Last weekend was my first trip to the Poling in 2014. Originally I had hoped to create some compositions from a series of photos taken along the deck. In water, I ultimately ditched those plans because of some logistical issues. First being that there were 13 divers in the water and visibility was not great. Also, I was working much harder than I like to underwater, possibly due to the amount of donuts I ate earlier in the week. I made the decision to hang by the stern (stern of the stern) and work on some natural light photos.
I was very pleased to recreate Dave Stillman's iconic stern photo, almost 20 years later (shown above). Surface interval be damned, Chuck and I jumped in for a second dive before the rest of the gang arrived. I had a a few minutes to set up this shot. With some Lightroom magic I was able to buy myself a bit more visibility than there was in real life. I've been trying to get this shot for a while now.
No matter how many times I see the poling, I can always seem to entertain myself. And for the photo buffs... black and white is almost essential to capture the depth and contrast of the wrecks in New England. These were shot with a 15mm prime lens, f2.8, 1/100, ISO 4000ish. As always, a million thanks to the Cape Ann Divers crew, I could not get these shots without their help!
The ocean is freaking huge. Even in well known areas (like around Cape Ann), there's no way it's been comprehensively explored underwater. Thus, Mark Potter of Mass Diving and Cape Ann Divers organized an exploratory trip. The idea was to see something new, potentially that nobody has ever seen before. Even if it's just a hunk of rock with predictable stuff growing on it, the thought that we were the first to see something, SCUBA geeks live for this.
We stayed a bit east of halfway rock and the only real objective was to look for steep drop-offs, or underwater cliffs/hills. Diving these areas offers some excitement and a variety of wildlife and bottom topography. The first site we visited (Landy's Ledge?) was a large slab of granite that started around 60FSW and tumbled down to about 100'. I hung by the anchor line as I was by myself. I was also shooting macro so I wanted to be where the light was, and it doesn't really matter where you are when you're shooting critters that are less than an inch. I spent a good amount of time flirting with a sculpin that was playing coy. Eventually I earned its trust. Lobster, anemones and other invertebrates covered the granite, also thousands of cunner were schooling in the surge. This was a nice dive.
After our surface interval and PB&Js, Captain took us to site near Newcomb Ledge. Calm, no current, relatively shallow, easy, nice. There was a small wall here loaded with bizarre spider crabs that were covered with the same sponges and tunicates that the wall was covered with. I was hanging on the wall by myself thinking that it had been a while since I saw the anchor line. Suddenly, out of my periphery, I see Robert Landy come out of the darkness, I can't say I was relieved... Then Millhouser, nope, he was lost too. Then I was thrilled to see Elyssa and Caslyn. After nonchalantly swimming back and forth with those two, we all glanced at each other and shrugged. Yup, lost. It wasn't a ghastly swim back to the boat, probably Millhouser's fault anyway. Below are some of the camo-crabs and other goodies I shot. See if you can spot the crabs.
For those unfamiliar, Burnham Rock is like a mini Saturday Night Ledge, a little bit smaller, a little shallower (70-130FSW), and right around the corner, geographically speaking (about 5 miles south of Gloucester harbor). Both have sizable trenches as the main feature and both have walls and massive boulders to explore. Only sure thing for not getting lost is navigating by trench or bringing a wreck reel. As reels are not an option for me while I'm with my camera (I'd need two more hands) I stay inside, or within sight of the trench/s and tend not to cover an insane amount of ground. Aside from the geological features, these sites are well known for spectacular invertebrate growth virtually covering all surfaces of the granite substrate.
Later at BFW, Captain Steve anchored on the southern portion of the wall. Jim inspected for potential mooring sites (left) and I continued to work further south to some tumbled boulders that Landy found where some large anemones live. The wall runs approximately north to south. The more south you go, the less shear the wall becomes. It eventually wraps around east to become a small trench. This can be done in one dive provided you navigate with care and you're not schlepping a big camera around. I've dived BFW around 8 times, and have yet to explore the northern half of the wall with any confidence, but I know the southern half very well and can even find individual anemones I photoed last year . I'm sure I'll be back again this season and will keep everyone updated. Enjoy!
Alex Shure: SCUBA enthusiast, fish nerd, camera guy.