Archive for July, 2012

Camp Cove shore dives

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

While the main focus on our Sydney visit was sightseeing I also wanted to do some diving on the side. My original plan was to do another dive at Magic Point with the UNSW dive club on Saturday, hopefully with some proper shots of grey nurse sharks this time around. Conditions were still quite favorable on Friday but unfortunately weather deteriorated rapidly overnight. The guys getting our boat in the water at the Botany Bay boat ramp were told pretty flatly not to risk it. It was frustrating of course, but considering the rough sea and heavy winds it was the only safe decision.

Luckily I was able to get some diving done on Sunday instead. Conditions remained rough, but thankfully one of the shops was still organizing shore dives. The strong southerly swell and winds gave us few options when it came to dive sites and we ended up diving Camp Cove just inside the Sydney Harbour entrance. This shallow and well-protected site is best known as a training site but there’s also lots of macro targets to photograph. Water was pleasant 18 degrees and visibility was quite ok.

We did two dives in the area, first one was to the middle reef a short way of the coast . While the reef is not particularly interesting there were lots of critters hiding under the ledges, including several octopuses and cuttlefish. We also saw quite a few nudibranchs and a lion fish. After the dive we quickly switched to new tanks and headed out again. This time we explored the right-hand side of the area sticking pretty close to the shore. There were some fairly interesting rock formations and along with more octopuses and cuttlefish (including one cute pair!) we also saw quite several rays and a few seahorses hanging onto seagrass. These small seahorses were quite tricky to photograph as they were close to the surface and the surge was rocking them back and worth. Apart from the problems with surge and some silting both dives were quite enjoyable and yielded some decent shots.

In addition to the two dives I also did some snorkeling during the Sydney visit. Clovelly was nice as usual even if there was nothing too special to see. I did bring my camera for this one with the fisheye lens (but no strobes). The results were not that spectacular but I still managed to get some pretty good shots of blue gropers hanging around. I also did a quick snorkel at Shelly beach during our visit to Manly, this time without the camera. There were few rays and some fish but otherwise nothing too interesting to see.

#186 Camp Cove 2012-07-22

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012
Camp Cove in Sydney, Australia
56 minutes, max depth 6.1 m, water 18°C
Buddies: Lily

#185 Camp Cove 2012-07-22

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012
Camp Cove in Sydney, Australia
46 minutes, max depth 6.1 m, water 18°C
Buddies: Lily

St Kilda Penguins

Monday, July 9th, 2012

There’s not much wildlife in Melbourne itself, but the little penguin colony in St Kilda is a nice exception. While the large colony on Phillip Island is far more popular with tourists, the colony in St Kilda breakwater is a nice alternative and far closer to the city. In addition you can take your own photos there which is always a nice bonus. I had also finally replaced the Canon 15-85 mm lens I lost in my accident in Sydney and I wanted to take the new lens for a test run.

I enjoyed my two visits to the colony during the summer so it was quite natural to take my aunt there on Monday. To prepare for the visit I packed a couple of flashlights and some red cellophane for some penguin friendly lightning. Then we headed down to St Kilda Pier and prepared for the arrival of the birds. We got there little too early though, the first birds didn’t arrive until well after sunset. The numbers seemed quite low as well, we spotted only a few penguins during our visit. There were no Earthcare volunteers around this time, and while no one was harassing the penguins on purpose, there were still a few people taking photos with their flash on. We didn’t see any Rakali either which was bit of a shame as I didn’t get any good shots of them in the summer.

In hindsight it was not the best idea to spend so long in the cold and the wind. My aunt had a sore throat during the day and after the evening she wasn’t feeling too well. At least she got a few nice penguin shots. I had already taken plenty of good penguin photos in the summer so I mainly focused on providing lightning for other people (as we were the only people around with red flashlights). To test the new lens I took some night shots around the pier, Melbourne’s skyline looks quite nice in the dark from the pier. The lens performed quite well as expected, it’s really nice to have a good walk-around lens again!

Royal Botanic Gardens and Melbourne Zoo

Monday, July 9th, 2012

The weather was quite nice on Sunday so we decided to do some walking in the Royal Botanic Gardens with my aunt. It was a slightly frustrating trip for me as my aunt is much more into plants than I am. Nevertheless, walk in the Gardens is always a nice way to relax. Winter may not be the best time to visit the Gardens, but there were still a lot of blooming flowers and other interesting stuff. There was some bird life around too, including a couple of black swans. It would be nice if the water in the ponds and lakes was little clearer, though.

With the flora covered we decided to move on to fauna on Monday. I hadn’t visited Melbourne Zoo before (or any zoo in a long while for that matter) so this was a good opportunity to do so. While I do enjoy photographing animals, captive animals in zoos are always quite depressing. Shooting the animals in their native habitats is far more satisfying, even if it’s usually lot more challenging as well. The first few exhibits were particularly depressing, some of the big cats and the lone bear looked very unhappy. Things got bit better when we moved further into the zoo, most of the animals had bit more room to move around and didn’t seem to mind their captivity quite as much.

