by Divemaster Natalie
So you’re a certified diver and you’ve been diving for awhile now. You you love to dive so you’re thinking, “what’s next?”
How about increasing your knowledge and abilities in the water? If you’re considering advancing your education in scuba diving, or if you aren’t sure why you should there’s a few excellent reasons to continue your learning;
The more you practice your buoyancy, the better you’ll get! And trust me, you can be controlling your buoyancy by your breathing just like your instructor in little time! Buoyancy seems really hard and awkward when you’re first learning to dive, but just like with anything, the more you practice the easier it gets. And once you have buoyancy down, you’re able to be a lot more comfortable in the water.
Typically, as you progress in your diving, you tend to acquire your own gear and figure out what you like. This is important as it goes hand in hand with your comfort level in the water. The more dives you have with a certain type or BCD or regulator will not only help you get used to how that gear should feel but also how it works. One of my favorite parts of continuing my dive education was actually learning how the gear functions and where and what can go wrong. By having this deeper knowledge of the gear and its function, I am more comfortable in the water and figuring out solutions if something seems wrong.
Advancing your education is a great way to explore new and different types of diving and learn how to be a better diver. When I took my Rescue Diver course, I learned a lot about the science of how diving affects our bodies, which is very important to understand. In addition, advanced courses are able to get more into detail about the very broad information you’re given in your open water course. Because you get into more detail about functionality of gear, effects of pressure on a body, and stress and response, you in turn become not only more comfortable with your equipment, but you learn how to improvise should you need to.
There are so many different paths you can take in diving that continuing your education could simply mean opening up new locations or types of diving. If you’re really interested in photography, you can pursue the underwater photography specialty. If you really want to try ice dives you can get dry suit certified. If you’ve always wanted to explore underwater caves there’s a specialty for that too! Continuing your education is a great tool to see something new or different if you’re starting to feel like you need something new. And by the way, scuba diving Key Largo reefs and wrecks offers divers plenty of material to photograph with our great marine life!!
If you’ve ever thought about pursuing a career in the dive industry or a marine related field, having advanced education looks great on resumes. Since getting my advanced dive certifications I have been able to participate in research on the reefs as well as AGGRA coral surveys, biodiversity surveys and removing invasive lionfish off the reefs. I have also gotten a job in the dive industry and has opened up possibilities I couldn’t have received in other fields.
Advanced Adventurer Certification – taking your scuba diving to a higher level!
At Sea Dwellers Dive Center we offer the “Advanced Adventurer Course”, which includes 5 specialties over 3 days of diving. A deep dive, and a navigation dive are required, and then you get to choose 3 more specialties from a list that includes things like Peak Buoyancy, search & recovery, underwater photography and many more! Those interested can check this link to our Advanced Diving Course page!
Overall, my choice to advance my education has helped me expand my horizons and opportunities in my career in scuba diving and I have met an incredible network of dive professionals and future dive buddies here at Sea Dwellers Dive Center!
– Divemaster Natalie
While we have always taken great pride in our Instruction, in 2015 we made a decision, and a commitment; In an era when people seem to have less and less time, and Scuba Certification Courses seem to get shorter and shorter, we simply decided to go the other way and offer more. We believe that Scuba Diving is something to be taken seriously, and being comfortable and safe is paramount. So we decided that we were not going to just offer the same old course in the minimum time required. We wanted to exceed the standards by simply offering more dive time in the pool and the Open Water. Sure, this could cost us we thought; people seem busier than ever these days working harder, longer hours. Everyone seems to have less time, especially for the “expendable” stuff, like vacations…and Scuba Diving. So this could cost us, couldn’t it? Well, first let’s talk about what this means to “Offer More”…
So how to go about producing a “better” scuba diver? Well of course it all starts with the Instructor. We’ve always taken this very seriously and feel that we’ve always offered well trained & experienced Instructors who share our “Sea Dweller Philosophy”. You won’t get an “newbie” here!
