Even in the hot summer months the Mediterranean, or MED for its frequent visitors, is not always the placid blue sea famous from postcards. There are days when a cold and dry northwesterly wind that starts in the high pressure area of the Central Plateau in the middle of France flows to the temporarily lower pressure area of the north western Med. Catching up in strength when it squeezes itself through the narrow corridor of the Rhone valley on its way to the South. In the summer this cold dry wind or Mistral, as it is called, usually causes a period of cloudless skies and luminous sunshine, which gives the mistral its reputation for making the sky crystal clear. Nevertheless the Mistral is feared because it dries the vegetation and it can spread forest fires. During our recent annual vacation in July on the Giens Peninsula it caused violent forest fires in coastal areas around Bormes les Mimosa, le Lavandou and La Londe. With the Mistral blowing, the high waves, strong winds and cold surface temperatures prevent scuba diving. Luckily in the month July it is short lived: it may stay for one or maximally three days. In normal weather conditions best scuba diving in the North Western Med is around protruding points of the coastline or -even better- around smaller island such as Porquerolles and Port Cros. Ever since this area has obtained the status of a National Marine Park, various fish species that had become very rare have returned to their old habitats such as large groupers (Epinephelus marginatus). Even schools of barracudas (Sphyraena sphyraena) can be spotted here by divers and UW photographers (see also Mediterranean).
Over unders In the Med I always like to try some over under shots with my PEN/Olympus 8mm combo with ambient light. I rent a Kajak and look for a sheltered and picturesque place along the coastline, taking just a small camera, snorkel and mask with me. Of course the pictures taken with a 4 inch dome will look quite different from those taken with a fish eye and a large dome. The idea is to catch those typical light reflections under the surface, with the rocks and trees of the coastline above the surface. You will often get two kind of surface reflections depending on the position of your camera or the movement of the waves. Sunlight patterns that reflect on the the sandy bottom may bounce back underneath the water surface, or the landscape reflects on the top of the surface (see insert above).