Rays

At the request of my friend, Madame Weebles, I’m posting a few shots from our visit to Grand Cayman last year. All of the stingray photos were taken at a dive site called Stingray City. There has been a long tradition for dive boats to visit this sandy bottomed bay and feed the rays. In 1993, Peter and I visited and at that time, they allowed us to feed the stingrays, but in recent years, the government has limited the feeding to be done only by the dive masters. They also limit the number of boats allowed on the site on any given day so as not to alter the behavior of the rays (too much?)…all good things, I think.

There is also a photo here of an Eagle Ray that we saw – my first ever. They’re large, magnificent creatures and it was quite a thrill to see this one.

Finally, I have been riffing on my diving trips recently and I’m going to get back to more serious writing next week. But thank you for indulging me in two of my passions: photography and scuba diving – and what I love about these is that I get to do them both at the same time. Have a great weekend!

Love,

Cathy

©CathyUlrich and LargeSelf 2012

Underwater Gallery

Here’s a gallery of some more of my shots from St. Kitts and Saba aboard the Caribbean Explorer II. My camera is an Olympus XZ-1 inside the Olympus PT-050 Underwater housing. Lighting was done using a Sola 1200 Underwater Video Light from Light and Motion along with the flash from the camera and a diffuser. Click on any image to enlarge it and click on the arrows on either side for a slideshow. Enjoy!

Love,

Cathy

All photos copyrighted by Cathy Ulrich

©CathyUlrich and LargeSelf, 2012

I’d like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press…

Oh wait, that’s the Golden Globes.

I want to thank those who have sent awards my way and also to apologize for taking so long to get this post together. With getting ready for vacation, going on vacation and getting things done after coming back from vacation, this has been my first opportunity to assemble this post.

Katrina at Freedom to a Full Life generously nominated me for several awards in June.

The Dedicated Follower Award

The Kreativ Blogger Award

The Versatile Blogger Award.

Thank you, Katrina! Yours was one of the first blogs I followed when I joined the WordPress community and I continue to enjoy your wonderful posts. You always leave me with things to ponder.

Last week, Clare Flourish nominated me for this beautiful award:

The One Lovely Blog Award

Thank you, Clare. Your insights and dedication to honest and heartfelt dialogue inspires, stimulates and enlightens and I so enjoy your perspective.

Finally, Athena Brady sent this wonderful award my way:

The Fabulous Blog Ribbon

Thank you, Athena for your friendship and wisdom. I love the topics that you discuss (Angels, miracles and dreams to name just a few) and your viewpoint.

I have decided to pick just one blogger for each of these awards today to bestow a nomination (except for Clare for which I nominate twice), but I am creating a BlogRoll of some of my favorite blogs on a separate page and I also am creating a page for my awards where I will permanently acknowledge those who have honored me with these lovely awards and display them proudly.

For those of you nominated, please know that I am offering this award as a way of honoring your work in the WordPress community. If you feel that you would like to participate, please acknowledge my nomination with a link-back and feel free to nominate as many or as few blogs as you feel appropriate. If you don’t wish to participate, that’s fine too. My desire is to spread the word about your blog, but not to create any stress or added work for you. My feeling is that these awards provide a way for us to find each other and learn of the amazing wealth of creativity and diversity in the blogosphere. So pass it forward if you are so inclined. Finally, one of the common threads (sets of rules) throughout these awards is to share things about ourselves that may not be known through our blogs so I’ll share those at the end of this post.

So without any further delay:

For The Dedicated Follower Award, I nominate Russ Towne – A Grateful Man. I think Russ is probably the only person who has read every post on my blog! His comments are always appreciated and I so enjoy his blog. It is filled with humor, love, and inspiration. Thank you, Russ for being here.

For The Kreativ Blogger Award, I nominate Russel Ray Photos  Russel is a wonderful photographer who lives in San Diego and shares his love of that beautiful city along with his fantastic flowers and his cat Zoey. (I’m a sucker for the cat pictures.) He’s funny, interesting and always entertaining.

For The Versatile Blogger Award and The Kreativ Blogger Award, I nominate Clare Flourish. She is a gifted writer who shares her perspectives on her life as a Trans Woman as well as her viewpoints on religion. She always leaves me with a lot to think about.

For The One Lovely Blog Award, I nominate Cooking Intuitive written by Julie Hansen. Juie’s primary blog, Julie Hansen Intuitive is where she shares her insights and experience as an intuitive healer. Cooking Intuitive is her wonderful inspirations with food. Her ideas are fun, easy and tasty – and for those of you who adhere to a vegetarian or vegan diet, Julie’s blog is a wealth of information.