Monkeys in particular looked like they enjoyed playing around and some of them were clearly showing off. The large bird house was quite nice too. The open area where you could get close and personal with kangaroos and emus was a nice touch, too bad Eija’s battery ran out just as we got there. At that point we were getting close to the closing time anyway, we checked out the few remaining animals and headed back to the train station after a quick visit to the gift shop.

The day didn’t really change my opinion on zoos, I still find them pretty depressing places even if they do serve a fairly important function. At least the weather stayed nice for the whole we were there, it was sunny if little chilly.

Nudibranchs under Blairgowrie Pier

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

Last Saturday we had some very nice winter weather for a change, the sea was pretty much flat and the sun was out too. Both air (4 degrees in the morning, climbing to 11 degrees during the day) and water (11 degrees) were somewhat chilly but that’s what drysuits are for!

MUUC’s Big Boat was still out for repairs so we ended up doing a couple of shore dives on Mornington Peninsula. Not that I minded really, I have been aching to get back to Blairgowrie with my macro lens and this was a perfect chance for that. Things looked great above water and the conditions were great underwater as well apart from some very minor current. I was slightly worried about my camera as we entered our entry involved a giant stride from the pier quite high above the water. Luckily there were no leaks, I even had the moisture alarm in the housing this time around. I was also testing some new gloves for this dive, they were perhaps a little too thin for the water temperature but it was still very pleasant to have a totally dry dive for a change.

I was counting on seeing a few nudibranchs on this dive as well, but my expectations were exceeded quite nicely. I ended up finding around 20 nudibranchs of five different species, by far my best nudibranch dive so far! These ranged from one very large short-tailed nudibranch to lemon doriopsillas only a couple of millimeters long. I was getting bit worried I wouldn’t see any Verco’s nudibranchs this time around. Luckily near the end of our dive I spotted one in a perfect pose on one of the pylons! I stayed there a while photograhing the critter, the end result was one of my best macro shots so far. We dived along most of the pier and back, this resulted in a rather long 70 minute dive at a leisurely pace. Luke and I were in drysuits and did the full dive, Crystal and Nicky were in wetsuits and turned back earlier. Apart from the nudis and all the marine growth under the pier there were also some pretty jellyfish around.

It was still quite early after our first dive so we decided to visit Scuba Doctor for some quick air fills. Then Luke and I headed back to water, this time at Rye Pier. Rye still feels slightly deserted after the spider crabs, it looked like there was quite a bit of damage to the marine growth on the pylons and the fish life was less abundant than earlier in the year. We still managed to spot a few of the resident pot-bellied seahorses, including one rather impressive looking male. Near the end of the pier we also spotted a nice surprise: a pale octopus was resting at the bottom. It was pretty passive during the day so I took quite a few shots.

After the dive it was time to head back to Melbourne and rinse the gear. A few hours later we got together again for Nicky’s housewarming. After a long day of diving it was a very enjoyable lazy evening, the highlights included open fire and a cute cat. I spent most of the evening focusing on various forms of cat worship, it has been way too long since I have had a chance for that!

#184 Rye Pier 2012-07-07

Saturday, July 7th, 2012
Rye Pier in Melbourne, Australia
38 minutes, max depth 4.6 m, water 11°C
Buddies: Luke Cawley

#183 Blairgowrie Pier 2012-07-07

Saturday, July 7th, 2012
Blairgowrie Pier in Melbourne, Australia
70 minutes, max depth 5.5 m, water 11°C
Buddies: Crystal Kean, Luke Cawley, Nicky Woods

Eija in Australia

Friday, July 6th, 2012

My aunt arrived to Australia early in the Thursday morning for a three week holiday. Unfortunately her trip here was slightly bumpy with a fair share of mishaps during the flight. Her initial flight from Helsinki was delayed by several hours (by two separate problems!) and she barely made the connecting flight in Singapore. To make matters worse, for some reason there was no reception in the Singapore airport so I didn’t even know if she had made it or not until she landed in Melbourne. And as if this wasn’t enough, the airline had lost her luggage with most of her clothes and other stuff! Luckily the luggage arrived only a day late and it was delivered to our front door by a courier.

After all of that behind us we could properly focus on sightseeing and some shopping. One of our first stops on Friday was a camera shop, Eija had planned to get a new camera during the stop in Singapore but that didn’t work out for obvious reasons. After hitting a few of the local shops on Friday we ended up buying a Canon Ixus 125 HS for her; too bad it isn’t available in green. After some test shots in the city we decided to head to Docklands. There was a nice little fireworks display there on Friday evening, a perfect opportunity to test the new camera! The camera performed surprisingly well for a small point and shoot, too. The only disappointing part was rather low battery capacity, well below manufacturer rated 160 photos. My new tripod has not arrived yet, so I had to content myself with handheld shots. Luckily the fireworks is a weekly event for the whole of July, so I might get back there for some proper long exposure shots.