Traveller, Photographer, Mountaineer, Human

Posts tagged “Underwater pics

Our First Time Scuba Diving

On our last day in Moalboal, Cebu, we did something we haven’t tried before – scuba!  We’ve snorkled and freedove on several beaches, but this  is our first time to actually use scuba gear.

Main reason why we haven’t done scuba before is the cost.  Whereas freediving costs include mainly transportation and bringing our freediving/snorkling gears (mask, snorkel and fins), scuba costs a lot more – gear rentals, instructors, boat to scuba site, certification, etc.

It was amazing!  Depths we haven’t been down to (16 meters in my case) at longer times (about 45 mins compared to just minutes in freediving).  At first, I felt claustrophobic being strapped to a tank, vest and others and just breathing under water but once I got to breathing normally, it was fun.  Since this is a non-certification dive for beginner, each of us has a guide who takes care of the BCD and all we have to do is look and fin.

Elaine, holding her breath while underwater (shot by Oyet).

Eman and his guide following a turtle with Oyet snorkling above.

Myra and her guide with a group of squid.

Eman and his guide on the way back to the boat.

Maji, Elain, Eman and a guide being a papparazi and fans to a turtle.


Freediving in Moalboal

It has been several months since my last post here in my blog.  As a return, I feature our latest underwater adventure in Moalboal,Cebu.  Moalboal is one of the towns in the province (and island) of Cebu.  It is very famous for its underwater marine life treasures.  Lots of our people (particularly foreigners) come here to dive (freedive and scuba).

Bea and her bubble ring.

This was our second time in Moalboal.  The first time we went there, only Elaine knew how to freedive.  The rest of us were either wearing lifevests or are just floating on the surface.  This time, fortunately, most of us know how to float and freedive.

(Elaine) Reaching for nothing

Moalboal is really filled with beautiful underwater treasures.  There is a huge group of sardines just swimming a few steps from the shore.  There is a cliff drop just a few steps from the shore and perhaps from this feature allows nutrients from the bottom to rise providing food to the school of sardines.

There is also a marine turtle sanctuary.  It is a place where sighting of sea turtles is almost always a guarantee.  In both of our trips there, we were able to see several turtles swimming and sleeping and feeding.  The turtle sanctuary also features a drop off.  The top part (about 5-6 meters in most of the area) is filled with hard corals and lots of reef fishes.  After this comes a cliff dropping off to probably 30 meters of more. The side of this cliff is also filled with marine wildlife.

(Oyet) Rising from the depths

Another diving destination in the town is Pescador Island.  One side of the island has a small strip of shallow coral reefs (about 3-5 meters).  After this is another cliff drop much deeper than that in marine turtle sanctuary.  Most of the pictures here were taken from this side.  The other side (we went there last time but not on this trip) is a much larger area of corals on shallow waters.  The current, however, is much stronger, and people on lifevests are easy prey to being dragged with the current.

Another area for diving is Zaragosa Island but this is probably mostly for open-water scuba divers.  We have not been to this place yet.  The dive maps of Moalboal indicates that there are whale sharks, thresher sharks, manta rays and other sea creatures here.

(Eman) Floating in empty space. This reminds me of the scenes from the film Gravity.

The group includes myself, Eman, Oyet, Elaine, Myra and her sister Maji.  Elaine’s friend, Bea, joined us there.  Except for Myra and Maji, all of us are already comfortable in the sea and can make do without lifevests, just a mask, snorkel and fins.  On our third and last day, Myra was finally able to snorkel without vests.  A few more sea trips and she’ll be under the surface with us.

A big school of sardines, literally a few steps from the shores (about 20 steps from the main shore).

Moalboal is really a beautiful place and we were very very happy that we decided to come back here when we were able to appreciate more the things that the sea offers below its surface.


Elaine, the Freediver (in El Nido, Palawan)

Last weekend and up to Tuesday, we went again to Palawan!  This time, in El Nido.  El Nido is one of the three tourism areas of Palawan (the others being Coron, where we’ve been before, and Puerto Princesa, the capital city).

Anyway, I’d like to show you photos of a good friend and the the one who introduced us all to the joy of freediving, Elaine.