For The Fabulous Blog Ribbon, I nominate Searunner. I love his photos from around the world.

Thank you, again, to my nominators and congratulations to all of my nominees and thanks for all the blessings you bring to me.

So a few things about me:

1. I love just about any food with the exception of a handful of things – and Rutabaga turnips is at the top of the list (of things I won’t eat, that is).

2. My favorite music genre is jazz.

3. In my twenties and thirties, I was a competitive runner.

4. I bought new skis this year – Volkl Kenjas and I LOVE them!

5. I like to write with a fountain pen.

I think that’s it for now!

Love,

Cathy

Zen and the Art of Underwater Photography

Underwater photography is a very different animal from photography done on land. And, for me, it is somewhat Zen-like. To get appealing images underwater, I have to think and be in a space that is calm, self-aware and fully present. While I’m certainly not an expert, I have been photographing underwater on our dive trips for several years and I wanted to talk about some of my experiences and share more of my photos from my recent trip to the Lesser Antilles islands in the eastern Caribbean.

First of all, when I bring my camera with me on my dives, I have to think about the additional buoyancy that the camera produces and I have to figure out how to hold the camera while I’m also doing all the things that I have to do to stay neutrally buoyant and safe while diving. These things include: checking my dive computer, adjusting the air in my buoyancy control device (BCD for short – the vest that you wear that holds your tank and helps you to hover in the water), paying attention to my breathing and where my body is in relationship to the reef and watching out for my dive buddy (Peter) – all the basic things that a diver does without the additional issues of handling a camera, light system and operating said equipment.

Then there’s the consideration of how to compose shots, how to approach subjects and how to get the best lighting for the shot. A big factor in shooting underwater is the water. Even in perfect 120 foot visibility, colors – especially reds – disappear very quickly the further the subject is from the camera lens. Also reds go away the deeper one is in the water, so lighting is very important. So a basic rule of thumb is: get as close to the subject as possible. Because the further away I am, the less color I’ll see and everything starts to become blue. Zoom lenses are simply not an option in underwater photography. Yes, I could zoom to get a larger image of my subject, but if I’m any distance away, I’ll still have all of that water between my camera lens and the fish I’m wanting to capture and my image will just turn out murky and blue – maybe bigger, but still murky and blue.

Since most of the interesting underwater subjects (at least those I like to photograph) live on coral reefs, getting close to them can be a challenge, especially the macro shots of small subjects. Take this arrow crab, for instance. It’s a small critter – about three inches across, legs and all – and it likes to hide in small crevices, barrel sponges and holes in the reef. So I have to get close and not bang into the reef while hovering in the water often with a current, holding a camera, and making adjustments to the exposure and lighting. The trick here, too, is to keep breathing steadily because, as any diver knows – when  I hold my breath (as is my tendency when concentrating on taking a shot), my lungs fill with more air and I become positively buoyant rising up in the water several feet!

Here’s another issue -I can’t chase fish! When I chase fish, all I will get is fish tails. Patience is the key. Many fish on the reef have a general territory where they feed and hang out. When photographing fish, I approach them slowly. Often, they’ll swim away, but if I wait, and don’t make any sudden movements, they’ll come back into my close photographing range and I can shoot away.

Finally, after all of the above considerations, composition in underwater photography requires a different way of thinking/being/creating. When a diver decides to take up photography, their first attempts will often be very disappointing (as were mine). New photographers tend to hang out at the top of the reef and shoot down. This is called a “birds-eye view,” and only with a few exceptions is it ever interesting. We humans on this earth are used to looking at landscapes with a blue sky and land or sea of some kind. So in composing shots underwater, I try to plan them and place myself in a position where I’m shooting from below my subject and up. This creates a familiar, and often subconsciously pleasing shot – one with the blue sea in the background and the subject highlighted by a foreground of reef. 

So the next time you pick up a National Geographic and find within those pages some magnificent photo of a whale shark or a lovely clownfish or some other beautiful undersea creature, take a deep breath and enjoy. While that professional photographer makes it look easy, they have spent many years learning their craft. And in my opinion, the more Zen-like I can make underwater photography, the more I enjoy it and the better my shots come out.

Much love,

Cathy

P.S. I’ll be posting a short photo essay on the island of St. Christopher AKA St. Kitts today on CathyUlrich.com followed by an Awards post. I’ve been racking them up and waiting until I got back from vacation to acknowledge and pay it forward – so it’s time. Then, later this week, I’ll post a final photo essay here with more underwater shots as a gallery.

