Back to Bimini
End Februari it’s Bahamas time again! We, that is me and buddy JB whom I first met on Grand Cayman in 2008, have selected two different diving destinations. Last year April we visited Bimini and Cat island in succession. A bit late in the season for the Great hammerheads at Bimini, but the ideal moment for meeting the Oceanics at Cat Island. This year it will be Bimini again to revisit the GHs (february is their best month), and then Tiger Beach for the Tiger Sharks. Our home base for Tiger Beach will be West End, Grand Bahamas. Which means that we shall make day trips per boat to Tiger Beach. We use local flights for the connections between Nassau, Bimini and Grand Bahamas. Diving conditions should be good, but too much wind can always spoil the fun.
For most Americans the Bahamas are an easy destination, but for Europeans it takes a long flight over the Atlantic. The 10 h flight and passing US customs in Atlanta are the most hectic parts of the trip. Luckily, my Dutch passport should not cause any problems, considering the Dutch’ excellent reputation in the US. (-; I normally pack all my stuff in two suitcases, a big suitcase weighting 23 kg in the main hold, and a smaller bag (max 10 kg) with camera and lenses to carry in the cabin of the aircraft.
What drives a pensionado to make such long trips? One reason is that in my forty years of diving the opportunity to ‘shoot’ apex predators from a very a close distance turned up relatively late. Well.. lets say about ten year ago. Visiting the new dive destinations, with the sharks coming in less than 1 meter from the dome of my fish eye lens was like starting from scratch again. It was also tempting to return to these places, to see if I could can make better, or different pictures than the ones I made in the year before. Moreover, diving in the Bahamas is relatively simple. It is shallow and easier than in the Mediterranean and Red Sea, not to speak of the cold waters in Holland. Which is fine for most UW photographers, who prefer not to be distracted too much by strong currents, swimming over long distances, bad viz, checking your depth, finding the location of the boat, climbing back in a Zodiac and what have you. All you need to start with is a 5 mil wetsuit, and plenty of weights to remain stable on the sandy bottom ten meters below the boat to aim your camera. Second, be sure to click that button on your camera plenty of times at the right moments, and you can be pretty certain to bring home some excellent pictures of Sphyrna Mokarran, Galeocerdo Cuvier or Carcharhinus Longimanus. I prefer not to use half-pressing the shutter, but back button focusing with my right thumb to prefocus (AF-On in Nikon cameras). If there is plenty of sunlight a setting like f11, ASA 200 and 1/200 in the manual mode is good to start with. With lesss sunlight use shutter priority mode set at 1/200. The same setting will also work with natural light and a red filter (manual white balance) with the sunlight coming from behind you.
Being able to visit these premier diving sites of the Bahamas is a real privilege, with many benefits for the UW wide angle photographer.But of course each benefit has it’s costs, like the absence of one’s dear spouse and dog and… Leffe beer (this time I got the order right!)