Monthly Archives: July 2015

  • GoPro - a Phenomenon!

    POV action cameras have taken over the world! Whatever you are doing, whether it be jumping off a high building wearing nothing but a string vest to break your fall, wing-suiting down canyons in the Alps, sky-diving, flying an aerobatic aeroplane, kayaking over waterfalls, mountain biking through breath-taking terrain, parkouring in the city, skate-boarding, motorcycling, merely taking your life in your hands by riding a bike among city traffic, or merely making an omelette, an action camera can be there to record it. Of all the action cameras available, the GoPro range has to be the most popular. In fact it's a phenomenon. This is not only because of the inherent reliability of the cameras (not so guaranteed with cheaper copy-cat products) but because of the immense range of accessories available. GoPro gives you the option to mount a camera almost anywhere! The range is extensive from the basic Hero, the Hero + with its built-in touch-screen LCD display, the Hero  4 Silver edition, the Hero 4 Black edition and the latest mini Session. gopro_herosessionOf all of these the Hero 4 Silver edition has proved most popular with scuba divers. This is because at standard HD 1080p settings it can record at up to 60 frames per second at 1080p and it includes a built-in LCD viewfinder so that the user can aim it precisely at the subject. All GoPro cameras except the Session come ready for use under water up to 40m deep but if that's not enough there's a 60m-deep rated housing and for technical divers Ocean Leisure can offer an aluminium housing rated to 150m deep. ipix_gopro_housing1-1 (This even comes with an ancillary battery pack to increase recording times.) Water  absorbs light selectively so that it appears to get more blue  as you head away from the surface. In the shallows, good colour images can be obtained with the right red filter but the user must make a judgement by viewing the LCD screen. You don't want you pictures to look red! You can buy a range of filters that will make the right adjustment from about 20-metres deep to close to the surface. backscatter_flipsetWe recommend the Backscatter Flip 3.1 Filter system because you can choose to take two filters permanently attached to the camera and flip the appropriate one in front of the camera lens as and when you need it. It also avoids putting unwanted filters in a BC pocket and thereby scratching or even losing them. If you are shooting in temperate water that might be green, you'll need a magenta filter and these are equally available.polarpro_standard_magenta If you want to shoot extreme close-ups of macro subjects, you can even opt to add a 10x macro lens instead of one filter. An less expensive alternative is to go for the Switchblade 2 that offers you a red filter or 10x close-up lens or both and these slide in and out in front of the lens as required.FlamCuttle5079 For really good macro results or for going deeper than 20-metres, we suggest taking some video lights. These start from around £150 each for 1000-lumen lights but they need to be mounted to the camera but well away from the lens axis so as not to light up detritus immediately in front of the lens. A good rig like the SRP tray will place your hands well behind the camera and allow you to mount lamps on top of the handles via additional 1" balls. srp_v_arm1Not only that but it gives you an easy grip that will allow you to hold the GoPro steady and as you'll probably appreciate, good video is usually where the subject moves and the camera does not. The one place you do not want to mount your GoPro whilst scuba diving is on your head, not unless you wish to record a lot of exhaled bubbles! The refraction of light passing through water and then into air tends to make things look closer that they really are. The ramification for the GoPro is that you lose a lot of the extreme wide-angle effect. You can restore this and obtain remarkably sharp pictures by using the Inon wide-angle lens. This must be used in conjunction with the Inon SD Mount Cage but because of the price few GoPro users have yet to adopt it. You could be at the forefront as an early adopter and everyone will marvel at the resolution of your results simply because the set-up has allowed you to move closer to your subject and excluded as much unwanted water from the optical path of your image as is possible. If you want better pictures, photograph through better quality water! inon_sd_mount_cage_for_gopro Whatever you use your GoPro for, Ocean Leisure Cameras have the right accessories, even if you want to simply mount a GoPro on your dog, we can help. (We're not joking about the dog!)

  • Enjoy It, But You Can't Own It!

