Nov 21, 2011 - Wow!

November 20, 2011  •  Leave a Comment

A Double Header on USS Schurz
Sharks, Sharks and more Sharks.

Check Out New Video Within This Blog!
Scroll Down to bottom for Photo Tip of the Week and more dive news.

Photo of the Week
A large pod of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins approaching the Olympus  from the starboard side.
     "Wow", was about the only word my intellect could muster when asked how my dive was on the USS Schurz this past Sunday with Captain Robert from Olympus Dive Center. I have never seen more than a handful of Sand Tiger Sharks on this wreck in my entire career diving here. The more than 75 that we saw with the 50 foot of 'viz' on the first minute of our first dive broke that record clearly. With video camera in hand I was like a kid on Christmas morning the moment you first catch site of a pile of unopened gifts. "Whoa look at that one" or "Geez that's a titanic one" I ranted in my brain not knowing where to point the camera. I broke one of my cardinal rules when filming Sand Tigers or any sharks and that is, "never loose your cool and stay calm". With such awesome subject matter all around me I didn't know if I was coming or going. I started out filming the large concentration of Sand Tigers but they began to roam out in to the sand making it dodgy to find my way back as I lost site of the wreck. I glanced over my shoulder and there was Robert marking my return angle. With that shot down it was off to see the rest of the wreck. Within a minute or two I spotted a nice size Giant Southern Stingray galavanting down the length of the wreck heeding me no mind. Soon after that one swam out of range there was another lying in the sand chilling out. I managed to get a nice close up of this 'guy' before he up and skedaddled only leaving yet another giant right behind it.
Carcharias taurus or Sand Tiger Shark. (Stock)
Meanwhile, there were dozens of jumbo Groupers with colossal Amber Jacks and a Cobia or two gliding about the wreck. Let me not forget to report a strong population of full grown Lionfish on the wreck as well. More than any of us has seen so far in 2011. Overall, there was quite a display of marine life on the Schurz today. At this point I was a border line 'spaz' down there sucking up my air zipping from one shot to the next lugging my cumbersome camera around. The bottom line though was I was having a good time and getting some decent video (see the link below). Robert was the cool calm and collective one down there kicking gently down the wreck as though this was just another stroll in the park. 
Divers waiting for the pool to open.
     After about 25 minutes of an exhausting but great dive it was time to put a death grip on the anchor line and stagger back on up to the M/V Olympus. For the past two days I was a stowaway on Capt Robert's boat while the boat I skipper, the Midnight Express, was back at the dock. This time of year attracts only the hardiest and most patient of divers (such as the ones we had on board this weekend) who dared not to give up on the 2011 season here. Sure the wind blows a little more steadier this time of year and the water temps tend to dip in to the chilly zone but when you can nail a pair of dives such as the ones we hit on Sunday it is all worth the extra effort. The group we had on board today was a mixed bag of divers from as far away as Maine. Kudos to you guys for winning the longest travelled award this weekend. Many of them were here for the entire weekend whereas a few dropped in on Sunday only while a few others had to head out on Saturday. 
     Speaking of Saturday, the Olympus originally was scheduled to go on a lobster excursion to the 'Lobster' Wreck. The wind however kept us inshore on a 60' dive, the Indra. "The Mighty I" though only had about 15 feet a 'viz' and 60 degrees on the bottom. It was ok enough but not what the crowd had in mind. You take what you can get sometimes in NC and wait for the epic days such as the dives the following day. Patience is most certainly a virtue.
Capt. Robert Purifoy at the helm of the Olympus.
     So getting back to Sunday's dives. The group on board of course had as good a dive as me the first go and got to see plenty of cool things on the Schurz. Robert and myself talked up the dive for a while saying how much we really needed it while everyone relaxed on the boat in the near calm seas. Clear skies and temps in the upper 70's, by the way, didn't hurt the feel good vibe on the boat. It was just one of those days. 
     My first dive was so good I decided I would make a second jump and head in while the other divers were in for their second. The dive went pretty much like the first one but maybe I was a little more methodical in my approach to video. There was still plenty of solid shark activity about and with divers adding to the shots it was even better. The current however began to pick up during the dive and pretty soon it was heavy finning to gain traction back to the anchor line. It was at the moment when I reached the ascent line that I realized something. I realized I needed to get my butt back to the gym. I was huffing and puffing and feeling the legs burning. On the way up I had a look around to see how the other divers were faring and from my perspective all seemed to be ok and holding tight to the anchor line. I surfaced and dragged myself back on to the boat and plopped down in to my seat and pried the skin tight 3mm hood off my head nearly ripping a layer of my face off in the process. Once all were back on board the Olympus got under way and started our trip back to Morehead City with near flat seas and continues sunny skies.  End of story. Well not quite, it gets even better.
A pod of Dolphins coming over to play.
     About one hour in to our journey, Robert eyes a pod of Spotted Dolphins at the surface nearly dead ahead of us and starts to slow down to see if they wanted to play. As luck would have it they did. As we got closer it was apparent that this was a very large pod with a 'guestimate' of about 40 and maybe more. Some were riding the wake behind us while others raced the boat under the pulpit. My still camera was blazing away while Robert made loops around and around the pod. Passengers watched from the upper deck and the foredeck as well. After I had a few stills recorded I grabbed up my video camera to capture the action. The highlight of this encounter was when a group of at least 20 Dolphins all swimming in a tight formation, paused off our starboard side for a good minute or two and stared at us. Well I guess it can be said we stared back at them as well. One can only wonder what they were thinking while gazing at us. All at once the pod took a breath and dived under the boat surfacing on the other side. This cajoling went on for many more minutes after this with some individuals doing flips and jumps in front of the camera. What hams. I have seen Dolphins in the wild many times and swam with them on many other occasions but their presence never gets boring to me. They don't need an invite to my parties.

