Sunday, October 9, 2011

My Long Over Due Return to Southern California

When I was a teenager, my dad would take us over to California to dive at Catalina and we would also do beach dives up and down the coast.  Then later in my late 20's after I took up underwater photography, I went on a 3 day live-aboard to the Channel Islands and had a good time, but remember it being a bit chilly.  Then over the years, I was fortunate enough to dive and photograph in the warm waters of SE Asia, the Caribbean, Micronesia and Mexico.  These temperate waters and their 3/2 wetsuits had me spoiled and I turned my back on the closest diving to me in AZ.  So when I hear about the first annual SoCal Underwater Photography Shootout hosted by my friends at Bluewater Photo, I thought it was a great excuse to get back in that cold water wetsuit and see what is under the surface to photograph.  Today nearly everyone diving the SoCal waters wears a dry suit, but the wetsuits are a lot more comfortable now than they were in the 90's.
I dove on the Peace Boat that Scott Geitler had organized for the shootout as one of the boats. It was a great boat and the staff took good care of us and the food was delicious.  Diving and photographing in Southern CA can be challenging because of the cold water temperature, strong currents and low visibility, but well worth the effort. There is an abundance of marine-life to photograph and the kelp forests make a perfect backdrop for wide angle.  Sea Lions would swim up to the boat when we were anchoring and anxiously wait for their new playmates to enter the water.  They would follow you, sneak up on you, grab on your fin, speed right at your face and turn at the last minute.  There was also a group of them that was playing with a sponge and playing keep away.  What really surprised me was the amount of colorful nudibranhes to photograph and other macro opportunities.   I dove off of Santa Barbara Island and Anacapa Island.  I not only enjoyed the diving, but the photographers on the boat were terrific.  California divers are definitely more hardcore than the occasional warm water diver that I usually encounter, but what a great group of divers.  I made lots of new friends and will definitely be back soon.
I was very excited to learn that one of my photos took second place and another got an honorable mention in the SoCal Shootout. If you would like to see more images from my SoCal diving, check out my website at
Here are a few of the pics from the trip, but there are many more on the website.

Bluewater Photo September Photo Contest: Patterns

I was pleasantly surprised to see that my macro photograph of coral just won the Bluewater Photo September Contest. Thanks Kevin for the detail feedback on the images. This shot was taken in Raja Ampat, Indonesia on a recent trip. To see more images from that trip and others, check out my website at

Judged by Kevin Lee ( Judges comments: 1st. Ron has well focused, exposed, and composed this great image. The opposing colors, shadows and unique textures captivate the eye, especially with the "canyons" set at a diagonal. Well done. 2nd. Tracy has skillfully illustrated the beauty of these pelagic inverts as they drift silently in open water. Not an easy image to capture, especially as well as Tracy has done. 3rd. Todd has cropped this relatively common angel fish down to the essential elements and composed it very well to achieve an uncommon perspective.

Lembeh Strait, Indonesia Underwater Photos now on

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. 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 discarded condom in the current of discarded waste. WELCOME to the most famous muck diving in the world, Lembeh Strait!

I last went diving in Lembeh in 2009, but I am amazed at all of the new species they continue to find there.  A friend pointed out that I had never uploaded my Lembeh images, so now I have.  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.

Here are a few images, but check out the website at for the complete trip portfolio.