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Saturday, 31 August 2013

Scuba Diving over the border in Cyprus on a Scuba Tech Jolly


Monday, 26 August 2013

I shot the Moray... but I did not shoot the Octopus

Diving Cyprus with Mediterranean Jacks
That's not really true to be honest.

When I am underwater, I tend to shoot everything and anything whether it moves or not!!

What can I say.... I just love underwater photography. Every opportunity I get (when I am not teaching or guiding) I like to take the camera and see what I can get.

My photos are not award winning but I do get many compliments for them and so, I would like to share my top 5 tips with you for taking underwater shots.

SORT OUT YOUR BUOYANCY

Diving in Cyprus with a firework anenomeYou will never... and I mean... ever... get a decent underwater photograph of anything if you cannot control your own buoyancy underwater.

We have enough problems with motion blur from that fast moving fish that will not pose for love nor money but add to the mix a photographer who is flailing around because their buoyancy control is none existent and all you will get is a blurred, out of focus nothing-ness.

Once you have control of your buoyancy and position underwater, you will find the results of your efforts much more appealing. Plus, you won't have lots of backscatter in your photographs from all the sand and silt you have kicked up and the photographers behind will be much more grateful because they can get a photo or two aswell.

This leads to my Second Tip

HOLD THE CAMERA WITH TWO HANDS

Shrimp mob mentalityAgain, this is about control and stability. You are more likely to get a sharp underwater photograph if you hold the camera with two hands, so when you depress the shutter button, the camera will not jerk underneath.

Obviously, this is much easier to do when you can control your buoyancy and have mastered finning techniques such as the back kick. In this way, you won't have to hold on to that rock or push yourself backwards, away from the subject with your finger on a ledge. Both hands will be free to keep the camera steady.


LEARN HOW TO USE THE MANUAL CONTROLS

You have invested in a nice camera system with strobes and housing and somewhere in the bundle of knobs and dials, there is a manual setting which gives you control over the camera.

Find it and Use it.

Tubeworm using manual controls and flashManual white balance is a setting that is on most camera systems these days and if you are not already using it, well you should be (unless you are using a strobe then keep it in auto).

Middle range camera systems also offer a bit more control to the user. You will be suprised at the difference you can get in your underwater photographs if you can just learn to set the proper shutter speed, aperture and ISO.

You don't even need to be in the water to practice. Set about the house with camera in hand and get your family and friends to be the fish...ahem... I meant models!! You will soon pick it up and there is loads of information available on the web.

As a rough guide, here in Cyprus on dives down to around 20metres, I find that an ISO of 125, shutter speed no slower than 1/125th of a second and a middle of the road aperture of around 4.5 seems to work quite well. Sometimes I will adjust the aperture, depending on the effect I am looking for but generally I will adjust the amount of ambient light by changing the shutter speed.



STAY SHALLOW

The best life and colours are in the shallows, so if you are planning your dives for underwater photography stay within the first 15metres or so.

Of course, this isn't always possible. Sometimes the subject is found deeper or you are wanting to get images of a wreck down at 30-40metres and, if this is the case, my final tip is...



INVEST IN AN EXTERNAL STROBE AND WIDE ANGLE LENS

When you go deeper underwater, you lose ambient light and colours. Red is the first to go, then orange and yellow until finally, you are left with just blue.

The best way to put back lost colour at depth is to use a flash.

All cameras come with an internal flash, which can be used in underwater photography but, as soon as there are any particulates suspended in the water, you will find that you get a lot of backscatter. The further you can position the flash from the lens, the less noticable this effect is, which is why I recommend an external strobe.

Not only does it help reduce backscatter but you would usually mount the external strobe on a flexible arm, which means you can adjust the position of  the light to get numerous lighting effects on the subject.

Again, the external strobe offers more control for the underwater photographer.

With the Wide Angle lens, we can get closer to the subject, reducing the amount of blue water between us and giving better quality pictures and making the strobe more efficient.

So, from an amateur but extremely enthuaiastic Diving Photographer, these are my tips for better underwater photographs.

They are simple, common sense but I so often see people not applying them and wondering why the photos they take are not very good. Hopefully this will help you take better pictures.

Happy shooting everyone

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Can I Tech it?... Yes you can!

Technical Diving in Cyprus, Is it for me and can I tech it?
technical divers with lots of cylinders and equipment
merseydivers.com
There has long been a stigma attached to the realms of Technical Diving that has seen images of big guys lugging around bulky twinsets and copious stages, to go really deep underwater, so that, unless you can benchpress a small car, there is no way you can cope with Technical Diving.

