What not to do when you’re learning to dive
By Shelley Collett
We’ve all been there — when you’re a new diver, it’s easy to make inadvertent mistakes. Here are 10 to avoid as you hone your underwater skills.
1. Skipping the Buoyancy Check
Whether you are over-weighted or under-weighted while diving, it happened because you didn’t do a buoyancy check at the surface. If anything has changed since your last check — weight loss or gain, new wetsuit or different thickness, fresh water instead of salt water, new or different BCD — then you need to do another one to make sure that you’re weighted properly. The wrong weights can cost you precious energy and air at best, or cause an out-of-control ascent at worst.
2. Diving Outside Your Training Limits
It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of a new dive site, and to feel like you’ll be fine because you’ve got someone with you who has more advanced training. This is often a big mistake. Most diving accidents happen because a diver was not properly prepared for the conditions in which they were diving. Don’t ever think that additional training or experience is a waste of money or time. Every year, divers who have never taken a wreck, cave or cavern class die inside cave systems. Nearly as often, divers without proper training die inside the overhead environment of wrecks, too. Get proper training before attempting any dive above your skill level.
3. Lack of Buddy Communication
Whether it’s your friend or a family member, or even an insta-buddy, communication is essential. From early training classes on, I see divers who don’t even know where their buddy is at any given time. Keeping tabs on the person who may be called upon to help save your life — or whose life you may have to save — should be your top priority. Go over your hand signals so there’s less confusion down below; keep a watchful eye on your buddy’s location so you always know how far away they are; and keep tabs on their air as well as your own.
4. Lack of Situational Awareness
New divers tend to focus on one or two specific things, such as their equipment or the marine life, and miss the bigger picture. This is understandable, but it’s also dangerous. While you’re staring at the pretty fish or fussing with your mask, you may be getting pushed down current and lose the group or the boat. One of the most common issues involves new divers being unaware of their depth. Wall dives in particular are notorious for this, as divers stare at the wall and marine life and don’t pay attention to an unnoticed descent. In some places, a down current could push divers down, and far past recreational limits if they’re not careful. Lack of situational awareness is also an issue when divers swim with their arms, as they’re often unaware of other divers nearby.
5. Not Watching Air Consumption
New divers are famous for completely ignoring their air-pressure gauge, which is frightening since air is the single most important thing to a diver. I try to train my students to keep such a close watch on their air that when I ask them how much they have, they shouldn’t have to look to know. Watch your air and know at all times how much you have — there is absolutely no excuse for neglecting this. After your dives, chart your air consumption so that on future dives in similar conditions you’ll be able to estimate how much air you’ll need.
6. Straining on the Surface
New divers always seem to forget they can inflate their BCD at the surface and just kick back and relax. My students often struggle to tread water after surfacing, even if they inflate their BCD. They often continue to kick out of sheer instinct, tiring themselves out in the process. Diving gear is uncomfortable on the surface, so it may take some practice to learn to relax with it. Your best bet is to inflate your BC enough so that you can lean back slightly and relax your legs.
7. Using the Power Inflator Too Much Underwater
While many newer divers tend to forget about inflating their BCD at the surface, they never seem to forget about it underwater. Inflate, deflate, inflate, deflate — that seems to be the habit of most new divers instead of learning good buoyancy control. It practice to perfect, but that’s difficult to do if you’re always reaching for your power inflator.
8. Task Loading
You’re on a beautiful reef with spectacular marine life, so it makes sense that you want to take pictures. But newer divers already have a lot to deal with — adding more can be detrimental. I’ve seen divers on their first open water dives, alone in a brand new environment, wearing new equipment and carrying expensive cameras and lighting equipment. Try not to do too much at once when you’re still learning new habits. Once you have a few dives under your belt in various conditions, and are familiar with your new dive gear, then break out the fancy camera equipment and fire at will.
9. Not Equalizing Soon Enough
Despite going over and over it in class, many new divers still wait until they feel pain or pressure before equalizing. Aside from physical problems in the ears, this is the most common reason divers have difficulty equalizing in the first place. Once you’re experiencing pain, it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to equalize your ears. Even trying to do so could cause irritation and inflammation, making it even harder on the next dive. Equalize every couple of feet on your way down, before you feel pain or pressure, and especially in the first 30 feet. If you do feel pain, ascend a little and then try to equalize. Don’t force it; you could end up causing damage.