    There is something about the activity of scuba diving that can mislead you into thinking you are the only diver to visit a particular dive site. Maybe it’s the narrowing of vision caused by the refraction of light in the mask that gives rise to this perceived solitary experience. Pioneering Jacques Cousteau and his team probably were the only ones to have visited those places mentioned in his book The Living Sea at the time. Because of this they were able to embroider the facts without fear of discovery. In the early 50’s he said he stumbled across the WW2 wreck of the Thistlegorm in the Red Sea and omits to mention that British merchant-men on their way north to Suez dipped their ensigns as a mark of respect for this War Grave. They knew where it was because its masts still broke the surface. Later, the masts fell and the existence of wreck got forgotten.

    The Napoleonic era anchor found concreted into the seabed. The Napoleonic era anchor found concreted into the seabed but unsuccessfully recovered by the author.
    I had a small dive centre in Mallorca in the mid-eighties. One day the anchor of my unattended boat dragged in the current near the island of Mitjana and I found it fouled in some obstruction in the sand. I discovered it was a large Napoleonic-era Admiralty pattern anchor and decided to recover it. It was so well concreted in that although I had exposed it and attached lifting bags to it, it took many hours of work with hammers and chisels and by that Autumn it was still securely in place. I went back to the UK and returned in the Spring only to find that anchor proudly displayed in the entrance to a small local hotel. Another diver had finished the job and lifted it and I didn’t get a mention let alone the return of my lifting bags. I couldn’t complain. The anchor was not mine. You cannot claim ownership of things found in the sea, yet people still do. About the same time a British couple operating a dive boat in the Red Sea discovered a wreck and systematically plundered all the brass from it. That included many portholes, angel lamps and the compass binnacle. I even made a video of them doing it.
    The Carnatic. No sign of any brasswork now. The Carnatic. No sign of any brasswork now.
    In fact the compass binnacle became a point of issue because another British captain called Darren ‘stole’ it from where it had been left on the shallow reef top. I pointed out that Darren could not have stolen it from them because they were guilty of stealing it from the wreck themselves. It was not a popular point made! All the brass was shipped back to England where the man continued life as a schoolteacher. The wreck was at first named after him and his wife, then named after the multitude of tonic bottles that were located in the bowels of the wreck, and finally its plundered remains became revealed as the Carnatic, a P&O steam-sailing ship. Maybe you’ve dived it. That couple finally retired to live in La Paz in Mexico. I don’t know if they went to the expense of shipping all the brass out there or maybe it went to scrap-metal merchant.
    Sharks at Sha'ab Rumi reef in the Sudan. Grey Sharks at Sha'ab Rumi reef in the Sudan.
    At the start of the ‘nineties I was a dive-guide in the Red Sea and used to conduct a shark-feed dive at Sha’ab Rumi. There were only two other boats operating out of Port Sudan doing the same. Soon other dive boats started making the long haul down from Egypt with regular groups of divers and among them was a well-heeled diver called Norman Temple. He decided that the sharks at Sha’ab Rumi were his and invented the Sha’ab Rumi Shark Club. The Israeli captain and crew of the boat they used, Sea Surveyor, was unimpressed when Mr Temple invited them to apply for membership! I have not been able to discover what happened to Norman Temple since that time.