Second, instead of just offering the minimum pool and Open Water diving required for a course…we decided to simply “Offer More”; More pool time, more diving. We decided to double the pool time normally offered here by most in Key Largo, and also incorporate an extra day of diving on our reefs…6 dives total instead of the required 4 to complete scuba certification course.
After having a couple seasons to gauge the effectiveness this simple idea, we are proud to say that it appears that we have made a good decision! Our criteria? Our customers of course…and the feedback we have gotten has been overwhelmingly positive! Almost all of our students have loved the idea of more dive time in the pool & Open Water. As it turns out… most folks WANT the most they can receive when pursuing certification in Scuba Diving!
And we really do believe that we are producing better trained scuba divers! Another benefit, we are producing a more committed scuba diver…and so far we’ve been seeing a higher percentage of our newly certified divers back down here for a follow up dive trip! We believe that the more time people can spend in the water for training, the more comfortable they will be with scuba diving and consequently the more enthusiastic they will be about coming back down to dive! They are, simply… happier divers when they leave our Dive Center with their “C” Card!
Sea Dwellers Dive Center is committed to Scuba Instruction, Open Water Certification and above. We believe in the SSI “Diver Diamond” Philosophy…Knowledge, Skills, Equipment & Experience is the road to being a safe, comfortable and therefore committed scuba diver. We achieve this by “Offering More” than the minimum required to you as our students. We have been certifying scuba divers in Key Largo since 1974, and we are proud to say we have produced many good, happy scuba divers over the decades. And now we’re making it even better for you, which is better for all of us. Key Largo diving has never been better!
Your Sea Dwellers Staff –
We’re proud to announce this new blog…part of the “Meet the Scuba Instructor” Series, starting with Jeremy Weeks! Instructor Jeremy has been with Sea Dwellers for almost 9 years now, and has certified quite a few divers at this point! We’re happy to say that we get a lot of good feedback about Jeremy from our customers, (just check out our TripAdvisor Page)…which is good for everyone. Scuba diving is not a “natural” thing for many folks starting out, and Jeremy has a knack for making people comfortable in the water so they can enjoy diving. At Sea Dwellers we believe that “diving is fun”, and should not be a high-pressure situation, so we strive to create an easy-going, safe atmosphere for people to learn in. All of our Instructors have adopted this philosophy, and we pride ourselves on our Instruction. Being a good Dive Instructor starts with enjoying what you do, and as you will see from this interview, Jeremy loves to scuba dive!
A special thanks to our good friend and great scuba diver Tomek for creating this wonderful video! Tomek is part of the JetBlue Team, and we’re extremely proud to consider ourselves the “JetBlue Dive Center”!
You can check out Tomek, Jeremy, Sea Dwellers and some of the JetBlue staff we’ve certified here on the “Scuba Blue” website!
We hope you enjoy Jeremy’s Interview and thanks to all!
Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo
Having talked about what the strobe does for you and the things that you need to think about to use them effectively, it’s time to consider the variety of ways we can use the strobes to enhance our underwater pictures.
The first thing to understand is a formula. That is that Total light equals the sum of Vertical light and Horizontal light. This diagram illustrates the concept. We can produce infinite variations of the picture by changing the amount of light from each source being used in an image.
As we are scuba diving, we adjust the amount of vertical light in the picture, so we will be changing the color of the background. We can take the background from black, where we allow no vertical light in, to a light blue where we add a lot of ambient light. This is probably a good place to start to compose our picture. Start by turning your strobes off and take a sequence of photographs varying the aperture with a shutter speed of 1/125th until you get the background color you are looking for. Point the camera, with the sun at your back into the blue water. Quite frequently, if you are scuba diving in the tropical waters of Key Largo, a good place to finish will be about f8 at 1/125th. at an ISO of 200. Obviously, less light will make the background darker, and more light, lighter. Once you have a background color to your liking, turn on one of the strobes and point it at your subject. Start on low power on the strobe and take a photograph. Review the result in the LCD screen and adjust the strobe power accordingly, increasing or decreasing the power. You can then turn on the second strobe to fill in any areas you think could do with some extra light.
