Well, I think it’s safe to say that this week is the leading contender for my favourite week of the whole year. I could not be happier. I love diving, I love the ocean, I love photography, and this week has consisted mostly of doing only those things. What a dream!
This week, I obtained my Advanced Open Water diver certification, which included diving my first wreck, a night dive, a deep dive down to thirty metres, underwater navigation practice and an underwater photography session. Wreck diving was a particular highlight, and something I am keen to explore doing back home in the UK, as there are many wrecks to explore there. After completing my advanced course, I completed the Peak Performance Buoyancy specialty program, which is a must for any budding underwater photographer and any diver who wants to hone their skills and better conserve their air. I also did four fun dives, which was when I squeezed in the bulk of my camera practice.
The Gilis are known for their turtle population and so it was not unusual to see more than twenty turtles in a single dive, which is clearly a draw on the photography front. However, while they make for majestic undersea viewing, they can be difficult to photograph from afar because they are so well camouflaged with the background. Evolution 1, wide-angle underwater photography, 0. I did manage to get a few good close ups of the turtles resting on the sea floor or swimming up to the surface for a breath. But the real stars of the show were the coral, the tropical fish, the beautifully streaming cuttlefish and the enormous wreck that I was lucky to visit twice this week.
I think I improved a lot over the five days of diving. I had practised with my underwater setup before, but only for snorkeling or swimming, not diving. It was nerve-wracking heading down to thirty metres with my camera in its case and hoping that seal would work at those depths as the specification said it would (it did, phew). Luckily for me, my Canon G7X II has an underwater mode, which does its best to adjust for the lack of red light underwater. The photos still need some serious editing but this setting is a good base and a lot simpler to use than adjusting the full manual controls every few seconds. By the end of the week, I was quicker with the camera and much better at controlling myself underwater, so I feel like I made good progress in only a few dives. I did eleven dives in five days, six of which included my camera, so it was definitely a decent amount of practice for only a week.
When we weren’t underwater or scouring the textbooks to identify our latest fishy find, we were wandering the island. My favourite views were of the colourful boats straight off the beach, tethered to land. I also like the bright, fun signs. Gili Air is an island full of colour.
I will be posting many of my photos here over the next few weeks; for now, here’s a selection of my favourites from Indonesia underwater, and occasionally above it.