In this day and age, this is simply not true and Technical Diving is opening up to so many new demographics, as those who just want to add a new dimension to their diving abilities jump on board.

The Kit!

Now, although it is true that Technical Diving Kit is generally heavier than single tank, recreational Diving kit, the extent of this really depends on the Diver themselves.


lightweight 200bar twinset cylindersOf course, we are looking at using 2 cylinders and 2 sets of regulators instead of just one. That's for the Open Circuit Technical Diving. If you are looking at Rebreathers, you have also the scrubber unit and electronics to add to the mix.

There are options to make it more manageable though. We use lightweight 200bar cylinders on our twinsets, for those who want a lighter option and you can always swap out the commonly seen steel back plate for an aluminium one to save a couple kilos. Alternatively, some may find a 10litre twinset more appealing or, if you aren't going too deep and the RMV allows, twin 7s.


Sidemount Diving in techncial configurationSidemount Configuration has enabled those who can't take the weight of the equipment on their backs, to move it to the side and take some of the strain off. The beauty of technical Diving with Sidemount is that you can carry the cylinders to the waters edge and clip them off in the water, so only really have the weight on you in a weightless environment.


Even rebreathers are now bringing out smaller versions such as the Pathfinder and the Hollis that are suited to recreational depths but who said technical diving was about depth... certainly not my point of view.

Since we are on the matter, you can most certainly 'tech' it if you have no interest in going deep. Technical kit is fantastic for allowing you extended time in the 25-40m range too. Using a mixed gas; either nitrox for extended bottom time or a trimix for a clear head and improved work of breathing with the additional safety measures that come into play from using the Technical Equipment, means technical diving techniques can also be applied to recreational dives very successfully.

Add to that, your stage cylinders that can be filled with a rich nitrox mix of 50%-100% Oxygen and you can "pad out" your safety stop, adding in extra conservatism or accelerate any decompression you may have incurred on the dives.
 
For more information about the technical Diving Courses available here in Cyprus, Check out the Scuba Tech Diving Website


So, regardless of what size or sex you might be, if you have a responsible attitude towards diving, are over 18 years of age and want to increase your  knowledge and experience in the water, while improving your Diving safety and ability to help yourself on dives... you can most definitely TECH IT!!!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Feeling Hot Hot Hot... Summer Diving in a warm climate

Scuba Diving in a hot climate such as Cyprus has its own dangers outside of the dive itself. Be aware that hot climates require special considerations for divers and holiday makers alike Scuba Diving in Cyprus in a hot climateWe are now hitting the height of the summer season here in Cyprus and the land temperatures are hitting the high 30s, low 40s (degrees centigrade) in the shade.

Even the water temperatures are getting towards the 30 degree mark, so to cool down, you need to
find a nice thermocline, which is usually around 25metres underwater.

Although these soaring temperatures and hot lazy days are fantastic for the thousands of tourists that flock to this tiny mediterranean island, there are a few things we all need to consider, especially for us Divers.


Firstly, there is the dreaded Sunburn.

As Divers, we spent an inordinate amount of time outside and in the sunshine wearing little more than a swimsuit. At the sea's shore or on the dive boat, there is usually a lovely sea breeze that keeps you cool and you can easily burn without realising it.

Divers on Dive Boat in the sun
Even under the water, you are not safe from the sun's rays, as you can tan or burn through the water. Quite often, this happens faster than on land.

So, when you are diving in a hot climate like Cyprus, use a high factor Sunscreen to protect yourself. Apply liberally and often and even before getting in the water because nobody wants to put on a well fitting neoprene suit over the red raw burn of the Sun.


The next big issue of Hot countries is Dehydration.

In colder climes such as the UK, we are told that we should drink approximately 8 pints of water a day. That is around 4 litres. When you get to hot countries like Cyprus you will need much much more than this.

Imagine all that water you lose through perspiration. It all needs to be replaced and unfortunately, beer does not help to rehydrate. So, consider swapping out a few of those alcoholic drinks for the good old "nectar of the gods"... water

As a Scuba Diver, Hydration is extremely important from a decompression point of view. Dehydration can cause a restriction in the flow of blood to the muscles in the body and this restriction can compromise off-gassing potentially leading to bubble formation and a "bend".

There are many combined factors that can lead to dehydration for a diver in a hot country. Not drinking enough water, Drinking too much alcohol, Sweating, Breathing dry air from a compressed air cylinder and of course, the spaceman effect (the need to urinate in a weightless environment) all add up to make this a very real problem.