In this picture of a Nassau Grouper, the shutter speed was 1/200th of a second with a small aperture and the strobe power was on high. This eliminated the vertical (ambient) light and made the backgound dark to avoid lighting a distracting background.
By contrast, this picture of a scuba diver on Molasses reef used a slower shutter speed of 1/125th with an aperture of F9 to allow more of the background light in to show the divers in the distance and give an idea of the size of the reef. The power of the strobe was increased until the lighting on the Atlantic Spadefish highlighted them just enough.
This picture of Divemaster Nick scuba diving on one of his rare days off used a slow shutter speed of 1/60th of a second combined with a large exposure of f5.6 to lighten the water on what was a fairly dark day. When you use a slower shutter speed on a moving object with a strobe, there isn’t much risk of motion blur because the strobe, which is lighting the foreground object is only typically illuminated for 1/1000th of a second, effectively freezing any motion.
This close up of a butterfly fish taken on Snapper ledge, was again taken with a fast shutter speed and small aperture to avoid lighting the brain coral in the background. It was taken using only a single flash to create an interesting shadow and provide some depth into what would otherwise be a “flat” photograph.
Remember that the most important point about using strobes is to use them to balance the horizontal and vertical light. We also use it to bring out the hidden color of underwater life. These two photographs of the Spanish Anchor on Molasses reef illustrate the point. The photo on the left was taken using only vertical light. The one on the right balances the horizontal and vertical light to get a nice blue background and uses the horizontal light to bring out the hidden color.
It also shows how important it is to follow the golden rule of Underwater Photography – While you are scuba diving and taking photographs, get close to the subject and when you think you’re close enough – get closer!
Happy shooting to all you Underwater Photographers out there. Keep diving, and keep shooting, as the best way to improve your abilities with a camera is experience, especially in the particularly demanding environment of salt water. And heck, it’s a great excuse to do more scuba diving in Key Largo after all!
Instructor Dave Jefferiss
For those who want to continue to learn about Underwater Photography, here is information on our “Digital underwater Photography Specialty Course”. (And it’s taught by Instructor Dave himself!)
We’ve been diving Key largo for a long time now, and we’re psyched to be offering this additional line of equipment. Most of the staff has outfitted themselves already, and we’re happy to say Mares has lived up to it’s great reputation! In particular, we’re impressed with the Computers.
Sea Dwellers’ Instructors Jeremy and Jarrod have both been diving with the Mares Smart Computer for over a week now. Both seem to love it. Wrist computers have come a long way, and these are about the best we’ve seen in this price catagory. 10 years ago you’d have to pay 3 times what Mares is charging for the Smart….it’s good to be scuba diving in 2015!
Scuba divers tend to be, well…”equipment geeks”, don’t you think? Well we’re no exception and we’ve all been enjoying the newest stuff from Mares.
It’s been a great summer diving Key largo this year, and we’re enjoying the blue warm water. Now we’re also enjoying Mares Scuba Diving Equipment! Come on down and check it out…
the Sea Dwellers Staff
In the last episode we talked about using cell phones and Point and Shoot
cameras. In this episode we’ll talk about the pros and cons of mirrorless and SLR cameras.
The mirror less SLR system is the latest entry into the world of digital cameras. Because they don’t need the bulky mirror and prism system used in the conventional SLR, they are lighter and more compact. The result for the scuba diver is a much less bulky system that is easier when travelling and a housing that is usually less expense than the larger DSLR housings. With prices ranging from $500- $2000, mirror less cameras span the spectrum from entry level to prosumer. A lot of cameras have the same chip sizes as in the larger mirrored SLR systems from APS to Full Frame although perhaps the most common chip size in this range is the Four Thirds system created by Olympus. This chip produces a crop factor of 2. One advantage of this system is that it is an open standard that means that more lens choices are available from a variety of manufacturers.
