1. Continue Training and Practise
During lock down my colleagues and I have been discussing what will be our “first dive” after the lockdown/Quarantine finishes. We all agreed that what we really wanted to do was get to the El Bajo Seamounts and complete a tech dive using double tanks to 40m and with some deco. I was happy to hear “but first shallow and practise, it has been more than two months out of the water”. It does not matter how experienced or how many certifications you hold. Nothing beats practise, especially in a team.
Often people are shocked to hear I am still taking dive courses and training after being an Instructor Trainer for 20 years. Every year I try and complete at least one course related to diving. Most recently I took GUE Fundamentals and I am in the process of taking the Human Diver online course looking at human errors. Check it out https://www.thehumandiver.com/
2. Be an ambassador for the ocean
Help break the stereotypes of Scuba Diving and the Ocean. The general public and non-divers are becoming more aware of the issues concerning Ocean conservation. Unfortunately this is still plagued with horrible misconceptions like “Sharks eat Divers” and “Scuba Diving is Dangerous”.
People can be impressed when they hear you scuba dive, use this as a tool. You have that persons attention. Explain to them the importance of good interactions with marine life, not touching. Not having a fear of being eaten by a shark and how actually hundreds of millions of sharks are killed by fishing.
Another great option is to explain about sensible and sustainable options for consuming sea food. Or perhaps be like me and don’t consume any animals as food!
3. Buoyancy and Trim
How good are you? Can you hoover motionless above the reef with out touching it? Can you perform the basic scuba skills without touching the bottom or knelling? Little changes can make a big difference. How many of you are still using an old fashioned weight belt? Did you know weight integrated BCD have been around for over 20 years yet still dive centres teach open water using the old ones. Old fashioned weight belts don’t help a divers trim. They concentrate the weight around the divers hips and counter against good position. Ensuring the divers feet point down and head up.
A good and well set up weight integrated BCD will ensure you assume a more “Sky diver” like position horizontal in the water. Using less weight, more hydrodynamic and will improve your air consumption.
Although technical diving may be something you never imagined you would do. Taking an entry level technical course and learning to use a backplate and wing will improve your technique and give you insights in to fin kicks and equipment set up that will vastly improve your knowledge and how to apply subtle and good changes to your trim and buoyancy.
4. Dominate the essential Skills
Can you Clear you mask? Remove and replace your Mask? Share Air? Send up a SMB from 15ft/5m all completely neutrally buoyant? Can you complete them confidently? No wobbles or buoyancy catastrophes? If you are not sure or simply have not practised them in a while. Please come pay us a visit!
One of the diving communities great weaknesses is not how Open Water is taught, but how it is promoted. Many dive centres are so focused on bringing new and entry level divers into the community they forget about the continuing education and higher levels and further education courses. This is especially common in Resort areas, holiday and vacation destinations.
While the diving community like all “Ecosystems” needs new entry level divers and beginners. Those beginners often don’t stay in diving. After completing their basic open water move on to another hobby. There are thoughts that the reason for this is the attitude of instructors or just modern life in general or the expense of entry into Scuba.
It is obvious that for many the challenge of completing an entry level Open Water course is often a life changing, dream come true, bucket list adventure. To be in amongst the fishes and watching all the beautiful colours of a coral reef.
I have always said the most incredible gadget for me would be the ability to scuba dive and have Sir David Attenborough narrate the animal behaviour as you experience and see it live underwater. Not being able to ensure Sir David, possibly the most important Knight of the Realm, was there to accompany me personally on all my dives. Is something I have just had to come to terms with.
Almost all agencies have an entry level Open Water course that is a confined session, four open water dives and a certification that qualifies you to dive to 18m/60ft. This is the backbone of the entry level course across the world. Regardless of how it is taught, badly, well, eight to a class or like us a maximum of four to a class.
The Open Water Diver course is often sold and promoted as a stand alone course. “All you will ever need” to go Scuba diving. It is for the vast majority. The perfect entry level course. Especially if taught diligently, neutrally buoyant and working beyond minimum standards.
We believe that the minimum goal of any diver. Be that a diver that dives one or two weeks of the year on vacation or diving as often as possible and at every opportunity. Everyone should be aiming to get to a minimum of Rescue Diver with some specialties. The time frame with which you do this is down to time, money and your bucket list of dives.
We are Cortez Expeditions are always encouraging our customers to expand their experiences in diving and diving education. It is much like driving a car, no one starts driving on the Motorway or Freeway but sooner or later you have to get some experience.
We can provide a free consultation in person or over the phone. We can call you and discuss the features and benefits of what your next course should be. Some courses like advanced open water & Rescue diver are common sense. Many of you may not have considered Enriched air or equipment specialty. There are many that enlighten you with out even getting wet.