10. Relying Solely on a Guide
I understand if you don’t want to learn how to navigate with a compass, or try to figure out the best dive pattern for a dive site, but placing all of your trust in a guide and neglecting to pay any attention to where you are is dangerous. I’ve seen divers completely ignore dive briefings about currents, marine life, bottom times and depth limits because they feel they don’t need to think about any of that since they have a guide. I’m not claiming that the trust is misplaced, only that every diver must be responsible for himself even if he is relying on a guide to show him around. Pay attention during the dive briefing; take notice of landmarks and directions while swimming; be an active participant in your own dive adventure and responsible for your own safety. Doing so will help keep you and the people with you safer, make the journey more enjoyable, and make you a better diver.
Secrets to Saving Air
by Selene Yeager
Do you consistently run through your gas supply faster than other divers on the boat? Do you frequently have to end the dive before the rest of the group? What's going on? And what can you do about it?
First, you can stop beating yourself up over it. People are different. Those with slower metabolisms will--other factors being equal--use less oxygen. Small divers have to use less energy than big ones to swim forward, so they also use less oxygen. Nature doesn't distribute her gifts equally, and you may never be the stingiest sipper of gas on the boat.
On the other hand, most of us can reduce our gas consumption and thereby extend our dives. We can be better, even if we can't be the best. Typically, divers waste air in one or more of these three ways:
By leaking it before it gets to their lungs, thanks to free-flowing octos and worn out O-rings.
By using more energy than necessary. Using energy means using air, because oxygen is necessary to burn the calories that make energy. Every bit of unnecessary exertion costs you psi.
By getting less than maximum benefit from each breath. When divers breathe inefficiently, they exchange less oxygen for carbon dioxide with each breath, so they need to take another breath sooner.
Here are 18 tank-stretchers to try, starting with the obvious first step.
Fix the Small Leaks
Even a tiny stream of bubbles from an O-ring or an inflator swivel adds up over 40 minutes, and may be a sign of more serious trouble ahead anyway. You don't think you have leaks? Do you have eyes in the back of your head? Ask your buddy to look behind you to be sure. A mask that doesn't seal is another kind of leak in that you have to constantly blow air into it to clear out the water. It's also a source of stress, which needlessly elevates your breathing rate and thereby reduces your breathing efficiency. Does your octo free-flow easily? That can dump a lot of air quickly. Detune it or mount it carefully so the mouthpiece points downward.
Inexperienced divers are famous for burning through their air supply at a furious rate. The reason is anxiety. A new diver is understandably nervous, and his body's automatic response to danger is to raise his metabolism, his heart rate and his breathing rate. It's hard-wired, the body revving its engine to be ready for fight or flight, though the result is a lot of air cycled through his lungs but never used, just dumped into the ocean.
You may not be a new diver, but unless you dive almost every week it's still an unnatural activity, and your body isn't as happy as you are about putting its head under water. Dive more--your body will get used to the idea, and you'll breathe less.
Take a Class
Any class, almost, will reduce your gas consumption just by making you feel more accomplished and therefore more comfortable. But the best bet is probably a class to improve your weighting and buoyancy control. When you get that dialed in, you can control your altitude mostly with your lungs, so you're not squirting that valuable gas into your BC and then venting it to the ocean. Most important, you can now forget (nearly) about the mechanics of diving, drift like a fish, and relax.
Sleep More, Party Less
Be well rested on dive day. Fatigue is stress. If you start the dive already tired, your body has to work harder to overcome the extra burden, so you breathe harder. A hangover is stress too. You may think you're sober in the morning, but in fact alcohol and other drugs affect your physiology the next day. As SSI instructor Jim Bruning puts it, "Your body does what your mind tells it to. If you had a good night of sleep, your body and mind are going to be much more relaxed, much calmer."
If you're late to the boat, running to get your gear on board, worried about the hard looks of divers who were on time, stuck with the least-convenient gear station and generally playing catch-up all day, you're giving yourself unnecessary fatigue and mental stress. You start the day breathing hard and never have a chance to calm down. On the other hand, if you're early to the boat, early to gear up and early to the dive briefing, you'll conserve your energy, feel confident and relaxed, and your breathing will remain slower.