While we were all clinging to lifevest (several months back), Elaine was already enjoying the freedom of not using them and being able to go to depths and look at fishes and corals from a closer view.  She was then an applicant for ISDA (probably an acronym for International Skin Divers Association or something and is also the Tagalog/Filipino term for fish).  Now that we are on a level that she was several months ago, she’s levelled up to deeper depths, diving in stronger currents and breathholding for longer.

The next few pictures were taken in Small Lagoon, a stop on tour A in El Nido (tours being coded as A, B, C or D).  As a snorkeling/freediving site, it really isn’t much.  It is surrounded by limestone cliffs cutting out most of the light from reaching the bottom, hence, the lack of visibility down under compared to the other (probably deeper) sites.  However, one good thing about this location is the rays of the sun filtering through the cliffs and the vegetation provides beautiful rays of light in the water.  We went there first in the morning (arrived there around 10am) and the light streaking through the water was just awesome for taking these photographs.

This first picture was for me, the most beautiful of the lot.  The light was wonderful, no distracting people in the background, just Elaine, her happy yellow fins and the water.  Unfortunately though, her head is not seen as she arched her back to look down below.
Second one, more about her happy yellow fins (the one the camera chose to focus).  She’s on her descent here.

Third one is where she’s making a turn from going down to ascending.  Her body position seems awkward but I like the effect of here centered in all the blueness of the sea.
And this is her on her ascent.  As taught by freedivers (and I guess for scuba as well), you need to raise one of your arms when ascending so that when you accidentally hit a boat (or worse a propeller), you’ll just hurt (or cut) your hand, not your head.

And finally, we see her face!

On our second to last dive site for the day (another area), I loaned her my long fins.  Since my feet are much bigger than hers, she wore it with her booties and with the fin grip to prevent accidental slippage of the fins.

Yes freediving long fins are reeeeaaallly long. Probably as long as her leg and thighs…


…but she uses them more efficiently and gracefully than I could. (My flutter kick involves too much knee bending).

These final two pictures aren’t the strongest of the lot (they are in fact, the least best pics of her) but they show the true joys of recreational freediving.

Being able to see sea creatures up close (this one’s a hawksbill turtle).
And enjoying freedom from heavy scuba gear and the joy and relaxation of moving effortlessly (more or less) through water.

That’s it for now, I’ll be posting more pictures from our El Nido trip (including the wonderful sea creatures underneath the surface of the water).  In case you’re wondering how she looks when out of water, here’s her picture.


Boracay: Snorkeling Site

Last weekend, my parents, my sister and I went to Boracay.  This is our second time this year in Boracay.  There were only 4 of us, however, compared to our first time there where the whole family (including my brother and his family).

As my parents are already old (my father’s already 78 and my mother 63), we can no longer do most of the water activities there.  Instead, we rented a boat and went around the island.  We just stopped in one area, the snorkeling site and had our fill of the wonderful fishes there.

With me of course is my Olympus TG2 camera.  An underwater camera I’ve been using for about a year now (after I lost the charger of my Panasonic TS5 and couldn’t find a replacement).  I’m quite ok with this camera.  It has a wide view lens (25mm equivalent) which is wonderful for taking pictures underwater.  It also has a nice 2.0 aperture (at the wide end) resulting in pictures taken at lower ISO.  However, I dislike that it doesn’t record raw files (limiting the post processing that can be done).  This lack of raw recording makes it very difficult to correct white balance should I or the camera get it wrong.

Anyway, onto the pictures of fishes, fishes, fishes.

Clown fishes (with 1 stripe instead of Nemo’s 3) and a yellow fish (don’t know this one).

Another clown fish among the anemone.  To me the anemone looks “pregnant” as if ready to burst anytime.

Some less colorful fish with blue fishes with yellow tails.

I don’t know these fishes but they look like they could be the one being sold in the market and eaten (as opposed to sold as aquarium fishes).

Another fish.  I got lucky that the camera’s focusing and flash caught this one very sharp (as sharp as the camera can capture) but this pic is cropped (about 66% of the frame remains).

Some blackish fish whose scale pattern looks like moire.

My sister using a lifevest and snorkel.

Feeding fishes.  Just read that it is not good to feed fishes as they come to be more tame and not afraid of humans (thereby increasing the chances that they’ll be caught).

And lastly, me!  This year has been an amazing year for me as I finally learned how to be in the sea without a lifevest.  I just need to have a snorkel, mask and fins and I can spend time in the sea, even in deeper waters (though without them, I’d surely drown).  I’m also just learning to freedive (albeit at the very beginning stage still).