Capt. Robert watching the Dolphins.
Click here to view Mike's
USS Schurz Video
(Video file is large so please be patient when loading)

     All in all it was a fantastic day offshore and not just the diving part. The weather with calm seas and sunny warm skies contributed to the feel good atmosphere on board. Once back at the dock a handful of divers had such a  good time they conspired to charter the boat last minute for the following day. Unfortunately, the reality of life prevented gathering enough divers to make it happen. I'm not sure if this will be my last dive trip for the winter but if it was then what a way to end it. There is a chance other trips may be booked on the Olympus this season so if your reading this and want to go diving, call the shop and check out the schedule. We would love to have you.
Photo Gallery of the Week

Dolphins under the pulpit.  It doesn't get any better.

Gavin Vollmer. Mate extraordinaire.

Capt. Robert giving a briefing.

Danny Facciola chillin' at sunrise on the Morehead Waterfront.
Mate Bud Daniels hamming for the camera.

These guys drove from Maine just to go diving for the weekend.
You guys rock!
Geared up and ready to go.

The jump!
The splash!

Mom and daughter dive team. 

Greg Davis tossing a dock line to the Bud Man

Nema camping out on the Olympus dock. Go Nema!
The group of 'Dive Hards' on board the Olympus from Sunday Nov. 20, 2011.

Mike's Photo Tip of the Week

Shooting With Models

      Sometimes a photo with a single element in the composition such as a coral head or a wreck or a marine fish just isn't enough to grab the attention of the viewer. A second element needs to be added. Quite often this can be a diver or a model. The human element as it is known adds action, a little mystery and denotes the activity of diving. Lastly, a diver in the composition adds scale and perspective to the shot which is useful when you want the viewer to see how small or large an object such as a wreck is by comparing to the size of the diver. Magazines for example most often prefer models in their photos since most are in the business to sell dive gear and travel. What better way to do this than to have a diver in the photo wearing equipment and diving in a beautiful locale. It's pretty simple really. Using models can be very tricky though.  Getting someone to pose in the exact spot you want them without being able to verbally communicate is not easy. Here are a few tips.