The energy cost of speed is even more than you might think because it's an exponential function proportional to the square of the speed. So swimming twice as fast requires four times as much energy and air. But the reverse is true, too: Swim half as fast as you do now, and you'll use only one-fourth as much air.
It's physics again. Because your regulator has to deliver air at the same pressure as the water, a lungful at 33 feet (two atmospheres) takes twice as much out of your tank as does the same breath at the surface. At 99 feet (four atmospheres) it takes twice as much as at 33 feet.
There's absolutely nothing you can do about that except to avoid being deeper than you have to be. If you're making a transit over an uninteresting sand flat to get to the edge of the drop-off, do it at 15 feet instead of at 40 feet, and you'll save air.
Minimize the Lead
If you're overweighted, you have to put more air into your BC to float it and be neutral. The inflated BC is larger and requires more energy and oxygen to push it through the water.
An extra eight pounds of lead means your BC is one gallon bigger when inflated enough to make you neutral. Imagine the extra effort of having to push a gallon-sized water jug through the water.
Adjust Your Trim
If your body is horizontal in the water, when you swim forward, your legs and fins will pass through the "hole" in the water made by your head and shoulders. You'll disturb less water and expend less energy and air.
Many divers, however, swim with their feet lower than their torso and their head higher. Adjust your trim by moving some lead from your hips to your back--to trim pockets on your BC or to your tank.
Seek Neutral Buoyancy
Always being exactly neutral is the key. If you're not, if you're slightly heavy or light, you're constantly using fin power (and air) to maintain a constant depth. If you're not neutral, you can't glide between fin strokes and you can't hang effortlessly.
Streamline Your Gear
All fast-swimming fish have smooth skins with few or no protuberances. That minimizes drag so they can swim with the least energy and oxygen consumption. Divers, by contrast, have rough, convoluted surfaces with all sorts of attachments from scuba tanks to whistles. Anything disturbing the flow of water past your body creates drag and wastes air.
Do your best to imitate the fish. If you don't need a light on this dive, for example, don't take it. If you do need something, try to hide it in a pocket instead of dangling it from a D-ring. Take the snorkel off your mask and strap it to your leg or tuck it under your BC or get a folding snorkel that fits into a pocket. Shorten hoses that are too long. Clip your console close to your body. Suit your gear to conditions: You don't need the bulk of a BC with 40 pounds of lift in the tropics.
Streamline Your Movements
Keep your arms close to your body. Straighten your legs and keep them as close together as your fins will allow. Kick with short strokes so your fins stay within the slipstream of your body. Some fins do require a wider stroke so you have to compromise between efficient propulsion and streamlining. But usually you're better off finning faster instead of wider.
Any oxygen taken from your tank but not absorbed into your bloodstream is wasted. That's the case when you take short, shallow breaths. A large part of the air you take in fills your throat and bronchia, but doesn't reach your lungs before it is expelled again. You have to take another shallow breath sooner because you didn't get much benefit from the first one, and a lot of air is wasted.
Instead, try to inhale deeply, filling your lungs completely with each breath. A deeper breath brings air to more of your lungs' tiny "air sacs" (the alveoli) where gas exchange takes place. It also adds more fresh air to the volume of "dead air" that remains in your lungs, throat and mouth from the previous breath, so the mix is richer. When more alveoli are more fully inflated with fresher air, gas exchange is more efficient: More oxygen is extracted from the incoming air and more carbon dioxide is released. Although each breath uses more air, you will take fewer breaths, and the net effect will be that less air is used. Short, shallow breaths are more frequent and less efficient.
Exhale fully too, so you expel as much carbon dioxide as possible. Anything not exhaled is carbon-dioxide-heavy "dead" air. On your next inhale, that dead air — instead of fresh air--partially fills your lungs. The urge to take the next breath is triggered not by lack of oxygen but by excess of carbon dioxide, so you find yourself inhaling again sooner. On the other hand, a deep exhale extends the time before you feel the need for another breath.
You consume considerable energy just by breathing, by sucking the air in and pushing it out again. To inhale, you have to suck open a demand valve in your second stage and pull gas down your throat and into your lungs. Each inch along the way and each corner the gas stream turns mean friction and turbulence. Both increase the effort you put out in just breathing and decrease the amount of gas that actually gets to your lungs. Friction and turbulence are unavoidable, but the amount goes up dramatically when you try to breathe quickly--just as a faster-moving boat creates a bigger wake. The problem gets worse as you go deeper because the gas is thicker--it's like trying to suck a milkshake instead of water through a straw.