Nikon v Canon v Sony....Let me start by stating that anyone believing with unwavering doubt that one camera system or brand is better than another; are fanatical mad zealots and their opinion can not be trusted. Apart from being tediously boring, they are invariable not working professionals in the broadcast or photo industry. Winston Churchill summed it up quite nicely “A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.”
It is good to be passionate and knowledgeable about equipment, but one should never lose sight of the most important factor, equipment is a tool for a photographer/film maker nothing more.
I had been a Nikon user for many years. I have successfully used Nikon gear for; studio, outdoor, expedition and underwater photography. I have treated all my Nikon cameras with varying degrees of respect and sometimes been punished with broken gear, but basically satisfied and more with the results and quality of the gear made by Nikon. My first Nikon pro camera was in fact a Nikonos V (my first camera was Kodak Disc Camera, when I was about 11 years old).
My first purchase was based on the advice of one man the salesman (salesman = Alan James Wildlife Photographer of the Year 1994). At the time there were magazines to give advice, but there was certainly no internet!
It is almost as if we are spoilt for choice nowadays. I have attempted to look into forums online for advice about cameras and end up more confused. I fear many of the individuals that post spend more time plinking away on keyboards than balancing light and exposure. It is difficult to discern good information online.
I would not go as far as to say I was pro Nikon, but I like their gear. The glass is superb and cameras are bullet proof. I dated a girl that worked as a high end wedding photographer and she used canon and for similar reasons could not explain why she originally chose that brand.
I have never been foolish enough to consider one brand like a Jedi order and the other like being that of a Dark Sith Lord, but some camera crazy fools would have you believe choosing one before the other would leave you working with the dark side and having a lightsaber poked up your bottom.
What I have gotten used to was my Nikon cameras being and extension of my body. After many years the layout is more or less the same on all high end Nikon SLR and Canon SLRs. You just know where things are.
While dating the wedding photographer we decided to take only her canon cameras on holiday with us. Now I would occasionally grab her canon camera and attempt to snap away….oh dear….nothing is where you need it to be and all the dials and buttons go in reverse! How thoroughly horrible is that?
Really is not that bad and only takes a little getting used too, but it is frustrating and does not help when you first try the other brand or switch to the dark side, whatever you want to call it. The thing that always impressed with the canon cameras was; they are lighter, quieter and the colour saturation is much more vivid. Colour saturation is somewhat subjective and all is possible in photoshop. Their professional department, in my experience, gives far better service than Nikon.
When I first started out in underwater photography Nikon was the only answer. Canon came in a very poor second. Right now there is very little difference and virtually nothing between the two brands. Canon made a huge dent in the market with their incredible SLR recording video in 2008. Nikon seem to playing catch-up, but they are doing it quickly and effectively. I made the switch to Canon mainly because clients were asking me to shoot on it. It was so important to shoot on Canon, every producer and brand wanted to know we were shooting the latest and greatest. Did not matter that all the chips were full frame or the codec they same. Canon simply appeared to be more fashionable that Nikon from 2008.
Then along came Sony and suddenly there was a new player kicking and smashing the old guard into what could be oblivion. The performance of the Sony A7 and all its various mutations saw me again appeasing brands and clients by shooting on Sony. I must say I switched and stuck with Sony, I love the mirrorless cameras and especially how compact and small they are.
Why do most photographers stick to one brand? Simple, they have a big box of lenses for that one brand. I could start talking about comparing exposure, low light levels, pushing the ISO and dynamic range, but why? I want you to keep reading. It is not about the brand, it is about the story your images tell. Is it the skill of the chef? Or the pots and pans he/she cooks with?
Here are my basic guidelines to buying a camera:
1. Get in the shop, pick a camera up and play with it – See how it feels. The camera must become an extension of your body. Imagine as if your choosing a lightsaber (just avoid making the lightsaber noise in the store).
2. Avoid anyone that Religiously suggest one brand before another – They are mad despots and nuts! Nuttier than squirrel poo!
3. If for underwater, investigate all the other stuff first, housing cost, flash guns and strobes. Are the manufacturer changing the shape and the design of the camera body with ever new edition and model? Does upgrade mean a new camera body also mean a new housing? That can become very expensive.
4. Find out what your friends have. Buying a similar system means you can share lenses. You are the one making the beautiful images not the camera.
5. When you put the photo up on Facebook and your mother clicks "like" She does not care if you used Sony, Canon or Nikon!
6. Invest in glass! Lenses are the most important, camera bodies become obsolete too quick, lenses do not!