Can you tell how large 'The Lady' is? Not really.
Can you tell now? Absolutely.
     1- Find a diver to model for you that has exceptional buoyancy control and overall dive skills. Having someone silt out your photo would not be good.
     2- Communicate thoroughly with your model before you get in the water on what your mission is and how you are going to achieve it. In other words share a detailed plan. It will save lots of frustration for the two of you.
     3- Use and learn predetermined hand signals so communication underwater is easier and the dive is safer. ie What signal means level off or what means look over there? etc.
     4- Both photographer and model should have a good attitude and enjoy what they are doing. Anger and frustration will show up in the shot.
     5- Make sure you have your model sign a release form if you suspect you will use the images for commercial use.
     6- Come to an agreement before you get in the water as to what the compensation for your model will be if any. Sign a contract if necessary.
     7- Miscellaneous: Model should pose with legs together and one knee bent only slightly unless otherwise instructed. Legs should not be wide apart. Hands should be at side and not crossed or folded. Model should look over shoulder of photographer or at subject that photographer is shooting with at least one eye visible to the lens; two is better. Never stare at the lens unless asked to. Wet suit color should not blend with background color of the shot. Gear should be streamlined and minimized. Mask shape and skirt should highlight models eyes. Single lens masks sometimes work best with clear silicone skirt. Use props such 
as a very powerful hand held flashlight.

A perfect pose. The shark looks bigger than it is
because the diver is swimming in back of it.
     By using a model correctly and effectively you stand a better chance of nailing an image that tells a story or brings it to life. Both model and photographer need to be patient in the beginning until you form an underwater relationship and can communicate with simple gestures or body language. Once you have a better idea of how each of you work underwater, the keeper shots will start rolling in more frequently and naturally. Good luck and happy shooting.

More News

Give the Gift of Art
     Christmas is around the corner. If your stumped what to get your friend, family member or loved one for Christmas then think no more. Give the gift of art. Please visit my web site and browse my online store of fine are prints.  My work is very diverse and appeals to a wide audience and is printed with nothing but the finest archival papers and inks. Find out more at the previous link.
UW Photo Gift Certificates
     I am now selling gift certificates for my Underwater Photo Lessons online at this link: Click Here. If someone you know has been desiring to take a lesson but continues to procrastinate then pick up one or more certificates to get them motivated. A nice feature of this gift is the certificate has no monetary value printed on it. Click on the Pay Pal tab on the web page, enter the information required and within a few days your printed certificate will show up in the mail.  Contact Mike at a future time to arrange your photo course live on line via a web cam or in person one-on-one if you live within a short distance of Morehead City. Contact [email protected] for more info.

Thomas S
      Olympus's 6-pack charter boat, the Thomas S, made it out on Sunday as well but to the wreck of the Naeco for a 140' tech dive. I was not there but word has it they also had a stellar dive with 50 foot of viz and 68 degrees on the bottom.  That's right, I said 68 degrees and in November. The Naeco is a few miles closer to the Gulf Stream. Reports indicate there were more Sand Tigers than you can shake a stick at, turtles, Groupers and anything else you can think of. If you have small groups of divers who still want to go out this Fall/Winter call up the dive shop and ask about the Thomas S schedule.

Shark Conservation
     There has been a lot of progress being made towards the world protection of sharks from over fishing and practices such as shark finning for the making of shark fin soup. Sharks are caught, their fins removed sometimes while alive and the corpse thrown back in to the sea. Societies around the globe are uniting to end the senseless slaughter. Florida for example has just enacted a law stating that it is illegal to land and kill any Hammerhead Shark or Tiger Shark species. When caught they must be released alive into the water. Congratulations Florida! Canada recently banned the possession, sale and trade of shark fins in their most populous city, Toronto with Vancouver right behind them. There is a long way to go before these important apex predators are saved from decimation and even extinction. If you care get involved. Contact,, PADI's Project Aware or many other organizations that are out there and help the cause.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Mike Gerken

Mike Gerken
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