Roatan, Honduras, August 1999

This was my first trip back to warm water in 2 years, and my first trip with the complete Aquashot camera. I was pretty confident, perhaps too much so, but still managed to grab 70-80 acceptable images out of 8 rolls of film. I had a couple new problems, and my recently repaired strobe flooded again (I sent it back and had it replaced the second time - perhaps it wasn't fully well) sometime in the middle of the week.

Here is the big catch with using APS film - you can't get it processed. Roatan can do C41 during the day and you can see what you're doing right and wrong. With APS, you learn trip by trip. I'm not even sure quite when the strobe stopped working. Unless you're on the other side, it's hard to know it went off, especially in bright blue waters like there. If you got a buddy close to you, have them look for that sort of thing. The other flash problem I ran into was that the AAAs in the E10 camera would fade fast. I can't tell if it's the water temp, the long dives, or what. On one dive I drained it so low that it couldn't even advance the film. Be sure you turn it OFF (flash setting) when your dive is done, but expect that you might need to change it more often when the water is 85F. I think I'll bring a voltmeter next time and check it nightly.

In terms of subject composition, there was one major new consideration that I didn't handle well. In the black water of California, you can't see very far, it is dark, and most subjects are small. This gets you close to your target, and the background generally is blank. You don't need to worry about clutter, and since the Aquashot is fixed focus, that only happens if the background fades out. But shift back to the tropics, and you have to think about how far away your subject is, and what is behind it. In the case of the cover picture here, I think the background effect is positive, and the main subject is close enough to lose its blueness. But this was not so for many of the rejects. Remember - get close, and get low, whenever possible.

I had been shying away from macro recently, in part because I was getting tired of dealing with the framer (still haven't created the one arm framer). I really should have taken more than a roll, but again I had no idea what would come out of it. I was once again removing the framer a lot to get shots of coral with some depth, and then I managed to lose the screw(%$@$!). So from then on, I didn't bother with the framer, and that allowed me to get a macro shot dead on with a 2" fish, and another one hiding with the coral stalks. I may never use the framer again, though I probably will make some kind of stick to indicate the upper left corner.

On the other side of the scale was the whaleshark adventure. We had 3 encounters and thankfully the long one (the 2nd) was the one in which I was ready to shoot. I stripped everything off - no strobe (drag, no value), no water correcting lens (no time to deal with brushing off the bubbles), though on at least some of them it looks like the camera flash was still on. As soon as we got there, I jumped...and then started swimming hard. The shark was moving just slightly slower than I could kick those fins, but that made it hard for me to stay down long enough to do more than grab a fin and shortly after surface. The rear tale was especially fun - the shark doesn't move it very fast, but it is producing serious thrust and easily threw me off. I was so happy a week later to find that all of the images were reasonable, and scale was shown. The camera was at least capable of dealing with a small (25') whaleshark. I've now seen little sharks (3', sleeping 6'ers) and really big ones (25' whalesharks). Now I need to go somewhere with the middle sized reef sharks.

Look at all of the pictures .