SCUBA DIVING PHOTO EXPEDITION - DEEP SOUTH EGYPT 2009
Diving photo safari in southern Egypt close to the border with Sudan by Scuba Diving Club Sebastian and yours truly Extreme Photographer. Photo safari was all about 10 days on the boat with 20 people, more than 350 dives and over 700 km on the open sea.
Al-Farouk II, a big safari ship, 30m long and 7.5m wide, was swaying gently on the waves when we reached the port Marsa Alam on the west coast of the Red Sea late in the night. A wide bay with a lot of anchored ships was as busy as at noon. Inflatables (here called Zodiac, regardless of their brand) were buzzing form all around since it is not possible to load or embark on the ships without their assistance because there is neither a dock nor the possibility of the access to the ships without a boat. The guys who steered them did that with a great precision and speed so that our equipment was on the ship in only a few minutes, followed by us shortly afterwards. We took off our shoes which we would have no need for in the next few days and threw ourselves on the food the crew served in the air-conditioned reception room.
The cabins were cooled down and fittingly decorated as they should be on such a ship. The ships made for safari need to have all the equipment multiplied by two. It applies to two engines, two generating units, two desalinators, rescuing equipment for twice the number of people than the capacity of the ship is and many other things which would take a lot of room in case we wanted to list them all.
It took over 100 miles and about ten hours of sailing to reach the St. John Reef, a group of coral reefs near the border with the Sudan in the far south of Egypt. The goal of the Deep South diving expedition was to observe and to photograph the living world and the wrecks of the sunken ships around the coral reef to the south of Marsa Alam. That is a rather unexplored area, and a large number of reefs has been discovered in recent years, therefore, for some of them, there are no official names, just the names given to them by the captains of the safari ships or the local fishermen.
The clear water, good visibility and a large number of interesting objects at small depths create perfect conditions for a high-quality underwater photograph. The Creator of the living world in the Red Sea spared no colours when he was creating it. The corals of all sizes and shapes, with the sea creatures of all colours swimming around them, cause excitement already when you encounter them for the first time. We could not resist the impression that the world we used to watch in black-and-white technique in some other seas, we observed here in full colour and observed it in HD resolution. Even at a serious depth, there was enough light, and the only reason for adding some extra light by means of flash was the loss of a part of the spectrum dominated by blue. The equipment I used was Sea&Sea underwater housing MDXD3 for Nikon D3 with three underwater flashbulbs also Sea&Sea YS250PRO, the camera Nikon D3 and the lenses Nikon 16mm f2.8 and 17-35mm f2.8.
My favourites on this trip were wide angle lenses whose full effectivenss was made possible by a great amount of natural light. Although this area is not famous for great shipwrecks, there is still some wreckage of smaller ships at a shallow depth, and on the Abu Galava Kebir reef, the wreckage of a metal ship (which sank during the 1940s) rises to the surface with its highest point at low tide. As the ship is at the angle of 45o, its lowest point is at –12m, and with such good light conditions it is possible to put the whole wreck into one frame. Only when I remember how many times, in the Adriatic Sea, we longed for the visibility which is in comparison to the Red Sea like moonlight compared to the sun at noon.
The fans of macro photography will not be bored here either, although we did not focus on that field. In fact, the tiny creatures are the most numerous ones and they are all around. They are mainly not timid, and, all the time, they swim so near that you can touch them with your hand. Plankton and jellyfish are a real challenge for a good photo with their transparent structure. Perhaps the most beautiful creature, the tiny clown fish or, in the cartoon, better-known as Nemo, lives in symbiosis with sea anemone which it boldly defends.
And when the night falls, some other creatures, which during the day are difficult or even impossible to see, wake up.
The photos taken during the dives at night seem unreal, particularly the ones in which the background is the blue colour of the sea. It is very difficult to set the right frame while using a lamp or pilot light which mainly shine the lights on the central part of the picture seen in the view-finder. Fish do not react to the light directed at them or, on the other hand, they remain petrified, not attempting to run away. This leaves us enough time for a good shot. One of the dangers you can be exposed to during the dives at night (but also during the day) is the contact with some of the corals that might burn the skin and cause swelling, so that you will literary feel the memory of them for months in the form of unbearable itching. We strongly recommend you to wear a long suit, as well as not to lean on anything. The temperature of the water is between 27o and 30oC, therefore a lof of divers use short suits, but after a few days of diving, certain marks caused by the contact with corals and stones can be seen on all bare parts of their body. Our PHOTO SCUBA DIVING DEEP SOUTH expedition lasted for 10 full days and it certainly will not be easily forgotten.