August 18-25, 2018
My goals were simple: become comfortable as an independent diver, i.e., just Don and me and no guide, and start experimenting with underwater photography. Bonaire, with an abundance of easy shore diving and marine life, proved to be a great destination for honing our skills.
Before Bonaire I had 15 dives logged, the last one nearly two years ago. I felt that I had forgotten most of the skills I had learned. I found an old PADI Open Water Manual and we practiced some of the basic skills in my brother’s pool. This little refresher gave me confidence that my general skills were still there.
On Bonaire we arranged with VIP Diving (see the following post for a review) for two guided dives on the first day followed by the PADI buoyancy course on day 2. The first day was meant to be a refresher course of sorts and to get to know the local reefs. The second day was to work on buoyancy skills which are critical for good photography.
By day three we were ready to conquer the reefs on our own. We would have 4 days of independent diving. My one concern was being able to navigate our way back to the starting point of our dive. Ron, our guide at VIP, assured me that this was easy. Just follow the reef in one direction, note the time and head back for the same amount of time. If the current throws you off a bit off you’ll still be able to see your truck on the shore. This turned out to work surprisingly well.
The next level of complexity was adding the underwater camera. I had played with an Olympus TG-4 waterproof camera on some previous dives but was limited by the camera to 40 feet, which is really too shallow for scuba. I decided to add the underwater case and flash to the system for greater flexibility. Of course now I had more to think about, managing a camera plus maintaining proper buoyancy and everything else. As I got more comfortable underwater each dive became more fun as I could focus more on what I was seeing while maintaining a safe dive, i.e. watching dive time, depth, air and so forth.
As I mentioned before buoyancy skills are critical for photography. Controlling your depth and stillness in the water by moderating your breathing is what will get you closer and at the right level for that great shot.
Overall I’m happy with the progress I have made but still have a lot to work on. Continued practice will be key in maintaining and improving both diving and photography skills.
As I am still relatively new to diving I don’t see as much difference between dive sites as someone with greater experience will. I noticed that by the end of the week I was becoming aware of the differences; types of coral, steepness of the bottom, how much sand, marine life and so forth. My favorite site was Bari Reef where we saw the spotted moray eel and where we had seen 2 more on our guided dive the first day.
8/21 Bachelor’s Beach (two dives)
8/22 Salt Pier
8/23 Bari Reef (two dives)
8/24 Andrea I
8/24 From the Bellafonte Hotel Pier (about Corporal Meiss)
We had rented a truck from Hertz as we were quoted a better price than from the folks at VIP Diving.
We have our own, masks, fins, dive computer, regulator with pressure gage and booties.
The rest of the gear that we needed – tanks, weights, BCD and shorty wetsuits – we rented from VIP diving.
I decided on the Olympus TG-5 with the PT-058 case and a UFL-3 strobe. Note that you will also have to purchase a fiber optic cable and an arm to attach the flash to the camera case. For my first underwater system I liked the idea that the camera itself was actually waterproof and I’m not putting an expensive SLR at risk while I’m learning about maintaining an underwater camera case.