Susan Martini: Blog en-us (C) Diver$ue (Susan Martini) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:44:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:44:00 GMT Susan Martini: Blog 90 120 New Jersey Birding As the calendar rolls to 2015, it brings another "reset" to my annual bird photography count. After being inspired by the motion picture titled "The Big Year", I was motivated to participate in the contest according to my own rules and guidelines. Instead of counting birds seen and/or heard during a single calendar year, as a photographer, my goal was to create a collection of unique bird photographs. Only competing against myself, I snapped a total of 38 birds in 2013 (partial year, started around Easter), 99 birds in 2014 for a grand total of 106 unique bird photographs taken mostly in or near New Jersey.

Granted, these numbers are far from impressive against the expert birders that actually complete a Big Year, but for me they represent how much I have learned in the past few years through my photographs. As a novice birder, identification is much more difficult than it looks. I learned this lesson early in my personal "big year" when I mistook a Hooded Merganser for a Bufflehead. Both are ducks but the resemblance stops there :) and I uncovered my mistake after eagerly downloading my photo! The Hooded Merganser is now one of my favorite birds and very easy for me to recognize.

As I look forward to another year of SCUBA and another year of bird photography (yes sometimes I get to combine these activities!), I have set some personal goals for myself. I want to learn more songs and calls, figure out which sparrows come to my backyard feeders and find my first owl (I hear the snowy's are back this winter - wouldn't that be exciting to see)...and maybe crack the 3-digit count for a single year.

To celebrate the new year, I cruised by Lake of the Lillies in Point Pleasant Beach (NJ) and was not disappointed. This lake is a block from the beach and boardwalk and is a gem for birding. No "life" birds for me today but I was able to capture some unique photos on a beautiful but windy day. Started the year with 7 photographs including a pair of Hooded Mergansers with crests blowing in the gusts of wind...photograph taken but not needed to identify these birds today. 

Hooded Merganser (Pair)Hooded Merganser (Pair)Lake of the Lillies, Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey
New Year's Day 2015

Honorable mention also goes to a pack of Northern Shovelers skimming the surface of the pond looking for food.

Northern Shoveler (pair)Northern Shoveler (pair)Lake of the Lillies, Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey
New Year's Day 2015

A cute pair of American Coots look for food on the bank of the pond, unbothered by the "tail-wind".

American CootAmerican CootLake of the Lillies, Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey
New Year's Day 2015

And a quick pass by the Manasquan Inlet on my way home rewarded me with a Herring Gull munching on a starfish for breakfast. 



Herring GullHerring Gull

Other photos taken but not displayed here include Double-crested Cormorant, Canada Goose and Great Egret.

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Bidevind 06.09.13 On June 9, the Independence II headed out to the wreck of the Bidevind for our first off-shore trip of the year.  Bright sunny skies coupled with mild air temperatures made it a great day for diving.  Water conditions weren't too shabby either.  A surface current fell off below 30 feet, visibility on the wreck was over 50 feet, and the surface water temperature has reached a comfortable 62 degrees making deco rather pleasant.  

The dive deck was open soon after reaching the site as Bill and Brandon made quick work of the tie-in.  As the divers were getting dressed and preparing to splash, a lift bag with Brandon's initials was spotted next to the boat.  Since the surface viz was so good, it was easy to see that something good was attached to the bag.  After we hauled the brass window frame on board, I couldn't wait to get in the water.  

I was to be the last team to enter the water so that we could pull the hook on our ascent.  One benefit to diving last is to get information about the wreck prior to getting underwater.  **shout out** to Brandon for kindly sharing directions to a nearby porthole wedged under a pipe.  It was wedged pretty tight but we thought two divers may be able to work it loose. So when it was time for my dive, I made a last minute decision to leave the camera top-side and focus on the chance of some brass.  Bottom conditions were as good as promised from the other divers, and we saved some time by not running a line.  It wasn't necessary since I never left sight of the anchor strobes.  I could hear the engines of the boat start up indicating the line was free and ready for our ascent.

