Friday, November 20, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
I am working for the week off a NPS research vessel inventorying know shipwrecks and scouting locations for an upcoming 3D HD shoot with the Advance Imaging and Visualization Lab at Woods Hole. Its is great to be back at Channel Islands. Diving in the kelp forest have always satisfied a boyhood dream of flying through the forests and a weightless world.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan - Chisolm, a bulk freighter built of wood, was built in 1880 and ran aground in the predawn hours of October 20, 1898. Large sections of the wooden hull lie scattered among the Cumberland wreckage on a reef not marked by the Rock of Ages Lighthouse. This site features an intact steam enging with drive shaft and propeller sitting in about 140’ of water. The double expansion steam engine stands about 20 feet tall and is near perfect condition framed in ornate iron work. The engine has two pistons, one 30" and the other 56" in diameter, that operated with a four foot stroke. - Steve Martin, ISRO Picture of the Day.
Chisolm is my favorite site in the park. This massive expansive steam engine is difficult to describe it is so remarkable. The size is the first thing one marvels, but on closer examination the ornate designs crafted out of steel that surround the engine are the most remarkable. The craftsmanship involved to create such artistry in a location that no one will ever see is amazing to me. Once you rebound from the engine, one can swim along the perfectly intact prop shaft out to the propeller. Again, size is the prominent feature. Along the i
ntact stern you can observe the water marks cut into the wood in roman numeral are visible.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Emperor was a 525' steel bulk freighter carrying a load of iron ore. It was built in Canada in 1907, and met its demise in the early morning darkness of June 7, 1947. Principal blame was placed with the First Mate for not keeping "proper watch". This was further qualified, saying that the prevailing system, required him to be in charge of loading when he should have been off-duty resulted in his being overtired from lack of sleep. Out of this came the practice of today's Lake sailors, four hours on, eight hours off, four hours on, eight hours off.
This picture is of a large windlass, used to raise and lower the anchors, and Andres Diaz, an Archeologist with the NPS Submerged Resources Center. This image was taken in about 40-45' of water. -Steve Martin, ISRO Picture of the Day
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
A major goal of this condition assessment is to build on work that was accomplished in the early ‘80s by the Submerged Resources Center and ISRO Dive team. As we apply the same archeological survey techniques used decades ago, we also have the benefit of underwater digital imaging technologies. In this photographer’s opinion, digital photography has been one of the most valuable advancements in underwater survey. The ability to generate hundreds of instantly available images vs. 36 pictures on traditional film has increased the data collection and documentation of these sites dramatically. One technique the SRC has used successfully over the past few years to enhance the interpretive value of shipwreck sites is by stitching several digital images together to create a mosaic. This process offers a view of a site unavailable even to the divers from one static viewpoint limited by visibility. It also has the ability to communicate the massive size and scale of these goliath vessels strewn across the reefs of Isle Royale.
In this mosaic of the Glenlyon shot three days ago, Steve Martin examines the shaft connecting the expansion engine with the broken prop resting on the reef in 45’ of water. This image was created by stitching 34 vertical images together and provides a panoramic viewpoint of the sites most impressive feature. - Brett Seymour, ISRO Picture of the Day
Monday, September 7, 2009
The Glenlyon is one of my favorite sites of Isle Royale. The machinery is massive and visually interesting. Its also a site were you can shoot a photograph that “looks” like a shipwreck. Anchors, windlass machinery and huge boilers all communicate shipwreck. Often times with the sites I image, especially the 18th and 19th century sites, its hard to find an iconic shot to communicate shipwreck. Archeologist may get excited about rigging piles and chain plates, but the general public like to recognize a shipwreck. The Glenlyon has no shortage of images to create.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan –Few location have stir the imagination like Isle Royale National Park. When I first started working with the NPS it was one of those places that held mythical status, much like the USS Arizona Memorial. The thought of all those shipwrecks in one location so well preserved in the cold dark waters of Lake Superior. I have had the opportunity to visit Isle Royale on two separate occations in the past three years. Each project only wetted my appitite to spend more bottom time imaging these massive vessels.
So, I am for two weeks with the federal mandate to conduct condition assments. Basically, this means an archeologist swims around the site and rates the condition of the site with the appropriate terminology and paperwork as poor, fair or good. In addition, they look for impacts, human or natural, and note those as well. What this means for me is bottom time! Hit as many sites as the weather will allow with the talent park dive team from Isle Royale on my absolute favorite dive boat in the NPS – the Lorelei.
Isle Royale Park Dive Officer Steve Martin came up with the great idea to provide the entire Isle Royale park staff with a picture of the day with a brief description of the operation each day. Since I ended generating some of the best shipwreck images I have ever shot, I thought it would be appropriate to post them here as well. I will include the blat that Steve offered up to the park staff regarding the project and perhaps interject some addional prose if appropriate. Enjoy the cold waters of Isle Royale Shipwrecks.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Morehead City, North Carolina - U-Boats have always had a unique place in the dive community. There is a large population of divers out there who are simple U-Boat obsessed. Perhaps the success of Shadow Divers has fueled the fire, but the flames were there long before that. What I find astonishing is the lack of respect some in the dive community have treated these historic sites and maritime graves. Any artifact, features or even loose metal that can be blasted, pried, chiseled, air lifted or simply yanked off these sites has been. I guess I will never understand finder’s keepers mentality when it comes to public’s maritime heritage.
The U-Boats have been great dives, although, I must admit they lack a certain sense of awe. Perhaps because they have just been pillaged and plundered to death. All that remains is what couldn’t be stolen which is basically the pressure hull and conning towers. Even the deck gun has been ripped off the U-352 and is decaying outside a dive shop in Morehead City. My desire, and I suspect that of the dive community is a more intact sense of site preservation. I understand the site will deteriorate, however the pathetic argument that if “I don’t take an artifact, its just going rot away” is not valid. A few who rob the masses of a truly great experience is unfortunate.
Perhaps the other reason, less tangible or controversial, is based on my past experiences diving on incredibly historic and well preserved icons of our nation’s history. In the context of this project, the HL Hunley comes to mind. After spending months as the project photographer for the recovery of the first successful submarine in maritime history these U-Boats seem modern. The fascination of the U-Boats to the dive community is the ability to dive a true piece of history - and one that plays a captivating role. Even in there looted, stripped and broken state, they are authentic. Not an artificial reef submerged intentionally, but a physical connection to the past and our history as a nation. My career with the NPS has allowed me to do this very thing, on so many occasions, and for this I am incredibly grateful.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Morehead City, NC – The next stop in a long summer of back to back projects is a U-Boat expedition with some colleagues from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The team, largely comprised of maritime archeologist, is examining the Cape Hatteras area of the NC coast often referred to as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. The goal of the project is to documenting both the German U-Boats and some of their Allied casualties from WWII. The work began last year with mapping operations on three U-Boats – the U352, U85 and the U701. This year the team is focusing on a site called the Bedfordshire, a Brittish trawler sunk by the U352. My job is to document the submerged sites and work with Dave Conlin, Chief of the SRC, on corrosion potential measurements on selected sites. Due to logistical needs and scheduling, he and I have been chartering dive boats to visit the German subs. You can learn more about the project, the team and follow the expedition on the project blog at http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/missions/battleoftheatlantic2/
Monday, August 3, 2009
Key West, Florida - Today we came off the Dry Tortugas enroute to the next project. As we unloaded the commercial ferry Yankee Freedom with enough Pelican shipping containers to mobilize against a small country I noticed a series of directional signs in the Key West street. Upon closer examination one destination caught my eye. Pittsburg, NH – a place I grew up snowmobiling with my dad – 1845mi. It’s not quite as far as you can get from here in the continental US, but pretty darn close.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida - I have spent nearly 15 years traveling around the country working with the most diverse and talented individuals in the National Park Service. The agency has a feeling of unity for those who truly subscribe to its “unimpaired for future generations” ethos. Occasionally, as with most journeys in life, you meet extraordinary individuals who possess a certain quality that you just inherently want to be around. For me, in my NPS journey, no one ranks higher than Jim Koza
A tremendous retired NPS employee who spend his career on the waters of the NPS keeping visitors safe through buoys, docks and aids to navigation. Koza embodies those old tales of sailors who reach mythical status through storms and heavy seas. He is meek soul who can humble you pretty quickly by docking a boat or tying a knot – all without a hint of intent. He has been supporting SRC operations for years, long before I was with the NPS. He is a rare breed of diver that has crossed over from the old guard who founded SCRU and new leadership currently at the SRC helm.
My acquaintance with Koza began at Lake Mead NRA on a small skiff looking for a submerged B-29 aircraft with a drop camera around 2000. My friendship began shortly after by spending several weeks on houseboats, barges and pretty much anything that would float discussing the NPS, diving and more importantly life. Koza was the engine of the logistical train in our deep mixed gas diving operations at Mead. If a dive requires hours of decompression there is a very short list of individuals I want supervising the op with an eye toward the weather. Koza is unequivocally at the top of the list...
...So, when I was looking for a production assistant for some projects in the Tortugas I thought of Koza. People always comment they would love to carry my cameras. I have heard that for years. The interesting thing about those statements is that carrying cameras (and tanks, weights, pulling anchors, climbing into boats, etc) is not that easy. Add to it a lack of sleep over several days with a rigorous operational pace and carrying my cameras is far less glamorous. Koza has always been a workhorse on our projects. I thought he may appreciate something a little warmer and not so devoid of life as our past reservoir operations at Lake Mead NRA.
Day after day, dive after dive Koza has been money. He is always in the perfect position just behind, watching my back. You might think this is an easy task but many shots have been ruined with a camera move in a different direction only to have a stunned diver swimming frantically trying to get out of the way. Watching my back is also key. On underwater shoots, I rarely demonstrates the best buddy skills. A shooter is generally focused one thing – the shot. Koza is my safety diver and underwater grip by day and my repair tech by night. After a couple of dives this week, he would surface with a big smile on his face and comment he just had one of the best dives of his life. Coming from a legendary old-school diver, thats saying a lot. A couple of days ago (he will certainly know which one) I turned around to get a second camera from him and there he was, resting on the bottom with a big grin from ear to ear. His trademark twenty-plus year old mask barely held a water tight seal the smirk was so massive. Good times. Koza – The best name in production assistances.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
So in I went. With ever prick of sea grass on my legs, I knew the lice had come to devour me. The depth estimates had proven to be quite generous. In most areas I could barley clear the bottom. I was walking inch by inch with the tips of my fingers over the sea grass. I reached the collapsed areas I would focus on. Was that lice biting me? No just underwater debris. After shooting several splitlevels in various areas, I headed back to my point of exit. I stopped to admire a large patch of upside-down jellyfish. Jellyfish - they have always been an intriguing mixture of beauty and death in the same fascination package. I needed a more interesting perspective. Being an expert in all things underwater, I knew they would only sting if touched by the tentacles which reached for the surface. If I was careful, I could reposition one and fire off a few frames. My over developed confidence soon diminished when I felt the intense pain as it gently brushed across my arm just by raising it into the water column for the sake of art.
I managed to not so gracefully climb out of the moat by scaling the brick wall where I entered. Feeling pleased with my execution of “operation moat” for the sake of photography I walked back to the fort. I was dripping wet with a stinging arm and some still undetermined bite sensations in various places around my body. As I entered the interior of the fort, I passed one of the interpretive rangers from the park. “Get some good images?” I started to construct the perfectly worded response of my conquest but all I got out of my mouth was “Yes, I was in the moat…”. “The moat?” was her reply. “You’re not allowed in the moat”. Forgiveness vs permission. Not the first (and mostly not the last) in pursuit of an image.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida - One of the great things about the Dry Tortugas is the amazing diversity of resources inside the park. If you go to the Dry Tortugas just to scuba dive - you’ve missed it. If you solely focus on masonry construction, turtle nesting, nurse shark mating, pristine coral reefs, shipwrecks, rare birds, recreational fishing, or sailing you have missed the entire magic and experience of the Dry Tortugas. Combine these resources, and you have a sensation overload that has always ranked as one of the most spectacular places on earth.
While I have been working at the Dry Tortugas, I have had the opportunity to photography the release of a few baby loggerhead turtles. Kayla, a very talented bio tech and turtle researcher is permitted to dig existing nest areas three days after the young turtles make there escape. Today as I was photographing a release, I thought how screwed this tiny little turtle must have felt. First, the little guy attempts to dig itself out of the sand – unsuccessfully. Next, gentle hands dig you out and place you in a bucket with even more sand to make you feel at home. After a bouncy boat ride (the collections were on adjacent keys) you arrive at another beach and released. You struggle to the sea, giving your fins the there first test. Finally, you reach the water, get pummeled by a couple of monster waves (4”) only to be greeted by me, a very intimidating creature yielding a massive black camera that flashes like a disco strobe as you seek deeper water. I felt bad that this little guys only sensation of land for the next 20 years was so traumatic. Well, after culling the hundreds of shots my guilt quickly subsided. This little guy is going to be famous in the parks interpretive and educational materials. Swim hard my little friend.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Dry Tortugas National Park is a special place. I first saw the Gibraltar of the Gulf appear out to the azure waters back in 1994. I was wet behind the ears as a film school grad who had patted his resume to get a spot with the legendary NPS SCRU team for a summer project. It was that summer that I found my career. Well, at least I though so - it took an additional seven years to convince the NPS. Returning back to the Fort this summer for a three weeks has given me the opportunity to visit the sites I spent so many submerged hours working with the archeologist to map. It feels like visiting an old friend. It has also given me the opportunity to realize just how little I know about underwater photography when I first started.
Sure the photography world has changed. We are shooting several hundred digital images on a card with the instant gratification of an LCD screen. It’s difficult to remember the pains of 36 exposures on the film-based Nikonos systems. More than the technology, it was my approach to the discipline of underwater photography. When I started, as with most new uw shooters, I was satisfied to create a properly exposed, well framed image and simply replicate an underwater scene. Today, I find myself viewing a landscape or shipwreck in my minds eye and trying to create that, not the image the camera wants to give me. I don’t want to get all philosophical and pretentious about underwater photography as an art, but there is a difference in those who take a picture vs those who create a photograph. Since that first summer in the Dry Tortugas, every dive, every frame, I have worked to be the latter.
So, I’m back where this photographic journey began for me. Much has changed in my life, little has stayed the same. I thought when I began this adventure there was no greater joy than traveling the world and shooting underwater. Of course that was the mantra of transient youth. Today, I know there is no greater joy than having a loving wife and two awesome sons to share the travel and assignments with. I have great hopes of a couple of camera assistants in the future. The fact they can put up with the transient adult lifestyle constantly amazes me. The next time I find myself at the Fort, they will be with me.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Nassau, Bahamas - When Mike from Ocean Technologies System called and asked me if I would be interested in a Bahamas shoot, you might wonder why I would even have to think about it. The issue was I was already committed to nearly three months away from my family. The solution? Bring them with me of course! Mike, being the class act he is, moved to accomidate the increase in the production team. The result has been on the the best vacations of our life. I could generate dozens of posts with pics of my boys in the pool day after day after day after day after day. Perhaps the water thing runs in the family? While I was out diving with sharks and shipwrecks, so were Cameron and Chase in there minds eye logging nearly enough pool time in to require decompression. Each night I would share a dive story from the day while putting them to bed then spend a couple hours alone with my beautiful wife Elizabeth. Would it be possible to run each assignment like this?
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Nassau, Bahamas - Over the years working underwater I have come to depend on certain manufactures to deliver the best in underwater equipment. The guys at Ocean Technologies Systems are at the top of that list. After the company president, Mike Pelissier did the NPS (an me personally) a huge favor by working a recient PBS NOVA program we were shooting on the USS Arizona we discussed future projects. With the relese of the best underwater full face mask ever designed (the Guardian) they were looking for a shooter to help out with some catalog shots. Based on a combination of talent and being a cheap date, I find myself in Nassau, Bahamas working with the OTS crew at Stuart Cove's. Its been five days of clear blue water, sharks, shipwrecks and talented models. Did I mention sharks? The crew at Stuarts have been awesome and I have no shortage of images to capture. Did I mention sharks?
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Islamorada, Florida - As an underwater photographer, I have done my share of diving. I know, all divers throw around numbers of dives and c-cards like a badge of honor. This isn't about quantity, but quality. The other day I had what can only be described as my greatest dive. There was no 300' vis. No schooling bait ball with charging swordfish. No big animal encounters like a whale shark meandering through the dive site. There wasn't even any shipwrecks - and that doesn't happen often. This dive was in 4' of water, under a dock at my good friend Jim Bernardin's resort, Pines & Palms in Islamorada, Florida. There were a couple of the smallest eels I have ever seen. A schooling snapper population the size of matchboxes and a handful of lobster that would have a tough time not being boiled, dipped in cocktail sauce and getting eaten as an appetizer. What made this dive so amazing? It was my son Cameron's first snorkel.