do you have a favorite St. John snorkel spot?