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Photo Dive Report: Catalina, Giant Sea Bass and fireworks

Published on 2010-07-07 19:38:28

What best place to spend Independance Day than on a boat to Catalina?

We left the house at dawn and I had to turn around 2 minutes later when I realized I had forgotten my brand new dry suit... It would have been tough to dive with just undergarments...

We board the Magician out of San Pedro at 7am and motored to Catalina. Once there, Captain Jerry realized that all the spots he had in mind were already taken, so we ended up at Sea Fan Grotto. From the surface the visibility seemed far better than what we've been used to over the last few months. Underwater, it was still good! Whoohoo! About 40ft, which is still low for Catalina, but still better than 5 inches in the red tide!

Sea Fan grotto is a shallow open cave covered with colorfull seafans (hence the name). We dove the grotto as well as the reef on the left, not more than 50ft deep. We encountered the usual suspects: sculpins, moray eels and lobsters. Not a lot of good or unusual photo opportunities...  

The second spot was Birds Rock.  We decided to try to dive the swim-through on the north western part of the reef. As soon as we dropped down we found the reef structure, heavily shaded by giant kelp. 5 minutes into the dive, one of my buddies spotted a horn shark in a hole. I snaped a picture but the angle was terrible so I decided to move around and spotted another one a few feet away who let me shoot it in the face! Then my other buddy who was trying to take a picture of the first shark started fining close to me and I realized that there was another little shark close by! She was going to hit it with her fins! I managed to make her aware before the poor creature was knocked out... Then we start looking around and counted at least five sharks resting in that area! A shark nursery! We carried on and spotted a few nudibranchs. I started shooting and realized that one of my buddy left, so I went back for her, found her, brought her back where the other one was, still shooting the nudis and noticed that I was seriously running out of air. I signaled and left my buddies and stared my ascent. I finished the dive with 150 psi, which is actually far enough once you're on the boat...

The third dive sucked. We dove the Rock Quary. I never seem to see anything at this spot and this dive was no exception. I couldn't even spot one of the butterfly fish that have invaded that site.

On the 4th dive, we went to Goat Hill Harbour which is famous for Giant Black Sea Bass. We spotted half a dozen on this dive. Most were about 3-4 feet, one was larger, probably 4-5 ft. This time I had the camera and had selected a no-flash 1/40 shutter speed setting. Shots came out in focus but the poor visibility at this spot made the camera switch to a higher ISO hence a poorer overall picture quality. The bass also stayed pretty far most of the time so shooting them at such a great distance was a waste of "film". When they came close however, they were very close and did not fit entirely in the picture. Hopefully with a little photoshop magic, I was able to surgically re-attached a missing tail on one of my shots, turn it to black and white and the result was not too bad... It seems I will need to write two extra tutorials to explain these doctoring techniques...

For the whole day water temperature was around 55 (but I don't care anymore, warm, cozy and squeezed in my own personnal trash bag) and weather was an unusual misty gloom.

After the dives, we spent an hour in Avalon for Buffalo Milks and watched the fireworks on the deck of the Magician anchored off the Casino (not in the dive park, don't worry), with a glass of wine. I had brought my SLR and my $9.99 chinese engineered tripod but I quickly realized that a tripod on a rocking boat is not really usefull. I ended shooting in Manual at 1600 ISO and 1/13 to 1/25 shutter speed. No award winning shots but no psychadelic/blur effect either!

We came back on land at about midnight, most slept on the way back, exhausted by a fun day of diving and celebrating our independance in an unusual place!                                                                                                                                                            



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