Sean quickly located the porthole just as Brandon described.  I took a few minutes while Sean was getting his crowbar out, to look around the area and definitely spied some other dogs sticking out of the sand.  There are other portholes just waiting to be uncovered.  By the time I focused my attention back to the task at hand, Sean had freed the backing of the porthole.  It turned out that the halves were not connected and the swing plate was really jammed under the pipe, but the backing needed just a little leverage from the crowbar to free up.  We worked as a team to rig the artifact to the lift bag and quickly heard the boat engines engage indicating the bag reached the surface!  We didn't have enough bottom time remaining to work on the swing plate so it's still there.  Seems like a great reason to go back!  I was happy to ascend into some warmer water for my deco since I couldn't get my vest to turn on today.  Otherwise, my deco was rather uneventful...just the way it should be :)


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R.P. Resor The only day of Memorial Day weekend that was favorable for diving was not until Monday, but it was well worth the wait!  The Independence II headed out to the R.P. Resor along flat seas and sunny skies.  Evidently, others had the same idea 'cause we arrived on site to find two other dive boats.  With plenty of wreckage to go around, we picked a spot on the stern of the wreck and Sean got us tied in quickly. Surface viz looked amazing and everyone was eager to get geared up and into the water!

Divers returned from the first dive with lots of scallops. Each bag that came up seemed to be bigger than the last. But scallops were not in my sights today. I was after photos! So off I went for my second north-east ocean dive as a photographer. The bottom viz was about 25-30 feet, which is decent but I've seen much better on this wreck. I fired up my strobes and went for a nice swim along the wreckage with Kevin, who was kind enough to be my buddy (aka model) on this dive. Swimming along the bottom, I spied lots of eel pouts hiding in various nooks and crannies of the broken wreckage. The eel pouts were nice subjects for photography cause they stay relatively still :)  I was also excited to see a dogfish on the wreck, but was not fast enough with the camera to snap a picture.

The wreck was covered in soft anemone that also made for good photography subjects. Best of all, they were vibrant orange in color (my favorite). Considering I only have a few dives with the camera, I am relatively happy with the results. Hope you enjoy them too.

Unfortunately for Kevin, I wasn't happy with my shots of divers because I captured lots of backscatter in the background :(  That will be something for me to work on in my future dives. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and give me lots of opportunity to continue practicing.

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Maurice Tracy 05.18.13 Saturday morning greeted us with calm weather and flat seas, so Independence II chartered by The SCUBA Connection headed out to the Maurice Tracy. Everyone was excited to get in the water for one reason or another either to try out some new gear, test out old gear after a long winter, spearfish, lobster, explore and even to finish rebreather training.  For me, this was my first ocean dive of the year - and first time taking the camera in the ocean.

During my descent to the wreck, I could feel water leaking into my left (dry) glove.  I was too excited to abort but I knew my hand would get cold quickly.  Luckily, the glove had slipped off the ring and I was able to reposition it once I reached the wreck and continue with my dive.  We were tied into one of the large boilers. I spent time near the boilers positioning the strobes and adjusting the camera settings. Once satisfied, I headed out to do some exploring. Since another dive team was kind enough to run a wreck line, I followed it looking for some subjects. Plus it saved me from having to run my own line.  Convenient for me since I left my wreck reel on the boat :(

The other dive team turned out to be Jim and Yuri with a pole spear looking for some fish or lobsters. Sean was also in the vicinity looking for some dinner and found a large sea bass hiding under one of the plates. After borrowing Yuri's pole spear, there was a lot of commotion coming from the two divers in the vicinity of the plates.  Turns out, the spear pulled off the pole and was stuck in some poor fish!  The spear was recovered while Jim and I were laughing at the scene.

I lasted about 45 minutes on the bottom before I couldn't take the cold on my hand. During the course of my dive, I took lots of pictures, but wasn't happy with the results.  I have picked a couple to share but need to keep practicing. Each dive is a learning experience for me and this one was no different.  Stay tuned for more!

]]> Mon, 20 May 2013 00:01:14 GMT
Dutch Springs The 2013 dive season kicked off in April with a couple of dives at Dutch Springs to practice with the new camera.  Water temperature was in the low 40s which isn't too bad considering it was April.  But having a task to focus on certainly helped me stay warm...oh yeah...and my Santi heated vest!  It wasn't too tough to find some buddies (aka models) looking to shake-off the winter cob webs and so we ventured over to the Island making stops at the platforms, the Crane and the airplane along the way.  The camera was surprisingly manageable in the water and I never felt task-loaded while running the rebreather!  Here are some initial results:

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