Nagsasa Cove: Underwater

Zambales is a province north of Metro Manila.  During the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the 1990s, it is one of the most affected provinces.  Such deadly eruption, however, gave birth to beautiful beaches in the coves of Zambales.  From a jumpoff in the town of San Antonio, you can visit Anawangin, Talisayen, Nagsasa and Silanguin Coves – all made more beautiful by the ash and sand deposited by the volcano.

Two weekends ago, we visited Nagsasa Cove (I’ve visited the nearer cove of Anawangin, 5 years ago).  I’ll post the pictures of the beach in another post as I’d want to show just how clear the water here is.

Nagsasa Cove has one of the clearest and cleanest waters of the beaches I’ve been to (Others being Calaguas, Tingloy and the beaches of Coron).  Though there aren’t many fish and corals to see in Nagsasa (nearby Camara and Capones Islands have better and more fishes for snorkelers), there are some box fishes and school of small fishes.  The sand, however, is fine and the waters oh so clear!


Fishes of Coron

Coron is a well-known tourist spot of Palawan.  It is known for its beaches, lakes and diving and snorkeling sites.

It hosts several diving sites with lots of fishes (some are really just snorkeling sites since the corals and fishes are in the shallow part of the sea/islands).

In photographing these fishes, I once again experienced the difficulty of underwater photography.  We are merely a food or two below water (I still don’t know how to swim) and yet auto-ISOs are usually at 400 level, and that’s with a f2.0 or just slightly smaller aperture of the TG2.  Also, today’s rugged compacts only produce jpeg, which makes difficult the correcting of white balance and color in general.  This is especially since Olympus TG2’s default jpeg results in very saturated greens and blues (no option to decrease saturation) and usually darker exposure (I much prefer Panasonic’s underwater pics, though its line of tough cameras have much slower lenses).  That’s why the introduction of Nikon AW1 with a larger sensor and raw shooting excites me (but it is expensive and I fear that the interchangeable lens option may result in leak).  I much prefer a m4/3 or APS-C sized sensor with fixed lens.

Here are some of the pictures of the fishes that I took in Coron.

Fish underneath our boat in Siete Pecados.

Siete Pecados is one of the diving sites very near the town of Coron.  Siete Pecados means “seven sins” and where that came from, we don’t know.  It is one of the coral reefs that have survived the onslaught of Yolanda (Haiyan) and the only spared reef we’ve been to.  The other sites we visited are Bulog Island (just beside Two Season Hotel), and CYC Coral Garden, both of which were heavily devastated by the typhoon and would make a sea lover cry due to the damage to the corals.

Orange Clown Fish

This is my first time to photograph clown fish.  I found out that they are very easy to photograph when they are near their anemone homes.  Unlike other fish which would flee at the first sight of humans, clown fish would stand guard and try to scare off the big humans.

Yellow Clown Fish (left) and Orange Clown Fish

It was the first time I saw a fish that lives in an anemone that doesn’t look like the three-striped Nemo clown fish.  I though it was a different kind of fish but upon googling, I found out that it is a variant of clown fish called yellow clown fish.  Instead of three vertical white stripes, it has a long white stripe on its back (top).

Another thing I learned is that anemone fish (the orange Nemo type) changes colors.  I knew before that they change sex as they age but not color.  The picture above shows a regular bright orange fish with a much darker and larger fish living in the same anemone.  It turns out that some clown fish grow darker as they grow older (probably as they change sex too).

Strange fish in the strange Twin Lagoon.

Twin Lagoons is one of the stops of most tours of Coron.  It is basically an enclosed lagoon connected by a small tunnel to a larger lagoon.  At low tide, you can just float to the smaller inner lagoon but at high tide, you have to swim underwater or climb a ladder to get to the inner one.  The strange thing about the two lagoons is that the water looks kinda like a mixture of oil and alcohol.  When you swim, the water is cold but when you stay still, it becomes much warmer.  According to our tour guide, this is due to the mixture of sea water and fresh water (from the island).

The above fish is another strange thing we saw.  The fish are swimming still around the ladder (partly submerged).  They are very still unless you make sudden moves (unlike other fishes which just swim away the moment they see you coming).  It’s as if they are staring into the wood of the ladder and expecting something wonderful to emerge from it.