©CathyUlrich and LargeSelf, 2012

The Energy of the Sea

As I mentioned in my last post, we just got back Saturday from our vacation – a week living aboard a Scuba Diving boat in the  central Caribbean – St. Kitt’s and Saba. This was our third time living on a dive boat and there are so many things I love about this kind of trip.

First of all, a Live-aboard is a total immersion (pun intended) into the experience of Scuba. As our captain Tim said, all you do is eat, dive, eat, dive, eat, dive, eat, dive, eat… and if you so choose, dive again – at night. Also with all the diving, you’re burning calories like mad, so eating is not so guilt ridden.

And it’s so easy! You set up your gear once, and after that, the crew fills your tank at your station. So every dive involves rinsing your mask, putting on a wet suit, strapping on the gear and jumping in. Then you do the dive, come back to the boat, put your gear back in your station, rinse your wetsuit, take a warm shower and you’re ready to go again. It’s like the ultimate being/doing/being experience.

For me, Scuba diving creates a deep connection to our planet like no other. To be below the surface of the ocean, in a totally foreign environment with an explosion of primitive life all around – and I do mean all around – 360 degrees around – reminds me of the powerful creative potential of the Divine. On our fifth day at sea, I spent time scanning the fish and invertebrate identification books onboard. The thousands of species found in those pages, many of which I saw  and some of which I photographed while diving this past week instills a sense of awe for me.

I have often said that I’m just a visitor in those depths, but after this trip, I changed my mind. Yes, I have to get on a boat, strap a tank on my back and breathe through a hose to go to these places, but as you can see from these photos, many of the creatures there let me get very close to them. Here are a couple of spotted file fish, and they were as curious about me as I was about them. I love their energy and curiosity – they somehow knew I wasn’t going to hurt them.

When I dive, I’m very conscious of the fragility of the reef environment. I’m careful to not touch anything and I watch where I place my fins. And the primitive nature of the reef where I’m told life originated and also where life continues to express, is a reminder of my connection to all – coral polyps, sea slugs, jellyfish, lobsters, fish, dolphins – coexist in a place where few get to visit.

Now I’m back on dry land, but I’ll carry that energy with me. And share it with you. Here are a few more pictures. And, by the way, all of the photos I have posted so far are unretouched. I love my new camera and I’ll be talking more about that with more pics next time! Next post: Zen and the Art of Underwater Photography.

Love,

Cathy

©CathyUlrich and LargeSelf, 2012

Stream of Consciousness Unpacking

Smiling Porcupine Fish – Saba, Netherlands Antilles

Today is one of those lovely days where I have so much to do, but plan to do it via stream of consciousness. You see, I just got back last night from an eight-day trip to the Caribbean Sea. Peter and I spent the time living on a boat with eighteen other Scuba divers and a crew of seven cruising between the islands of St. Kitt’s, Saba and St. Maarten. It was divine…

I’m unpacking dive gear which needs to be rinsed, dried and stored. The washing machine is running nonstop as we clean all the clothes we took to that wet climate. When they came out of the luggage, they were literally cold from the moisture and the contrast between our low humidity and that of the tropics. I have 400 emails to sort through, two big piles of snail mail and I need to make a grocery list and go to Whole Foods. I see weeds in the vegetable garden that I didn’t get to before I left and there is some zucchini that needs picking. Meanwhile, Cielo (my Tonkinese cat) has brought me a toy to throw and there will be lots of playtime required to make up for the week we were away. And all of this seems to happen simultaneously.

Before I start a full week of clients tomorrow, I’m still savoring the time away and the memories of those beautiful places. I travel, not to get away from the life I enjoy here in Colorado, but to experience new things.

Diving is one of my passions along with photographing some of the life that I get to see underwater. So as I sort through the gear and bags, I smile at the glory of our lovely planet. I feel blessed to live in a time where I can travel 3000 miles in a day, don gear and breathe underwater, take photos with a digital camera – and share this post with my friends from around the world.

So enjoy a couple of my shots today. I’ll be posting more later. Gotta get back to unpacking!

Spotted Moray Eel – Saba, Netherlands, Antilles

Love,

Cathy

©CathyUlrich and LargeSelf, 2012

Taking a Break

To my loyal readers:

I’m taking a week-long break and will update you about my adventures next weekend. In the meantime, if you stop by, take a look at some earlier posts, especially some of those in April and May – there are quite a few about energy and healing that you might enjoy.

See you soon!

Love,

Cathy