June 22, 2012 - The 'Naeco'
Midweek charters on board the Midnight Express at Olympus Dive Center were a little slow these past five days, so I took advantage of the down time and stowed away on board the M/V Olympus on Wednesday June 20 to dive the W.E. Hutton aka Papoose for a pair of dives. It was a good day to play hooky from my desk jockey responsibilities and go diving. The seas were flat calm with visibility edging over 30 feet on the bottom but with much bluer water above that.
I also managed to go diving with my lovely girlfriend, Annette who was anxious to display some of her new underwater modeling tips she learned from professional photographer Chris Crumley. (Please visit his web site to learn more about Chris and the beautiful work he does). Annette drove all the way to Virginia a few weeks ago to take Chris's course and so far so good with her new poses.
With the visibility a little on the low side getting close to subjects would be the name of the game to achieve any decent images. As Annette and I swam down the wreck we started to come across some very large sand tiger sharks, but none of them appeared to want to cooperate for a close encounter photo.
Pretty soon we stumbled upon a large southern stingray with a pair of very large cobia swimming underneath it. Cobia are well known to follow stingrays and dart to and fro as if they were following a Pied Piper. This image of ray and cobia has been on my shot list for years now and I thought I might have a chance to nail it this time, but unfortunately neither party was interested in having their portrait taken and they swam off in to the blue green water with indifference to the eager photographer behind them.
Suddenly Annette and I found yet another jumbo stingray laying partially buried in the sand and I decided this might suffice. Without having to so much as look at Annette, she maneuvered herself carefully in to position so not to startled the resting stingray for a photo. After a few test shots and a very cooperative ray, I managed to get a 'keeper' for the photo album and all thanks to Annette.
On our trip back to the boat, I practiced firing off some portraits for practice for the both of us. With her new talents as a UW model, hopefully, you will begin to see Annette in print more and more in the future. Don't tell her I said this, but I think she enjoys it as well.
Dive two on the Papoose was another enjoyable portrait photo shoot with long time Olympus employee, Ashton Allgood. On this dive, Ashton and I swam through the internal remains of the Papoose to try to obtain a tone of deep, dark and mysterious in our photos. Considering this was Ashton's first time posing for me I'd have to say it went rather well. She hasn't seen any if these images as of press time so I will let her decide.
(Scroll down to the Photo Gallery)
That night, after the Papoose dives, I received a phone call from Captain Bobby Edwards of the 'six pack' dive boat, Atlantis IV that operates out of Atlantic Beach. He asked me if I would like to dive the wreck of the Naeco the next day since I had the day off. The Naeco was sunk in WWII by a German U-boat approximately 41 miles due south of Beaufort Inlet. She lies in about 130-135' of water and is known to have fantastic visibility and warm waters from the Gulf Stream. I hadn't been to the Naeco in more than 10 years and I dared not turn down such a gracious invite. I told Bobby I would be happy to go.
That morning at the dock, as we were loading gear, I was introduced to the group of divers that had been chartering the Atlantis IV all week. One of the guys, by the name of Charlie, had looked awfully familiar to me, but I could not place the face. On the ride out to the dive site we got to talking and low and behold we discovered that we had dived together on several occasions in the north east some 15 plus years ago. On one such trip, after diving the wreck of the USS Bass off of Block Island, RI, our dive vessel nearly sank in a wicked squall that swooned down unexpectedly upon us. The rain, wind and seas were powerful enough were we began donning our drysuits in the event we should sink. Believe me, it was hairy!
Needless to say we did not sink and came through the storm much better than the S/S Minnow did. We pulled in to Block Island and sought out the nearest bar, sat out the second dive and opted for a cold beer to calm our rattled nerves. An event like this one sticks in your mind rather well and Charlie and I hugged and joked about almost perishing in that storm together. Thankfully we could laugh about this event since the alternative outcome was too grim to think about.
Once arriving at the Naeco the five divers on board jumped in for their dive as I followed slightly behind. My goal was to shoot some wide angle images with my Nikon D300. The visibility was an easy 70 feet and ideal for the type of shot I wanted to get. As I arrived at the bottom some 130' below I framed a shot and fired the shutter. The camera clicked, but the strobes did not fire. I knew that it could be a bad connection in my sync cord or just a tad bit of grease on the hot shoe.
Confronted with this problem before I decided to drop back even a little further than usual and shoot ambient light only rather than abort the dive. In the back of my head I knew that converting such photos to black and white would work well. So that is what I did and in the end I was pleased with the outcome, but I wish my strobes had fired all the same. Any photographer will tell you that if you can land one really nice 'keeper' image per dive your doing pretty well.
The second dive of the day was on the Wreck of the U-352. One of the divers on board had never been and the other four quickly agreed that it was a must dive for him to experience. The visibility however was a little on the low side at around 20-30 feet so I left my camera on the boat and took up a pole spear and caught a few black sea bass for my dinner table instead. Sea bass are in season now and abundant on the many wrecks. Many will tell you, including myself, that these modest sized fish are some of the tastiest in the ocean. Keep an eye out for my fish recipes in my next Dive & Photo Newsletter.
At the end of the day, I shook hands with Charlie and all the guys, exchanged business cards and said, "see you out there again". I have no doubt that we will see each other again. The diving industry is a small one and you never know who your going to bump in to on a dive boat in the middle of the Atlantic.
I'll be back in action on the Midnight Express starting tomorrow and Sunday. The weather looks promising so we shall see. As of right now there is plenty of space on board for the following midweek dives so give us a call and book your dives. We would love to share with you what we already know is world class diving.
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