Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Saturday was the five month “anniversary” of Hurricane Ivan tearing through here. Last week I thought I would do a post about what's been fixed/bulldozed since then, and also what HASN'T been done in the last five months. It turned out to be a lot more involved than I thought. I started to go through some of the 2200 pictures I have from the aftermath of the storm, and identifying things that would make good “after and after-after” shots, and then carrying my camera around with me to take those shots, and what exactly to say. I took some shots this morning, and I've been making some notes about what to write. Hopefully I can get everything together in my head and “on paper” and get something out in time for March 12th, the six-month marker. I'm also trying out Microsoft OneNote for this, so I'll also post about that in the future, too.

Richard has a post on his website about his hardware racks. Yes, racks. Plural. If I'm the übergeek, then I don't think there's a word do describe the ultra-geekiness of having not one, but TWO data relay racks in your house. He found these double-sided rackmount power-strips and I've asked for a link or a name so I can find em myself (we're in the process of designing and putting together multiple cabinets/racks in various locations throughout the company) and in doing so remembered a product I heard about a few months ago and had to go looking for. They're called Liberators (no, not THAT Liberator) and they're six-inch “extensions” that allow you to plug in your transformer/wall-wart without blocking the other outlets on your power strip or UPS. It's one of those things that makes you think “Geeze, I should have thought of THAT! I could have made millions and be kicking back on a tropical island with a fruity drink in my hand” except I'm already here. Well except for the fruity drink in my hand. (it's gotta be 5 o'clock somewhere, but it's 10:15 am here, so I'll settle for a cup of tea)

Someone in the office was asking me this morning if I knew of a website that would allow you to “track” a flight, where it was, it's altitude, speed, etc and preferably show it on a map. I asked her if she also enjoyed watching paint dry, but she did find a site called Aeroseek which does exactly what she was asking me about. If you have friends who are travelling, or you're waiting for someone to arrive, it could come in pretty handy. You might also want to do screen-grabs every minute, save it, and turn it into a stop-motion animation and then play it back in a vacation video or something, and you can have a “travelling by red line” sequence just like $imdb(Indiana Jones)!

I still haven't processed the pictures from Monday's dive. I have one of the most beautiful pictures I think I've ever taken underwater in that batch. Considering I was shooting with a digital camera without any offboard strobe, this picture came out poster-quality. I'll probably post it on it's own tonight or something, as well as put it on Flickr.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005 7:29:23 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Hurricane | Links | Underwater | Gadgets#
Sunday, January 23, 2005
This was my first dive at Orange Canyon since Hurricane Ivan. I was anxious to see if there were any of the namesake orange elephant ear sponges still there. Fortunately, there are.
Sunday, January 23, 2005 10:35:19 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Underwater | Pictures#
Sunday, December 5, 2004

Joanne with egg-yolk

Scuba Steve shooting French Angelfish

Baby Hawksbill Turtle

Facing astern from the bow of the Oro Verde

Flame Scallop hiding out during the day

I went out with John & Jo from Rivers Sport Divers again this morning. I planned ahead and wore as sweatshirt and packed my Chammy in my backpack, as well as taking the Sun Shower for some hot water to rinse with aprs-dive. We went to Trinity Caves for the first dive and then followed that up with a dive on the Oro Verde. I've done this combination of dives many times before, and even since the hurricane. The good thing about that is I can take similar pictures to what I've taken before and compare the results.

Im shooting with a Canon Powershot S70 now, in a Canon WP-DC40 Underwater Housing. This housing has a diffuser over the flash, and a specific white balance setting for Underwater. Don't use it. Custom White Balance is still the best way to go. I tried messing around with both settings, with and without the flash, and with and without the flash diffuser plate installed too. Couldn't find Kermit today on the OV, which would have made a good subject for some toothy portraits but oh well, next time.

Joanne was teaching an Advanced Open Water Course (Adventures in Diving) for Steve the Insurance guy (who bought my old camera off me) so on the first dive, to illustrate the effects of pressure, we took a 20oz soda bottle down with us, so you could see the air space getting smaller and smaller and making crunchy noises as it collapsed in on itself. Once we were down 100 feet, we opened the bottle and re-inflated it to normal volume and filled it with 4x dense air from 100'. I also pulled out my slate and wrote on it Convert this number from binary to decimal: 10 and showed it to Steve. He gave me the finger, which shows me that he was still in complete control of his faculties even at 100 feet :) Joanne had a couple eggs with her as well. When you crack open an egg underwater, it stays intact and the yolk stays a perfect yellow sphere (until a fish inevitably bites into it, tearing the yolk sac)

Once back on the boat, we took out the 20 oz bottle and it was well swelled. It was also rock hard. there was about 3 inches of water in it, so we put our hands on the bottle and cracked the top open. PSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHT! the air that comes out is extremely cold, which is a function of air decompressing. I think that's Henry's Law, but I can't be arsed to look it up at the moment.

We moved them to the Wreck of the Oro Verde. Actually we were at Peter's Reef (sometimes called Paradise Reef and sometimes called Lone Star Reef depending on which operator you're out with) and swam over to the wreck. Right after we dropped into the blue, two French Angelfish came up to see if we had any handouts. I teased them a bit, Im not sure if Steve got any shots of them swirling around my face, but soon they realized that I didnt have any food for them and they went to see if Steve had any. Right after that, as we turned towards the wreck again, I spotted a little baby Hawksbill turtle making his way down from the surface. We followed him for a bit and shot some images of him. I took a bunch with the Underwater White Balance setting, and they're too blue. Luckily I shot one on Custom White Balance that I had just evaluated, so I got this one good picture of it.

We noodled our way over the reef to the wreck and nosed around the wreckage looking for Kermit. When I got here in 1998, this wreck was still a relative ship-shape. It wasnt shipshape, just a ship shape. :) Hurricane Mitch that year tore her open amidships, and then Michelle in 2001 scattered her around. I think it was Michelle that scrapped the stern area as well. Ivan finished the job. There's an entire debris field now of metal bits & pieces. The engines are now visible, as they were inside before. The bow section that was intact before is still intact, however it's been picked up and moved 50 yards away from the reef towards the wall. We're talking about a 40-odd foot section of a ship, 16-20 feet wide, picked up and moved by the waves and storm surge. 50 feet down. That's some powerful weather.

We were approaching our turnaround time, and on the way back, in a little hole/socket thing near where the stern used to be, I saw some angel hair-like tentacles protruding. I looked closer and saw that it was a Flame Scallop. They look pretty cool when they're swimming around, but it also makes them rather vulnerable to predation during the day, so I let him(her?) be and shot some pictures of her. I tried about 6 combinations of white balance and flash and none of them really turned out ok except this one, but it still required a little levels and brightness work in Photoshop when I got home.

We got back on the boat, and the wind was sooooo cold. I strung up the Sun Shower, got some hot water into my wetsuit to warm up and then stripped down quickly, dried off quickly and put my Chammy on (my woobie) and wrapped the towel around my waist and put my ballcap on. I was pretty toasty after that.

So even though Canon has recognized how big a market segment there is for their digital camera users shooting underwater and has gone so far as to make an underwater preset for white balance, it's not enough. I suppose it's good for snorkelling, where you're so close to the surface that there's enough light penetration that you don't really need to mess with it all that much, but down below 30 feet and lower, you still need to use the Custom White Balance to bring the best colors out.

Sunday, December 5, 2004 6:56:09 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Underwater#
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