So don't force it. Try for a long, slow inhale until your lungs are full, then a long, slow exhale until they are empty. More air will get to your lungs, it will spend more time there exchanging "good" for "bad," and you will use less energy pushing the air back and forth.
Upgrade Your Gear
Overhaul your regulator on schedule and consider one with lower work of breathing, especially if you often dive deep. Scuba Lab tests have shown that the work of breathing demanded by some regs can be three times as much as others, even more. A "hard-breathing" reg not only demands more energy and therefore oxygen just to operate it, your difficulty breathing through it increases your anxiety level and elevates your breathing rate. So it wastes gas two ways.
Get in Shape
Two people climb a flight of stairs. At the top, one is huffing and puffing and the other is breathing normally. The heavy breather is getting more oxygen, but he's wasting a lot of what he inhales because he's breathing so rapidly there isn't much time for gas exchange. It's an adaptation that makes sense only on land where the air supply is unlimited.
Diving can be surprisingly strenuous because water is so much denser than air. Swimming into a current, it's not difficult to elevate your breathing to the very wasteful rate of huffing and puffing. But even much lower levels of exertion will cause your breathing rate to rise. How much it rises and how soon depend mostly on your aerobic conditioning. A diver in better condition will have less increase when the workload goes up, so he will use less air. The other part of getting in shape is to lose fat and achieve a more streamlined shape.
Even warm water is cold when you're immersed in it, because if it's cooler than about 95 degrees, it takes heat out of your body at a surprising rate. Heat is energy that has to be replaced by metabolism, using oxygen to make it. Getting cold also creates mental stress which, often without your noticing it, increases your breathing rate.
And Just Chill Out
The competition over who uses less air can itself be a problem when divers associate low gas consumption with diving skill, virtue and the right to take up space on the boat. It's one of those self-fulfilling prophecies: You worry about using more air than your buddy, which causes stress, which elevates your breathing so you do, in fact, use more air.
In fact, a higher rate of air consumption can be caused by many things, some of them fixable and some not. In itself it means little or nothing and is nobody's business but yours and arguably your buddy's--who, we hope, is not out to ruin your day. So if you'd like to reduce your gas consumption, work gradually on reducing your lead, controlling your buoyancy, improving your shape and posture in the water, going slowly, breathing slowly and relaxing. Then forget about it. That alone will help.
Hydration can be a major problem to your health even when you are completely surrounded by water. In fact, all the delights of a dive vacation — a hot sun, rum punches, long hours spent on the water — can leave you as dry as desert sand. How can you avoid becoming dehydrated, which could put an early end to an amazing diving adventure, and learn to recognise the symptoms?
A few common symptoms like headache, fatigue, or feeling dizzy can be overlooked or attributed to other causes. But when these symptoms accompany others, such as a dry mouth or being excessively thirsty, dehydration is likely the cause. Some of the most common effects from mild dehydration is cramping because not enough water is taken to your muscles and overall exhaustion and weakness. While that may not sound very severe, the more dehydrated you are, the more difficult it is for you to remain focused and self aware of your surroundings. You are also at a higher risk of having decompression sickness. On a dive vacation, some of the factors leading to dehydration are:
1) Sweating. Perspiring is the body’s internal a/c, a cooling mechanism that releases a significant amount of water. It’s common to sweat in hot, exotic locations — and that’s without the extra stresses and workload a diver has. Divers sweat while loading and offloading gear from a boat, finning against a current, and wearing a wetsuit for a prolonged period of time.
2) Sunburn. Soaking up the sun’s rays can be dangerous. Relaxing on the beach can lead to sunburn and as your body struggles to repair the damage, water seeps into the damaged skin and the body loses fluids.
3) Immersion diuresis. This is the correct term for peeing in your wetsuit. Immersion in water, especially in water that is colder than the air, causes narrowing of the blood vessels in your arms and legs, sending more blood back to your body.
Nobody plans to get ill on a dive trip, but the fact is it can happen. It will be less likely and less traumatic if you are careful and prepared.