The final topic I will touch on is Overheating

Here in Cyprus, we have extremely hot land temperatures at this time of year. When we kit up for our dives, it can be very easy to overheat.

Our suits are designed to keep our bodies warm but on land, this can be dangerous for us. With the sun beating down, we sweat and our core temperature is elevated over and above what it should be. If our protective mechanism of sweating cannot keep up, we risk heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke.

So, why bother with the suits if the temperature is that hot you ask?

Unlike many tropical destinations, the waters around Cyprus are quite deep and although the water temperature at the surface of the sea can reach above 30 degrees, the colder waters from the deep take longer to warm up.

At the moment, the sea temperatures here are 28 degrees down to approximately 25metres and, at this point the warmed up waters from the shallows meets the colder water from the deep.

You are descending through the water, like you are in a warm bath when from the corner of your eye, you spot a slight colour change and a line of shimmering water. Suddenly, as you descend you feel the temperature drop from 28 degrees to 22 and you are extremely grateful that your instructor told you to put a wetsuit on.

This point where the cold water meets the warm water is called a thermocline and there is nothing more enjoyable than coming back up through it from cold water to warm.

So, if you are planning a dive trip to a wam country this year, remember to stay healthy, you must stay Hydrated, use a high factor sun protection and keep to the shade when kitting up, only putting on the wetsuit at the last moment when needed.

Most dive centres in hot countries will provide water for their divers to stay hydrated but, you should always have your own with you too... just in case. You can not go wrong with carrying some hydration salts also just to help along the way.

Enjoy the sunshine and enjoy the dives... I know we will

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

SQUID Pro Quo

Squids are the creatures to see mid diving season in Cyprus. Learn more about them with Scuba Tech Diving Centre, Cyprus Diving here in Cyprus over the past few weeks has been a  real treat for us Divers, as the Squid have returned for their Summer Stay.

Cyclops Dive Site seems to be where they have made their home this year and Divers who approach with care are often rewarded with fantastic shows of flambuoyancy and colours, as these large Cephalopods dance before you.

a squid dances for the divers in Cyprus


Like Sirens, you have to be a bit careful or they can very swiftly lead you off into the deep, especially if you are trying to get that perfect shot. Squid like to stay just outside the focal area of the cameras!

There are around 300 species of Squid that we know of but I am pretty sure these are the European Squid or "Loligo Vulgaris" to give the proper species name.

These squid are usually found at any depth between the surface and 500m but are most commonly seen around 20-250m. Here in Cyprus, they can be seen at the 15m sandy patch at the far end of the Dive Site.

Squid have the main part of their body enclosed inside the mantle. The Mantle Cavity contains the digestive and reproductive systems, gills and Siphon, which the squid uses for propulsion.

To enable movement, the Squid sucks water into the mantle cavilty and ejects it in a strong jet through the Siphon and the direction of the siphon can be changed to suit the direction of travel the squid wishes to go.

squid in cyprus diving
You will find a small swimming fin along the side of the squid's body but these are pretty redundant for locomotion, as the siphon is the primary means of movement.

Doctor Who has nothing on these elegant creatures who can also boast 3 hearts!!

Don't however, be fooled into thinking this makes them adorable, loving creatures, as alongside the 8 arms and 2 tentacles on the head, you will also find the Squid's Horny Beak, which it uses to kill and tear its prey into more manageable bite-size pieces.

They prey on other fish and crustaceans, which probably explains the masses of crab shells and broken crab legs we have been seeing recently around the Cape Greko area. Cannibalism is also not unheard of.

Squid beaks are often found undigested in the bellies of whales.

squid have hard lenses for eyes that work like a camera
Eyes can be easily seen on the side of the Squid's head and, unlike the human eye, which changes the shape of the lens to focus, a squid's eye comprises a hard lens which can focus by changing the lens' position. Much like a camera or telescope.

The squid's flambuoyant colours come from Chromatophores that cover their body. These chromatophores allow the squid to change colour, enabling them to become almost invisible to prey and predators alike. On today's dive, our squids became almost translucent as a group of divers came swimming a little too close.

squid dives not kalamari
 
So, now we know a bit more about the beautiful creatures we can see while Diving here in Cyprus and when we next see them, we can admire them that little bit more and enjoy them in the water rather than in the restaurant on the plate.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

critters on sidemount dive cyprus

Sidemount Diving in Cyprus with Scuba Tech Diving Centre, we see some bizarre creatures and critters