10 Tips for Great Underwater Photos

“You Taking a Photo of Me?”

At a request from Rob here is an article on how to take some great photos in the water. Thanks for the suggestion Rob and hope to see you back in Australia shortly. If you have a request for an article on one of our specialties please ping us on Twitter.

1 .  As with anything in the water it is best to best to be calm and relaxed and move slowly. Taking photos while in the water either diving or snorkeling takes a little practice and is better if you work with the elements rather then against them.

2. Try to time the taking of the photos with the movement of the water, wind and other environmental variables.  Again do not fight them but relax move in harmony with the elements.

3.Whether snorkeling or diving work on your stability in the water that means your buoyancy and how you are able to balance and relax in the water. It will take some practice to be able to become stationary, but well worth the effort.

4. Start taking pictures of fixed objects first such as reefs, underwater structures, corals, etc first.  This will help your stability above and give you confidence to be able to frame your picture later.  Keep your distance steady, slowly adjust the camera.  Making adjustments quickly and constantly will make for erractive and out of focus pictures.

5. Hire a digital camera, this way you can take as many pictures as you want without running out of film.  It is best to hire a small compact digital camera without strobes until you get your buoyancy correct. Heavier cameras make it difficult to hold a steady shot for the beginner.

6. Let your dive instructor or guide know that you want to practice taking photos; this will allow them to pick something that will photograph well and also plan the dive appropriately so you have all the time you need to get confident.

7. Ask questions of your tour staff, they will be more then happy to show pointers and evaluate how to improve your photos if you ask.

8. Avoid crowds, dodging other divers and snorkelers will frustrate you as well as take away your focus from your job at hand. Stay with a friend and pay attention to each other to make sure you are in contact, it is very easy to get separated while taking photos.

9. Have fun and try to photograph subject matter you are interested in, this will make the process a lot more enjoyable and you’ll be surprised how quickly you improve if there is a little passion behind your photos.

10. Once you are confident and taking some good photos of corals have a go at the fish or turtles.  If the fish or moving animals move away from you do not chase them.  No matter how good a swimmer you think you are they are better. Relax and move on to the next object, if you are calm and relaxed they may even circle back giving you another opportunity for that perfect photo.

As you can see to start taking good photos you have to be relaxed and most of all enjoy the experience.  After a short time you’ll be taking some great photos that you’ll be proud to show your friends, colleagues and relatives for years to come. Here are some of the photos that our previous guests have taken.  You too can be taking some great photos on the reef in a short time also.  So if you are heading to Cairns or the Great Barrier Reef we’d love to show you some of the tricks of the trade.

Book Before You Travel – Travel Tip

Just a little heads up to the people trying to get some last minute bargains while traveling. We are getting a stream of people who arrive in town and trying to book a last minute trip to the reef on our boats. While we realize it is tempting to wait to see if there are standby or discount rates available this is a risky business. Typically our boats are sold out weeks or even months in advance during the peak season. So it is best to book ahead of time. We understand what a horrible experience it must be to get to one of the best places to dive and snorkel in the world only to find that the trip of your choice is unavailable and you have to settle for something else. Remember the difference in price is a often difference in quality. So to make your trip a lot less stressful and relaxing; research and call operators ahead of time to find peak times. Last minute deals are available but a little research ahead of time will save a lot of disappointment later. To secure your trip book ahead and make sure you get the best experience you can. We hope to see you shortly on the Great Barrier Reef!

10 Things to Check Before Your Next Dive Trip

Here are the Top Ten Things to Ask Your Dive Company Before You Book Your Trip with Them. Remember the difference in price is often the difference in quality.
1. Is your dive equipment serviced by trained and certified technicians?
This may seem obvious, but worth checking. Make sure the servicing is performed as per the manufacturers’ recommendations. Common mistakes include reusing consumable items, trying to service the equipment without the proper training and leaving it too long between servicing.
2. Are they a member of a reputable and recognized training organization?
There are too many too mention here but the most common ones are SSI, PADI, CMAS, BSAC, TDI/SDI. This is important too ensure that they are kept up to date with the latest in training and procedures in case anything does go wrong.
3. How Many People are Diving at Once?
To truly enjoy your dive experience it is best to keep the numbers in the group as small as your can. This also reduces any impact that you may have on the environment, such as scaring away fish and stirring up the bottom.
4. What is the Ratio from Instructor to Student or Guide to Diver?
There are regulations covering the first point so numbers will vary under that amount, but it is best to ask before you go so you are not shocked. If you want a smaller group you may have to pay for it. Smaller amount of divers per guide allows for a much smoother and personal dive, allowing the dive to be tailored for what you expect to see on the dive.
5. Are they a member of a relevant local dive organization?
Like point 2 above this ensures that you have a operator that is involved and up to date with the latest guidelines or safety procedures for that region.
6. Do they support local or global efforts in conservation or research?
This gives you a great indication on the attitude of the dive company and makes sure you get great dive karma. Sustaining the marine environment shows the company is interested in the longevity of the local or global ecosystem and is doing their bit to contribute.
7. Do you have travel or dive insurance that gives you the coverage you need?
This will include all sorts of things that may happen that can throw your dive trip into disarray. These may include an illness, illness of a relative, travel agent or operator going bankrupt, weather related cancellations, flight cancellations.
8. What is the cancellation policy of the dive company?
Do they give full refunds for weather or other cancellations? Do they have an immediate no refund policy for cancellations or are they flexible?
9. Are the owners or managers going on their own trips?
Quality control to make sure that you have a great experience is often done with management teams that have a more hands on approach. By taking the time to experience the trip and meet the guests shows that they are going the extra mile to make sure you have the best experience possible.
10. How far is the boat/resort really away from the hotel?
Often people follow the old “we’re just 10 minutes away” story. Use Google Maps or other technologies to get a true picture of where you are in relation to the boat. Better still see if they can arrange transport for you to arrive at the boat on time and not have to lug dive gear around.