The first step is, of course, don’t get sick, so here are some effective preventative measures you can take:
1. Stay as far away as possible from others who appear sick (e.g., folks who are coughing, sneezing).
2. Wash your hands frequently while travelling and keep them away from your nose, mouth and eyes.
3. In the developing world, be prudent about drinking water from the tap. Stick to bottled drinks, especially water, and make that ice you use also comes from distilled or bottled water.
4. Avoid unshelled fruits and vegetables. Stick to fruits with hard shells and avoid berries. If you chance it with leafy greens, they should be very well washed with clean water.
5. If you are in an area with insects, wear long sleeves and pants, avoiding dark or bright colors, especially at dawn and dusk. Try to stay indoors at dawn and dusk when many flying insects are most active.
6. Wear a proven insect repellent or a picaridin-based repellant containing at least a 15% concentration.
7. Avoid scented toiletries and perfumes, which attract insects.
8. Get necessary vaccines before departure. You can check with your primary care physician but it’s very unlikely he will be travel-medicine savvy. Alternatively, locate a travel medicine specialist through ASTMH/ACCTMTH directory or my favorite, little-known gem, Passport Health to find out what’s currently being recommended for a specific destination.
9. Verify that your health insurance provider covers medical expenses abroad as many do not. Familiarize yourself with the details of your medical coverage, and especially with the process for documenting a claim (even DAN can be a problem if you don’t carefully follow the rules). In addition, it’s prudent to secure an IAMAT (International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers) membership. It’s free and the organization maintains a network of approved health professionals throughout the world who offer services to travellers at a fixed rate.
If your carrier doesn't cover you overseas, consider purchasing traveller’s insurance.
Thirteen Things You Didn't Know About Scuba Diving Gear - But Should
Divers have an intimate connection to their equipment. But the history, evolution and hidden inner workings of many integral pieces of our collective kit might be a mystery to many of us. Knowing more about your scuba diving gear is essential.Check out these 13 curious details, historical head-scratchers and surprising facts, including why dive watches glow and what the heck is the “Bends-O-Matic?”. In Turtle Bay Dive Resort, we not only serve you, but we give you more information about the diving world.
1. One of the earliest “dive computers”, the SOS Decompression Meter, was completely mechanical and simulated the process of gas absorption in the body. Its sketchy performance earned it the nickname “Bends-O-Matic.”
2. The first decompression tables, and the basis for modern dive computer algorithms, were published in 1908 by John Haldane. They were based on simulated dives using a hyperbaric chamber. The test divers were English goats.
3. Depth ratings for extreme deep dive watches have exceeded the known depth of the oceans. The Sinn UX is rated to 12,000 meters, more than 1000 meters deeper than the Marianas Trench.
4. Tritium, a radioactive material safely used in tiny quantities to make illuminated markings in many dive watches, is also used as a “booster” in multi-stage hydrogen bombs.
5. The rhythmic, mechanical breathing of Star Wars’ Darth Vader is iconic. It’s the amplified sound of a scuba regulator.
6. Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan invented the Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus in 1943. It was based on a diaphragm regulator design first developed more than a hundred years before.
7. Last year, Allen Sherrod, a dive instructor from Florida, spent 48 hours and 13 minutes breathing from a regulator while submerged off Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida. It was a world record time for a saltwater dive.
8. Many warm-water divers use their octopus as a defense against stinging jellyfish. A brief purge beneath an oncoming assailant will gently lift it out of the diver’s way.
9. An ancient bas-relief dating back to 900 B.C. shows Assyrian divers using animal skins filled with air, which they carried with them to increase the length of their dives.
10. Before the standard power inflator came along, horse collar BCs incorporated small CO2 canisters to provide emergency inflation when needed, just like many personal floatation devices do today.
11.The popular backplate-and-wing BC design came as a cave diving innovation and improvement over “belly bags,” which uncomfortably sandwiched divers between an air bladder and a pair of heavy steel tanks.
12. No welding is used in making a typical aluminum scuba tank. Instead, a 32-lb. aluminum slug, 7-inches across, is pressed into shape by 2,500 lbs. of pressure in just 20 seconds.
13. Everyone knows LED lights are more efficient than incandescent models. But how efficient is it? Tests have shown that burn times may average 30 times longer using identical battery power.