The Olympus E-PL5 pictured here is a 16MP 4/3 camera that retails for around $400. An underwater housing for the camera, also from Olympus, sells for about $ 700.
With almost all of the cameras in this category, you have the option of saving the image in either JPEG or RAW formats or both. In addition you have full control over shutter speed, aperture and film speed as well as the ability to change lenses to suit the type of picture you want to take.
Because there is no mirror, you cannot look through the viewfinder and see the live image as you can in a regular DSLR. Instead, depending on the camera, you can either see a preview of the image on the back of the camera as shown here or, on some cameras, through an external viewfinder (EVF). This is less important underwater, but in bright conditions it can be difficult to see the image shown on the back of the camera and it is easier to look through the EVF.
Older mirror less cameras used to suffer from slower autofocus compared to their mirrored cousins. This is because the mirrored systems use the light from the mirror to autofocus using a phase detection system. The mirror less camera was forced to use a contrast detection method of autofocus that is slower. More
recent higher end mirror less cameras have now incorporated some phase detection pixels into the image sensor to provide better autofocus capability. Mirror less cameras also generally take better video than a mirrored SLR because the mirrored camera cannot refocus when the mirror is up, as it is when taking a video.
The first mirror less cameras that can operate underwater without a housing are now being released. This Nikon AW-1 is waterproof down to 50ft without any other external protection and retails for about $750. The “Big Winner” in the new digital technology in our opinion is the scuba diver. As you can see with this Nikon, new innovations are creating smaller camera configurations which are easier to cart around while scuba diving!
If you want the biggest, badest underwater photo system on the dive boat, then this is the choice for you. When you put your rig in the camera bucket, there’s no room for anyone else’s puny point and shoot! Without doubt these are the largest of your underwater camera system choices. But with that size, comes ultimate flexibility. Mirrored DSLRs have by far the most choice of lenses as well as an incredible number of choices of underwater housings. Almost every setting you can imagine is customizable to suit your particular needs. Shutter speeds can be as high as 1/4000 sec and an ISO range of 64 -51200 is possible. With this amount of flexibility, the only limitations are you imagination – and your pocket book! A full frame 36MP camera can cost $3,300 for the body alone. Add in a 10-24mm lens for $800, put it in a Nauticam housing for another $3000 and add a dome port for $1000, and soon, your piggy bank is looking pretty empty!
Luckily, there are other choices for the budget conscious scuba diver. A Nikon D7000, 16 MP AP-S body retails for around $550. An Ikelite housing has a list price of $1,800 and a 60mm lens will cost about $500. In addition, once you take the plunge, as your experience grows, so can your camera system. You can start small and grow your system as your experience and finances allow.
Another good choice for the beginner, is to look out for used equipment. Although you probably won’t be able to get the latest models, you can get set up relatively economically with good equipment for around $1000. A good place to look for used underwater camera gear is wet pixel.com’s classified section. Now it’s time to consider Key Largo diving with a camera in your hand!
Instructor David Jefferiss
Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo
We’re excited to announce that we will be posting a new series of Blogs exploring Underwater Photography in all it’s exciting aspects! Sea Dwellers Dive Center’ Instructor Dave Jefferiss is the catalyst for this idea, and he will be providing several blogs in the series. I will also be creating a blog or 2, and expect a post from Captain/Instructor and long time underwater Photographer Scott Rodman. One thing the 3 of us have in common is a passion for Photography, so this will be a lot of fun for us and hopefully useful for you!
For those of you who are already into underwater photography, I hope we can offer some good new information for you…. and maybe even some additional inspiration! For those scuba divers who have thought about Photography but never tried it, we hope to shed some light on the craft, give you a reason or two to start shooting, and offer some suggestions on how best to do so!