Travellers Tips and FAQ for Cairns and the Reef

Being a North Queensland local, many of my friends and guests have suggested that we write up a quick list of travel tips for visitors to Cairns. I will start this and continue to add to it as we get different questions and suggestions. So send in your questions and I will endeavour to answer them and post them here. The most common question is how far should I book ahead? Well as we only take 10 people per dive and snorkel trip it is best to plan ahead as much as you can. Our trips often sell out 4-6 months in advance so booking well in advance makes sure you secure your spot.

1. How easy is it to get around Cairns? How do I get from my hotel?
Many hotels offer a shuttle service if they are not in the centre of the city. If the hotel is not in the centre of the city it is best to check with the hotel and check the quoted walking time against a map. Whereis offers a pretty reliable map service for Cairns. Taxis are a pretty reliable means of travel and there is a fairly extensive bus service also available.
2. What shops are open and when?
Most businesses in Cairns open at 8 or 9 a.m. close at 5 or 6 p.m. Some supermarkets stay open until 9 p.m. during the week however close at the earlier times on the weekend. There are some smaller markets such as IGA that have much more extended hours.
3. What Medical Clinics and Services are Available?
There are two hospitals in Cairns both a public and private one. There are also 24 hr and other clinics available. The closest 24hr hour medical centre is on the corner of Grafton and Florence St. It also has a 24hr pharmacy and chemist as well as doing dive medicals for certification.
4. Can I see as much just snorkelling on the reef as diving?
While you can see a lot snorkelling and it is truly a fantastic experience the diving just raise the bar to another level completely. The interaction and personal experience with the natural reef and wildlife is a fantastic experience.
5. What is an Introductory Dive?
An “Introductory Dive” or “Resort Dive” is basically an escorted dive with a fully trained dive instructor. Limitations for your safety are placed on the dive and it is a great way to experience the thrill of diving just to try it or before you commit to a course. A short briefing is given to explain the basics of diving and the instructor will be with you at all times during the dive. We limit the amount of introductory divers to two people per instructor, other companies may do more and you should check before booking.
6. Is there any prior experience needed and do I need to take a medical exam?
No experience is needed to go on an introductory dive, however you must be relatively healthy and complete a medical declaration which can be found here.
7. What is the best time to visit the reef?
Anytime that you can fit into your schedule is the best. There are certain times that are a little bit more special such as whale season or reef spawning to name a few. Unlike many parts of the world the rain here is warm and often monsoonal meaning it only rains for periods of the day. Rain falling onshore does not mean it is raining at the reef, the outer reef is about 50km out of Cairns so the weather is different.
8. It has been awhile since I have dived and would not feel comfortable diving without a guide. Is this possible?
Of course, safety in the Queensland Diving Industry is the among the best in the world and paying personal attention to guests that require it is both a safety consideration as well as a service we are pleased to offer to anyone.
9. Can you still dive and snorkel during stinger season?
Yes, most operators offer protective wetsuits or stinger suits to offer protection. We include this in the price however many operators will charge extra for this so again check before you book.
10. How Do I Know What Tour to Book?
Look for the sort of tour that suits you, set some criteria that you want to stick by and do not be swayed from it. Ask the agent if they have been on the trip or if they are getting cash or other “incentives” to sell the trip. The better trips will not offer such “incentives”. Ask if the companies are community and environmentally minded, our list of supported projects and charities has some but of course not all in the area.
11. Are your tours suitable for children?
We recommend that children are older then 5 to come on our sailing boats for both safety and to make sure they get the full enjoyment out of the trip to the reef. If the family is experienced on the water and boating we may consider younger children. For other children there are pontoon options available such Reef Magic, a locally owned and operated company.
12 . Where Do Your Guests Come From?
Everywhere – More specific details can be found here.
13. What does the UV Index mean?
We have included the international UV index and ways to avoid sunburn here at this blog entry.