Needle fish.

The last picture above is of the needle fish (so called because of their long and pointy “snout”).  They are also found in Barracuda Lake and probably in the 11 other lakes in the island of Coron

(The town of Coron is situated in the much larger Busuanga Island but takes its name from the smaller Coron Island which is just in front of the town.  Coron Island is said to be home to 13 lakes, only two of which are open to public – Kayangan and Barracuda.  Our guide said that the others are closed as these are sacred to the Tagbanua people who inhabit the island.  Included in the closed to public lakes is Cabugao Lake, which is the largest lake in the island, much larger than all of the other lakes combined.  For me, this is a good thing to preserve the lake for the future.)

It is sad that Yolanda caused so much damage to the corals that they will definitely impact the number and variety of fishes.  I just hope that they will remain abundant as the fishes and coral reefs make Coron a truly excited tourist spot to visit.


Snorkeling in Moalboal, Cebu

One of our itinerary in Cebu is snorkeling in Moalboal to see lots of fishes and sea turtles.  We were lucky that when we went snorkeling, we were able to see several sea turtles (Elaine went there before and didn’t see sea turtles).  We were also fortunate enough to see dolphins swimming beside and around our boat!

One of our boatmen, who dove deep to point to a sleeping sea turtle (which I still could not see).

Elaine, skin diving near the corals and surrounded be several species of fish.

Underneath the Sea

Here are some of the things we saw under the sea.  The corals are not that colorful but there were lots and lots of colorful fish!

It was really a wonderful experience! One I’d like to try again soon but probably not in Cebu but in nearby provinces (Marinduque perhaps).


Panasonic TS3

Eversince I’ve gotten a DSLR, there’s no going back in image quality.  As such, point-and-shoot cameras are out of the question.  The Fuji X10 is a compromise between size and image quality (and it produces beautiful colors).

However, all of these cameras have one thing in common, water (particularly seawater) is their enemy.  My Canon 60D broke because a strong wave splashed water all over it.  It can still be repaired but the repair cost would be too high that it was more practical to buy something new.  Also, I miss photographing fun moments when we’re in a beach or underwater.

Thus, my resolve that the only point-and-shoot camera I’d buy would be waterproof camera.

Before I settled on any model, I did a lot of research and price comparison.  I would have wanted the Canon D20 (I’m sort of a Canon fanboy but not much) but it’s still not available.  I would also like the Fuji models in the hopes of getting the Fuji colors but the reviews of their waterproof cameras are not that good and the film simulation (particularly Velvia) is not available in these models.  Pentax looks cool (and I would love the purple model) but they are expensive and reviews are so-so.  Panasonic seems to offer the best compromise.

Pig’s nose underwater (that’s me).

As an underwater point-and-shoot camera, it works as intended:  water doesn’t get inside the camera and it takes good pictures in good light.

In dim lighting, it is forced to use flash and I really don’t like the way the flash renders skin tone.  It seems that the skin is always rendered reddish.  Now I do not know if this is really the case or I and my buddies really have reddish skin tone due to weekly trips to the beach.

Last weekend, we were in Puerto Galera for Ella’s birthday celebration and my Panasonic got its first use.

Jason’s dive shots in Puerto Galera.

Ella, the birthday girl.

As a camera, it is really fun.  Taking shots while enjoying the water is such a nice feeling.  In terms of images, more effort must be made to ensure that there is good light (as much as can be controlled) and that the subject is not backlit (since the camera produces only JPEGs, tweaking in Lightroom renders the picture almost like a painting).

A shot I’ve wanted to have for a long time.  Half underwater, half above water.

The user interface and menu is pretty straightforward.  Though as a point-and-shoot, I can just leave it at auto and take pictures.

The manual states proper care for the camera like ensuring that the double lock is put securely, putting the camera in freshwater after seawater use, making sure not to open the battery and memory card compartment when wet, and making sure that no sand or other particles are on the compartment’s rubberized door.

The pictures are not all good, some are a little bit blurry, dynamic range is limited, pictures are noisy in dim lighting without a flash, white balance is not perfect, etc.  But in terms of fun factor, well just think of the memories you’ll capture while running or swimming in the beach.

On all of these, I just focus on composition (and this pretty much means cropping most of the time).  It’s the man or woman behind the camera that matters, not the camera.