Discover Meditation`s Healing Power
If you were to ask me what the most important experience of my life has been, I would say it was learning to meditate. Meditation has been the key to my creativity, well being, and happiness. I have enjoyed it in my own life, and it continues to be one of the most powerful healing tools we offer at the Chopra Center.
Join us on our all-new 21-Day Meditation Challenge, Miraculous Relationships starting on August 5th 2013. No experience necessary and participation is FREE. Register today: http://bit.ly/Mi_Rel
Meditation takes us from activity into silence, giving our body a very deep level of rest. Rest is how the body heals itself, which it does by throwing off the stress, fatigue, and toxins accumulated during our daily life. The silence of pure awareness is extremely refreshing to the mind, which finds it increasingly easy not to cling to old thought-patterns; rigid habits of thinking and feeling begin to fall away of their own accord. When this happens, the mind is actually learning to heal itself.
The most significant health benefits of meditation are stress reduction, better sleep, lower blood pressure, improved cardiovascular function, improved immunity, and the ability to stay centered in the midst of all the turmoil that’s going on around you. Meditation helps you do less and accomplish more.
During meditation, you aren’t forcing your mind to be quiet; you are experiencing the silence and stillness that lies beyond the background static of worry, resentment, wishful thinking, fantasy, unfulfilled hopes, and vague dreams in your head. Meditation brings us home to the peace of present-moment awareness. It gives us a direct experience of our Spirit and in the process dissolves the impurities which are preventing Spirit from shining forth in our lives.
In meditation we disrupt the unconscious progression of thoughts and emotions by focusing on a new object of attention. In the meditation technique we teach at the Chopra Center – Primordial Sound Meditation – the “object of attention” is a mantra that we repeat silently to ourselves. A mantra is pure sound, with no meaning or emotional charge to trigger associations. It allows the mind to detach from its usual preoccupations and experience the spaciousness and peace within.
Even more important than what we experience during our meditation sessions is the effect they have on the remaining hours of our day. With a regular meditation practice, life’s inevitable stresses no longer have the power to throw us into chaotic mind-states, and all of our thoughts, actions, and reactions are infused with greater love, calm, and joy.
Come stay in Turtle Bay Dive Resort, whether your a diver or just need a break. Relax, Meditate and Enjoy the beauty of nature to encourage you to meditate and get your mind off all the worries and anxiety within and let it all go. Surounded by the beautiful garden and a beautiful view of the mountain and the sea.
Are Split Fins Right for You?
When cruising the depths, do you find yourself nagged by ankle strain when kicking through the water? Does the most minimal fin stroke get your knees and leg muscles barking like a pack of dogs? Do you like the ability to kick into a current or chase a bat ray without getting overly fatigued or cramping up? Are you a big fan of the flutter kick? If so, you might be a candidate for split fins.
Split fins slice through the water with far less resistance than traditional paddle fins. That’s because rather than pushing against the water with brute force, the flexible blades of a split fin, when engaged in an up-tempo flutter kick, actually generate lift along with a jet propulsion effect, similar to a boat’s propeller. The faster the propeller turns, the more propulsion is generated. In other words, with split fins power comes from the speed of a diver’s kick rather than the force of the kick. The result: excellent acceleration and the ability to sustain speeds and cover a lot of ground with minimal effort or leg strain.
Of course, like anything else, there are good split fins and not-so-good split fins, so performance results will vary. Also, due to the principles of the design, the best kick for a split fin is a narrow (inside the body’s slipstream), rapid flutter kick. If that type of kick is not your cup of tea — if you prefer sculling or the frog kicking instead, or if you tend to do a lot of backing up — then a split fin is probably not for you. Clearly, there are distinct differences between splits and paddles. The question is what design approach is right for the type of diving you like to do?
Read Sport Diver Asia Pacific’s roundup on fins byjoining the PADI Diving Society today, and get a 1-year subscription to Sport Diver Asia Pacificwith your membership!
5 Tips for Dive Mask Care
I want to share with you 5 useful tips for looking after your dive mask. As we all know, having problems with your mask can really spoil a great dive so follow these 5 steps and ensure you always get a great view of your dives.
Scuba Diving Gear: Mask Care
Critical scuba diving gear requires annual inspection and service by a qualified technician, but even dive masks — your window to the underwater world — need some special tender loving care. Here’s our guide to keeping your mask in tiptop shape in 5 easy steps.
1. If you haven’t replaced your mask strap with a stretchy fabric one, stretch out the strap to look for fine cracks. If you do find any, immediately replace the strap.
2. Examine the silicone of your mask skirt. The most common failure area on a mask is the feather-edged seal on the skirt. This can become imperfect or irregular in shape with time and heavy use, and that irregularity can create leaks.
3. Check all the buckles, which can crack, split or become clogged with debris that can interfere with how they function. Then check the frame of your mask for cracking, chips or other obvious signs of wear, especially in the areas immediately adjacent to the glass lens.
1. To avoid mildew growth, rinse your mask in warm, fresh water and allow it to drip dry completely before packing it away.
2. Pack the mask loosely, so nothing distorts the mask skirt. Leaving it squashed into a weird position for a long period of time will cause it to take on an unnatural shape.
Take good care of your mask as this is our eyes, our access to the beauty underwater.
The voyage of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, whose 16th-century mission for Spain was the first to circumnavigate the globe, took a tragic turn in 1521 when he was killed during a Custer-like attack on the local populace in Cebu, The Philippines. Today’s explorers will find a more friendly welcome in Cebu than that received by Magellan, and they can walk in the steps of the great navigator without trepidation.
Cebu, the oldest city in The Philippines and the second in size to Manila, is a thriving metropolis of more than 3 million people. Yet unlike Manila, Cebu – called “The Queen City of the South” – retains a more provincial, less frenetic quality than its northern counterpart.
History buffs will be well-rewarded, with glimpses of what life was like when the Philippines was a Spanish colony. Fans of sunbathing and water sports will find a marine paradise in Cebu’s Mactan Island resorts, and gourmets will relish Cebu’s delectable dishes – a combination of Spanish, Chinese and Polynesian cuisine, with some of the world’s most exotic fruits mixed in.
A little more than an hour’s flight from Manila via Philippine Airlines and many budget airlines, Cebu’s international airport on Mactan Island is close to an array of top beach resorts. If you want to experience teh best dive sites in CebuT, cecheck oyut Turtle Bay Dive Resort Home , a stunning property close to two beautiful beaches and ample opportunities for kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming and other action pursuits.
Cebu attractions for day tours
Magellan’s Cross – Located downtown outside the Santo Niño Basilica (itself an historic landmark), the wooden cross, now enshrined in a protective casing, was instrumental in bringing Christianity to the Philippines.
Fort San Pedro – Also downtown, this well-preserved fort was the bastion of Spanish power during the colonial period. You can see artifacts from sunken galleons and walk the walls much as the garrison did centuries ago. The corner towers mirror fortifications in Puerto Rico and other former Spanish colonies in Latin America.
Casa Gorodo – Another vestige of Cebu’s Spanish colonial past, this palatial residence, once the home of the Catholic bishop, gives a glimpse of the lifestyle of the wealthy during that era. The house is worth visiting for its wood carvings alone.
Lapu-Lapu Monument – Commemorates the battle of Mactan, in which Magellan met his demise attacking a vastly superior force led by Lapu-Lapu, the Philippine chieftain. An heroic statue of the chief on the battle site and a mural depicting the attack make this a memorable attraction.
Magellan Marker – Located near the Lapu-Lapu Monument on Mactan Island, this structure was erected by the Spanish as a memorial to the navigator, whose body was never recovered.
Heritage of Cebu Monument – Located on Colon St. (the oldest street in the city), this huge sculpture, dedicated in 2000, depicts the history of Cebu from its pre-Christian trading days through the Spanish colonization, the American commonwealth period, World War II, independence and the modern era.
Taoist Temple – Located in Cebu’s upscale Beverly Hills section, this beautiful temple is a place of pilgrimage for the city’s large Chinese population. The view of the city from atop the temple’s 99 steps is spectacular.
There is night life aplenty in Cebu, as befits a thriving metropolis. Many of the nightclubs, bars and discos are concentrated around the Ayala Entertainment Center, adjacent to the huge Ayala Mall. There is also a casino at the Waterfront Insular Hotel.
If you do not want to stay in Cebu City, Turlte Bay Dive Resort can arrange day tours of Cebu City.
For more information, go to www.experiencephilippines.org . Enjoy!
There are no other images that better connect land-loving humans to the underwater world than split-level photography. Being able to see what is happening both above the water level and underwater is a great way of telling the whole story. Whether you are showing a healthy shallow reef and tropical island or the mangrove forest continuing its journey underwater, it is a technique that becomes very useful once perfected.
There are some obvious requirements like a very large dome and calm sea conditions to help you get split shots. However, you shouldn't just be clicking these images at the end of a dive whilst waiting for guests to get back on the boat, these shots require as much planning, time and thought as any other shots worth taking. With some imagination and exploration you can find unique locations to test this style, maybe a garden pond or local stream that has an interesting backdrop on land. Freshwater locations can also have interesting and different creatures underwater, then there are the infamous pigs that swim in the sea that have now been featured by many underwater photographers. If you think about it and get creative, this technique can produce some very unique and interesting images.
To perfect your split-level images, here are some useful tips to follow:
- Use a fisheye lens. The best setup for this style of photography is a fisheye lens in a large glass dome port. Larger domes are better as they give you a larger window to the underwater surface. If you have ever tried to get a split shot with a mini-dome and less than perfect conditions, you will know the meaning of the word frustration, as getting the water line where you want it across the image is nearly impossible.
- Use small apertures. Small apertures are better to increase your depth of field. Your underwater subject is likely to be closer to the camera than the surface focus point, so you really need to increase your chances of having everything in focus. If you are in dark conditions like mangrove forests or streams, then push the ISO up to increase the aperture settings.
- Find the perfect time of day and water conditions. This is a tough one as the calmer conditions are usually early in the morning; however, the sun will penetrate deeper during mid-day and help light the underwater conditions. I actually like conditions when there is a small wave so that you get some curvature to the water surface. In my opinion, a curved surface gives more shape to the image.
- Stay shallow. It helps to shoot these images in the shallowest water possible — the light penetrates better and you can get closer to the shoreline if you are incorporating an island in the top half of the image. If you are shooting reef scenes, shoot at low tide so that the coral is even closer to the surface, but be careful not to damage any coral.
- Pay attention to buoyancy. If you are planning to be in the water a long time, it may help to trim the weight of your housing so that it sits nicely on the surface. Some of the current camera housings are very heavy and slightly negative when in the water. If you don't have any floatation arms, get some type of float and attach it to your housing so that you don't stress your arms too much.
- Use Photoshop or graduation filter. The top half of the image will always be brighter than the underwater section, and there are a few ways of balancing this. Back in the film days, graduating ND filters were used and can still be used — the only downside is that you are then forced to shoot portrait or landscape once the filter is installed. Strobes can also be used and are recommended if the underwater portion is much darker; however, it can be difficult to light the entire underwater section. The other option is to expose for the top part of the image and then tweak the underwater section in Photoshop.
- Keep your dome port droplet-free. Water droplets on the dome port will be one of your biggest problems, but there are a few options for reducing this. Baby shampoo can be rubbed on the dome — leave it for a while and then wash off when you start shooting. There are also certain cleaning products for car windshields that help improve the rain run-off, and these can also be used on the dome. My method is simply to use a bit of my own saliva on the dome and then dunking the dome before each shot — you'll get a good run-off before taking your shot.
- Choose your subjects. You don't always need amazing subjects underwater — sometimes, a clean sand beach and an amazing island is enough. The pattern of the sand and sun reflections through the waves give a pleasing shot. Think outside the box though — I have recently seen some very interesting freshwater split-level shots and even rock pools can be very effective.
- Find local culture or conservation images to photograph. This method is great for cultural shots, such as seaweed farming, village fishermen in shallow waters, etc., and also conservation subjects. I have shot the rescue of a whale shark with this method and the hunting of leatherback turtles, as it was important to show the action happening above and below the water.
Shooting this type of image is great fun, and when perfected, you will find it very useful when telling stories — whether it be a simple location article or conservation piece. It is the perfect style to connect nondivers with the underwater world.
This article is by Jason SIlay, the Managing Director of Scubazoo Images based in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Jason Isley has been shooting the underwater world for more than 15 years. Although he started as a videographer, he now concentrates on photography and manages the publication department of Scubazoo.