Posted by: Carol | August 17, 2010

Aniwa and Underwater Photography

Erromango Postscript:  Last posting I forget to mention a special moment that took place as we returned from a scuba outing at Erromango.  Rod, Mike and I were racing across the waves in the big dinghy when the pod of resident dolphins joined us and started surfing the the bow wave, backs rising and falling within arm’s reach!

August 6 – From Erromango we sailed to a very small island named Aniwa where we spent just one night but managed to fit in two dives, one the afternoon we arrived; the other the next morning before we deported.  Aniwa has a huge spectacular lagoon at one end which we explored a bit by dinghy – there was a resort on the lagoon’s beach, very pleasant if you like Spartan island amenities.  As usual the locals came out in their dugouts to check out the yacht.  At night from the anchorage we could see our next destination and the focal point of our entire trip, the island Tanna, some 50 miles in the distance but still dully glowing red from Mt. Yasur’s constant activity.  And while we enjoyed the stars and the view of the distant volcano we heard the distinct exhaling breath of a nearby whale.

We’ve been scuba diving a lot this trip – I think to date I’ve logged 9 dives, not counting multiple snorkeling expeditions as well.  The water is incredibly clear, the reefs are jam-packed with healthy coral, myriads of colorful reef fish and some larger ones as well – we’ve seen barracuda, big grouper, rays, a few sharks, lots of turtles, a big cuttlefish and several small squid.  The other day after diving in the morning with Rod, I went again in the afternoon by myself on a shallow reef that was swimming distance from where we had anchored AVATAR.  By myself I was able to spend an hour or so just a few feet below the surface, staying in just one spot and having time to concentrate on catching a good shot.  Mike sat on AVATAR’s flying bridge keeping an eye on me by watching my bubble trail.

Underwater photography is a challenge unto itself.  First off there is considerable paranoia involved, fear of pilot error causing a fatal flooding of the underwater housing and instant destruction of expensive camera and lens!  Secondly, not only are the subjects in motion (darting fish, tentacles of sea anemones waving in the current) but the photographer is constantly in motion as well, rising, sinking, swaying with the surge or being swept along by a current.  Often by the time the photo is framed and the autofocus locked on, I’ve been carried right past the sweet spot and just have a blurry missed shot to show for it.

Another challenge is keeping track of myself and my surroundings while concentrating on the subject in the viewfinder.  Dangling appendages of dive gear and flapping flippers can break off the fragile coral I’ve come to admire, so at the same time I need to get close to the subject I need to avoid touching the reef and causing damage.  And it’s easy to zero in on the subject and not know what’s happening around me at the same time.  After our dive together on Aniwa, Rod told me he had spotted a grey shark but I missed it as I was in hot pursuit of a big grouper.  Not until I developed my favorite grouper shot on the computer did I spot the shark’s tail exiting the frame on the lower left!

In shallow water there is plenty of sunlight and the colors are natural, but descend into the depths and all the warm colors – reds, yellows, etc. – fade away leaving only blue.  All the images out of the camera start out a foggy monotone but fortunately my editing skills are improving and I’m able to find the “true colors” in all that watery blue.  What at 20 meters depth appears to be a sea fan of black coral turns out to be fiery red when viewed in the sunlight.

I’ll end with a few of my successes; the many failures have been consigned to the digital garbage dump!

Next stop, Tanna.

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Responses

  1. Carol, Those shots are spectacular!! Thank you for sharing!!

  2. love reading about your adventures! parker and i returned to tucson today, ready to go back to ny! not sure what this year has in store for us, but we are excited to find out!


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