Tuesday, March 31, 2009

8th Annual Sonoran Festival of Fine Art

I will have a new exhibit on display at the Sonoran Festival of Fine Art this weekend. If you are in town, stop by and see the new exhibit and hear about my latest Trip to Raja Ampat.

8th Annual Sonoran Festival of Fine Art
April 3 - 5, 10AM - 5PM daily
Carefree Town Center
Carefree, AZ
More Information: http://www.sonoranartsleague.org/

Come out and enjoy the great weather, exquisite art and charming streets of downtown Carefree. The Sonoran Arts League hosts the Event at Carefree Town Center Festival, featuring 100 local and nationally-acclaimed artists, food booths, entertainment, and exhibits dedicated to wildlife and desert preservation. In addition, Carefree Farmer's Market will take place in conjunction with the Festival in the Carefree Town Center Amphitheater. The easiest way to get there is to head North on Scottsdale Road (Which turns into Tom Darlington) to the town of Carefree and follow the signs. The Festival is located at the sundial in the center of town on Easy Street which is just south of the Tom Darlington and Cave Creek Rd. intersection. We hope to see you there.


New Peoria Sunrise Mountain Library Exhibit

Nine pieces of my underwater photography collection were selected by the Friends of Peoria Public Library for the newly opened Peoria Sunrise Mountain Library in Peoria, AZ. The permanent exhibit is on display in the children's section of the aquatic inspired building beneath a series of large porthole windows. The 22,000 square feet library is located at 21109 N 98th Avenue (Lake Pleasant Road and 98th Avenue). Heidi and I were invited to the VIP dedication ceremony with the mayor, city manager, library management, architects and the Friends of the Peroria Library. I am thrilled to have the exhibit in the library where community will be able to enjoy the art. As part of the exhibit, I am planning to make underwater presentations and workshops on marine life, conservation and underwater photography.

DEEP Indonesia International Underwater Photography Competition

This month, one of my photographs titled “Underwater Taggers” won a Bronze in the 2009 DEEP Indonesia international underwater photography & video competition, hosted by DivePhotoGuide & Wetpixel. The image, was one of a reef scene that I wished I had never seen and could not believe the senseless act of vandals. The image taken off of the coast of Bali was entered in the Environment and Conservation category which strives to make people aware of the damage that is being done to reefs and marine life as well as conservation acts around the globe. Unfortunately because of the depth of this sponge, it could have only been done by divers and that makes it even worse because the diving community is one of the reefs greatest advocates. I can't imagine what goes through someones mind to think that this act would actually be cool to do. I hope that next year I don't have any images of this type of scene to enter.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Muck Diving in Lembeh Strait - North Sulawesi, Indonesia

After the pre-dive jitters that accompany the first dive of the big trip after a few months out of the water, I splashed down into murky warm 81 degree water and was handed my camera which was outfitted for macro. While nervously looking for any leaks in the rig, my attention was drawn to a tubular shaped jellyfish with a narrow tip at one end that I thought might be a new species. On second glance I concluded it must be an empty squid egg sack. As my eyes focused on this newly discovered drifting creature it became apparent it wasn’t a jellyfish or any other rare sea creature, but an old condom in the current of discarded waste. WELCOME to the most famous muck diving in the world, Lembeh Strait!

Don’t let the rubbish, sometimes low visibility and remoteness of this diving destination scare you away. If you are an underwater photographer or just a diver that likes seeing the strangest and rarest creatures in the underwater world, then Lembeh is a must dive location. You will see more new types of marine life on your first dive than many will see in years of diving. It is referred to as muck diving because of the often poor visibility and garbage in the water that primarily comes from the major port city of Bitung. But the many species of frog fish, seahorses, scorpionfish, leaf fish, crustaceans, cephalopods, nudibrachs and pipefish have adapted in very unique ways to this environment and use it as an advantage. The most important key to a successful Lembeh diving trip is to have an experienced dive guide with a very keen eye because camouflage is the method of choice for most of the marine life.

You can read my entire trip report about Lembeh and the NAD-Lembeh Resort on my website at http://www.scubarews.com/About_the_Artist.html#Trip_Reports . Here is a brief summary of that report:

All of the resorts on the Lembeh Strait are within 10-20 minute boat rides of the good dive sites, so when I chose my home base for diving my main criteria was reasonable price, photo facilities, and good dive guides. The budget friendly eco-resort NAD-Lembeh satisfied my top criteria and exceeded expectations in many other areas including the food. Seasoned underwater photography and video veterans Mike Veitch and Simon Buxton recently took over co-management of the resort. If you frequent wetpixel.com forums you probably know these two characters or have at least read their informative and sometimes entertaining posts. Their combined experience and personalities make them great hosts for any diver, but especially serious photographers.

In 4 short days of diving I logged 12 dives and over 13 hours in this immaculate muck. While here I left my camera set up for macro the entire time with my 105mm lens on my Nikon D300 in a Sea&Sea housing with dual YS120 strobes and fisheye focus light. A 60mm lens would have been great on some of the dives because the octopus and some of the fish are a little too large for the 105mm. But I was able to get nearly everything on my macro muck list including several types of pygmy seahorses, Pegasus sea moths, Ambon scorpionfish, flamboyant cuttlefish, Banggai cardinalfish, mandarinfish, snake eels, dragonets, lionfish, octopus, giant frogfish, pipefish, mantis shrimp, waspfish, lionfish, and a plethora of colorful nudibranchs. This was my second trip to Lembeh and the muck diving was even better than I remembered and my stay at NAD-Lembeh a pleasant surprise.