8 SepArtificial Reefs - New Jersey, Axel Carlson Artificial Reef, Backscatter, Chris Bain, Colleen, Four of Clubs Tug, Friends, Herb Segars, Inon, Inon Z240, Nature Photography, New Jersey, Olympus 8mm Lens, Olympus OM D-EM1, People, Photography, SCUBA Diving, Underwater Photography / Scuba Diving, Veronica Segars | No Comment
2015 has been a frustrating year for me doing underwater photography in New Jersey. It is the first week in September and I have yet to see a jellyfish. The surface water has a yellowish hue to it and that yellowish water exists in the top 40’ of water. What it does is it keeps much of the light from the sun from penetrating to the bottom – making it seem like its nighttime.
Yesterday, Chris Bain, Ronnie and me left Manasquan Inlet to find a light westerly breeze and nice sea conditions. I wanted to check out some numbers on the Axel Carlson Artificial Reef off Bay Head, New Jersey.
Our regular dive crew, Beth and Wes Dalzell are on an adventure to Spain and Morocco which their daughter Jenni Ward and her husband, Nate. We are hoping to add a couple more people to our list of regulars, including Chris.
The seas were pretty flat and we made the less than four mile trip from the inlet in pretty good time. There were plenty of boats out fishing but luckily none were where we wanted to go.
The surface water didn’t look any better and there were no signs of jellyfish.
Ronnie set the hook on the first try. She is really good at doing that. What made the day even better is that Ronnie has been feeling pretty good and that always makes me happy.
It was Chris’ first time on the boat so we decided to make the dives easy ones.
After hooking in, I put on my very loose fitting wetsuit. I suppose that it is better to say loose fitting rather than “my wetsuit shrunk in the dryer and I can’t fit into it.”
My camera rig for the day was an Olympus OMD-EM1 in a Nauticam housing with an 8mm fisheye lens and two Inon-Z240 strobes.
I was being very optimistic using a fisheye lens with bottom conditions being the way they have been. I guess that I really like challenges when it comes to underwater photography and boy, was I going to be challenged today.
I jumped into the water and felt the cold rush as the ocean water filled the space between my wetsuit and my body. Fortunately for me, the surface water is around 74 degrees and the temperature at the bottom is 63 degrees. The surface water down to at least forty feet was the same yellowish color. Today, it filtered out most of the light and when I got to the bottom, I had to use my focusing/video light just to see the ship.
It was really dark and I wondering if I was going to be able to take any photographs at all. My camera would not focus without using the focusing/video light and even then, it didn’t always focus. I worked my way around the site and could not honestly say what site I was on and I have dove all of the tugs on the Axel Carlson Artificial Reef. Using an 8mm fisheye lens in dark water is extremely difficult. The lens is so wide that I have to move my strobes behind the housing and point them outwards or the brightness of their light is seen on both sides of the photograph.
I spent the whole dive moving my strobes in hopes of finding a position where their brightness would not be seen on both sides of the photograph and had limited success. It was very frustrating. As an example of how dark it was, I could not read my dive computer without engaging the backlighting on the computer.
Before I knew it, it was time to head to the surface. I still was not sure of exactly which tug we were on. In 2008, I dove the Bay King tug which is a 100′ long tugboat which was sunk in 2005. It was sponsored by the Manasquan River Marlin and Tuna Club and the Ann E. Clark Foundation. It is part of a two tugboat reef called the MRMTC Member Memorial Reef, to commemorate and honor members of that club who have passed away.
In the end, it was Chris Carver, a member of the Manasquan River Marlin and Tuna Club, who helped me determine that we dove on the Bay King. When I dove it six years ago, I thought that I was diving on the Four of Clubs. I didn’t know that the Bay King existed. When I checked my GPS numbers against the ones that Chris had, I realized that we were on the Bay King. Six years ago it had some blue mussel growth but nowhere near as much as it has now. It is amazing to see how things change on shipwrecks and artificial reefs over time. I have had places that were my go-to place for blue mussels and all-of-a-sudden, at the beginning of a new dive season, I would go there and there wouldn’t be any mussels. The following year there would be a new crop of small mussels back again.
We all decided that this was not a great spot to make a second dive so Chris pulled the hook and we went to the Colleen tug. Chris had never been on it and wanted to give it a try. Ronnie set the hook on the first try and it was time to hit the water. Since the Colleen was only a half mile from the Bay King tug, I didn’t expect the conditions to be much better and I was right. The conditions were even worse.
The visibility on the Bay King tug was okay but it was very dark. On the Colleen tug, it was very dark and the visibility was fair to poor. This combination did not bide well for photography. I shot a few shots but decided that it was a lesson in frustration. I did a little sightseeing and then headed for the boat. The wind and sea conditions had changed. The wind was blowing at around 10-15 knots out of the south and the seas were at least three feet. Not terrible but it was time to go. Chris pulled the hook and we made the trip home. Not the best day of diving but it was great to be out on the ocean.