To be honest, it’s probably not necessary to include “digital” anymore when talking about Photography, whether underwater or anywhere! The reality is that Digital has come a long way in a short time, and digital may be the biggest technological revolution ever in the history of Photography. Most professionals now agree, digital is simply “better” than Film at this point. What many refer to as the “look” of film, is simply the shortcomings of that medium that digital has eradicated. (I wonder if there is anyone out there who takes exception to this?). Some may still prefer the “look” of film, and that is fine as it is subjective. But the truth is that digital sensors have eliminated the shortfalls of film that gave it that “look”. (More on that later).
For me, photography has enhanced the experience of Scuba Diving. I remember the first time I did a dive with a camera in my hands…it was if I was seeing the underwater world for the first time! It was a new experience and a great feeling.
So look for the upcoming blogs we call collectively the “Underwater Photography Series”, and please feel free to give us feedback, we’d love to hear your thoughts! Of course, Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo offers a great course in underwater Photography for those who either want an Introduction to it, or are looking to expand their horizons. Think “Key Largo Diving” with a camera, sound like fun? Trust us, it is!
Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo
The new edition of “The Undersea Journal” just came out as most PADI Facilities know. This is the magazine of PADI Professionals….Divemasters, Instructors, etc. Near the back of the magazine, there is a section that not many people read because it is simply a list of names; the “PADI Member Milestones” . In the second smallest list is Robert S Rodman…known to most as Scott, our very own Captain and Instructor here at Sea Dwellers Dive Center.
So what does this mean? Scott has been a PADI Member for over 30 years…no small accomplishment! Scott spent his early years at a Dive Center in Normal, Illinois, the “Midwest Diving Specialists”, owned and operated by a long time figure in the Scuba Industry, Dick Smith. Under Dick’s tutelage Scott learned everything about the Scuba Industry from training Scuba Divers to sampling fine Scotch.
Scott moved down to Key Largo in the early 90’s, and soon after was united with Sea Dwellers Dive Center. The rest is history… as Scott has been scuba diving in Key Largo for almost 20 years now. During this time Scott has continued diving around the world in many exotic places. I often wonder how many dives he’s actually logged by now?
30 years as a PADI Member is no small feat. This is a small very elite list of very experienced scuba diver trainers, and Scott has “done his time” for sure. Rest assured you won’t meet many Instructors who have trained as many divers as Scott has over the years. So the next time you see Scott, congratulate him on this accomplishment, you might not meet many others who have reached this Milestone!
Key Largo Diving
This has been a good year so far for Key Largo. We’ve seen more folks down here this year than we’ve seen in quite a few, which is encouraging! New visitors mean new divers, and this year we’ve stepped up our “Discover Scuba Course”. You don’t have to be a diving expert to explore the great deep blue sea below. All it takes is a little dedication, and an underwater adventure with the PADI Discover Scuba® Diving experience course with Sea Dwellers Dive Center.
The first step to learning how to breath underwater and of course explore everything below the water is to spend a little time in the pool, learning the basics, before heading to the shallow reef. Our Instructors here at Sea Dwellers of Key Largo help new scuba divers learn how to use scuba diving equipment, and get prepared to scuba dive on their own in the beautiful, clear waters of Key Largo, in the Florida Keys.
Although this PADI Discover Scuba® Diving course won’t provide you with actual scuba certification, it does give you a fast and easy introduction to discovering what it takes to explore underwater worlds safely and observe interesting sea dwelling animals. You will also get to explore shallow water reefs, and finally dive in Key Largo for the very first time!
One of our joys is seeing the happy faces of first-time scuba divers. And it seems that trying this sport is a “goal”, or a “life experience” for many of them. So it’s important to them, which makes it all the more rewarding for us. It’s nice to play a part in someone’s “life experience” that they will probably remember for the rest of their life! Many end up becoming scuba certified also.
It is important to understand that scuba diving is relatively different from swimming, and as such takes a little time to feel comfortable. Yet, even if you’re not great at swimming, you can still discover how easy it is to scuba dive with the PADI Discover Scuba® Diving course.
Once you realize how easy it is to “breathe underwater”, the rest is pure excitement as you discover the underwater world for the first time! Anyone interested?
Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo