AdventureNorth AmericaScuba

August 4 – Isla Mujeres

Another Day, Another Whale Shark
Eric, Wolcott and Sterling made another helicopter reservation for the afternoon, but this time they went out with us. We left the dock at 6:30 o they’d have enough time to snorkel before another boat picked them up and took them in at 10:30.

Eric used the morning to interview Rojelio for his 3D footage. Alex, Nathalie and I stayed on board to watch/listen and provide additional questions when Eric was looking for additional info. That was fun. I hope someday to see this interview somewhere so I can say, “I was there for that!”

E, interviewing. The 3D camera on a pole behind him.

Rojelio in interview mode

Aside from that, this was another whale shark day. The group was smaller but densely packed but we still had photo ops.

Departure of the helicopter-ers, off for an aerial adventure
Photography with a Fish Eye Lens
When Eric left at 10:30, he left me with his Canon 5D Mark II with the fisheye lens. With the fish-eye you have to get within 3-4 feet of your subject in order to get a quality photo. Not a big deal for many pictures, but getting within 3-4 feet of a whale shark means that you’re going to get bonked by a fin or two. And since I was using the view-finder to frame things correctly I quickly discovered that the fisheye lens distorted and made things appear further than they are. So I would get behind the camera viewfinder, move in so the shark filled the frame, snap a few pics, and then move the camera away to discover that I was REALLY REALLY CLOSE to the shark and was likely to get bonked by a tail. This happened more than once – but all in the name of art.

These “sunburst” shots are unbelievable difficult to get. First, you have to time it exactly as a whale shark approaches. Then you have to free-dive down to about 20 feet and position yourself *directly* beneath the shark. The difficult is that the shark often moves the wrong way, or you begin to float up and then get only a portion of the shark’s body. This took me at least 50 tries to get it right, and even this is far from perfect.


Botella feeding – I like this because you see his gills flexing and the effect on his belly

One of my favorite shots of the day


Sparkly head

Dual shark sunburst

E thinks this one is my “award winning” shot


Around 1PM a helicopter appeared in the skyline just as Alex, Nathalie and I were jumping in to explore a nearby and PERFECTLY vertical botella. Turns out it wasn’t our helicopter. Ours showed up 10 minutes later, circled the site for a good 20 minutes and got very low. Now that I think of it, I never did see their pics from the trip but I know they were pleased with them.

Sterling in the heli

E in the heli

Helicopter and one last annoying boat that wouldn’t move out of the whale shark group (as the Lilly M did) so the aerial photos could be boat-free

I imagined the guys in the helicopter were up there commenting on the funny faces we made at them, or the fact that we were blocking a shot or too. And probably E saying, “There’s Heidi with my camera. Hey. Wait a minute. Are those my fins?” Because they were. His Mares are lighter than my Biofins and designed to splash less. Much better when sneaking up on whale shark botellas.

Perfect Botella

Split with a whale shark and a helicopter (which is small, itty bitty speck just above the water)

Fisheye Self Portrait

E’s fins. I love the sunlight rays in the water.

Split with the Lilly M. Those are Alex’s legs and fins beneath the surface.

I’ve had a lovely time getting to know Alex and Nathalie, my new friends from Grenoble, France. They’re both physicians so it’s fascinating to learn about the French medical system and educational track. On the way back to the island we each chose a bench and slept during the ride home.

Sandwich Joy
I mentioned on the first day that the Lilly M bathroom is full of signatures of the worlds’ best underwater photographers. Here they are, documented for posterity:

(Little blurry. Sorry about that)

E’s autograph

The Lilly M

After After After
We met the guys at the dock, where we cleared all the gear out of the boat and had lunch at Bally Hoo right at the dock. After lunch E and I washed all our gear in the shower and then lay it out back to dry in the sun. For dinner we went to Café Mogagua (coming full-circle) with the next group: Evvy, Marty, Eli, Lachy, Julian, and Hilde. Our waiter – the same we had the week before – was so lovely and friendly that we gave him an outrageous tip that had him beaming with delight.

Late Night Packing
The rest of the night was for packing. There was much transferring of files and pictures back and forth between the group. Sterling brought over a 32GB disk of something that E needed to put on his hard drive and then copy to an external hard drive and then take back to Sterling so he could copy it somewhere else. I have no idea what any of this means or why they were doing it, but I witnessed the back-and-forth from my disk-space friendly spot on the futon. One thing is clear, though: I need to increase the disk space on my MacBook as well as buy a second backup hard drive. And, apparently, a traveling backup hard drive.