    a case of shells hammered open by Kenny MacDonald in 1992. A case of shells hammered open by Kenny MacDonald in 1992.
    Meanwhile a small group of foreign dive guides were told about a fantastic wreck by Shimshon Macchia, an Israeli skipper who had decided to return back to Israel for good. It was Autumn 1992. I was among those privileged to dive it. I will always remember Kenny MacDonald, the engineer from the Lady Jenny V hammering open one of the many silver boxes only to discover it contained four shells. We laughed at his antics as he attempted to rig as many motorbikes upright on the decks of the trucks that formed the wreck’s cargo. At that time they even still had their tool kits in place under their seats. In January of that year I went with British diver David Wright to document the whole wreck. It was truly stunning but during our tenth dive on it a boat arrived from Hurghada. It was the Lady Somaya owned by German dive centre owner Rudi Kneip. After its divers descended we were deafened by the noise of hammers as those divers ripped off souvenirs. I decided that the wreck was going to be changed dramatically and published an article about it in Diver Magazine that May. Later that year I published an article about the way the wreck's cargo was being trashed. It was entitled Diego You Should Be Ashamed.
    Diego, you should be ashamed! Diego, you should be ashamed!
    Some of my diving friends including German Udo and Mike Archer thought I had made a breach of confidence but I wanted as many divers to see it as possible before it was ruined. By 1993 it had become the most oft dived wreck in the world and the damage was done.
    One of the motorbikes on the wreck of the Thistlegorm  plundered by souvenir hunters within months of the wreck being rediscovered. One of the motorbikes on the wreck of the Thistlegorm plundered by souvenir hunters within months of the wreck being rediscovered.
    Rudi Kneip eventually returned to Germany where he spent his last days. Kenny went on to another career in Vancouver. We don't know what happened to Udo. Mike is in Malta. The wreck has seen literally thousands of divers visit it since and recently I was dismayed to see that proprietorship for one of the Norton bikes has recently been ascribed to a young woman who was probably not even born back in 1992. It is not her bike. Jeremy Strafford-Deitsch, a pioneering shark photographer, discovered a place in the Bahamas Abaco chain where massive bull sharks aggregated. He invited me to join him there and later invited Shark Behavourist Eric Ritter to do the same. Eric soon claimed these sharks for his own; that is until he was severely bitten by one. That island is now closed for diving and Jeremy lives in his castle in Cornwall where he still writes books, but not necessarily about diving. American dive operators, driven out of Florida by a change in the law, have adopted some shark diving sites around Grand Bahamas and Bimini. They frown at the activities of Bahamian dive operators that legitimately have every right to dive there too. And so it goes on. Divers make their own voyage of discovery but they should respect the achievements of those that went before them. They too will move on in life and find that others are later claiming their individual discoveries for themselves. You may want to but you cannot have proprietorship of what is found in the sea. There really is very little that’s new under the sun. John Bantin is author of Amazing Diving Stories.

  • Photographing Around Wrecks

    The oceans are full of the wreckage of vessels that have either come to grief through wars, storms or simply bad navigation and more and more unwanted vessels long past their sell-by-date are being scuttled to provide artificial reefs that form habitats for young fish thereby helping the world’s fishing industry or simply to protect an otherwise unprotected coastline from storm surge.

    Diving the Carnatic in the Red Sea Diving the ss.Carnatic in the Red Sea
    In all parts of the world where we go diving you will find examples of such wrecks and although you may not be fascinated simply by rusty metal, the marine life can itself be interesting enough. On the other hand, underwater photographers find the structures useful in getting interesting compositions because they usually offer vertical shapes, features that can otherwise be few and far between in the natural undersea landscape.
    Empty beer bottles stacked up inside the hull of the Rio de Janiero Maru in Truk Lagoon. Empty beer bottles stacked up inside the hull of the Rio de Janiero Maru in Truk Lagoon.
    You don’t need to go all the way to Truk Lagoon in far off Micronesia although it is famous among wreck divers because a Japanese merchant fleet was sunk there by the American USAAF in 1944. Nor do you need to travel all the way to Bikini Atol where a fleet of war-surpus vessels was sunk by an atomic bomb in 1946. You don’t need to include a view of the whole of the wrecked vessel in your picture although this makes for a great image if the visibility is good enough. Photographing such a large vessel means that the sort of lighting equipment the leisure diver has available will be inadequate so this means you'll need to use colour-correcting filters or shoot in RAW mode and correct for good colour later.
    Part of the Quarter Wreck in Grenada. Part of the Quarter Wreck in Grenada.
    Instead concentrate on smaller features and if your diving buddy is prepared to hang around to model for you, so much the better. A diver in the picture lends scale and if they are equipped with a lamp that they can point in the general direction of your lens, that will offer a point of interest that otherwise might be missing. Once the rusty metal is lit up by your underwater flashgun or strobe-light or even your video light, you'll be amazed at the colours of the sponges and hydroids that now cling to it and if you look closely you'll see all manner of minutia of marine life.
    p068Umbriacars Three Italian Fiats from 1940 still sat where they sank within the hull of the ss.Umbria in Port Sudan.
    Don't forget that it is often the cargo of a wreck that can be the key point of such a wreck dive. The wreck of the Italian liner the ss.Umbria has three Italian cars that were destined for Abyssinia before the vessels was apprehended by the Royal Navy at the beginning of World War II and the crew scuttled her on a reef in Port Sudan harbour. They have become among the most photographs artifacts on any wreck save for the war materiel (correct spelling!) that was carried on the ss.Thistlegorm sunk in Sha-ab Ali in the Egyptian part of the Red Sea. You'll need a good diver's light with a broad beam if you want to see everything. However, if you go off looking for the remains of these cars within the depths of the hull of the ship that now lies in a disorienting way on its side, be sure to take with you a winder reel and lay a line so that you can find your way out again. Divers have got lost inside this wreck and although nobody has lost their lives (yet) it can be a very unpleasant experience.
    Batfish schooling on a wreck at Puerto Galera in the Philippines. Batfish schooling on a wreck at Puerto Galera in the Philippines.
    Remember, you don't need to venture inside wrecks to get good pictures. If the wreck is in the open ocean rather than within a harbour or sunk in a lagoon, there will be plenty of marine life that has made it its home. All you need is good lighting in the form of strobes or a video light plus a little patience to get good pictures. Wrecks represent more than simply rusting metal.

  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

    Modern divers don’t know how lucky they are. An example of all the equipment sold in Ocean Leisure has been used and evaluated by someone on its staff and we are confident that it will all do what it promises. However, only twenty years ago there was a lot of diving equipment on the market that was not as good as it might have been. CE regulation and market forces have seen the products for diving mature and the bad old days are long gone but as a scuba diving journalist working for the leading diver’s magazine at that time, I took it upon myself to identify the good, the bad and the downright unattractive! I upset a lot of retailers at that time by promoting a regulator made in the UK by Apeks Marine Engineering. The company had little or no reputation for making good regulators at that time but it came up with a world-beater and I took pleasure in telling the world about it! I took a group of divers to 50-metres deep breathing off a single first-stage. The rest is history.

    Apeks regulator test Apeks world-beating regulator test back in the early '90s.
    Products were not always good. At the same time a manufacturer with a strong reputation came up with some new fins that were patently ineffective. I told the world. They were soon taken off the market.  There were plenty of other products that proved not to live up to their promise: A curved mask that gave distorted vision; a regulator that gave a wet breathe; a full-face mask that had some design defects that were quickly rectified by the manufacturer after I travelled over to Italy to dive with its boss and chief test diver. Then there was the computer that promised more bottom time. It was positively dangerous! The list goes on. There were even some BCDs that exhibited obvious defects once they were under water. You won't find any of those BCDs for sale at Ocean Leisure. Although there was plenty of good stuff too, the list of the less good seemed never ending back in those days and I didn't make myself a favourite with any of the manufacturers. I tried to make comparison tests as fair and objective as possible, for example taking computers on deco-stop dives attached side-by-side on the same rig. I even tested fins with teams of divers using underwater speedometers that I had especially made for the job.
    Underwater speedometer for comparing the performance of different diving fins. Underwater speedometer for comparing the performance of different diving fins.
    I'm pleased to report that all the diving fins offered for sale at Ocean Leisure did very well in the tests and most of those that did not have sunk without trace. So now when customers are confronted with a choice of similar products we can have the confidence to say that the right one is the one that suits you! The people at Ocean Leisure have masses of accumulated experience and they are happy to pass it on to you. Come in for a chat.

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