Under the Sea – Part II of II…by Brad Marks

Yesterday we reached the second stopover on our current adventure. Quite the surprise I already have 5 more adds to the Average Year (bring me to 245). Three of them were standard fare that had managed to eluded me back home, one is an absolute asshat (link here) that pains me to give even the slightest attention, but the 5th was a nice pickup from a miss this year at Conroe, Texas (link here) – every time I hear their “squeak toy” call it puts a smile on my face…even better when they make it into the tin. We break camp tomorrow and move onward. Not knowing what the connectivity is going to be like, wanted to cut the suspense, as they say, and bring you the second part of Brad’s underwater adventure.

Take it away Brad…

Welcome back.  When we left off last time in Part 1, our intrepid underwater photographer was sorting through stacks of negatives in envelopes and piles of printed photographs. (Did you like the alliteration?)

Since the mishap with the leaky seal in our underwater camera, I had been trying to find a replacement camera to fit the housing.  It had been several years since we bought the Sealife film camera.  In that time, Sealife quit making underwater film cameras in favor of digital versions.  However, since they were very proud of their new products (they really do make a good camera), and digital cameras were still very expensive in general, the prices had increased accordingly.  Not wanting to pay far too much (IMHO) for a camera we only use every few years, I kept searching.  I wanted to find a housing for my Nikon DSLR.  But when I saw I’d have to give up two appendages to purchase one of those, I thought it best to keep looking.  Ironically, in early 2010, I found a small company that made reasonably good underwater cameras and housings for a reasonable price.  We ended up buying an Intova underwater housing and camera kit.  Intova just happened to be a Hawaiian company, not that it was any influence over our purchase.  Unfortunately, they have since been bought out by a larger photography company who decided to discontinue the product. 

On our next trip to the Big Island of Hawaii during the summer of 2010, I was eager to give the new camera a test run.   One key difference between the digital camera and our old film camera (purely coincidence) is that its hard clear plastic case has TWO silicone seals to keep seawater out.  Plus, now I put a small desiccant packet in the case with the camera, can’t be too careful.  The Intova case has more tiny buttons than you can easily use underwater, but it does a decent job focusing at a distance or close-up.  Unfortunately, the camera takes almost a half-second to actually take the photo once you press the shutter release button (newer ones are nearly instantaneous like a DSLR).  The subject and photographer are always moving.  Just point and pray.  

Under the Sea by Brad Marks
(digital photo, 2010)

Hit the jump to learn what this intriguing creature is and a few more of those below the surface inhabitants.

Continue reading Under the Sea – Part II of II…by Brad Marks

Under the Sea – Part I of II…by Brad Marks

As you read this, we are on our way to catch the Gulf migration. We had to cancel this trip last year and looking forward to giving the Average Year efforts a booster shot (a few ticks behind, but link here). Thanks to some local finds, the count sits at a healthy 240 with just a shade over 9 months left. A few days in Dauphin Island will assuredly push me closer to the 300 goal. We first head to Florida for a boys agility competition and then make our way back across the panhandle to Gulf Shores. While we travel to our first base camp, Brad will be taking the helm to boldly go where no Intrigued post has gone before! Thankfully there are people like Brad (and his wife) that are willing to risk it all and live to post about it. …catch you later in the week, meanwhile, take it away Brad…(note, you can hit the image link to see larger versions of his shots)

With the exception of Hawaiian green sea turtles, nearly every Intrigued article has been about something with feathers, or at least above sea level.  This one is going to completely different.  The only air you will see is what’s reflected on the underside of the surface of the water, or the “underside of air”.  There’s also an evolution of photography woven throughout the story.  Grab your reef-safe sunscreen and a towel, because we are going snorkeling.

But first, set the way-back machine for a bit of history before we “dive” in.  Our friends from Boston scored a “free” condo on Kauai (kah-oo-ah-ee) for eight days in February 2000.  Of course, we said we’d go with them.  We found babysitters for Allyson (she was not quite four years old then and retired grandparents are wonderful).  Once we booked flights from frozen Chicago to Kauai (known as the Garden Isle), we were on our way.

Jan and I were in Hawaii!  We were very excited to squeeze out every ounce of fun during our first trip to the islands.  We decided to snorkel at Ke’e (KAY-ay) Beach on the northwest side of the island.  We were looking forward to some sunshine and warm water.

This was going to be our first underwater photography experience.  Not knowing what to expect, and not wanting to spend a bunch of money on a camera if we didn’t like it, we used disposable film cameras.  Five of them if I remember correctly.  Each little “camera in a box” had 24 exposures of ISO 400 film, a nearly microscopic (smaller than most smart phones) fixed focus plastic lens (only in focus for about 3-10 feet away), and a thumbwheel to wind the film. (Kids, go ask your parents or grandparents about manual winding film cameras)

After arriving at the beach, I jumped right in.  Holy crap the water is cold!  We were in Hawaii, right?  Shouldn’t this water be warm?  After the initial temperature shock, I eventually remembered to breathe and started snapping photos.  The water around Hawaii is very deep and never gets a chance to really warm up.  The ocean currents push very deep water up the steep slopes of the islands (upwelling) towards the surface.  Here is the first fish I saw, and photographed, underwater.

Under the See by Brad Marks
(digitized* film photo, 2000)

It is a surge wrasse (Thalassoma purpureum).  They are about the size of the 2-3 lb. bass from a farm pond but much more colorful.  The surge wrasse likes heavy surf areas (hence the name) and is usually within 30 feet of the surface.

Hit the jump to read more about this underwater adventure!

Continue reading Under the Sea – Part I of II…by Brad Marks

Now You See Me . . . Hawaiian Sand Crabs…by Brad Marks

With the day after day pressures subsiding I’m finally getting to work on Linda’s .. I mean my to-dos. Tops on that list is to battle the leaf invasion that has managed to break through my first line ranks and now pouring over the castle walls with reckless abandonment. The paired night (or high wind/rain) task is to get caught up on the Mothership with some very late race recaps and more than likely some haunt tutorials sprinkled in. While I’m tending to those, S.W. Brad is ready with a “ghostly” observation from the Hawaiian Islands.

Take it away Brad!

On the first morning of our first ever vacation to a tropical island in 2000, the last thing you might think to do is to rise early.  However, when your body clock is off by five hours and thinks it’s noon, you get out of bed even though the sun isn’t up yet.  (BTW, in the tropics there’s only a little more than 13 hours of sunlight in the summer, and up to 11 hours in the winter time, go figure) Ambitious you say?  Jet lagged I say.  At the time, I was in the habit of having a mug of honey ginseng green tea with a dash of local honey in the morning before work.  Jan had already been awake and moving for an hour or more.  After steeping my first mug of tea for the day, I walked the 100-feet from our condo to the beach.  Lucky for us, the condo on Kauai was on a beach on the east side of the island, which means we’d get a perfect view of the sunrise each morning.  My primary goal that day was to watch my first Hawaiian sunrise and see if the green flash was a myth. (It’s not a myth, by the way, check here as one of a hundred potential resources)

Hawaiian Islands Sand Crabs

As I stood watching the sky brighten in anticipation of sunrise, I noticed a lot of sand seemingly moving by itself.  I worked my way closer to see if I could figure out what was happening. 

Continue reading Now You See Me . . . Hawaiian Sand Crabs…by Brad Marks